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Title: History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, Vol. 5 (of 8)

Author: J. H. Merle d'Aubigné

Release date: January 31, 2020 [eBook #61277]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Brian Wilson, David Edwards, Colin Bell, Chris
Pinfield and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber's Note:

Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Hyphenation has been rationalised. Inconsistent spelling (including accents and capitals) has been retained.

Running headers, at the top of each right-hand page, have been moved in front of the paragraphs to which they refer and surrounded by =equal signs=.





'Les choses de petite durée ont coutume de devenir fanées, quand elles out passé leur temps.

'Au règne de Christ, il n'y a que le nouvel homme qui soit florissant, qui ait de la vigueur, et dont il faille faire cas.'




St. Johnland Stereotype Foundry,
Suffolk County, N. Y.



This is the tenth volume of the History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, and the fifth of the Second Series. The first series described the history of that great epoch from its commencement down to the Confession of Augsburg (1530). The second will include the years intervening between that period and the triumph of the Reformation in various parts of Europe. It is not always easy to fix the latter limit, which varies according to locality.

Nevertheless, a rule laid down by the author in his first volume sensibly limits the work he has undertaken. 'The history of one of the greatest revolutions that has ever been accomplished in human affairs, and not the history of a mere party, is the object of the present undertaking. The history of the Reformation is distinct from that of Protestantism.' One or two volumes coming, God willing, after this one will bring it to a conclusion. The author divided the history into two series for the convenience of the public, but he does not separate them. Together they form a single work.

The course that he will probably pursue in future will better express the unity of the great event which {iv} has made the sixteenth century famous. Streams at first flow apart; they afterwards unite with each other in succession and form a single river. There comes a moment when the waters undergo the law of concentration: the same phenomenon is manifested in a history like ours. After following up successively the facts of the Reformation in Germany, German Switzerland, France, England, Western Switzerland and elsewhere, we shall concentrate our narrative a little, and present the progress of the great transformation in a single picture.

New countries and new men will come before us. In our next volume we shall travel through Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, and other parts of Europe, retracing the great features of their religious history. We shall even return to Luther and Melanchthon, whose society is at once so healthy and so pleasant; and also see Calvin at his work in Geneva.

One circumstance, besides that already indicated, warns the author to restrict his labor, and might suddenly interrupt it. Time is growing short for him, and he cannot complete his work without the aid of Him who is the master of our days.

This volume begins with England. A faithful history of the Reformation is now perhaps more necessary to that country than to any other. The general opinion on the Continent, excepting that of the blind partisans of popery, is that the cause of Reform is won, and that there is no need to defend it. Strange to say this is not entirely true with regard to England—a country so dear to the friends of truth and liberty. Nay, even among Anglican ministers, a party has been formed enthusiastic in behalf of rites, sacerdotal vestments, and superstitious {v} Roman doctrines, and violent in their attacks upon the Reformation. The excesses in which some of its members have indulged are unprecedented. One of them has instituted a comparison between the Reformers and the leaders during the Reign of Terror—Danton, Marat, and Robespierre, for instance—and declares the superiority of the latter.[1] 'The Reformation,' says this Anglican priest in another place, 'was not a Pentecost; I regard it as a Deluge, an act of divine vengeance.' In the presence of such opinions and of others which, though less marked, are not less fatal, the history of the Reformation may furnish some wholesome lessons.

The history of England is succeeded in this volume by a narrative of the events which led to the triumph of the Reformation in Geneva. That history ought to interest the Protestants of every country, the little city having afterwards played so considerable a part in the propagation of evangelical truth and in the struggles of Protestantism with Popery.

For the purpose of his narrative, the author has continued to consult the most authentic sources: original documents, letters written by the persons of whom this history speaks or by their contemporaries, and the chronicles, annals, and books published at that epoch. He has made use of such collections of documents as have been printed; frequently he has had recourse to MSS. of the period which have not yet been published.

We live in a literary age when criticism sways the sceptre. Criticism is good and necessary: it purifies history and clears the paths to the palace of truth. But if dogmatic epochs have their excesses, critical {vi} epochs have theirs also. It was said a long while ago that 'those who run too hastily after truth shoot beyond it.' The men who desire to renovate history are like those who desire to renovate cities. The latter begin by pulling down a few ugly houses which disfigure the neighborhood and impede the traffic; but at last they lay their hands on solid and useful edifices, buildings whose destruction is regretted by every one. Wise men will, in critical ages, take moderation and equity for their rule. These have often been wanting in recent days. There is a criticism called by the Germans hypercriticism, which not only denies what is false, but even what is true. The Holy Scriptures have been the special object of its attack. It has denied the authenticity of the writings of St. John, St. Paul, Isaiah and other sacred writers, and the truth of many of the facts which they record. If the sacred books have not been spared by this criticism, writings purely human, the facts of history, have not escaped unassailed. There have been numerous instances of this in Germany and elsewhere.

Several facts which belong to the history of the Reformation of France and French Switzerland have been recently called in question both in reviews and pamphlets. The author has felt it his duty to prove the historical reality of his statements, not only in the Preface to the French edition of this volume, but in the February Number of the Revue Chrétienne (1869) published in Paris by M. Meyrueis. He has not thought it necessary to give these details in the English edition, because the statements which called them forth are unknown in England. It will be sufficient to indicate the principal points which have been denied with too much precipitancy, and the {vii} correctness of which the author has proved by the soundest demonstration.

The first fact relates to Le Fèvre of Etaples. The author stated in his History that that theologian, the writer of a remarkable translation of the Holy Scriptures into French, had taught the great doctrine of the Reformation—justification by faith through grace—as early as 1512, that is to say, four or five years before Luther. This having been disputed, the author proved it by the existence of Le Fèvre's Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul published in 1512, in which that doctrine is distinctly taught, and which is preserved in the Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris. He added other proofs derived from the writings of Farel and Beza, as also from the learned critic Richard Simon, Bayle, &c.

The second fact concerns William Farel. The author said in his History that this Reformer, the most zealous evangelist of that period, had imbibed the evangelical doctrines at Paris from the lessons of his master, Le Fèvre of Etaples, and that he was converted between 1512 and 1514—before the beginning of the Reformation properly so called. That point having been denied, the author proved it by the positive declarations of Le Fèvre and Farel. The latter says pointedly: 'This took place in the time of Louis the Twelfth.' Now Louis XII. died in 1515.

The third fact relates to Thomas ab Hofen, the friend of Zwingle, and deputy from Berne to Geneva in 1527. The author wrote in his History that this layman was, properly speaking, the first who labored to spread the Gospel in Geneva. As that statement had been impugned, the author proved it by the German and Latin letters of Zwingle and of Ab Hofen himself. {viii}

The fourth fact concerns Robert Olivetan, Calvin's cousin, and author of the first translation of the Bible into French. It has been doubted whether he was tutor in the family of a Genevese councillor in 1532, and whether he 'evangelized' at that time in Geneva. The author proved his statement by the positive testimony of the reformer Froment, in his Actes et Gestes de Genève, and by extracts from the official records of the Genevese Council. He has demonstrated that Olivetan preceded in Geneva as a preacher of the Gospel, not only Calvin but Farel and Froment.

Lastly, the fifth fact relates to Calvin. A Genevese writer denied a few years back that Calvin, when returning from Italy, passed through Aosta, where there exists, however, a monument erected to commemorate his flight. The author hopes he has proved that the universal opinion, which makes the Reformer pass through that city, is well founded, and that the contrary opinion has no weight.

This last point is discussed in the Preface to the French edition of this volume: the four others are examined at length in an article entitled Critique d'une Critique, published in the Revue Chrétienne of Paris.

There are individuals who, when they meet with facts in a history that have not been previously discussed in an archæological dissertation, or with circumstances that had hitherto been unknown, immediately imagine that such facts have no foundation. This is a curious aberration. If an historian writes—not according to second-hand authorities, but after original materials—it is quite natural that he should come upon things that have not been noticed before. This has happened to the author of the History of the {ix} Reformation. True history, no doubt, possesses coloring and life; but it describes such events only as are founded on the firm basis of truth.

There are writers at this day who carry their archæological predilections further still and would like to substitute chronicles for history, giving us a body without a soul. But authors of distinguished merit have protested against such an error.

A great critic, M. Sainte Beuve, says: 'There is one kind of history founded on documentary evidence, state papers, diplomatic transactions, and the correspondence of ambassadors; and there is another kind with quite a different aspect—moral history, written by the actors and the eye-witnesses.'

An eminent man (Le Comte d'Haussonville) who by his last work, L'Eglise Romaine et le premier Empire, has taken an honorable position among historians, indorses this judgment. 'M. Sainte Beuve is right,' he says; 'the latter kind of history is the best, by which I mean the most instructive, the most profitable, the only one which serves to unseal the eyes, open the understanding, combat deplorable credulity, and avoid disagreeable mystifications. What concerns us, is to know men, "by lifting the curtain which hides them," according to the happy expression of Saint-Simon.'

Another celebrated writer has said: 'Real history appears only when the historian begins to distinguish, across the gulf of time, the living and acting man—the man endued with passions, the creature of habit—with voice and physiognomy, with gestures and dress, distinct and complete, like the one from whom we have just parted in the street. Language, Legislation, Catechisms, are abstract things; the complete thing is the man acting, {x} the visible corporeal man, who walks, fights, toils, hates, and loves.

'Why is not history studied more closely? In it men would find human life, domestic life with its varied and dramatic scenes; the human heart with its fiercest as well as its tenderest passions, and moreover a sovereign charm—the charm of reality.'

Lastly, we read in the studies of M. Daunou, one of the most accredited masters of historical composition, that 'history which is naturally picturesque and dramatic has become in modern times dull and cold, and no longer presents those living images of men and things which ancient genius loved to trace.'

History had freed herself from the restraint which the Middle Ages had imposed on her, to prevent her from speaking naturally and with life, as men speak; and perhaps the lessons of the illustrious academician and peer of France, whom we have just quoted, may have contributed to this change. But for some time observers have been asking whether there is not reason to fear a return of the Middle Ages; whether men are not again attempting to fasten a gag on history. One might at times be led to say that archæologists are of opinion that history might be suppressed as a matter of luxury, a useless ornament, and be replaced by documents, diplomas, and extracts from registers strung together.

Is it just that an historian should have the antiquaries crying out against him from every side, because, while keeping faithfully to documents, he draws something from them that has life or light? Is it just that when a character feels, moves, and {xi} speaks, rejoices or grieves, the Areopagus should declare him to be a fictitious being who could never have existed, and a pure product of the imagination? You believe that our ancestors were people like ourselves, with hearts that beat with passion and grief.—By no means; they were icy shades like those wandering on the banks of the Styx. Hitherto men had said: This being feels and moves, therefore he lives; but according to the new school, life is a fable. Nothing is authentic but what is wearisome. A man and a history are not looked upon as real living beings, unless they are colorless, stark, and cold.

Of this we have had many instances. One time we incurred this reproach: Your imagination, we were told, invents features which give animation to the subject, but about which you could know nothing. The following passage was quoted: 'When Fryth the reformer,' wrote the critic, 'was taken as a prisoner on foot to the episcopal court at Croydon, you say that "he had a calm and cheerful look, and the rest of the journey was accomplished in pious and agreeable conversation." How could you know that?' the objector went on. 'Were you of the party to see the appearance of his face?' We immediately took down the eighth volume of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, the appendix to which contains an account of Fryth's journey written by an eye-witness. We opened the book and found these words: 'And so with a cheerful and merry countenance, he went with them, spending the time in pleasant and godly communication.' What we were charged with having invented, was an almost literal transcript of a document more than three hundred years old. {xii}

If archæology were to be substituted for history, we do not think the public would be overpleased with the authors of the transformation. The investigations of palæographers are not the edifice, but the materials prepared for its construction. History is above archæology, as the house is above its foundations. The building raised by the architect is the end. In it men find a pleasant dwelling-place, sheltered from the inclemency of the seasons. But it is a good thing to excavate, to dig out fragments of rock from the bosom of the earth; it is advantageous, when you build, to have stones, and good stones too. The historian who sets little store by archæology betrays a superficial mind; the archæologist who sets little store by history betrays a mind whose cultivation is still incomplete. But we need not fear this movement; it has no chance of success. Real history will never perish.

We insert this protest in the present volume, not because of anything that may concern us personally; but as this history has been favorably received, we feel bound to prove that we have always followed the most respectable authorities, and although liable to error, we have conscientiously endeavored to give a truthful narrative—true in its facts and in the spirit by which it is animated.

When will debates and contests cease? Happily there is something in the world which the attacks of men can neither batter down nor even shake, and which is sufficient to give peace to the soul. The holy words which the prophets of God have written will exist for ever, because the Light of Life is in them, and because from age to age many hearts, longing for the highest blessings, have found, and {xiii} still find, in them everlasting life. They delight us, not only on account of their divine origin, but because they fully satisfy all the wants of our existence. We say to this heavenly and living truth, which the divine words reveal to us: I was naked and thou didst clothe me. I was thirsty, and thou didst give me to drink. I was hungry, and thou gavest me meat. How is it that so many men, perishing with thirst, do not come to these waters? Writers of great power in pagan antiquity, such as Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, attacked Christianity in the early ages, employing the same idle objections as are still used in our days. They knew not that it contained an imperishable strength. For eighteen hundred years it has withstood all attacks, and since our glorious Reformation it has received a new impulse. The nations who cover the most distant seas with their ships have scattered everywhere the seed of God. Their footsteps have reached to the ends of the world, and the crouching nations rise up at their approach. Perhaps unbelief was never more common in Europe among the lower strata of society; but at the same time believers were never so numerous throughout the world. It is a great multitude which no man can number.

And even were infidelity and atheism to increase more and more, that should not lead us to forsake Thee, thou Saviour of the world! If earthly wisdom gives its votaries a light which scorches and wastes the soul, Thou givest a light which uplifts, vivifies, and delights. In the midst of struggles Thou implantest peace in our hearts. In the depths of sorrows Thou givest a powerful and living consolation. At the approach of that death which is the terror of men, Thou fillest our souls with the firm {xiv} and lively hope of reaching, by the path of Thy cross, life with Thee in the glorious and invisible world. To whom should we go, O Christ? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have known, that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Geneva: March, 1869.

[1]   The Guardian for 20th May, 1868.



(March and April 1534.)

A Critical Time—The King condemned at Rome—Two Days too late—The English Envoys and the Bishop of Paris—Miscalculations of the English Envoys—Henry's Book against the Pope—The People and the Clergy against the Pope—Reaction of Ultramontanism—An epileptic Girl—The Nun of Kent—Scene in a Chapel—Oracles and Miracles—Political Enterprise—The Nun before the King—Her Partisans increase in Number—Attempts to bring over Sir Thomas More—The Conspiracy—New Allies—The Nun and the Conspirators are arrested—Contrition of Sir Thomas More—Condemnation of the Criminals—Death of the Maid of Kent

Page 1

(Christmas 1533 to June 1534.)

The King's Proceedings against Catherine—The Monks and the Priests renounce the Pope—Preparation of Charles V. against Henry—Henry prepares to resist him—The Two Chiefs of the Anti-Roman Party—The Orator of the Reformation—The King abolishes the Authority of the Pope—The Sheriffs ordered to see the Proclamation carried out—The Church, a Department of the State—Authority in the Church—Form which the Church might have assumed—Various Systems

(1534 to August 1535.)

Tyndale translates the Old Testament at Antwerp—His Charity and Zeal—Joye pretends to correct his Version—Tyndale's noble Protest—Anne protects the Friends of the Gospel—Her Message in Harman's Favor—Discontent of the King—Plot against Tyndale—Snares laid for him—Stratagem—Attempt at Bribery—Recourse to the Imperial Government—Tyndale's House surrounded—The Traitor—Tyndale's Arrest—His Imprisonment in the Castle of Vilvorde—The Life of the Reformers: Apologies for the Reformation

(1534 and 1535.)

Opposition of certain Priests—Mental Restrictions—Fanatical Monks and timid Monks—Agitation of Sir Thomas More—More and Fisher refuse to take the Oath—They are taken to the Tower—The Carthusians required to swear—Paul III. desires to bring back England—Henry rejects the Papacy—Severe Laws concerning his Primacy—The King, not the Head of the Church

(1534 and 1535.)

Frankness and Misery of Sir Thomas More—Confusion in England—Character of Cranmer—Cranmer's Work—The Bible shall be translated into English—Cranmer's Joy—Failure of the Translation by the Bishops—Popish and seditious Preachers—The King orders the Carthusians to reject the Pope—The Carthusians resolve to die—Threats of Revolt—Incompatibility of Popery and Liberty—The Carthusians are condemned—Execution of the Three Priors—Henry strikes on all sides

(May to September 1535.)

Fisher raised to the Cardinalate at Rome; condemned to Death at London—Piety of his Last Moments—His Christian Death—More before the Court of King's Bench—He is sentenced to Death—Taken back to the Tower—Meeting with his Daughter—General Emotion—More's Mortifications—Morning of 6th July—His Last Words—His Death—Sensation produced by these two Executions—Effects on the Continent—Fanatical Bull against Henry VIII.—Henry justifies himself at Rome—His Excuses not valid

(September 1535 to 1536.)

State of the Monasteries—Gluttonous Living—General Disgust—Cranmer's Advice to the King—Children of Darkness caught in a Net—General Visitation ordered—The Laity reappear—The Commissioners—The Universities—Cranmer on Rome—The Visitation begins—Corruption of Morals in the Monasteries—Immorality in the Abbey of Langdon—Robberies, Debaucheries, Frauds—The Holy Bottle at Hales—The Fraud at Boxley—Coining False Money—Cruelties—The Visitors besieged at Norton—The Nunneries—Apologists and Detractors—Many Monks and Nuns set free—Report of the Commissioners—Deliberations of the Council—Effect of the Report upon Parliament—Three hundred and seventy-six Monasteries abolished—Real Religious Houses—Latimer and Cranmer—Covetousness of the Nobility—Bad use of the Conventual Property—Testimony of the Monks—The Measure accomplished—Terror and Despair—New Institutions—National Prosperity—Social and Political Developments—Transformation of Society

(1534 to 1535.)

Henry VIII. makes advances to Melanchthon—The Reformer rejects them—Luther and the Elector incline to Henry—The Errors of Intolerance—A New English Embassy to Germany—The Alliance is signed—Cranmer saves Mary—Conference with Catherine—Catherine's Firmness, Asceticism, and Illness—Preparations of Charles V. against England—Catherine's Will, her Farewell, and Death—Anne Boleyn's Feelings on hearing of her Death—England and Germany seek to unite—Theological Discussion at Wittemberg—Will Luther concede anything?—A Master and Slaves at the Court of England

(1535 to May 1536.)

Error concerning the Beginning of the Reformation—Anne Boleyn's Virtues and Good Works—Her Relations with Cranmer and Latimer—With Tyndale and Parker—Parker's Christian Character—Anne Boleyn's Character—The Truth about Queen Anne—Her Enemies—Henry attracted by Jane Seymour—Queen Anne's Manners—Her Anguish—Her stillborn Son—Her Sadness and Anxiety—Anne's Zeal for the Reformation—Discontent of the Ultramontanists—Anne's Dangers increase—Her Anxiety for her Daughter—The Four Articles of the Indictment—Character of Henry VIII.—Commission of Inquiry—Brereton and Smeaton arrested—The Tournament at Greenwich—The King makes a Scene—Anne before Norfolk and the Council—Anne Boleyn in the Tower—Her Piety and Innocence—Her Sorrow—Critical Position of Cranmer—His Letter to the King—False Policy of Cranmer—Harsh Surveillance of the Queen—Peace and Agitation in her Heart—Extraordinary Transport

May 1536.)

The Judge acknowledges Anne's Innocence—Her Enemies and her Renunciation of the World—Dignity of her Answer—Anne's Letter to the King—Its Effect upon Henry—Northumberland's Declaration—The Jury—Condemnation of Norris—The Queen and her Brother before the Peers—Anne's Dignity—Effect produced in the City—Sentence of Death—Anne's Farewell Address to the Peers—Lord Rocheford condemned—The four Gentlemen beheaded—Henry annuls his Marriage with Anne—Joy and Hope of the Pope—Anne's Self-reproach—Asks Pardon of Princess Mary—Anne's Communion—Miracles of the Priests—Anne's last Message to Henry—Preparations upon the Tower Green—A noble Pardon—Emotion caused by that Christian Act—Death of Anne—Her Memory—The Royal Hunting Party—Henry marries Jane Seymour—Effect of Anne's Death on the Continent—What Share had Rome in it?

(Summer 1536.)

Position of the two Parties—The Pope desires to unite with England—Two men in Henry VIII.—Pole determines to write to the King—Priests are Fathers, Kings are Sons—Henry rules like the Turk—Pole has orders to curse Henry—Sentiments of the King—Mary pays dear for her Reconciliation with the King—Ratification of Parliament—Order to renounce the Pope—Language of the Worldlings and the Christians—Convocation of the Clergy—Latimer's Reforming Sermon—Necessity of the Reformation—The Lay Element reappears—The Clergy denounce sixty-seven mala dogmata—The Prolocutor's Charge before the Bishops—The two Armies front to front—A Scotchman in the Convocation—What Cranmer thought essential—Fox extols the Reformation—The Word of God the Source of Life—Alesius is excluded—Necessity of a Convocation

(Autumn 1536.)

Henry plays the part of a Pope—Dogmas of the new Head of the Church—Articles about Religion—Baptism, Presence, Penance, Images, Prayers to Saints, Ceremonies, Purgatory—Different Opinions—The Articles accepted—Cranmer's Precautions to prevent Mischief—Cromwell Vicegerent—Coverdale's Bible—Evangelical Reaction—Various Testimonies—Persecutions—The foundations of Faith

(October 1536.)

Agitation in the Northern Counties—Ferment throughout the Country—Revolt in Lincolnshire—Twenty thousand Insurgents—The King's Threats—The Pilgrimage of Grace—Sermon of Latimer—Aske's Address—The Nobility—The Earl of Northumberland—Henry's Alarm—Panic in London—Brutality of the Rebels—The Lancaster Herald before the Rebel Chiefs—The Insurgent Army marches on London—The Royal Proclamation—Propositions of the Rebels—They disperse—Subsequent Revolts and Repressions

(From 1535 to October 1536.)

Tyndale's Characteristic—Imprisonment at Vilvorde—His Labors—Rogers comes to his help—Tyndale's Legacy—The Bible about to appear—A Light that shines before Men— Intercession with the King on behalf of Tyndale—Activity of Poyntz to save him—Poyntz attacked by Philips—Tyndale's Firmness—All things combine against Tyndale—His great Offence—Tyndale's Words—Tyndale degraded—Led to Punishment—He dies praying for the King—Petition for the Circulation of the whole Bible—The King consents—Consequences of the Act—How the Bible was received—Inward Power of Scripture


(January to June 1535.)

Is Liberty a Blessing?—The Swiss abandon Geneva—New Election of Magistrates friendly to the Reformation—The Reformed party increases—A Monk offers to preach the Gospel—Opposition at St. Germain—The Council determines to let the Monk preach—Riot in the Church—Easter Communion—A Knight of Rhodes preaches the Gospel—The Brigands of Peney—Gaudet's cruel Punishment—The Martyr's Constancy—The Genevese attack the Castle—Retreat and Courage

(Spring 1535.)

Plot to get rid of Farel, Viret, and Froment—Antonia gained by the Priests—Her Experience—Steals the Poison—Prepares the Poisoned Soup—Her Terror and Flight—She is caught and brought back—Sensation in Geneva—Condemnation of the Criminal—Her Visions—Consequence of the Crime—Two Enfranchisements necessary—Conversion of Jacques Bernard, Superior of the Franciscans—He preaches throughout Lent—What the Charters of the Church declare—Jacques Bernard asks for a Public Discussion

(From April to Whitsuntide, 1535.)

Five Positive and Five Negative Propositions—The Council authorizes Jacques Bernard to support them—Publicity established by the Reformation—Catholicism answers by a Procession—The Nuns alone show Courage—Celebrated Theologians invited—Caroli comes unasked—His Character—His Motives for visiting Geneva—Conversation between Farel and Caroli—Farel censures him—The Magistrate's part in the Discussion—Commissioners belonging to the two Parties

(June 1535.)

Struggle between the Head of the Franciscans and the Head of the Dominicans—The Ten Propositions sent to Furbity—Caroli acknowledges the Necessity of Grace—Caroli invites Furbity to the Disputation—Caroli stops short about the Mass—He recovers and speaks with Eloquence—Viret, Caroli, and Farel—The Victory remains with the Reformation

(June to August 1535.)

First Bible of the Reformation—The Printer and the Impression—Olivetan's Appeal to the Church—Conversions after the Disputation—Delays of the Council—Great Misery in Geneva—The Reformed demand the free Preaching of the Gospel—Farel preaches at the Magdalen—Forbidden by the Council—Farel preaches in various Churches—The Cathedral of St. Pierre—The False Worship and the True—Farel's Sermon at St. Pierre's—Two Systems with regard to the State

(8th to 11th August 1535.)

Chants of the Priests—The Children's Games in the Cathedral—Destruction of Images—What must be thought of it?—The Host—Discovery of the Huguenots—Indignation of the Genevese—Three Bands march against the Idols—The Frauds at St. Gervais—The Miracles of St. Dominic—Farel's Reprimand—The Reformation grows stronger—Grief of the Priests—Firmness of the Reformed—Farel before the Great Council—Suppression of the Mass—The Clergy are not the Church—Sadness and Murmurs—Jesus Christ substituted for Ceremonies—The Tenth of August 1535

(August to December 1535.)

The Monks are dumb—The Priests haughtily refuse to speak—Flight of Papal Adherents—Who shall pay the Cost of the War?—The Abolition of Mass announced to the Pope—Farel preaches to the Nuns—How they receive his Sermon—Conversion of a Nun—Claudine and Blaisine desire to enlighten the Sisters—Departure of the Nuns—Their Journey and Arrival at Annecy—Disorders and Flight of the Vicar-general—Opprobrium of the Priests, Zeal of some of their body—Establishment of a general Hospital—Foundation of Schools—Priests summoned to defend their Faith—Roman-catholicism comes to an End—Doctrine of Christ preached

(September and October 1535.)

Preparations for attacking Geneva—The coming Tempest—The Emperor's Plans—Terror and Refuge—Berne drawn opposite ways—Noble Answer of the Genevese to the Duke—Discord between Baudichon and Michael Sept—La Maisonneuve appointed Captain-general—The Danger increases—Claude Savoye turns towards the Jura—Wildermuth promises Help—Ehrard and the Heroine of Nidau—The Neuchâtelers answer to the Summons—Opposition of the Governor—An Auxiliary Force of Volunteers—Hesitation of the Neuchâtelers—Struggle and Prayer—The Force diminished by one-half

(11th and 12th October 1535.)

Wildermuth's projected Route—Forced to change his Course—The Volunteers climb the Jura—Inclement and laborious March—Hunger—The Abbey—The Lake of Les Rousses—They reach St. Cerques—The three Guides—Message to Claude Savoye—Claude departs for Coppet—The Swiss descend the Jura—They approach Nyon—Led into a Snare—The Betrayal—Battle of Gingins—Two heroic Women—Slaughter of Priests—Second Battle and Second Victory—Thanksgivings on the Field—Song of the Bernese Soldiers—Preparations for resisting a Third Attack

(October 12th 1535.)

War and Diplomacy—Statesmen in the Castle of Coppet—De Lullin, the Bernese, and Savoye—The Conference—The Governor plays with the Ambassadors—De Lullin's Schemes—All start to stop the Advance of the Swiss—What the Governor saw on the Road—The Ambassadors stop the Swiss—The news of the Victory reaches Geneva—Baudichon departs with five hundred Men—Terror of the fugitive Savoyards—Treacherous Negotiations—The Bernese order the Swiss to retire—They hesitate but yield at last—The Bernese made Prisoners—Baudichon's Approach causes alarm at Coppet—Fraud of the Diplomatists—The Three Genevese Delegates arrested and sent to Chillon—Baudichon allows himself to be deceived—The Swiss are tricked—Indignation at Geneva—The Genevese seize three Hostages—Storming of St. Jean

(From the beginning of November 1535 to the end of January 1536.)

Geneva blockaded—Combat and Prayer—Succor comes from France—Scheme of Francis I.—Geneva coins Money—Berne pleads for Geneva at Aosta—Conference in the City of Aosta—The Genevese refuse a Truce—Baudichon's Success at Berne—Defeat of French Auxiliaries in the Jura—Farel's Exhortation to the Council—Francis I. desires to become the Protector of Geneva—Attack of the third of January—Jesse's heroic defence of Notre Dame—What is the true Remedy?—The War of Cologny

(January to February 1536.)

The Duke's new Plans—Giangiacomo de Medici—Has the Command of the Genevese Campaign—Ordered to destroy the City—Berne decides to help Geneva—The Proclamation—Nägueli made Commander-in-Chief—His Orders—Haller blesses the Army—The Troops march out with Songs—Song of the Bernese—Misery in Geneva—Capture of Versoix by the Genevese—Changes in the Policy of Europe—Combinations of Princes—Francis I. determines to attack Savoy—The Bishop of Lausanne opposes the Swiss—The two Armies meet at Morges—Medici's heart fails him—Embarks his Army and escapes—General break-up—Power of Moral Force—The Lords of the Country too frightened to take up Arms—Spare the People, destroy the Castles—Francis and Margaret of Gingins—The Vicar-General De Gingins hidden at Divonne—Nägueli divides his Army into three Corps—Entrance of the Swiss into Geneva—The Bernese War-song—The Genevese give God the glory

(From February to the end of March 1536.)

Interview between Berne and Geneva—Burning of the Castles—A Circle of Fire—Destruction of Peney—Spirit of Peace in Geneva—Election of Syndics—Advance of the Army—The Soldiers deliberate—The French in Savoy—Seize the Duke's States—Last Years of his Life—Geneva rises as the Duke declines—Pretensions of the Bernese: Firmness of the Genevans—Conquest of Vaud—Bonivard at Chillon—Geneva and Berne resolve to liberate him—Attack upon the Castle—The Garrison runs away—Liberation of Bonivard—An Altar of the Gospel and of Liberty

(March to June 1536.)

The City and the Country evangelized—The Council in an Episcopal Capacity—The State and the Church—Difficulties—Religion of Neighborhood—A Month granted to the Priests—Furbity set at Liberty—Morals in Geneva—Reason of Opposition to the Ministers—Farel calls for a Public Confession of Faith—Source of Genevese Liberty—Dangers of an Appeal to the Whole Body of Citizens—The Meeting of the Twenty-first of May—The Question put to the People—A Bulwark against the Pope—Memorial Inscription—Return of Genevan Refugees—Toleration—Transformation—Easter—Want of good Preachers—Where is the Chosen Man of God?

(Winter and Spring.)

The Court of Ferrara—Arrival of two Frenchmen—Their joyful Reception by Princess Renée—Men of Letters at Ferrara—Long Conversations between Renée and Calvin—A new Director of Princes—Calvin's last Letters—The Countess of Marennes—Meetings in the Chapel of the Court—Calvin's Hearers—Anne de Beauregard—Her early Death—Marot's Epitaph—Soubise—His Zeal—Bevilacqua and Titian—The Word stifled by the World—François the Chaplain—Conversations with Calvin—Calvin lends him a Copy of the Institutes—Mass—The 'Helen' of the Church—The Chaplain's Agitation—Calvin's Letter to the Duchess about the Chaplain—Calvin justifies Germany—Calvin writes to Duchemin—How to escape the Pollutions of Babylon—Roussel made a Bishop—Calvin's Letter to him—His energetic Appeal—Lesson to be drawn from these Letters—Calvin's Influence in Italy—His Danger

(Spring, 1536.)

The Inquisition alarmed—The French ordered to leave Ferrara—Marot's Lines to the Queen of Navarre—Calvin arrested—Hurried away to Bologna—Stopped and rescued on the Road—His Flight—Castelvetro—Traditions of Carigliano and Saluzzo—The City of Aosta—Beginning of the Gospel—Violent Opposition—Zeal of Bishop Gazzini and the Guardian of the Franciscans—Assembly of the States—Was Calvin at Aosta at that time?—Passes through Aosta twice—Calvin's Farm—Calvin's Bridge and Window—The Monument in Aosta—Calvin returns to France—Visit to Noyon—Prepares to return to Basle—His Object and Desire

(Summer, 1536.)

A Traveller arrives at Geneva—Meeting with Du Tillet—Interview with Farel—Farel invites him to settle at Geneva—Calvin's Objections—His Timidity—Farel's Ardor—The Imprecation—The Thunderbolt—Calvin yields to the Call of God—His Journey to Basle—His Sermons at St. Pierre's—His Place in the Church—A wrong Step—The Spot on the Robe—How it may be excused—The Rule of Conscience—God's Honor more precious than Life—Religious and Political Liberty united—Hidden Errors—Formation of a living and united Church—Order of the Council—The Centre and the Head




(March and April, 1534.)

The parliament of 1534 had greatly advanced the cause of the Reformation. The voices of the most enlightened men of England had been heard in it with still greater power than in 1529; and accordingly an historian,[2] Sreferring to the meeting of 1534, speaks of it as 'that great session.' Those enlightened men, however, formed but a small minority, and among them were many who, from a want of independence, never voted on the side of liberty but when the king authorized them. The epoch was a critical one for the nation. It might as easily fall back to the pope, as advance towards the Gospel. Hesitating between the Middle Ages and modern times, it had to choose either life or death. Would it make a vigorous effort and reach those bracing heights, like travellers scaling the {2} rugged sides of the Alps? England appeared too weak for so daring a flight. The mass of the people seemed chained by time-worn prejudices to the errors and practices of Rome. The king no doubt had political views which raised him above his age; but a slave to his passions, and the docile disciple of scholasticism, he detested a real Reformation and real liberty. The clergy were superstitious, selfish, and excitable; and the advisers of the crown knew no other rule than the will of their master. By none of these powers, therefore, could a transformation be accomplished. The safety of England came from that sovereign hand, that mysterious power, which was already stirring the western world. The nation began to feel its energetic impulse. A strange breeze seemed to be filling the sails and driving the bark of the state towards the harbor, notwithstanding the numerous shoals that lay around it.

The thought which at that time mainly engrossed the minds of the most intelligent men of England—men like Cranmer, Cromwell, and their friends—was the necessity of throwing off the papal authority. They believed that it was necessary to root out the foreign and unwholesome weed, which had spread over the soil of Britain, and tear it up so thoroughly that it could never grow again. Parliament had declared that all the powers exercised by the bishop of Rome in England must cease and be transferred to the crown; and that no one, not even the king, should apply to Rome for any dispensation whatsoever. A prelate had preached every Sunday at St. Paul's Cross that the pope was not the head of the Church. On the other hand, the pontiff, who was reckoning on Henry's promised explanations and satisfactory propositions, seeing that the messenger whom he expected from London did not arrive, had solemnly condemned that prince on the 23rd March, 1534.[3] But immediately startled at his own {3} boldness, Clement asked himself with agony how he could repair this wrong and appease the king. He saw it was impossible, and in the bitterness of his heart exclaimed: 'Alas! England is lost to us!'


Two days after the famous consistory in which Henry's condemnation had been pronounced, an English courier entered Rome, still in a state of agitation and trouble, and went straight to the papal palace. 'What is his business?' people said; 'and what can give him such boldness? The Englishman was bringing to the ministers of the Vatican the long-expected act by which the King of England declared himself prepared to enter into an arrangement with the pope, provided the cardinals of the imperial faction were excluded.[4] The messenger at the same time announced that Sir Edward Carne and Revett, two envoys from Henry VIII., would soon arrive to conclude the business.[5] Cardinal Farnese, who erelong succeeded Clement under the title of Paul III., and the more moderate prelates of the sacred college, waited upon the pope at once, and begged him to summon the consistory without delay. It was just what Clement desired; but the imperialists, more furious than ever, insisted on the confirmation of the sentence condemning Henry, and spared no means to ensure success. Monks went about repeating certain stories which their English brethren sent them, and which they furthermore exaggerated. They asserted that the English people were about to rise in a body against the king and throw themselves at the feet of the holy father. The pope ratified the sentence, and the consistory, taking one more step, ordered the emperor to carry it out.

It has been said that a delay of two days was the cause of the Reformation of England. That is a mistake. {4} The Reformation came from the Holy Scriptures, from God, from His mighty grace, and not from princes, their passions, or delays. Even had the pontifical court at last conceded to Henry the divorce he asked for, that prince would probably not have renounced the rights he had acquired, and which made him sole and true monarch of England. Had he done so, it is doubtful whether he was strong enough to check the Reformation. The people were in motion. Christian truth had reappeared among them: neither pontifical agitations nor concessions could stop the rapid current that was carrying them to the pure and living waters of the Gospel.


However, Sir Edward Carne and William Revett, Henry's envoys, arrived in Italy full of hope, and pledged themselves (as they wrote to the king) to reconcile England and the papacy 'in conformity to his Highness's purpose.'[6] Having learnt on reaching Bologna, that the bishop of Paris, who was instructed to support them, was in that city, they hurried to him to learn the exact state of affairs. The bishop was one of those enlightened catholics who believed that the extreme ultramontane party was exposing the papacy to great danger, and who would have prevented schism in the Church, by giving some satisfaction to Germany and England. Hence the envoys from Henry VIII. found the prelate dejected and embarrassed. 'All is over,' he told them. 'The pope has pronounced sentence against his Majesty.' Carne and Revett were thunderstruck; the burden was too heavy for them.[7] 'All our hopes have vanished in a moment,' they said. Du Bellay assured them that he had spared no pains likely to prevent so precipitate and imprudent an act on {5} the part of a pope.[8] 'But the imperialists,' he said, 'moved heaven and earth, and constrained Clement VII. to deliver a sentence in opposition to his own convictions.' The ambassador of Francis I. added that there was still one gleam of hope. 'Raincé, secretary to the French embassy at Rome, with an oath, wished himself at perdition,'[9] said Du Bellay rather coarsely, 'if our holy father does not patch up all that has been damaged.' The Englishmen desired to go to the pope forthwith, in order to prevent the execution of the sentence. 'Do nothing of the kind,' said the French bishop. 'Do not go to Rome on any pretext whatsoever.'[10]

Perhaps Du Bellay wanted first to know what his master thought of the matter. Carne, undecided what to do, despatched a messenger to Henry VIII. to ask for orders; and then, ten days later, wishing to do something, he appealed from the bishop of Rome ill-informed to the bishop of Rome better informed.[11]


When the King of England received his ambassador's message, he could hardly restrain his anger. At the very moment when he had made a concession, which appeared to him the height of condescension, Rome treated him with contempt and sacrificed him to Charles V. Even the nation was aroused. The pope, it was said, commissions a foreign prince to execute his decrees; soldiers newly raised in Germany, and brimful of insults and threats, are preparing to land in Great Britain![12] National pride arrayed the people on the King's side. Henry no longer hesitated; his offended honor demanded reparation: a complete rupture alone could satisfy it. He wrote a treatise entitled: 'On the power of Christian kings over their Churches, against the {6} tyranny and horrible impiety of the pope.'[13] This book against the pope, and the very different one that he had formerly written against Luther, are the two claims of this prince to theological renown. Consulting merely his own interests, he threw himself now on one side, now on the other. Many writers supported him. 'The pope,' said Dr. Samsons, dean of the Chapel Royal, 'has no more power in England than the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome. It was only by tacit consent that the pope crept into the kingdom, but we intend to drive him out now by express consent.'[14] The two houses of parliament were almost unanimously of that opinion. The privy council proposed to call upon the lord mayor to see that anti-Romish doctrines were taught in every house in London. Lastly, the people showed their opposition after their fashion, indulging in games and masquerades, in which a cardinal at one time, the pope at another, were represented. To call a man a 'papist' or 'a priest of the pope' was one of the greatest insults.[15] Even the clergy declared against Rome. On the 31st March the lower house of convocation discussed whether the Roman pontiff had in England, according to Scripture, a higher jurisdiction than any other foreign bishop.[16] Thirty-three voted in the negative, only four in the affirmative. The king immediately forwarded the same question to all the ecclesiastical corporations of the kingdom. The friends of the Gospel were filled with joy. The pope had made a great mistake when, imitating the style of ancient Rome, he had hurled the bolts of the Vatican, as Jupiter had {7} in days of old launched the thunders of the Capitol. A great revolution seemed to be working itself out unopposed in this island, so long the slave of the Roman pontiffs. There was just at this time nothing to be feared from without: Charles V. was overwhelmed with business; the King of Scotland was on better terms with his uncle of England, and Francis I. was preparing for a friendly interview with Henry VIII.[17] And yet the danger had never been greater; but the mine was discovered in March 1534, before the match could be applied to it.

A dangerous political and clerical conspiracy had been for some time silently organizing in the convents. It was possible, no doubt, to find here and there in the cloisters monks who were learned, pious, and loyal; but the greater number were ignorant and fanatic, and terribly alarmed at the dangers which threatened their order. Their arrogance, grossness, and loose manners irritated the most enlightened part of the nation; their wealth, endowments, and luxury aroused the envy of the nobility. A religious and social transformation was taking place at this memorable epoch, and the monks foresaw that they would be the first victims of the revolution. Accordingly they were resolved to fight to the uttermost, pro aris et focis, for their altars and homes. But who was to take the first step in the perilous enterprise—who to give the signal?

As in the days of the Maid of Orleans, it was a young woman who grasped the trumpet and sounded the charge. But if the first was a heroine, the other was an ecstatic—nay, a fanatic.


There lived in the village of Aldington in Kent a young woman of singular appearance. Although of an age which is usually distinguished by a fresh and clear complexion, her face was sallow and her eyes haggard. {8} All of a sudden she would be seized with a trembling of the whole body; she lost the use of her limbs and of her understanding, uttered strange and incoherent phrases, and fell at last stiff and lifeless to the ground. She was, moreover, exemplary in her conduct. The people declared her state to be miraculous, and Master, the rector of the parish, a cunning and grasping priest, noticing these epileptic attacks, resolved to take advantage of them to acquire money and reputation. He suggested to the poor sufferer that the extraordinary words she uttered proceeded from the inspiration of Heaven, and declared that she would be guilty if she kept secret this wonderful work of God. A monk of Canterbury, named Bocking, joined the priest with the intention of turning the girl's disease to the profit of the Romish party. They represented to Elizabeth Barton—such was the name of the Kentish maiden—that the cause of religion was exposed to great danger in England; that it was intended to turnout the monks and priests; but that God, whose hand defends His Church by the humblest instruments, had raised her up in these inauspicious days to uphold that holy ark, which king, ministers, and parliament desired to throw down. Such language pleased the girl: on the faith of the priests, she regarded her attacks as divine transports; a feeling of pride came over her; she accepted the part assigned her. On a sudden her imagination kindled, she announced that she had held communications with saints and angels, even with Satan himself. Was this sheer imposture or enthusiasm? There was, perhaps, a little of both; but in her eyes, the end justified the means. When speaking, she affected strange turns, unintelligible figures, poetical language, and clothed her visions in rude rhymes, which made the educated smile, but helped to circulate her oracles among the people. Erelong she set herself unscrupulously above the truth, {9} and inspired by a feverish energy, did not fear to excite the people to bloodshed.

There was somewhere out in the fields in one part of the parish, a wretched old chapel that had been long deserted, and where a coarse image of the Virgin still remained. Master determined to make it the scene of a lucrative pilgrimage. He suggested the notion to Elizabeth Barton, and erelong she gave out that the Virgin would cure her of her disorder in that holy consecrated edifice. She was carried thither with a certain pomp, and placed devoutly before the image. Then a crisis came upon her. Her tongue hung out of her mouth, her eyes seemed starting from their sockets, and a hoarse sepulchral voice was heard speaking of the terrors of hell; and then, by a singular transformation, a sweet and insinuating voice described the joys of paradise.[18] At last the ecstasy ended, Elizabeth came to herself, declared that she was perfectly cured, and announced that God had ordered her to become a nun and to take Bocking as her confessor. The prophecy of the Kentish maiden touching her own disease being thus verified, her reputation increased.

Elizabeth Barton's accomplices imagined that the new prophetess required a wider stage than the fields of Aldington, and hoped that, once established in the ecclesiastical metropolis of England, she would see her followers increase throughout the kingdom. Immediately after her cure, the ventriloquist entered the convent of the Holy Sepulchre at Canterbury, to which Bocking belonged. Once in this primatial city, her oracles and her miracles were multiplied. Sometimes in the middle of the night, the door of her cell opened miraculously: it was a call from God, inviting her to the chapel to converse with Him. Sometimes a letter in golden characters was {10} brought to her by an angel from heaven.[19] The monks kept a record of these wonders, these oracles; and selecting some of them, Master laid the miraculous collection, this bible of the fanatics, before Archbishop Warham. The prelate, who appeared to believe in the nun's inspiration, presented the document to the king, who handed it to Sir Thomas More, and ordered the words of the Kentish maiden to be carefully taken down and communicated to him. In this Henry VIII. showed probably more curiosity and distrust than credulity.

Elizabeth and her advisers were deceived, and thought they might enter into a new phase, in which they hoped to reap the reward of their imposture. The Aldington girl passed from a purely religious to a political mission. 'Unhappily,' says an ultramontane writer, 'she quitted heaven for earth, and busied herself with worldly things.'[20] This is what her advisers were aiming at. All, and especially Friar Bocking, who contemplated restoring the authority of the papacy—even were it necessary to their end to take the king's life—began to denounce in her presence Henry's tolerance of heresy and the new marriage he desired to contract. Elizabeth eagerly joined this factious opposition. 'If Henry marries Anne Boleyn,' she told Bishop Fisher, 'in seven months' time there will be no king in England.' The circle of her influence at once grew wider. The Romish party united with her. Abel, Queen Catherine's agent, entered into the conspiracy; twice Elizabeth Barton appeared before the pope's legates; Fisher supported her, and Sir Thomas More, one of the most cultivated men of his day, though at first little impressed in her favor, admitted afterwards the truth of her foolish and guilty revelations.


One thing was yet wanting, and that was very essential in the eyes of the supporters of the movement: {11} Elizabeth must appear before Henry VIII. as Elijah appeared before Ahab: they expected great results from such an interview. At length they obtained permission, and the Kentish maiden prepared herself for it by exercises which over excited her. When brought into the presence of the prince, she was at first silent and motionless, but in a moment her eyes brightened and seemed to flash fire; her mouth was drawn aside and stretched,[21] while from her trembling lips there fell a string of incoherent phrases. 'Satan is tormenting me for the sins of my people,' she exclaimed, 'but our blessed Lady shall deliver me by her mighty hand.... O times! O manners!... Abominable heresies, impious innovations!... King of England, beware that you touch not the power of the holy Father.... Root out the new doctrines.... Burn all over your kingdom the New Testament in the vulgar tongue. Henry, forsake Anne Boleyn and take back your wife Catherine.... If you neglect these things, you shall not be king longer than a month, and in God's eyes you will not be so even for an hour. You shall die the death of a villain, and Mary, the daughter of Catherine, shall wear your crown.'[22]

This noisy scene produced no effect on the king. Henry, though prompt to punish, would not reply to Elizabeth's nonsense, and was content to shrug his shoulders. But the fanatical young woman was not discouraged: if the king could not be converted, the people must be roused. She repeated her threats in the convents, castles, and villages of Kent, the theatre of her frequent excursions. She varied them according to circumstances. The king must fall: but at one time she announced it would be by the hands of his subjects; at another, of the priests; and at a third, by the {12} judgment of God. One point alone was unchanged in her utterances: Henry Tudor must perish. Erelong, like a prophetess lifted above the ordinary ministers of God, she reprimanded even the sovereign pontiff himself. She thought him too timid, and taking him to task,[23] declared that if he did not bring Henry's plans to naught, 'the great stroke of God which then hung over his head' would inevitably fall upon him.[24]

This boldness added to the number of her partisans. Monks, nuns, and priests, knights, gentlemen, and scholars, were carried away by her. Young folks especially and men of no culture eagerly embraced this mad cause. There were also men of distinction who did not fear to become her defenders. Bishop Fisher was gained over: he believed himself certain of the young woman's piety. Being a man of melancholy temperament and mystic tendency, a lover of the marvellous, he thought that the soul of Elizabeth might well have a supernatural intercourse with the Infinite Being. He said in the House of Lords: 'How could I anticipate deceit in a nun, to whose holiness so many priests bore witness?' The Roman catholics triumphed. A prophetess had risen up in England, like Deborah in Israel.

One eminent and large-hearted catholic, Sir Thomas More, had however some doubts; and the monks who were Elizabeth's advisers set every engine at work to win him over. During the Christmas of 1532, Father Risby, a Franciscan of Canterbury, arrived at Chelsea to pass the night there. After supper, he said: 'What a holy woman this nun of Kent is! It is wonderful to see all that God is doing through her.'—'I thank God for it,' coldly answered More.—'By her mediation she saved the cardinal's soul,' added the monk. The conversation went no farther. Some time later a fresh {13} attempt was made: Father Rich, a Franciscan of Richmond, came and told More the story of the letter written in letters of gold and brought by an angel. 'Well, father,' said the chancellor, 'I believe the nun of Kent to be a virtuous woman, and that God is working great things by her;[25] but stories like that you have told me are not part of our Credo, and before repeating them, one should be very sure about them.' However, as the clergy generally countenanced Elizabeth, More could not bear the idea of forming a sect apart, and went to see the prophetess at Sion monastery. She told him a silly story of the devil turned into a bird.[26] More was satisfied to give her a double ducat and commend himself to her prayers. The chancellor, like other noble intellects among the catholics, was prepared to admit certain superstitions; but he would have had the nun keep in her religious sphere; he feared to see her touch upon politics. 'Do not speak of the affairs of princes,' he said to her. 'The relations which the late Duke of Buckingham had with a holy monk were in great part the cause of his death.' More had been Chancellor of England, and perhaps feared the duke's fate.


Elizabeth Barton did not profit by this lesson. She again declared that, according to the revelations from God, no one should deprive the Princess Mary of the rights she derived through her birth, and predicted her early accession. Father Goold immediately carried the news to Catherine. The nun and her advisers, who chided the pope only through their zeal for the papacy, had communications with the nuncio; they thought it necessary for him to join the conspiracy. They agreed upon the course to be adopted: at a given time, monks were to mingle with the people and excite a {14} seditious movement.[27] Elizabeth and her accomplices called together such as were to be the instruments of their criminal design. 'God has chosen you,' said the nun to these friars, 'to restore the power of the Roman pontiff in England.' The monks prepared for this meritorious work by devout practices: they wore sackcloth next their skin, they fastened iron chains round their bodies, fasted, watched, and made long prayers. They were seriously intent on disturbing the social order and banishing the Word of God.

The violent Henry VIII.—easy-tempered for once in his life—persisted in his indifference. The seven months named by the prophetess had gone by, and the dagger with which she had threatened him had not touched him. He was in good health, had the approbation of parliament, saw the nation prosper under his government, and possessed the wife he had so passionately desired. Everything appeared to succeed with him, which disconcerted the fanatics. To encourage them Elizabeth said: 'Do not be deceived. Henry is no longer really king, and his subjects are already released from every obligation towards him. But he is like King John, who, though rejected by God, seemed still to be a king in the eyes of the world.'[28]

The conspirators intrigued more than ever: not content with Catherine's alliance, they opened a communication with Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury, niece of Edward IV., and with her children the representatives of the party of the White Rose. Hitherto this lady had refrained from politics; but her son Reginald Pole, having united with the pope and quarrelled with Henry VIII., they prevailed upon her to carry over to {15} the Princess Mary, whose household she directed, the forces of the party of which she was the head.


The conspirators believed themselves sure of victory; but at the very moment when they imagined themselves on the point of restoring the papacy in England, their whole scheme suddenly fell to the ground. The country was in danger: the state must interfere. Cranmer and Cromwell were the first to discover the approaching storm. Canterbury, the primate's archiepiscopal city, was the centre of the criminal practices of the Kentish girl. One day the prioress of the Holy Sepulchre received the following note from Cranmer: 'Come to my palace next Friday; bring your nun with you. Do not fail.'[29] The two women duly came; Elizabeth's head was so turned that she saw in everything that happened the opportunity of a new triumph. This time she was deceived. The prelate questioned her; she obstinately maintained the truth of her revelations, but did not convince the archbishop, who had her taken to Cromwell, by whom she was sent to the Tower with five other nuns of her party. At first Elizabeth proudly stuck to her character of prophetess; but imprisonment, the searching questions of the judges, and the grief she felt on seeing her falsehoods discovered, made her give way at last. The unhappy creature, a blind tool of the priests, was not entirely wanting in proper feeling. She began to understand her offence and to repent of it: she confessed everything. 'I never had a vision in all my life,' she declared;[30] 'whatever I said was of my own imagination; I invented it to please the people about me and to attract the homage of the world.' The disorder, which had weakened her head, had much to do with her aberrations. Master, Bocking, Goold, Deering, and others guiltier than her, appeared before the Star Chamber. Elizabeth's confession rendered their denials impossible, and they acknowledged having attempted to get up an {16} insurrection with a view of re-establishing the papacy. They were condemned to make a public disavowal of their impostures, and the following Sunday at St. Paul's was appointed for that purpose. The bishop of Bangor preached; the nun and her accomplices, who were exposed on a platform in front of him, confessed their crimes before the people, and were then led back to the Tower.[31]

Personages far more illustrious than these were involved. Besides an epileptic girl and a few monks, the names of Fisher and of More were in the indictment. Cromwell urged both the bishop and the statesman to petition the king for pardon, assuring them they would obtain it. 'Good Master Cromwell,' exclaimed Sir Thomas More, who was much excited and ashamed of his credulity, 'my poor heart is pierced at the idea that his Majesty should think me guilty. I confess that I did believe the nun to be inspired; but I put away far from me every thought of treason. For the future, neither monk nor nun shall have power to make me faithless to my God and my king.' Cranmer, Cromwell, and the chancellor prevailed on Henry VIII. to strike More's name out of the bill. The illustrious scholar escaped the capital punishment with which he was threatened. His daughter, Margaret Roper, came in a transport of joy to tell him the news: 'In faith, Meg,' said More with a smile, 'quod differtur non aufertur, what is put off is not put away.'[32]

The case of the bishop of Rochester was more serious: he had been in close communication with all those knaves, and the honest but proud and superstitious churchman would not acknowledge any fault. Cromwell, who desired to save the old man, conjured him to give up all idea of defending himself; but Fisher obstinately wrote to the House of Lords that he had seen no {17} deception in the nun. The name of the king's old tutor was left, therefore, in the bill of attainder.[33]


The bill was introduced into the House of Lords on the 21st February, and received the royal assent on the 21st March. The prisoners were brought together in the Star Chamber to hear their sentence. Their friends had still some hope; but the Bull which the pope had issued against Henry VIII. on the 23rd of March, endangering the order of succession, made indulgence difficult. The king and his ministers felt it their duty to anticipate, by a severe example, the rebellion which the partisans of the pontiff were fomenting in the kingdom. Sentence of death was pronounced upon all the criminals.

During this time the unfortunate Elizabeth saw all the evils she had caused rise up before her eyes: she was grieved and agitated, she was angry with herself and trembled at the idea of the temporal and eternal penalties she had deserved. Death was about to end this drama of fanaticism. On the 20th April the false prophetess was carried to Tyburn with her accomplices, in the midst of a great crowd of people. On reaching the scaffold, she said: 'I am the cause not only of my own death, which I have richly deserved, but of the death of all those who are going to suffer with me. Alas! I was a poor wretch without learning,[34] but the praises of the priests about me turned my brain, and I thought I might say anything that came into my head. Now I cry to God and implore the king's pardon.' These were her last words. She fell—she and her accomplices—under the stroke of the law.

These were the means to which fervent disciples of Rome had recourse to combat the Reformation in England. Such weapons recoil against those who employ them. The blindest partisans of the Church of the {18} popes continued to look upon this woman as a prophetess, and her name was in great favor during the reign of Mary. But the most enlightened Roman catholics are now careful not to defend the imposture.[35] The fanatical episode was not without its use: it made the people understand what these pretended visions and false miracles were, through which the religious orders had acquired so much influence; and so far contributed to the suppression of the monasteries within whose walls such a miserable deception had been concocted.

[2]   Burnet.

[3]   Supra, vol. iv, bk. vi. ch. xxi.

[4]   Pallavicini, Concil. Trid. lib. i. Herbert, p. 397. Burnet, i. p. 131. Collyer, ii. p. 80.

[5]   Carne and Revett to Henry.—State Papers, vii. p. 553.

[6]   Carne and Revett to Henry.—State Papers, vii. p. 553.

[7]   'It was to our heaviness.' Carne and Revett to Henry.—State Papers, vii. p. 553.

[8]   Du Bellay to the King. Le Grand, Preuves du divorce, p. 634.

[9]   'Se donne au diable.'—Ibid.

[10]   State Papers, vii. p. 553.

[11]   Carne and Revett to Henry VIII.—State Papers, p. 555.

[12]   Vaughan to Cromwell.—Ibid. vii. p. 511.

[13]   'De potestate christianorum regum in suis Ecclesiis, contra pontificis tyrannidem et horribilem impietatem.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 230.

[14]   Strype, Records, i. p. 178.

[15]   Raumer, Briefe, ii. p. 63.

[16]   'An Romanus pontifex habeat aliquam majorem jurisdictionem.'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 769.

[17]   Henry VIII. to Francis I.—State Papers, vii. p. 562.

[18]   'A voice speaking within her belly.'—Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 273.

[19]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains, pp. 65, 274.

[20]   Audin, in his History of Henry VIII.

[21]   'Draw her mouth away toward the one ear.'—Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 65.

[22]   Fisher's Letter to the House of Lords.—Collyers, vi. p. 87. Strype, Sanders, Hall, &c.

[23]   Bishop Bale, Works, p. 640.

[24]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 273.

[25]   More to Cromwell.—Burnet, Records, ii. p. 262.

[26]   'Suddenly changed into such a strange ugly-fashioned bird.'—More to Cromwell. Burnet, Records, ii. p. 260.

[27]   'Much perilous sedition and also treason.'—Cranmer to Archdeacon Hawkins, Letters and Remains, p. 274. A manuscript in the Record Office contains various details.

[28]   'Henricum non amplius esse regem.'—Sanders, p. 74.

[29]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 252.

[30]   Ibid. p. 274.

[31]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 274.

[32]   More's Life, p. 230.

[33]   Letter from Cromwell to Fisher.

[34]   Hall, p. 814. Burnet, p. 280 (edit. 1816.)

[35]   The Roman catholic historian Lingard acknowledges the deception.

(Christmas 1533 to June 1534.)

The maid of Kent having been executed, her partisans rallied round another woman, who represented the Romish system in its highest features, as Elizabeth Barton had represented it in its more vulgar phase. After the nun came the queen.


Catherine had always claimed the honors due to the Queen of England, and her attendants yielded them to her. 'We made oath to her as queen,' they said, 'and the king cannot discharge our consciences.' Whenever Lord Mountjoy, royal commissioner to the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, called her 'princess,' she raised her head haughtily and said to him: 'You shall answer {19} for this before God.'[36] 'Ah!' exclaimed Mountjoy, fretted by the vexations of his office, 'I would a thousand times rather serve the king in the most dangerous cause!' Mary having also received an injunction to drop her title of princess, made answer: 'I shall believe no such order, unless I see his Majesty's signature.' The most notable partisans of Roman catholicism, and even the ambassador of Charles V., paid the queen frequent visits. Henry became uneasy, and shortly before Christmas 1533 he took measures to remove her from her friends. Catherine opposed everything. Suffolk wrote to the king: 'I have never seen such an obstinate woman.' But there was a man quite as obstinate, and that was Henry.

His most cherished desires had not been satisfied: he had no son. Should he chance to die, he would leave two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth; the former supported by the partisans of the old times, the latter by those of the new. Civil war would probably decide to whom the crown should belong. It was necessary to prevent such a misfortune. The Lords and Commons, therefore, petitioned the king, no doubt at his instigation, that his marriage with Lady Catherine should be declared null, and her child illegitimate; that his marriage with Queen Anne should be recognized as valid, and the children issuing from it alone entitled to succeed. All classes of people immediately took the statutory oath; even the monks bowed their heads. They said: 'Bound to render to our king Henry VIII. and to him alone after Jesus Christ,[37] fidelity and worship, we promise inviolable obedience to our said lord as well as to our most serene Queen Anne, his wife, and to their children; and we profess perpetual respect for the holy and chaste marriage which they have legitimately {20} contracted.'[38] This forced testimony, borne to Anne by the monastic orders, is one of the numerous monuments of the despotism of Henry VIII. and of the moral weakness of the monks.

But in this oath of allegiance the king had meditated a more important object—to banish the papacy from England. The monks bound themselves not only to recognize the prescribed order of succession, but further to substitute the primacy of the king for that of the pope. 'We affirm,' they said, 'that King Henry is the head of the Anglican Church, that the Roman bishop, falsely styled pope and sovereign pontiff, has no more authority than any other bishop; and we promise to preach Christ simply and openly according to the rule of Scripture and of the orthodox and catholic doctors.' A sign, a word from the State was sufficient to make the papal army pass from the camp of Rome to the camp of the king.

The 'famous question,'[39] that of the Romish jurisdiction, was also put before the two universities. On the 2nd May Cambridge declared, that 'all its doctors having carefully examined the Holy Scriptures, had not discovered the primacy of the pope in them.' The clergy of the province of York, led by the archbishop Edward Lee, a churchman full of talent, activity, and vanity, stoutly resisted at first; but eventually the prelate wrote to the king on the 2nd June that 'according to the unanimous opinion of his clergy, the pope in conformity with the Holy Scriptures had no more authority in England than any other foreign ecclesiastic.'[40] Henry, not content with the proclamations of his council and the declarations of parliament, required for his separation from Rome the suffrage of the Church; and the Church, probably {21} more from weakness than conviction, gave it. However, without reckoning the members of the clergy who, like the primate, wanted no pope, there were many bishops who, at heart, were not sorry to be liberated from the perpetual encroachments of the Roman court.


A rumor from the continent suddenly disquieted the king among all his easy triumphs; a more formidable enemy than those monks and bishops was rising against him. It was reported that the emperor was not only recruiting soldiers in Flanders, but was forwarding considerable numbers from Bohemia, Germany, Italy, and Spain for the invasion of England.[41] Francis I. could not permit this kingdom, so close to his own, to be occupied by the armies of Charles V. his constant enemy; he determined therefore to have an interview with Henry, and to that intent sent over the Seigneur De la Guiche, his chamberlain and counsellor.[42] Henry replied that it would be difficult to leave England just at a time when pope and emperor spoke of invading him; the more so as he must leave his 'most dearly beloved queen' (Anne Boleyn) and his young daughter, the Princess Elizabeth; as well as another daughter and her mother, the aunt of Charles V., whose partisans were conspiring against him. 'Ask my good brother the king,' said Henry to De la Guiche, 'to collect a fleet of ships, galleys, and barks to prevent the emperor's landing. And in case that prince should invade either France or England, let us agree that the one who is not called upon to defend his own kingdom shall march into {22} Charles's territories.' However, Henry consented to go as far as Calais.[43]

There was another invasion which, in Henry's eyes, was much more to be dreaded. That king—a greater king perhaps than is ordinarily supposed—maintained that no prince, whether his name was Charles or Clement, had any business to meddle with his kingdom. The act of the 23rd March, by which the pope had condemned him, had terminated his long endurance: Clement VII. had declared war against him and Henry VIII. accepted it. A man, though he be ordinarily the slave of his passions, has sometimes impulses which belong to great characters. Henry determined to finish with the pope as the pope had finished with him. He will declare himself master in his own island; dauntlessly he will brave Rome and the imperial power ready to assail him. Erelong the fire which consumed him appeared to kindle his subjects. The political party, at the head of which were Suffolk and Gardiner, was ready to give up the papacy, even while maintaining the dogmas of catholicism. The evangelical party desired to go farther, and drive the catholic doctrines out of England. These two hostile sections united their forces against the common enemy.

At the head of the evangelicals, who were eventually to prevail under the son of Henry VIII., were two men of great intelligence, destined to be powerful instruments in the enfranchisement of England. Cranmer, the ecclesiastical leader of the party, gave way too easily to the royal pressure; but being a moderate theologian, a conscientious Christian, a skilful administrator, and indefatigable worker, he carefully studied the Scriptures, the Fathers, and even the Schoolmen; he took note of their sayings, and strengthened by their opinions, continued the work of the Reformation with calmness and perseverance. Beside him stood Cromwell, the lay {23} leader of protestant feeling. Gifted in certain respects with a generous character, he loved to benefit those who had helped him in adversity; but too attentive to his own interests, he profited by the Reformation to increase his riches and honors. Inferior to Cranmer in moral qualities, he had a surer and a wider glance than the primate; he saw clearly the end for which he must strive and the means necessary to be employed, and combined much activity with his talents. These leaders were strongly supported. A certain number of ministers and lay members of the Church desired an evangelical reform in England. Latimer, a popular orator, was the tribune commissioned to scatter through the nation the principles whose triumph Cranmer and Cromwell sought. He preached throughout the whole extent of the province of Canterbury; but if his bold language enlightened the well-disposed, it irritated the priests and monks. His great reputation led to his being invited to preach before the king and queen. Cranmer, fearing his incisive language and sarcastic tone, begged him to say nothing in the pulpit that would indicate any soreness about his late disgrace. 'In your sermon let not any sparkle or suspicion of grudge appear to remain in you.[44] If you attack with the Word of God any sin or superstition, do it without passion.' Latimer preached, and Anne Boleyn was so charmed by his evangelical simplicity, Christian eloquence, and apostolic zeal, that she made him her chaplain. Latimer takes his place by the side of Cranmer among the reformers of the English Church.


The evangelical and the political parties being thus agreed to support the prince, Henry determined to strike the decisive blow. On the 9th June, 1534, about three months after he had been condemned at Rome, he signed at Westminster the proclamation 'for the abolishing of the usurped power of the pope.'[45] The {24} king declared: 'That having been acknowledged next after God, supreme head of the Church of England, he abolished the authority of the bishop of Rome throughout his realm, and commanded all bishops to preach and have preached, every Sunday and holy day, the sweet and sincere Word of the Lord; to teach that the jurisdiction of the Church belongs to him alone, and to blot out of all canons, liturgies, and other works the name of the bishop of Rome and his pompous titles, so that his name and memory be never more remembered in the kingdom of England, except to his contumely and reproach.[46] By so doing you will advance the honor of God Almighty, manifest the imperial majesty of your sovereign lord, and procure for the people unity, tranquillity, and prosperity.'


Would these orders be executed? If there remained in any university, convent, parish, or even in any wretched presbytery, a breviary in which the name of the pope was written; if on the altar of any poor country church a missal was found with these four letters unerased—it was a crime. If every weed be not plucked up, thought the king's counsellors, the garden will soon be entirely overrun. The obstinacy of the clergy, their stratagems, their pious frauds were a mystery to nobody. Henry was persuaded, and his counsellors still more so, that the bishops would make no opposition; they resolved therefore to direct the sheriffs to see that the king's orders were strictly carried out. 'We command you,' said that prince, 'under pain of our high indignation, to put aside all human respect, to place God's glory solely before you, and, at the risk of exposing yourselves to the greatest perils, to make and order diligent search to be made.[47] Inform yourselves whether {25} in every part of your county the bishop executes our commands without veil or dissimulation. And in case you should observe that he neglects some portion, or carries out our orders coldly, or presents this measure in a bad light, we command you strictly to inform us and our council with all haste.

'If you hesitate or falter in the commission we give you, rest assured that being a prince who loves justice, we will punish you with such severity that all our subjects will take care for the future not to disobey our commands.'

Everybody could see that Henry was in earnest, and immediately after this energetic proclamation, those who were backward hastened to make their submission. The dean and chapter of St. Paul's made their protest against the pope on the 20th June. On the 27th the University of Oxford, in an act where they described the king as 'that most wise Solomon,' declared unanimously that it was contrary to the Word of God to acknowledge any superiority whatsoever in the bishop of Rome. A great number of churches and monasteries set their seals to similar declarations.[48]

Such was the first pastoral of the prince who claimed now to govern the Church. He seemed desirous of making it a mere department of the State. Henry allowed the bishops to remain, but he employed the functionaries of police and justice to overlook their episcopate; and that office was imposed upon them in such terms that they must necessarily look sharp after the transgressors. First and foremost the king wanted his own way in his family, in the State, and in the Church. The latter was to him as a ship which he had just captured: the captain was driven out, but for fear lest he should return, he threw overboard all who he thought might betray him. With haughty head and naked {26} sword Henry VIII. entered the new realm which he had conquered. He was far from resembling Him whom the prophets had announced: Behold thy king cometh unto thee, meek and lowly.


The power in the Church having been taken from the pope, to whom should it have been committed?

Scripture calls the Christian people a holy nation, a royal priesthood;[49] words which show that, after God, the authority belongs to them. And, in fact, the first act of the Church, the election of an apostle in the place of Judas, was performed by the brethren assembled in one place.[50] When it became necessary to appoint deacons, the twelve apostles once more summoned 'the multitude of the disciples.'[51] And later still, the evangelists, the delegates of the flocks, were selected by the voice of the churches.[52]

It is a principle of reason, that authority, where a corporate body is concerned, resides in the totality of its members. This principle of reason is also that of the Word of God.

When the Church became more numerous it was called upon to delegate (at least partially) a power that it could no longer exercise wholly of itself. In the apostolic age the Christians, called to form this delegation, adopted the forms with which they were familiar. After the pattern of the council of elders, which existed in the Jewish synagogues, and of the assembly of decurions, which exercised municipal functions in the cities of the pagans,[53] the Christian Church had in every town a council, composed of men of irreproachable life, vigilant, prudent, apt to teach,[54] but distinct from those who were called doctors, evangelists, or ministers of the Word.[55] Still the Christians never entertained the idea {27} of giving themselves a universal chief, after the image of the emperor. Jesus Christ and his Word were amply sufficient. It was not until many centuries later that this anti-Christian institution appeared in history.

The authority, which in England had been taken away from the pope, should return in accordance with scriptural principles to the members of the Church; and if, following the example of the primitive Christians, they had adopted the forms existing in their own country in the sixteenth century, they would have placed as directors of the Church—Christ remaining their sole king—one or two houses or assemblies, authorized to provide for the ecclesiastical administration, the maintenance of a pure faith, and the spiritual prosperity of that vast body. These assemblies would have been composed, as in the primitive times, of a majority of Christian laymen, with the addition of ministers; and both would have been elected by believers whose faith was in conformity with that of the Church.[56]

But was there at that time in England a sufficient number of enlightened Christians to become members of these assemblies, and even to hold the elections which were to appoint them? It is doubtful. They were not to be found even in Germany. 'I have nobody to put in them,' said Luther; 'but if the thing becomes feasible, I shall not be wanting in my duty.'[57] This form of government not being possible in England then, according to the Reformer's expression, two other forms offered themselves. If the first were adopted, the authority would be remitted to the clergy; but that would have been to perpetuate the doctrines and rites of popery and to lead back infallibly to the domination of Rome. The most dangerous government for the Church is the government of priests: they commonly rob it of liberty, spontaneousness, evangelical faith, and life. {28}

There remained no alternative then but to confide the supreme authority in the Church to the State; and this is what was generally done in the sixteenth century. But men of the greatest experience in these matters have agreed that the government of the religious society by the civil power can only be a temporary expedient, and have universally proclaimed the great principle, 'that the essence of all society is to be governed by itself.'[58] To deny this axiom would be utterly contrary not only to liberty, but, further still, contrary to justice.

We must not forget when we speak of the relations between Church and State, that there are three different systems:—the government of the Church by the State; the union of the Church, governing itself, with the State; and their complete separation. There is no reason for pronouncing here upon the relative value of the two last systems.

[36]   'Which we should answer to afore God.'—State Papers, i. p. 403.

[37]   'Cui uni et soli, post Jesum Christum.'—Rymer, Acta, p. 192.

[38]   'Erga castum sanctumque matrimonium.'—Ibid.

[39]   'In quæstione illa famosa de Romani pontificis potestate.'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 771.

[40]   'Nemine eorum discrepante.'—Wilkins, Concilia, p. 782.

[41]   'But of Boheme, Italy, and Almayn, as also out of Spain, to invade his realm.'—Certain Articles. State Papers, vii. p. 560.

[42]   It has been supposed that this was the Duke of Guise (Froude, History of England); but a devoted papist, such as Guise, would not have been concerned in a negotiation opposed to the orders of the pope. The State Papers (vii. p. 562) and the index affixed to the seventh volume both say Guiche or Guysche.

[43]   State Papers, vii. pp. 559-564.

[44]   Latimer: Remains, p. 366.

[45]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 772.

[46]   'And his name and memory to be never more remembered except to his contumely and reproach.'—Wilkins, Concilia, p. 773.

[47]   'Make diligent search and wait.'—King's proclamation. Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. p. 70. Wait properly signifies ambuscade.

[48]   'Sigilla de cera rubea.'—See for the pattern and the signatures, Rymer, Acta, vii. pp. 185-209.

[49]   1 Peter ii. 9.

[50]   Acts i. 15.

[51]   Acts vi. 2.

[52]   2 Cor. viii. 19.

[53]   Digesta, lib. I. tit. ii.; De decurione, No. 2.

[54]   1 Timothy iii.; Titus i.

[55]   Ephesians iv. 11; vi. 21; Colossians i. 7; 1 Timothy iv. 6.

[56]   The Thirty-nine Articles.

[57]   Luther, De missa Germanica.

[58]   Grotius, De imperatoris summa potestate circa sacra.

(1534 to August 1535.)

Two persons were at this time specially dreaded by the Roman party: one was at the summit of the grandeurs of the world, the other at the summit of the grandeurs of faith—the queen and Tyndale. The hour of trial was approaching for both of them.

There existed another reformation than that of which the sheriffs were to be the agents; there were other reformers than Henry VIII. One man, desirous of reviving {29} the Church of Christ in England, had made the translation of the Holy Scriptures the work of his life. Tyndale had been forced to leave his country; but he had left it only to prepare a seed which, borne on the wings of the wind, was to change the wildernesses of Great Britain into a fruitful garden.


The retired teacher from the vale of the Severn had settled in 1534 as near as possible to England—at Antwerp, whence ships departed frequently for British harbors. The English merchants, of whom there were many in that city, welcomed him with fraternal cordiality. Among them was a friend of the Gospel, Mr. Thomas Poyntz, whose brother filled an office in the king's household. This warm-hearted Christian had received Tyndale into his house, and the latter was unremittingly occupied in translating the Old Testament, when an English ship brought the news of the martyrdom of Fryth, his faithful colleague. Tyndale shed many tears, and could not make up his mind to continue his work alone. But the reflection that Fryth had glorified Jesus Christ in his prison, aroused him: he felt it his duty to glorify God in his exile. The loss of his friend made his Saviour still more precious to him, and in Jesus he found comfort for his mind. 'I have lost my brother,' he said, 'but in Christ, all Christians and even all the angels are father and mother, sister and brother, and God himself takes care of me. O Christ, my Redeemer and my shield! thy blood, thy death, all that Thou art and all that Thou hast done—Thou thyself art mine!'[59]


Tyndale, strengthened by faith, redoubled his zeal in his Master's service. That indefatigable man was not content to study the Scriptures with eagerness: he desired to combine with learning the charity that worketh. The English merchants of Antwerp, having given him a considerable sum of money, he consecrated {30} it to the poor; but he was not content with mere giving. Besides Sunday he reserved two days in the week, which he called his 'days of recreation.' On Monday he visited the most out of the way streets of Antwerp, hunting in garrets for the poor English refugees who had been driven from their country on account of the Gospel; he taught them to bear Christ's burden, and carefully tended their sick. On Saturday, he went out of the city, visiting the villages and solitary houses, and 'seeking out every hole and corner.'[60] Should he happen to meet some hard-working father burdened with children, or some aged or infirm man, he hastened to share his substance with the poor creatures. 'We ought to be for our neighbor,' he said, 'what Christ has been for us.' This is what Tyndale called his 'pastime.'[61] On Sunday morning he went to a merchant's house where a large room had been prepared for evangelical worship, and read and explained the Scriptures with so much sweetness and unction and in such a practical spirit that the congregation (it was said) fancied they were listening to John the Evangelist.[62] During the remainder of the week the laborious doctor gave himself entirely to his translation. He was not one of those who remain idle in the hope that grace may abound. 'If we are justified by faith,' he said, 'it is in order that we may do Christian works.'

There came good news from London to console him for the death of Fryth. In every direction people were asking for the New Testament; several Flemish printers began to reprint it, saying: 'If Tyndale should print 2000 copies, and we as many, they would be few enough for all England.' Four new editions of the sacred book issued from the Antwerp presses in 1534.

There was at that time living in the city a man little {31} fitted to be Tyndale's associate. George Joye, a fellow of Cambridge, was one of those active but superficial persons, with little learning and less judgment, who are never afraid to launch out into works beyond their powers. Joye, who had left England in 1527, noticing the consideration which Tyndale's labors brought to their author, and being also desirous of acquiring glory for himself, began, though he knew neither Hebrew nor Greek, to correct Tyndale's New Testament according to the Vulgate and his own imagination. One day when Tyndale had refused to adopt one of his extravagant corrections, Joye was touched to the quick: 'I am not afraid to cope with him in this matter,' he said, 'for all his high learning in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.'[63] Tyndale knew more than these. 'He is master of seven languages,' said Busche, Reuchlin's disciple: 'Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, French, and so thoroughly, that whichever he is speaking one might believe it to be his mother tongue.'[64]

In the month of August Joye's translation appeared at Antwerp: he had advertised it as 'clearer and more faithful.' Tyndale glanced over the leaves of the work that had been so praised by its author, and was vexed to find himself so unskilfully 'corrected.' He pointed out some of Joye's errors, and made this touching and solemn declaration: 'I protest in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, and before the whole assembly of believers, that I have never written anything through envy, to circulate any error, or to attract followers to me. I have never had any other desire than to lead my brethren to the knowledge of Christ. And if in what I have written or translated there should be anything opposed to God's word, I beg all men to reject it as I reject it myself, before Christ and his assembly.' {32}

It was in November 1534 that Tyndale made this noble protest.

While Joye was waging this petty war against Tyndale, every ship that came from London to Antwerp brought the cheering news that the great war seemed to be dying out in England, and that the king and those around him were drawing towards protestantism. A change had been worked in Anne's mind analogous to that which had been wrought in her position. She had been ambitious and worldly, but from the moment she ascended the throne, her character had expanded; she had become queen, she wished to be the mother of her people, especially of those who trod in the paths of Holy Scripture. In the first transports of his affection, Henry had desired to share all the honors of sovereignty with her, and she had taken this high position more seriously than Henry had intended. When he saw her whom he had placed by his side imagine that she had any power, the selfish and jealous monarch knit his brows: this was the beginning of the storm that drove Anne Boleyn from the throne to the scaffold. She ventured to order Cromwell to indemnify the merchants who had suffered loss for having introduced the New Testament into England. 'If a day passes,' people said, 'without her having an opportunity of doing a service to a friend of the Gospel, she is accustomed to say with Titus, "I have lost a day."' Harman, a merchant of Antwerp and a man of courage, who had helped Tyndale to publish the Gospel in English, had been kept seven months in prison by Wolsey and Hacket.[65] Although set at liberty, he was still deprived of his privileges and compelled to suspend business. He came over to England, but instead of applying either to the lord chancellor or to Cromwell for the restoration of his rights, he went straight to the queen. Anne, {33} who was then at Greenwich palace, was touched by his piety and sufferings, and probably without taking council of the king, she dictated the following message to the prime minister, which we think worth quoting at full.

By the Queen.

Anne the Queen.—Trusty and right well-beloved, we greet you well. And whereas we be credibly informed that the bearer hereof, Richard Harman, merchant and citizen of Antwerp in Brabant, was in the time of the late lord cardinal put and expelled from his freedom and fellowship of and in the English house there, for nothing else, as he affirmeth like a good Christian man,[66] but only for that, that he did, both with his goods and policy to his great hurt and hindrance in this world, help to the setting forth of the New Testament in English. We therefore desire and instantly pray you, that with all speed and favor convenient, you will cause this good and honest merchant, being my Lord's true, faithful, and loving subject, to be restored to his pristine freedom, liberty, and fellowship aforesaid. And the sooner at this our request: and at your good pleasure to hear him in such things as he hath to make further relation unto you in this behalf.

Given under our signet at my Lord's manor of Greenwich, the xiv. day of May.

To our trusty and well-beloved Thomas Cromwell, principal secretary to his Majesty, the king my lord.

This intervention of the queen in favor of a persecuted evangelical was much talked about. Some ascribed her conduct to the interests of her own cause, others to humanity: most of the friends of the Reformation regarded it as a proof that Anne was gained over to their convictions, and Tyndale manifested his gratitude to the queen by presenting her with a handsome copy of his New Testament.


What gave such joy to Tyndale annoyed the king greatly. Such a private order as this coming from the {34} queen singularly displeased a monarch whose will it was that no business should be discussed except in his council. There was also in this order, at least in Henry's eyes, a still greater evil. The evangelical reformation, which Henry had so stoutly combated and which he detested to the last, was making great progress in England. On the 4th of July, 1533, Fryth, the friend of Harman and Tyndale, was burnt at Smithfield, as being one of its followers; and ten months later, on the 14th of May, 1534, Harman, the friend of Tyndale and Fryth, had been declared 'a good Christian' by the queen. Anne dared profess herself the friend of those whom the king hated. Did she design to make a revolution—to oppose the opinions of her lord the king? That letter did not remain without effect: it was reported that the friends of the Word of God, taking advantage of these favorable dispositions, were printing at Antwerp six separate editions of the New Testament, and were introducing them into England.


It was not only the king who was irritated, the anger of the Romish party was greater still; but as they dared not strike the queen, they looked about for another victim. Neither Bishop Fisher, Sir Thomas More, nor Henry VIII. appear to have had any part in this new crime. Gardiner, now bishop of Winchester, gave a force to the episcopal body of which it had long been deprived; and several prelates, 'incensed and inflamed in their minds,' says a document,[67] called to remembrance that the best means of drying up the waters of a river is to cut off its springs. It was from Tyndale that all those writings proceeded—those Gospels which, in their opinion, were leading England astray. The moment seemed favorable for getting rid of him: he was actually in the states of Charles V., that great enemy of the Reformation. Gardiner and his allies determined {35} to send into the Low Countries two persons with instructions to keep an eye upon the reformer, to take him unawares, and have him put to death. For this purpose they selected a very clever monk of Stratford Abbey and a zealous young papist, who had the look of a gentleman, and who (they hoped) would soon gain Tyndale's heart by his amiability.

It was about the end of the year 1534, while the reformer was still living at Antwerp in the house of Thomas Poyntz, when one day, dining with another merchant, he observed among the guests a tall young man of good appearance whom he did not know. 'He is a fellow-countryman,' said the master of the house, 'Mr. Harry Philips, a person of very agreeable manners.'[68] Tyndale drew near the stranger and was charmed with his conversation. After dinner, just as they were about to separate, he observed another person near Philips, whose countenance from being less open pleaded little in his favor. It was 'Gabriel, his servant,' he was told. Tyndale invited Philips to come and see him: the young layman accepted the invitation, and the candid reformer was so taken with him, that he could not pass a day without him—inviting him at one time to dinner, at another to supper. At length Philips became so necessary to him that he prevailed upon him, with Poyntz's consent, to come and live in the same house with him. For some time they had lost sight of Gabriel, and on Tyndale's asking what had become of him, he was informed that he had gone to Louvain, the centre of Roman clericalism in Belgium. When Tyndale and Philips were once lodged beneath the same roof, their intimacy increased: Tyndale had no secrets from his fellow-countryman. The latter spent hours in the library of the hellenist, who showed him his books and manuscripts, and conversed with him about his past and future labors, and the means that he possessed for {36} circulating the New Testament throughout England. The translator of the Bible, all candor and simplicity, supposing no evil, thinking nothing but good of his neighbor, unbosomed himself to him like a child.

Philips, less of a gentleman than he appeared, was the son of a tax-gatherer in Devonshire; and the pretended domestic, a disguised monk, was that crafty and vicious churchman, who had been brought from Stratford and given to the so-called gentleman—apparently as a servant, but really as his counsellor and master. Neither Wolsey, More, nor Hacket had succeeded in getting hold of Tyndale; but Gardiner, a man of innate malice and indirect measures, familiar with all holes and corners, all circumstances and persons, knew how to go to work without noise, to watch his prey in silence, and fall upon it at the very moment when he was least expected. Two things were required in order to catch Tyndale: a bait to attract him, and a bird of prey to seize him. Philips was the bait, and the monk Gabriel Dunne the bird of prey. The noble-hearted Poyntz, a man of greater experience than the reformer, had been for some time watching with inquisitive eye the new guest introduced into his house. It was of no use for Philips to try to be agreeable, there was something in him which displeased the worthy merchant.[69] 'Master Tyndale,' he said one day to the reformer, 'when did you make that person's acquaintance?'—'Oh! he's a very worthy fellow,' replied the doctor, 'well-educated and a thorough gentleman.' Poyntz said no more.

Meanwhile the monk had returned from Louvain, where he had gone to consult with some leaders of the ultramontane party. If he and his companion could gain Mr. Poyntz, it would be easy to lay hold of Tyndale. They thought it would be sufficient to show the merchant that they had money, imagining that every {37} man was to be bought. One day Philips said to Poyntz: 'I am a stranger here, and should feel much obliged if you would show me Antwerp.' They went out together. Philips thought the moment had come to let Poyntz know that he was well supplied with gold, and even had some to give to others. 'I want to make several purchases,' he said, 'and you would greatly oblige me by directing me. I want the best goods. I have plenty of money,' he added.[70] He then took a step farther, and sounded his man to try whether he would aid him in his designs. As Poyntz did not seem to understand him, Philips went no farther.


As stratagem did not succeed, it was necessary to resort to force. Philips by Gabriel's advice set out for Brussels in order to prepare the blow that was to strike Tyndale. The emperor and his ministers had never been so irritated against England and the Reformation. The troops of Charles V. were in motion, and people expected to hear every moment that war had broken out between the emperor and the king.[71] On arriving at Brussels the young Englishman appeared at court and waited on the government: he declared that he was a Roman catholic disgusted with the religious reforms in England and devoted to the cause of Catherine. He explained to the ministers of Charles V. that they had in the Low Countries the man who was poisoning the kingdom; and that if they put Tyndale to death, they would save the papacy in England. The emperor's ministers, delighted to see Englishmen making common cause with them against Henry VIII., conceded to Gardiner's delegate all that he asked. Philips, sparing no expense to attain his end,[72] returned to Antwerp, {38} accompanied by the imperial prosecutor and other officers of the emperor.

It was important to arrest Tyndale without having recourse to the city authorities, and even without their knowledge. Had not the hanseatic judges the strange audacity to declare, in Harman's case, that they could not condemn a man without positive proof? The monk, who probably had not gone to Brussels, undertook to reconnoitre the ground. One day, when Poyntz was sitting at his door,[73] Gabriel went up to him and said: 'Is Master Tyndale at home? My master desires to call upon him.' They entered into conversation. Everything seemed to favor the monk's designs: he learnt that in three or four days Poyntz would be going to Bar-le-Duc, where he would remain about six weeks. It was just what Gabriel wanted, for he dreaded the piercing eye of the English merchant.


Shortly after this, Philips arrived in Antwerp with the prosecutor and his officers. The former went immediately to Poyntz's house, where he found only the wife at home. 'Does Master Tyndale dine at home to-day?' he said. 'I have a great desire to dine with him. Have you anything good to give us?' 'What we can get in the market,' she replied laconically.[74] 'Good, good,' said the perfidious papist as he turned away.

The new Judas hurried to meet the officers, and agreed with them upon the course to be adopted. When the dinner-hour drew near, he said: 'Come along, I will deliver him to you.' The imperial prosecutor and his followers, with Philips and the monk, proceeded towards Poyntz's house, carefully noting everything and taking the necessary measures not to attract observation. The entrance to the house was by a long narrow passage. Philips placed some of the agents a little way down the {39} street; others, near the entrance of the alley. 'I shall come out with Tyndale,' he told the agents; 'and the man I point out with my finger, is the one you will seize.' With these words Philips entered the house; it was about noon.

The creature was exceedingly fond of money; he had received a great deal from the priests in England for the payment of his mission; but he thought it would be only right to plunder his victim, before giving him up to death. Finding Tyndale at home, he said to him, after a few compliments: 'I must tell you my misfortune. This morning I lost my purse between here and Mechlin,[75] and I am penniless. Could you lend me some money?' Tyndale, simple and inexperienced in the tricks of the world,[76] went to fetch the required sum, which was equivalent to thirty pounds sterling. The delighted Philips put the gold carefully in his pocket, and then thought only of betraying his kind-hearted friend. 'Well, Master Tyndale,' he said, 'we are going to dine together.' 'No,' replied the doctor, 'I am going to dine out to-day; come along with me, I will answer for it that you will be welcome.' Philips joyfully consented; promptitude of execution was one element of success in his business. The two friends prepared to start. The alley by which they had to go out was (as we have said) so narrow that two persons could not walk abreast. Tyndale, wishing to do the honors to Philips, desired him to go first. 'I will never consent,' replied the latter, pretending to be very polite.[77] 'I know the respect due to you—it is for you to lead the way.' Then taking the doctor respectfully by the hand, he led him into the passage. Tyndale, who was of middle height, went first, while Philips, who was very tall, came behind him. He had placed two {40} agents at the entrance, who were sitting at each side of the alley. Hearing footsteps they looked up and saw the innocent Tyndale approaching them without suspicion, and over his shoulders the head of Philips. He was a lamb led to slaughter by the man who was about to sell him. The officers of justice, frequently so hardhearted, experienced a feeling of compassion at the sight.[78] But the traitor, raising himself behind the reformer, who was about to enter the street, placed his forefinger over Tyndale's head, according to the signal which had been agreed upon, and gave the men a significant look, as if to say to them, 'This is he!' The men at once laid hands upon Tyndale who, in his holy simplicity, did not at first understand what they intended doing. He soon found it out; for they ordered him to move on, the officers following him, and he was thus taken before the imperial prosecutor. The latter who was at dinner invited Tyndale to sit down with him. Then ordering his servants to watch him carefully, the magistrate set off for Poyntz's house. He seized the papers, books, and all that had belonged to the reformer; and returning home, placed him with the booty in a carriage, and departed. The night came on, and after a drive of about three hours they arrived in front of the strong castle of Vilvorde, built in 1375 by duke Wenceslaus, situated two or three leagues from Brussels on the banks of the Senne, surrounded on all sides by water and flanked by seven towers. The drawbridge was lowered, and Tyndale was delivered into the hands of the governor, who put him into a safe place. The reformer of England was not to leave Vilvorde, as Luther left the Wartburg. This occurred, as it would appear, in August 1535.[79] {41}


The object of his mission once attained, Philips, fearing the indignation of the English merchants, escaped to Louvain. Sitting in taverns or at the tables of monks, professors, and prelates—sometimes even at the court of Brussels, he would boast of his exploit, and desiring to win the favor of the imperialists would call Henry VIII. a tyrant and a robber of the State.[80]

The English merchants of Antwerp, being reasonably offended, immediately called upon the governor of the English factory to take measures in favor of their countryman; but the governor refused. Tyndale, deprived of all hope, sought consolation in God. 'Oh! what a happy thing it is to suffer for righteousness' sake,' he said.[81] 'If I am afflicted on earth with Christ, I have joy in the hope that I shall be glorified with Him in heaven. Trials are a most wholesome medicine, and I will endure them with patience. My enemies destine me for the stake, but I am as innocent as a new-born child of the crimes of which they accuse me. My God will not forsake me. O Christ, thy blood saves me, as if it had been mine own that was shed upon the cross. God, as great as He is, is mine with all that He hath.'[82]

Tyndale in his prison at Vilvorde was happier than Philips at court. If we carefully study the history of the reformers, we recognize at once that they were not simply masters of a pure doctrine, but also men of lofty souls, Christians of great morality and exalted spirituality. We cannot say as much of their adversaries; what a contrast here between the traitor and his victim! The calumnies and insults of the enemies of protestantism will deceive nobody. If it is sufficient to read the Bible with a sincere heart in order to believe it; it is sufficient also to know the lives of the reformers in order to honor them.

[59]   Tyndale, Treatises, pp. 18, 110. (Parker Society.)

[60]   Tyndale, Treatises, p. lxi. (Parker Society.)

[61]   'Thus he spent his two days of pastime, as he called them.'—Ibid.

[62]   'Much like to the writings of St. John the Evangelist.'—Ibid.

[63]   Anderson, Bible Ann. p. 397.

[64]   'Ut quamcunque loquatur, in ea natum putes.'—Schelhorn, Amœnitates Litterariæ, iv. p. 431.

[65]   See History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, vol. v. book xx. chap. iv.

[66]   The words 'like a good Christian man' are not given in the Strype Memorials, i. p. 431. They have been erased in the original, probably by some Roman catholic. Cotton MSS., Cleop. E. 5. fol. 330.

[67]   'The bishops incensed and inflamed in their minds.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 121.

[68]   'A comely fellow, like a gentleman.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 121.

[69]   'Having no great confidence in the fellow.'—Foxe, Acts v. p. 122.

[70]   'For, said he, I have money enough.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 122.

[71]   'There should have been war between the emperor and the king.'—Ibid.

[72]   'Which was not done with small charges and expenses.'—Ibid.

[73]   'Poyntz sitting at his door.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 23.

[74]   'What good meat shall we have?' 'Such as the market will give.'—Ibid.

[75]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 23.

[76]   'For in the wily subtleties of this world he was simple and inexpert.'—Ibid., p. 127.

[77]   'For that he pretended to show a great humanity.'—Ibid.

[78]   'They pitied to see his simplicity.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 127.

[79]   A letter from Poyntz to his brother John, in which he gives an account of Tyndale's imprisonment, and which is preserved among the Cotton MSS., is dated 15th August 1535.

[80]   'Tyrannum ac expilatorem reipublicæ.'—Cotton MSS., Galba B. x. 81.

[81]   Tyndale, Treatises, ii. p. 28. (Parker Society.)

[82]   Foxe, Acts, i. p. 19.


(1534 and 1535.)


While the Roman papacy was triumphing in the Low Countries, a lay papacy was being established in England. Henry VIII. gave his orders like a sovereign bishop, summus episcopus, and the majority of the priests obeyed him. They believed that such an extraordinary state of things would be but of short duration, and thought that it was not worth the trouble of dying in battle against what would perish of itself. They muttered with their lips what the king ordered them, and waited for the coming deliverance.

Every preacher was bound to preach once at least against the usurpations of the papacy; to explain on that occasion the engagements made by the pope with the king of England, the duplicity shown by Clement, and the obligation by which the monarch was bound to thwart so much falsehood and trickery. The ministers of the Church were ordered to proclaim the Word of Christ purely, but to say nothing about the adoration of saints, the marriage of priests, justification by works and other doctrines rejected by the reformers, which the king intended to preserve. The secular clergy generally obeyed.

There were however numerous exceptions, particularly in the north of England, and the execution of Henry's orders gave rise to scenes more or less riotous. Generally speaking, the partisans of Rome did not {43} merit a very lively interest; but we must give due credit to those who ventured to resist a formidable power in obedience to conscientious principles. There were here and there a few signs of opposition. On the 24th of August Father Ricot, when preaching at Sion Monastery, called the king, according to his orders, 'the head of the Church;' but added immediately after, that he who had given the order was alone responsible before God, and that he 'ought to take steps for the discharge of his conscience.' The other monks went farther still: as soon as they heard Henry's new title proclaimed, there was a movement among them. Father Lache, who far from resembling his name was inflexible even to impudence, got up; eight other monks rose with him and left the chapel 'contrary to the rule of their religion' and to the great scandal of all the audience.[83] These nine friars, boldly quitting the church one after another, were the living protest of the monks of England. That their desire was not to acknowledge Jesus Christ alone as head, is intelligible: they wanted to maintain the dominion of the pope in the Church, and in the State also. The king pope would have none of these freaks of independence. Bedell, who had received Cromwell's order to inspect this convent, proposed to send the nine monks to prison, 'to the terrible example of their adherents.'[84]

The priests, finding that they must act with prudence, avoided a repetition of such outbreaks and began secretly to school their penitents in the confessional, bidding them employ mental reservations, in order to conciliate everything. They set the example themselves: 'I have abjured the pope in the outward man, but not in the inward man,' said one of them to some of his parishioners.[85] The confessor at Sion Monastery had {44} proclaimed the king's new title and even preached upon it; yet when one of his penitents showed much uneasiness because he had heard Latimer say that the pope himself could not pardon sin: 'Do not be afraid,' said the confessor; 'the pope is assuredly the head of the Church. True, king and parliament have turned him out of office here in England; but that will not last long. The world will change again, you will see, and that too before long.'—'But we have made oath to the king as head of the Church,' said some persons to a priest. 'What matters!' replied he. 'An oath that is not very strictly made may be broken the same way.'

These mental reservations, however, made many ecclesiastics and laymen too feel uneasy. They longed for deliverance: they were on the look out; they turned their eyes successively towards Ireland which had risen for the pope, and towards the Low Countries, whence an imperial fleet was to sail for the subjugation of England. Men grew excited. In the convents there were fanatical and visionary monks who, maddened by the abuses of power under which they suffered, and fired by persecution, dreamt of nothing but reaction and vengeance, and expressed their cruel wishes in daring language. One of them named Maitland, belonging to the Dominican convent in London, exclaimed presumptuously, as if he were a prophet: 'Soon I shall behold a scaffold erected.... On that scaffold will pass in turn the heads of all those who profess the new doctrine, and Cranmer will be one of them.... The king will die a violent and shameful death, and the queen will be burnt.' Being addicted to the black art, Maitland pretended to read the future by the help of Satanic beings. All were not so bold: there were the timid and fearful. Several monks of Sion House, despairing of the papacy, were making preparations to escape and hide themselves in some wilderness or foreign cloister. 'If we succeed,' they said, 'we shall be heard of no {45} more, and nobody will know where we are.' This being told to Bedell, Cromwell's agent, he was content to say: 'Let them go; the loss will not be great.' Roman-catholicism was, however, to find more honorable champions.


Two men, a layman and a bishop, celebrated throughout Christendom, Fisher and Sir Thomas More, were about to present an opposition to the king which probably he had not expected. Since More had fathomed the king's intentions, and resigned the office of chancellor, he often passed whole nights without sleep, shuddering at the future which threatened him, and watering his bed with tears. He feared that he was not firm enough to brave death. 'O God!' he exclaimed during his agitated vigils, 'come and help me. I am so weak I could not endure a fillip.'[86] His children wept, his wife stormed against her husband's enemies, and he himself employed a singular mode of preparing his family for the fate that awaited him. One day, when they were all at table, a serjeant entered the room and summoned him to appear before the king's commissioners. 'Be of good cheer,' said More; 'the time is not yet come. I paid this man in order to prepare you for the calamity that hangs over you.' It was not long delayed.

Shortly after the condemnation of Elizabeth Barton the nun, Sir Thomas More, Fisher, and many other influential men were summoned to the archbishop's palace to take the oath prescribed in the Act of Succession. More confessed, received the sacrament, and forbidding his wife and children to accompany him, as was their custom, to the boat which was to carry him to Lambeth, he proceeded in great emotion towards the place where his future would be decided. His startled family watched him depart. The ex-chancellor taking his seat in the boat along with his son-in-law William Roper, {46} endeavored to restrain his tears and struggled but without success against his sorrow. At length his face became more serene, and turning to Roper, he whispered in his ear, 'I thank our Lord, my son; the field is won.'[87] On his arrival at Lambeth palace, where bishop Fisher and a great number of ecclesiastics assembled, More, who was the only layman, was introduced first. The chancellor read the form to him: it stated in the preamble that the troubles of England, the oceans of blood that had been shed in it and many other afflictions, originated in the usurped power of the popes; that the king was the head of the Anglican Church, and that the bishop of Rome possessed no authority out of his own diocese. 'I cannot subscribe that form,' said More, 'without exposing my soul to everlasting damnation. I am ready to give my adhesion to the Act of Succession which is a political act—but without the preamble.' 'You are the first man who has refused,' said the chancellor. 'Think upon it.' A great number of bishops, doctors, and priests who were successively introduced, took the required oath. But More remained firm, and so did bishop Fisher.[88]

Cranmer, who earnestly desired to save these two conscientious men, asked Cromwell to accept the oath they proposed,[89] and the latter consulted the king upon it. 'They must give way,' exclaimed Henry, 'or I will make an example of them that shall frighten others.' As the king was inexorable, they were attainted by act of parliament for refusing to take the required oath, and sent to the Tower. This was in December 1534.[90]

The family of Sir Thomas More was plunged in affliction. His daughter Margaret having obtained permission to see him, hurried to the Tower, penetrated {47} to his cell, and incapable of speaking, fell weeping into his arms. 'Daughter,' said More, restraining himself with an effort, 'let us kneel down.' He repeated the seven penitential Psalms, and then rising up, said: 'Dear Meg, those who have put me here think they have done me a high displeasure, but God treats me as He treats his best friends.'[91] Margaret, who thought of nothing but to save her father, exclaimed: 'Take the oath! death is hanging over your head.' 'Nothing will happen to me but what pleases God,' replied Sir Thomas More. His daughter left the Tower overwhelmed with grief. His wife, who also went to see him, chancellor Audley, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Cromwell, and other of the king's counsellors were not more successful than Margaret. Bishop Fisher met similar solicitations with a similar refusal.


As the king's government did not wish to hurry on the trial of these illustrious men, they turned from the chiefs to the followers. The Carthusians of London were in great odor of sanctity; they never spoke except at certain times, ate no meat, and affirmed that God had visited them in visions and miracles. Their house was not free from disorders, but many of the monks took their vocation seriously. When the royal commissioners visited them to tender the oath of succession, Prior Haughton, a man of small stature but agreeable appearance and noble carriage, appeared before them. The commissioners required him to acknowledge Henry's second marriage to be lawful; Haughton at first sought a loophole, and answered that the king might be divorced and married without him or his monks having anything to say to it. 'It is the king's command,' answered the commissioners, 'that you and your brethren acknowledge by oath the lawfulness of his union. Call the monks together.'[92] The Carthusians appeared, and all refused to take the {48} oath. The prior and proctor were consequently sent to the Tower. The bishop of London used all his influence to make them change their opinions, and succeeded in persuading them that they might take the oath, by making several reservations. They therefore returned to the Charter House and prevailed upon their brethren to do as they had done.

Immediately all was confusion in the monastery. Several monks in deep distress could not tell which course to follow; others, more decided, exclaimed that they would not yield at any price. 'They are minded to offer themselves in sacrifice to the great idol of Rome,' wrote Bedell to Cromwell.[93] At last, when the soldiers appeared to take the rebels to the Tower, the terrified monks lost heart, and took the oath to the new marriage of Henry VIII. 'so far as it was lawful.' The bitter cup was removed, but not for long.

Whilst England was separating from Rome, Clement VII. was dying of vexation.[94] The hatred felt by the Romans towards him[95] was only equalled by the joy they experienced at the election of his successor. Alexander Farnese, the choice of the French party, was a man of the world, desirous of putting down the protestants, recovering England, reforming the Church, and above all enriching his own family. When Da Casale, Henry's envoy, presented his homage: 'There is nothing in the world,' said Paul III. to him, 'that I have more at heart than to satisfy your master.' It was too late.


Clement's behavior had produced an evil influence on the character of the Tudor king. The services rendered by this prince to the papacy had been overlooked, his {49} long patience had not been rewarded: he fancied himself despised and deceived. His pride was irritated, his temper grew fiercer, his violence for some time restrained, broke out, and unable to reach the pope, he revenged himself on the papacy. Until now, he had scarcely been worse than most of the sovereigns of Christendom: from this moment, when he proclaimed himself head of the Church, he became harsh, and cared for nothing but gratifying his evil inclinations, his despotic humors, his blood-thirsty cruelty. As a prince, he had at times shown a few amiable qualities; as a pope, he was nothing but a tyrant.

Henry VIII. observing the agitation his pretensions caused in England, and wishing to strengthen his new authority, had caused several bills concerning the Church to be brought into the parliament, which met on the 3rd of November, 1534. The ministers who had drafted them, far from being protestants, were zealous partisans of scholastic orthodoxy. It was the cunning Gardiner, a furious Catholic; the duke of Norfolk who assisted in the king's movements against Rome, only to prevent him from falling into the arms of the reformers; and the politic Cromwell, who, despite his zeal against the pope, declared at his death, possibly giving a particular meaning to the words, that he died in the catholic faith.[96]

The first act passed by parliament was the ratification of the king's new title, already officially recognized by the clergy. Henry's ministers knew how to make the law strict and rigorous. 'It is enacted,' so ran the act, 'that our lord the king be acknowledged sole and supreme head on earth of the Church of England; that he shall possess not only the honors, jurisdictions, and profits attached to that dignity, but also full authority to put down all heresies and enormities, whatever be {50} the customs and the laws that may be opposed to it.'[97] Shortly after, on the 1st of February, parliament still more imperious, enacted that 'whoever should do anything tending to deprive the king or his heirs of any of their titles, or should call him heretic, schismatic, usurper, &c., should be guilty of high treason.'[98]


Thus Henry VIII. united the two swords in his hand.—'A Mohammedan union,' says a modern historian.[99] This writer might have contented himself with calling it 'a papal union.' Whether a pope claims to be king, or a king claims to be pope, it comes to nearly the same thing. At the time when the Reformation was emancipating the long-enslaved Church, a new master was given it, and what a master! The consciences of Christians revolted against this order of things. One day—it was some time later—Cranmer was asked: 'Who is the supreme head of the Church of England?'—'Christ,' was the reply, 'as He is of the universal Church.'—'But did you not recognize the king as supreme head of the Church?'—'We recognized him as head of all the people of England,' answered Cranmer, 'of churchmen as well as of laymen.'[100]— 'What! not of the Church?' 'No! Supreme head of the Church never had any other meaning than what I tell you.' This is explicit. If the title given Henry only signified that he was king of the clergy as well as of the laity, and that the former were under the jurisdiction of the royal courts as well as the latter, in all matters of common law, there can be nothing fairer. But how was it that Cranmer did not find as much courage in Henry's lifetime to speak according to his conscience, as when examined in 1555 by Brokes, the papal sub-delegate? An {51} interpretative document drawn up by the government at almost the same time as the act of parliament, corroborates however the explanation made by Cranmer; it said: 'The title of supreme head of the Church gives the king no new authority: it does not signify that he can assume any spiritual power.'[101] This document declares that the words reform abuses and heresies, indicate the authority which the king possesses to suppress the powers which the bishop of Rome or other bishops have usurped in his realm. 'We heartily detest,' said Fulke, master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, 'the notion that the king can do what he likes in matters of religion.'[102] Even Elizabeth refused the title of head of the Church.[103] Probably these are facts which are not generally known.

[83]   Bedell to Cromwell.—State Papers, i. p. 423.

[84]   Ibid. p. 424.

[85]   Father Forest of Greenwich. Bedell to Cromwell, MS. in Record Office.

[86]   More's Life, p. 218.

[87]   More's Life, p. 218.

[88]   17th April, 1534. Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 286.

[89]   Letter from Cranmer to Cromwell.—Ibid.

[90]   State Papers, i. p. 432.

[91]   More's Life, p. 239.

[92]   Strype, Records, i. p. 300.

[93]   State Papers, i. p. 422.

[94]   'Fu questo dolore et affanno, che lo condusse alla morte.'—Soriano.

[95]   'Quem omnes mortales acerbissimo odio prosequebantur.'—State Papers, vii. p. 573.

[96]   'I die in the catholic faith, not doubting.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 402.

[97]   Acts of Supremacy: 26 Henry VIII. ch. 1. See Herbert, p. 408.

[98]   Ibid. ch. 13.

[99]   Friedrich von Raumer: Geschichte Europas, ii. p. 29.

[100]   'Of all the people of England, as well ecclesiastical or temporal.—Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 224.

[101]   'Not that he should take any spiritual power from spiritual ministers.'—Heads of arguments concerning the power of the pope and the royal supremacy.—MS. in Record Office.—Froude, ii. p. 326.

[102]   Fulke's Defence, p. 489.

[103]   Jewell's Works, iv. p. 1144.


In England it was reserved for Catholics as well as for evangelicals to give the world, amid great misery, remarkable examples of Christian virtues. Latimer and others preached the truth courageously; martyrs like Bilney, Tewkesbury, and Fryth had laid down their lives for the Gospel. Now in the other party, laymen, monks, and priests, with unquestionably a less enlightened piety, were about to furnish proofs of their sincerity. {52} There were Roman martyrs also. Two armies were in presence; many fell on both sides; but there was a sensible difference between this spiritual war and the wars of nations. Those who bit the dust did not fall under the weapons of a hostile army; there was a third power, the king-pope, who took his station between the two lines, and dealt his blows now to the right, now to the left. Leaders of the pontifical army were to be smitten in the struggle in which so many evangelicals had already fallen.


Sir Thomas More, while in prison, strove to banish afflicting thoughts by writing a history of Christ's passion. One day when he came to these words of the Gospel: Then came they and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him, the door opened, and Kingston, the governor of the Tower, accompanied by Rich, the attorney-general, appeared. 'Sir Thomas,' said Rich, 'if an act of parliament ordered all Englishmen to acknowledge me as their king, would you acknowledge me?'—'Yes, sir.'[104]— 'And if an act of parliament ordered all Englishmen to recognize me as pope?'—'Parliament has no authority to do it,' answered More. Sir Thomas held that an act of parliament was sufficient to dethrone a king of England: it is to a great grandson of More's that we are indebted for this opinion, which a grand-nephew of Cromwell put in practice a hundred years later. Was Henry VIII. exasperated because More disposed so freely of his crown? It is possible, but be that as it may, the harshness of his imprisonment was increased. Suffering preceded martyrdom. The illustrious scholar was forced to pick up little scraps of paper on which to write a few scattered thoughts with a coal.[105] This was not the worst. 'I have neither shirt nor sute,'[106] he wrote to the chief secretary of state, 'nor yet other clothes that are necessary for me to wear, but that be {53} ragged and rent too shamefully. Notwithstanding, I might easily suffer that if that would keep my body warm. And now in my age my stomach may not away but with a few kind of meats; which, if I want, I decay forthwith, and fall into crases and diseases of my body, and cannot keep myself in health.... I beseech you be a good master unto me in my necessity, and let me have such things as are necessary for me in mine age. Restore me to my liberty out of this cold and painful imprisonment. Let me have some priest to hear my confession against this holy time, and some books to say my devotions more effectually. The Lord send you a merry Christmas.

'At the Tower, 23rd December.'

It is a relief to hope that this scandalous neglect proceeded from heedlessness and not from cruelty. His requests were granted.

While these sad scenes were enacted in the Tower, there was great confusion in all England, where the most opposite parties were in commotion. When the traditional yoke was broken, every man raised up his own banner. The friends of More and Fisher wished to restore the papacy of the Roman bishop; Henry VIII., Cromwell, and the court thought how to establish the supremacy of the king; finally, Cranmer and a few men of the same stamp, endeavored to steer between these quicksands, and aspired to introduce the reign of Holy Scripture under the banner of royalty. This contest between forces so different, complicated too by the passions of the sovereign, was a terrible drama destined to wind up not in a single catastrophe, but in many. Illustrious victims, taken indiscriminately from all parties, were to fall beneath the oft-repeated blows and be buried in one common grave.

The prudent Cranmer lived in painful anxiety. Surrounded by enemies who watched every step, he feared to destroy the cause of truth, by undertaking reforms {54} as extensive as those on the continent. The natural timidity of his character, the compromises he thought it his duty to make with regard to the hierarchy, his fear of Henry VIII., his moderation, gentleness, and plasticity of character and in some respects of principle, prevented his applying to the work with the decision of a Luther, a Calvin, or a Knox. Tyndale, if he had possessed the influence that was his due, would have accomplished a reform similar to that of those great leaders. To have had him for a reformer would, in Wickliffe's native land, have been the source of great prosperity; but such a thing was impossible: his country gave him—not a professor's chair but exile. Cranmer moved forward slowly: he modified an evangelical movement by a clerical concession. When he had taken a step forward, he stopped suddenly, and apparently drew back; not from cowardice, but because his extreme prudence so urged him. The boldness of a Farel or a Knox is in our opinion far more noble; and yet this extreme moderation saved Cranmer and protestantism with him. Near a throne like that of Henry's, it was only a man of extreme precaution who could have retained his position in the see of Canterbury. If Cranmer should come into collision with the Tudor's sceptre, he will find that it is a sword. God gives to every people and to every epoch the man necessary to it. Cranmer was this man for England, at the time of her separation from the papacy. Notwithstanding his compromises, he never abandoned the great principles of the Reformation; notwithstanding his concessions, he took advantage of every opportunity to encourage those who shared his faith to march towards a better future. The primate of England held a torch in his hand which had not the brilliancy of that borne by Luther and Calvin, but the tempest that blew upon it for fifteen or twenty years could not extinguish it. Sometimes he was seized with terror: as he heard {55} the lion roar, he bent his head, kept in the background, and concealed the truth in his bosom; but again he rose and again held out to the Church the light he had saved from the fury of the tyrant. He was a reed and not an oak—a reed that bent too easily, but through this very weakness he was able to do what an oak with all its strength would never have accomplished. The truth triumphed.


At this time Cranmer thought himself in a position to take a step—the most important step of all: he undertook to give the Bible to the laity. When the convocation of clergy and parliament had assembled, he made a proposition that the Holy Scriptures should be translated into English by certain honorable and learned men, and be circulated among the people.[107] To present Holy Scripture as the supreme rule instead of the pope, was a bold act that decided the evangelical reformation. Stokesley, Gardiner, and the other bishops of the catholic party cried out against such a monstrous design: 'The teaching of the Church is sufficient,' they said; 'we must prohibit Tyndale's Testament and the heretical books which come to us from beyond the sea.' The archbishop saw that he could only carry his point by giving up something: he consented to a compromise. Convocation resolved on the 19th of December, 1534, to lay Cranmer's proposal before the king, but with the addition that the Scriptures translated into the vulgar tongue should only be circulated among the king's subjects in proportion to their knowledge, and that all who possessed suspected books should be bound to give them up to the royal commissioners: others might have called this resolution a defeat, Cranmer looked upon it as a victory. The Scriptures would no longer be admitted stealthily into the kingdom, like contraband goods: they would appear in broad daylight with the royal sanction. This was something. {56}

Henry granted the petition of Convocation, but hastened to profit by it. His great fixed idea was to destroy the Roman papacy in England, not because of its errors, but because he felt that it robbed princes of the affection and often of the obedience of their subjects. 'If I grant my bishops what they ask for,' he said, 'in my turn I ask them to make oath never to permit any jurisdiction to be restored to the Roman bishop in my kingdom; never to call him pope, universal bishop, or most holy lord, but only bishop of Rome, colleague and brother, according to the ancient custom of the oldest bishops.'[108] All the prelates were eager to obey the king; but the archbishop of York, secretly devoted to the Roman Church, added, to acquit his conscience, 'that he took the oath in order to preserve the unity of the faith and of the Catholic Church.'[109]

Cranmer was filled with joy by the victory he had won. 'If we possess the Holy Scriptures,' he said, 'we have at hand a remedy for every disease. Beset as we are with tribulations and temptations, where can we find arms to overcome them? In Scripture. It is the balm that will heal our wounds, and will be a more precious jewel in our houses than either gold or silver.'[110] He therefore turned his mind at once to the realization of the plan he had so much at heart. Taking for groundwork an existing translation (doubtless that by Tyndale), he divided the New Testament into ten portions, had each transcribed separately, and transmitted them to the most learned of the bishops, praying that they might be returned to him with their remarks. He even thought it his duty not to omit such decided catholics as Stokesley and Gardiner.


The day appointed for the return and examination of {57} these various portions having arrived (June 1553), Cranmer set to work, and found that the Acts of the Apostles were wanting: they had fallen to the lot of the bishop of London. When the primate's secretary went to ask for the manuscript, Stokesley replied in a very bad humor: 'I do not understand my lord of Canterbury. By giving the people the Holy Scriptures, he will plunge them into heresy. I certainly will not give an hour to such a task. Here, take the book back to my lord.' When the secretary delivered his message, Thomas Lawness, one of Cranmer's friends, said with a smile: 'My lord of London will not take the trouble to examine the Scriptures, persuaded that there is nothing for him in the Testament of Jesus Christ.' Many of the portions returned by the other bishops were pitiable. The archbishop saw that he must find colleagues better disposed.

Cranmer had soon to discharge another function. As popery and rebellion were openly preached in the dioceses of Winchester and London,[111] the metropolitan announced his intention to visit them. The two bishops cried out vehemently, and Gardiner hurried to the king: 'Your Grace,' he said, 'here is a new pope!' All who had anything to fear began to reproach the primate with aspiring to honors and dominion. 'God forgive me,' he said with simplicity, 'if there is any title in the world I care for more than the paring of an apple.[112] Neither paper, parchment, lead, nor wax, but the very Christian conversation of the people, are the letters and seals of our office.' The king supported Cranmer, knowing that certain of the clergy preached submission to the pope. The visitation took place. Even in London priests were found who had taken the oath prescribed by Henry VIII., and who yet 'made a god of {58} the Roman pontiff,[113] setting his power and his laws above those of our Lord.' 'I command you,' said the king, 'to lay hold of all who circulate those pernicious doctrines.'

Francis I. watched these severities from afar. He feared they would render an alliance between France and England impossible. He therefore sent Bryon, high-admiral of France, to London, to reconcile the king with the pope, to strengthen the bonds that united the two countries, and at the same time, he prevailed upon Paul III. to withdraw the decree of Clement VII. against Henry VIII.[114] But success did not crown his efforts: the king of England had no great confidence in the sincerity of the pope or of the French king. He was well pleased to be no longer confronted by a foreign authority in his own dominions, and thought that his people would never give up the Reformation. Instead of being reconciled with the Roman pontiff, he found it more convenient to imitate the pope, and to break out against those subjects who refused to recognize him, the king, as head of the Church.


He first attacked the Carthusians, the most respectable of the religious orders in England, and whom he considered as the most dangerous. Where there was the most goodness, there was also the most strength; and that strength gave umbrage to the despotic Tudor king.

Monastic life, abominable in its abuses, was, even in principle, contrary to the Gospel. But we must confess that there was a certain harmony between the wants of society in the Middle Ages and conventual establishments. Many and various motives drove into the {59} cloisters the men that filled them; and if some were condemnable, there were others whose value deserves to be appreciated. It was these earnest monks who, even while defending the royalty of the pope, rejected most energetically the papacy of the king: this was enough to draw down upon them the royal vengeance. One day a messenger from the court brought to the Charter-House of London an order to reject the Roman authority. The monks, summoned by their prior, remained silent when they heard the message, and their features alone betrayed the trouble of their minds.[115] 'My heart is full of sorrow,' said Prior Haughton. 'What are we to do? If we resist the king, our house will be shut up, and you young men will be cast into the midst of the world, so that after commencing here in the spirit you will end there in the flesh. But, on the other hand, how can we obey? Alas! I am helpless to save those whom God has entrusted to my care!' At these words the Carthusians 'fell all a-weeping;'[116] and then taking courage from the presence of danger they said: 'We will perish together in our integrity; and heaven and earth shall cry out against the injustice that oppresses us.'—'Would to God it might be so,' exclaimed the Superior; 'but this is what they will do. They will put me to death—me and the oldest of us—and they will turn the younger ones into the world, which will teach them its wicked works. I am ready to give up my life to save you; but if one death does not satisfy the king, then let us all die!'—'Yes, we will all die,' answered the brethren.—'And now let us make preparation by a general confession,' said the prior, 'so that the Lord may find us ready.'

Next morning the chapel-doors opened and all the {60} monks marched in. Their serious looks, their pale countenances, their fixed eyes seemed to betoken men who were awaiting their last moments. The prior went into the pulpit and read the sixtieth Psalm: 'O God, thou hast cast us off.' On coming to the end, he said: 'My brethren, we must die in charity. Let us pardon another.' At these words Haughton came down from the pulpit, and knelt in succession before every brother, saying: 'O my brother, I beg your forgiveness of all my offences!' The other monks, each in his turn, made this last confession.

Two days afterwards they celebrated the mass of the Holy Ghost. Immediately after the elevation, the monks fancied they heard 'a small hissing wind.'[117] Their hearts were filled with a tender affection: they believed that the Holy Ghost was descending upon them, and the prior, touched by this surprising grace, burst into tears. Enthusiasm mingled extraordinary fantasies with their pious emotions.

The king had evidently not much to fear in this quarter. His crown was threatened by more formidable enemies. In various parts, especially in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire,[118] there were daring partisans of the papacy to be found who endeavored to stir up the people to revolt; and thousands of Englishmen in the North were ready to help them by force of arms. At the same time Ireland wished to transport her soldiers across St. George's Channel and hurl the king from his throne. The decision with which Fisher, Sir Thomas More, and the Carthusians resisted Henry had not immediate insurrection for its object, but it encouraged the multitude to revolt. The government thinking, therefore, that it was time to strike, sent the Carthusians an absolute order to acknowledge the royal supremacy. {61}


At this time there was in reality no liberty on one side or the other. Rome, by not granting it, was consistent with herself; but not so the protestantism that denies it. The Reformation, acknowledging no other sovereign Lord and Teacher than God, must of necessity leave the conscience to that Supreme Master, man having nothing to do with it. But the Roman Church, acknowledging a man as its head, and honoring the pope as the representative of God on earth, claims authority over the soul. Men may say in vain that they are in harmony with God and His Word: that is not the question. The great business is to be in accord with the pope. That old man, throned in the Vatican on the traditions of the School and the bulls of his predecessors, is their judge: they are bound to follow exactly his line, without wavering either to the right or the left. If they reject an article, a jot of a papal constitution, they must be cast away. Such a system, the enemy of every liberty, even of the most legitimate, rose in the sixteenth century like a high wall to separate Rome and the new generation. It threatened to destroy in the future that power which had triumphed in the past.

After the festival of Easter 1535, the heads of two other Carthusian houses—Robert Laurence, prior of Belleval, and Augustine Webster, prior of Axholm—arrived in London in obedience to an order they had received, and, in company with Prior Haughton, waited upon Cromwell. As they refused to acknowledge the royal supremacy, they were sent to the Tower. A week later, they consented to take the oath, adding: 'So far as God's law permits.'—'No restrictions,' answered Cromwell. On the 29th of April they were placed on their trial, when they said: 'We will never believe anything contrary to the law of God and the teaching of our holy mother Church.' At first the jury expressed some interest in their behalf; but Haughton uselessly embittered his position. 'You can only produce in {62} favor of your opinion,' he said, 'the parliament of one single kingdom; for mine, I can produce all Christendom.' The jury found the three prisoners guilty of high-treason.[119] Thence the government proceeded to more eminent victims.

Fisher and More, confined in the same prison, were now treated with more consideration.[120] It was said, however, that these illustrious captives were endeavoring, even in the Tower, to excite the people to revolt. The king and Cromwell could hardly have believed it, but they imagined that if these two leading men gave way, their example would carry the recalcitrants with them: they were therefore exposed to a new examination. But they proved as obstinate as their adversaries, and perhaps more skilful. 'I have no more to do with the titles to be given to popes and princes,' said Sir Thomas; 'my thoughts are with God alone.'[121]

The court hoped to intimidate these eminent personages by the execution of the three priors, which took place on the 4th May, 1535. Margaret hurried to her father's side. Before long the procession passed under his window, and the affectionate young woman used every means to draw Sir Thomas away from the sight; but he would not avert his eyes. When all was over, he turned to his daughter: 'Meg,' he said, 'you saw those saintly fathers; they went as cheerfully to death as if they were bridegrooms going to be married.'[122]


The prisoners walked calmly along: they wore their clerical robes, the ceremony of degradation not having been performed, no doubt to show that a papal consecration could not protect offenders. Haughton, prior of the London Charter-House, mounted the ladder first. 'I pray all who hear me,' he said, 'to bear witness for {63} me in the terrible day of judgment, that it is not out of obstinate malice or rebellion that I disobey the king, but only for the fear of God.' The rope was now placed round his neck. 'Holy Jesus!' he exclaimed, 'have mercy on me,' and he gave up the ghost. The other priors then stepped forward. 'God has manifested great grace to us,' they said, 'by calling us to die in defence of the catholic faith. No, the king is not head of the Church of England.' A few minutes later and these monks, dressed in the robes of their order, were swinging in the air. This was one of the crimes committed when the unlawful tiara of the pontiffs was placed unlawfully on the head of a king of England. Other Carthusians were put to death somewhat later.

Meanwhile Henry VIII. desired to preserve a balance between papists and heretics. The Roman tribunals struck one side only, but this strange prince gloried in striking both sides at once. An opportunity of doing so occurred. Some anabaptists from the Low Countries were convicted on the 25th of May: two of them were taken to Smithfield and twelve others sent to different cities, where they suffered the punishment by fire. All of them went to death with cheerful hearts.[123]

The turn of the illustrious captives was at hand.

[104]   More's Life, p. 252.

[105]   Ibid. p. 253.

[106]   Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, i. p. 270.

[107]   Cranmer's Memorials, p. 24.

[108]   'Bishop of Rome and fellow-brother.'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 280.

[109]   Lee to Cromwell.—State Papers, i. p. 428.

[110]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 120.

[111]   'They rather preached sedition than edification.'—Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 296.

[112]   Ibid. p. 305.

[113]   'Making him a god.' The king's letter.—Strype, Records, i. p. 208.

[114]   See State Papers, vol. vii., containing the letters, &c., of Cromwell, Henry VIII., Da Casale, Bryon, and Francis I. (March to June 1535.)

[115]   Histor. Martyrum Angl.—Strype, Records, i. p. 302. This narrative rests specially upon the testimony of a Carthusian which, though partial, bears however a character of truth.

[116]   Strype, Records, i. p. 301.

[117]   Vitus to Dalker, Hist. Mart. Angl.—Strype, Records, i. p. 302.

[118]   Coverdale, Remains, p. 329.—Cranmer's Letters and Remains, pp. 351, 352, 354.

[119]   Strype, Memorials, i. p. 305.

[120]   'Tractabantur humanius atque mitius quam par fuisset pro eorum demeritis.'—State Papers, vii. p. 634.

[121]   More's Life, p. 256.

[122]   Ibid. p. 246.

[123]   Tyndale, i. p. lxx.—Latimer, i. p. 60.—Collyer, ii. p. 99.


(May to September 1535.)

Not long after the death of the Carthusians, Cromwell paid More a visit. Henry VIII. loved his former chancellor, and desired to save his life. 'I am your friend,' said Cromwell, 'and the king is a good and gracious lord towards you.' He then once again invited More to accept the act of parliament which proclaimed the king's supremacy; and the same steps were taken with Fisher. Both refused what was asked. From that moment the execution of the sentence could not be long delayed. More felt this, and as soon as the Secretary of State had left him, he took a piece of coal and wrote some verses upon the wall, expressive of the peace of his soul.


Henry and his minister seemed however to hesitate. It had not troubled them much to punish a few papists and obscure anabaptists; but to put to death an ex-chancellor of the realm and an old tutor of the king—both personages so illustrious and so esteemed throughout Christendom—was another thing. Several weeks passed away. It was an act of the pope's that hastened the death of these two men. About the 20th of May, Paul III. created a certain number of cardinals: John Du Bellay, Contarini, Caracciolo, and lastly, Fisher, bishop of Rochester. The news of this creation burst upon Rome and London like a clap of thunder. Da Casale, Henry's agent at the papal court, exclaimed that it was offering his master the greatest affront possible: {65} the matter was the talk of the whole city.[124] 'Your holiness has never committed a more serious mistake than this,' said Da Casale to the pope.[125] Paul tried to justify himself. As England desired to become reconciled with the Vatican, he said, it seemed to him that he could not do better than nominate an English cardinal. When Fisher heard the news, he said piously: 'If the cardinal's hat were at my feet, I would not stoop to pick it up.' But Henry did not take the matter so calmly: he considered Paul's proceedings as an insolent challenge. Confer the highest honors on a man convicted of treason—is it not encouraging subjects to revolt? Henry seemed to have thought that it would be unnecessary to take away the life of an old man whose end could not be far off; but the pope exasperated and braved him. Since they place Fisher among the cardinals in Rome, in England he shall be counted among the dead. Paul may, as long as he likes, send him the hat; but when the hat arrives, there shall be no head on which to place it.[126]

On the 14th of June, 1535, Thomas Bedell and other officers of justice proceeded to the Tower. The bishop would give no answer to the demand that he should recognize the king as head of the Church. Sir Thomas More, when questioned in his turn, replied: 'My only study is to meditate on Christ's passion.'[127] 'Do you acknowledge the king as supreme head of the Church?' asked Bedell. 'The royal supremacy is established by law.'—'That law is a two-edged sword,' returned the ex-chancellor. 'If I accept it, it kills my soul; if I reject it, it kills my body.'[128]

Three days later the bishop was condemned to be {66} beheaded. When the order for his execution arrived, the prisoner was asleep: they respected his slumber. At five o'clock the next morning, 22nd of June, 1535, Kingston entering his cell, aroused him and told him that it was the king's good pleasure he should be executed that morning. 'I most humbly thank his Majesty,' said the old man, 'that he is pleased to relieve me from all the affairs of this world. Grant me only an hour or two more, for I slept very badly last night.' Then turning towards the wall, he fell asleep again. Between seven and eight o'clock he called his servant, took off the hair-shirt which he wore next his skin to mortify the flesh, and gave it to the man. 'Let no one see it,' he said. 'And now bring me my best clothes.'—'My lord,' said the astonished servant, 'does not your lordship know that in two hours you will take them off never to put them on again?'—'Exactly so,' answered Fisher; 'this is my wedding-day, and I ought to dress as if for a holiday.'[129]


At nine o'clock the lieutenant appeared. The old man took up his New Testament, made the sign of the cross, and left the cell. He was tall, being six feet high, but his body was bent with age, and his weakness so great that he could hardly get down the stairs. He was placed in an arm-chair. When the porters stopped near the gate of the Tower to know if the sheriffs were ready, Fisher stood up, and leaning against the wall opened his Testament, and lifting his eyes to heaven, he said: 'O Lord! I open it for the last time. Grant that I may find some word of comfort to the end that I may glorify thee in my last hour.' The first words he saw were these: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.[130] Fisher closed the book and said: 'That will do. Here is learning enough to last me to my life's end.'[131] {67}

The funeral procession was set in motion. Clouds hid the face of the sun; the day was gloomy; the streets through which they passed seemed dull and in harmony with men's hearts. A large body of armed men surrounded the pious old man, who kept repeating in a low tone the words of his Testament: Hæc est autem vita æterna, ut cognoscant te solum Deum et quem misisti Jesum Christum. They reached Smithfield. 'We will help you to ascend,' said his bearers at the foot of the scaffold. 'No, sirs,' he replied, and then added in a cheerful tone: 'Come, feet! do your duty, you have not far to go.'[132] Just as he mounted the scaffold, the sun burst out and shone upon his face: They looked unto him and were lightened, he cried, and their faces were not ashamed.[133] It was ten o'clock. The noble bearing and piety of the aged bishop inspired all around him with respect. The executioner knelt before him and begged his forgiveness. 'With all my heart,' he made answer. Having laid aside his robe and furred gown, he turned to the people, and said with gravity and joy: 'Christians, I give my life for my faith in the holy catholic Church of Christ. I do not fear death. Assist me, however, with your prayers, so that when the axe falls I may remain firm. God save the king and the kingdom!' The brightness of his face at this moment struck the spectators. He fell on his knees and said: 'Eternal God, my hope is in thy deliverance.' The executioner approached and bound his eyes. The bishop raised his hands, uttered a cry towards heaven, and laid his head on the block. The doomsman seized his heavy axe, and cut off the head at one blow. It was exposed by Henry's orders on London bridge; but soldiers carried the body to Barking church-yard, where they dug a lowly grave for it with their halberds. Doubts have {68} been thrown upon the details of this death; we believe them to be authentic, and it is a pleasure by reporting them to place a crown on the tomb of a Roman-catholic bishop whose end was that of a pious man.

It was now the turn of Sir Thomas More. On the 1st of July, 1535, he was summoned before the court of King's Bench. The former Chancellor of England quitted his prison in a frieze cloak, which had grown foul in the dungeon, and proceeded on foot through the most frequented streets of London on his road to Westminster. His thin pale face; his white hair, the effect not of time but of sorrow and imprisonment; the staff on which he leant,[134] for he walked with difficulty, made a deep impression on the people. When he arrived at the bar of that tribunal over which he had so often presided, and looked around him, though weakened by suffering, with a countenance full of mildness, all the spectators were moved. The indictment was long and perplexed:[135] he was accused of high-treason. Sir Thomas, endeavoring to keep on his feet, said: 'My Lords, the charges brought against me are so numerous, that I fear, considering my great weakness, I shall be unable to remember them all.' He stopped: his body trembled and he was near falling. A chair was brought him, and after taking his seat, he continued: 'I have never uttered a single word in opposition to the statute which proclaims the king head of the Church.'—'If we cannot produce your words,' said the king's attorney, 'we can produce your silence.'—'No one can be condemned for his silence,' nobly answered More. 'Qui tacet consentire videtur, Silence gives consent, according to the lawyers.'[136]


Nothing could save him: the jury returned a verdict {69} of guilty. 'Now that all is over,' said the prisoner, 'I will speak. Yes, the oath of supremacy is illegal. The Great Charter laid down that the Church of England is free, so that its rights and liberties might be equally preserved.'[137]— 'The Church must be free,' said the lawyers: 'it is not therefore the slave of the pope.'—'Yes, free,' retorted More; 'it is not therefore the slave of the king.' The chancellor then pronounced sentence, condemning him to be hanged at Tyburn, and then quartered, while still alive. Henry spared his illustrious subject and old friend from this cruel punishment, and ordered that he should be merely beheaded. 'God save all my friends from his Majesty's favor,' said Sir Thomas, 'and spare my children from similar indulgences.... I hope, my lords,' said the ex-chancellor, turning meekly towards his judges, 'that though you have condemned me on earth, we may all meet hereafter in heaven.'

Sir William Kingston approached; armed guards surrounded the condemned man, and the sad procession moved forward. One of the Tower wardens marched in front, bearing an axe with the edge turned towards More;[138] it was a token to the people of the prisoner's fate. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the court, his son, who was waiting for him, fell at his feet distracted and in tears: 'Your blessing, father,' he exclaimed, 'your blessing!' More raised him up, kissed him tenderly, and blessed him. His daughter Margaret was not there: she had fainted immediately on hearing of her father's condemnation.[139] He was taken back to prison in a boat, perhaps to withdraw this innocent and illustrious man, treated like a criminal, from the eyes of the citizens of London. When they got near the Tower, the {70} governor, who had until then kept his emotion under, turned to More and bade him farewell, the tears running down his cheeks.[140] 'My dear Kingston,' said the noble prisoner, 'do not weep; we shall meet again in heaven.'—'Yes!' said the lieutenant of the Tower, adding: 'you are consoling me, when I ought to console you.' An immense crowd covered the wharf at which the boat was to land. Among this crowd, so eager for the mournful spectacle, was a young woman, trembling with emotion and silently waiting for the procession: it was Margaret. At length she heard the steps of the approaching guards, and saw her father appear. She could not move, her strength failed her; she fell on her knees just where she had stood. Her father, who recognized her at a distance, giving way to the keenest emotions, lifted up his hands and blessed her. This was not enough for Margaret. The blessing had caused a strong emotion in her, and had restored life to her soul. Regardless of her sex, her age, and the surrounding crowd, that feeble woman, to whom at this supreme moment filial piety gave the strength of many men, says a contemporary,[141] flew towards her father, and bursting through the officers and halberdiers by whom he was surrounded,[142] fell on his neck and embraced him, exclaiming: 'Father, father!' She could say no more; grief stopped her voice: she could only weep, and her tears fell on her father's bosom.[143] The soldiers halted in emotion; Sir Thomas, the prey at once of the tenderest love and inexpressible grief, felt as if a sword had pierced his heart.[144] Recovering himself, however, {71} he blessed his child, and said to her in a voice whose emotion he strove to conceal: 'Daughter, I am innocent; but remember that however hard the blow with which I am struck, it comes from God. Submit thy will to the good pleasure of the Lord.'


The captain of the escort, wishing to put an end to a scene that might agitate the people, bade two soldiers take Margaret away; but she clung to her father with arms that were like bars of iron, and it was with difficulty that she could be removed.[145] She had been hardly set on the ground a few steps off, when she sprang up again, and thrusting those who had separated her from him she so loved, she broke through the crowd once more, fell upon his neck, and kissed him several times with a convulsive effort. In her, filial love had all the vehemence of passion. More, whom the sentence of death had not been able to move, lost all energy, and the tears poured down his cheeks. The crowd watched this touching scene with deep excitement, and 'they were very few in all the troop who could refrain from weeping; no, not the guards themselves.'[146] Even the soldiers wept, and refused to tear the daughter again from her father's arms. Two or three, however, of the less agitated stepped forward and carried Margaret away. The women of her household, who had accompanied her, immediately surrounded her and bore her away from a sight of such inexpressible sadness. The prisoner entered the Tower.

Sir Thomas spent six more days and nights in prison. We hear certainly of his pious words, but the petty practices of an ascetic seemed to engross him too much. His macerations were increased: he walked up and down his cell, wearing only a winding-sheet as if he {72} were already a corpse waiting to be buried.[147] He often scourged himself for a long time together, and with extraordinary violence. Yet at the same time he indulged in Christian meditations. 'I am afflicted,' he wrote to one of his friends, 'shut up in a dungeon; but God in His mercy will soon deliver me from this world of tribulation. Walls will no longer separate us, and we shall have holy conversations together, which no jailer will interrupt.'[148] On the 5th of July, desiring to bid his daughter a last farewell, More took a piece of charcoal (he had nothing else), and wrote to her: 'To-morrow is St. Thomas's day, and my saint's day; accordingly, I desire extremely that it may be the day of my departure. My child, I never loved you so dearly as when last you kissed me. I like when daughterly love has no leisure to look unto worldly courtesy.[149] ... Farewell, my dearly beloved daughter; pray for me. I pray for you all, to the end that we may meet in heaven.'

Thus one of the closest and holiest affections, that of a father for his daughter, and of a daughter for her father, softened the last moments of this distinguished man. Sir Thomas sent Margaret his hair-shirt and scourge, which he desired to conceal from the eyes of the indifferent. What an inheritance!

That night he slept quietly, and the next morning early (6th of July, 1535), a fortnight after the death of the bishop, Sir Thomas Pope, one of his familiar friends, came to inform him that he must hold himself in readiness. 'I thank the king,' said More, 'for shutting me up in this prison, whereby he has put me in a condition to make suitable preparation for death. The only favor I beg of him is, that my daughter may be present at my {73} burial.' Pope left the cell in tears. Then the prisoner put on a fine silk robe which his wealthy friend Bonvisi, the merchant of Lucca, had given him. 'Leave that dress here,' said Kingston, 'for the man to whom it falls by custom is only a jailer.'—'I cannot look upon that man as a jailer,' answered More, 'who opens the gates of heaven for me.'


At nine o'clock the procession quitted the Tower. More was calm, his face pale, his beard long and curly; he carried a crucifix in his hand, and his eyes were often turned towards heaven. A numerous and sympathizing crowd watched him pass along—a man one time so honored, lord chancellor, lord chief-justice, president of the house of Lords—whom armed men were now leading to the scaffold. Just as he was passing in front of a house of mean appearance, a poor woman standing at the door, went up to him and offered him a cup of wine to strengthen him: 'Thank you,' he said gently, 'thank you; Christ drank vinegar only.' On arriving at the place of execution: 'Give me your hand to help me up,' he said to Kingston, adding: 'As for my coming down, you may let me shift for myself.'[150] He mounted the scaffold. Sir Thomas Pope, at the king's request, had begged him to make no speech, fearing the effect this illustrious man might produce upon the people. More desired however to say a few words, but the sheriff stopped him. 'I die,' he was content to say, 'in the faith of the catholic Church, and a faithful servant of God and the king.' He then knelt down and repeated the fifty-first Psalm:[151] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. When he rose up, the executioner begged his forgiveness: 'Why do you talk of forgiveness?' replied More; 'you are doing me the greatest kindness {74} I ever received from man.' He desired the man not to be afraid to do his office, and remarked that his neck was very short. With his own hands he fastened a bandage over his eyes, and then laid his head on the block. The executioner, holding the axe, was preparing to strike, when More stopped him, and putting his beard carefully on one side, said: 'This at least has not committed treason.' Such words, almost jesting, no doubt, startle us at such a moment; but strong men have often been observed to manifest the calmness of their souls in such a manner. More probably feared that his long beard would embarrass the executioner, and deaden the blow. At length that head fell, through which so many noble thoughts had passed; that keen clear eye was closed; those eloquent lips were the lips of a corpse. The head was exposed on London bridge, and Margaret discharged the painful duty her father had bequeathed her, by piously burying his body.


Thus, at the cost of his life, this eminent man protested against the aberrations of a cruel prince, who usurped the title given by the Bible to Jesus Christ alone. The many evangelical martyrs who had been sacrificed in different countries and who were to be sacrificed, showed in general, to a greater extent than Fisher and More, an ardent love for the Saviour, a lively hope of eternal life; but none showed greater calmness than they. These two good men wanted discernment as to what constitutes the pure Gospel; their piety bound them too much, as we have said, to monastic practices; they had (and More especially) in the days of their power persecuted the disciples of the Lord, and though they rejected the usurpations of the king, had acted as fanatical defenders of those of the pope. But at a time when there were so many cringing bishops and servile nobles—when almost every one bent the head timidly before the mad popery of Henry VIII., these two firmly held up theirs. More and Fisher were companions {75} in misfortune with Bilney and Fryth: the same royal hand struck them all. Our sympathies are for the victims, our aversion for the executioner.

The death of these two celebrated men caused an immense sensation. In England, the people and even the nobility were struck with astonishment. Could it be true, men asked, that Thomas More, whom Henry had known since he was nine years old, with whom he used to hold friendly conversations by night on the terrace of his country-house, at whose table he used to love to sit down familiarly, whom he had chosen, although a layman and a knight only, to succeed the powerful Wolsey:—could it be true that by the king's orders he had perished by the axe? Could it be true that Fisher had met with the same fate—that venerable old man of fourscore years, who had been his preceptor, the trusty friend of his grandmother, and to whose teaching he owed the progress he had made in learning? Men began to see that resistance to a Tudor was the scaffold. Every one trembled, and even those who had not known the two victims could not restrain their tears.[152]

The horror which these executions caused among the enlightened men of the continent was displayed with more liberty and energy. 'I am dead,' exclaimed Erasmus, 'since More is dead: for, as Pythagoras says, we had but one soul between us.'[153]—'O England! O dearly beloved country,' said Reginald Pole; 'he was not only Margaret's father, but thine also!'—'This year is fatal to our order,' said Melanchthon the reformer; 'I hear that More has been killed and others also. You know how such things wring my heart.'[154]—'We banish such criminals,' said Francis I. sharply to the English {76} ambassador, 'but we do not put them to death.'—'If I had two such lights in my kingdom,' said Charles V., 'I would sooner give two of my strongest cities than suffer them to be extinguished.' At Rome in particular the anger was terrible. They were still flattering themselves that Henry VIII. would return to his old sympathies; but now there was no more hope! The king had put to death a prince of the Church, and as he had sworn, the cardinal's hat could find no head to wear it. A consistory was immediately summoned: Cardinal de Tournon's touching letter was read, and all who heard it were moved even to tears. The embarrassed and speechless agents of England knew not what to do; and as they reported, there was everything to be feared.

Perhaps nobody was so confounded as the pontiff. Paul III. was circumspect, prudent, deliberative, and temporizing; but when he thought the moment arrived, when he believed further manœuvring was not required, he no longer hesitated, but struck forcibly. It is known that he had two young relations whom, in his blind tenderness, he had created cardinals, notwithstanding their youth and the emperor's representations. 'Alas!' he exclaimed, 'I feel as mortally injured, as if my two nephews had been killed before my eyes.'[155] His most devoted partisans, and above all a cardinal of his creation put to death! There was a violent movement in his heart; he worked himself into a fury; he desired to strike the prince whose cruel deeds had wounded him so deeply. His anger burst out in a thunder-clap. On the 30th of August he issued a bull worthy of Gregory VII., which the more zealous partisans of the papacy would like to remove from the papal records.[156] 'Let King Henry repent of his crimes,' said the pontiff; 'we give him ninety days and his accomplices sixty to appear {77} at Rome. In case of default, we strike him with the sword of anathema, of malediction, and of eternal damnation;[157] we take away his kingdom from him; we declare that his body shall be deprived of ecclesiastical burial; we launch an interdict against his States; we release his subjects from their oath of fidelity; we call upon all dukes, marquises and earls to expel him and his accomplices from England; we unbind all Christian princes from their oaths towards him, command them to march against him and constrain him to return to the obedience due to the Holy Apostolic See, giving them all his goods for their reward, and he and his to be their slaves.'[158]

Anger had the same effect upon the pontiff as inebriety; he had lost the use of his reason, and allowed himself to be carried away to threats and excesses of which he would have been ashamed, had he been sober. Accordingly the drunkenness was hardly over, before the unfortunate Paul hastened to hide his bull, and carefully laid aside his thunderbolts in the arsenal, free to bring them out later.


Henry VIII., more calm than the pope, having heard of his discontent, feared to push him to extremities; and Cromwell, a month after the date of the bull, instructed Da Casale to justify the king to the Vatican. 'Fisher and More,' he was to say, 'had on all points of the internal policy of England come to conclusions diametrically opposed to the quiet and prosperity of the kingdom. They had held secret conversations with certain men notorious for their audacity, and had poured into the hearts of these wretches the poison which they had first prepared in their own.[159] Could we permit {78} their crime, spreading wider and wider, to give a death-blow to the State? Fisher and More alone opposed laws which had been accepted by the general consent of the people, and were necessary to the prosperity of the kingdom. Our mildest of sovereigns could not longer tolerate an offence so atrocious.'[160]

Even these excuses accuse and condemn Henry. Neither More nor Fisher had entered into a plot against the State; their resistance had been purely religious; they were free to act according to their consciences. It might have been necessary to take some prudential measures in an age as yet little fitted for liberty; but nothing could excuse the scaffold, erected by the king's orders, for men who were regarded with universal respect.

[124]   'Qua de re tota urbe sermo fuit.'—State Papers, vii. p. 604.

[125]   'Nunquam alias gravius erratum fuisse.'—Ibid.

[126]   'Eo maturius truncatur capite.'—Erasmi Epp. i. p. 1543.

[127]   Interrogatories.—State Papers, i. p. 432.

[128]   More's Life, p. 271.

[129]   Fuller, p. 203.

[130]   John xvii. 3. The Testament was in Latin.

[131]   Fuller, p. 204.

[132]   'Eia, pedes, officium facite; parum itineris jam restat.'—Sanders, p. 79.

[133]   Psalm xxxiv. 5.

[134]   'He went thither leaning on his staff.'—More's Life, p. 255.

[135]   'Longa et perplexa accusatio.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis Defensione, p. 63.

[136]   More's Life, p. 260. Herbert: Henry VIII. p. 393.

[137]   'Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, et habeat omnia jura integra, et libertates suas illæsas.'—Herbert: Henry VIII. p. 268.

[138]   More's Life, p. 274.

[139]   'Exanimata dolore.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis Defensione.

[140]   More's Life, p. 274.

[141]   'Cui jam pietas multorum virorum robur addiderat.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis Defensione, p. 66.

[142]   'Passing through the midst of the guards, who with bills and halberts compassed him round.'—More's Life, p. 276.

[143]   'Lacrymis sinum ejus applebat.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis Defensione, p. 66.

[144]   'What a sword was this to his heart.'—More's Life, p. 278.

[145]   'Ut vix ab eo divelli posset.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis Defensione, p. 66.

[146]   More's Life, p. 277.

[147]   'With a sheet about him, like a corpse ready to be buried.'—More's Life, p. 279.

[148]   'Ubi non arcebit a colloquio janitor.'—Ad. Anton. Bonvisum mercatorem Lucensem.

[149]   More's Life, p. 280.

[150]   More's Life, p. 286.

[151]   The fiftieth of the Vulgate: Miserere mei, Deus.

[152]   'Lacrimas tenere non potuerunt.'—Polus, Pro Unitatis, Defensione, p. 66.

[153]   In Moro mihi videor extinctus, adeo mia psuche, juxta Pythagoram, duobus erat.'—Erasmi Epp. p. 1938.

[154]   Corpus Reformatorum, ii. p. 918. The 'order' means that of men of letters.

[155]   'Si videret ante se, occisos duos suos nepotes.'—State Papers, vii. p. 621.

[156]   Lingard, iii. ch. iv.

[157]   'Anathematis, maledictionis, et damnationis eternæ mucrone percutimus.'—Bullarium Romanum, 3 Kal. Septemb. 1535.

[158]   'Et eos capientium servos fieri decernentes.'—Ibid.

[159]   'In horum sinum, jam antea conceptum pectore venenum evomebant.'—State Papers, vii. p. 634.

[160]   'Sustinere diutius non potuit mitissimus Rex istorum culpam tam atrocem.'—State Papers, vii. p. 635.

(September 1535 to 1536.)

The death of the late tutor and friend of the prince was to be followed by a measure less cruel but far more general. The pope who treated kings so rudely should not be surprised if kings treated the monks severely. Henry knew—had indeed been a close witness of their lazy and often irregular lives. One day, when he was hunting in the forest of Windsor, he lost his way, perhaps intentionally, and about the dinner hour knocked at the gate of Reading Abbey. As he represented himself to be one of his Majesty's guards, the abbot said: {79} 'You will dine with me;' and the king sat down to a table covered with abundant and delicate dishes. After examining everything carefully: 'I will stick to this sirloin,' said he, pointing to a piece of beef of which he eat heartily.[161] The abbot looked on with admiration. 'I would give a hundred pounds,' he exclaimed, 'to eat with as much appetite as you; but alas! my weak and qualmish stomach can hardly digest the wing of a chicken.'—'I know how to bring back your appetite,' thought the king. A few days later some soldiers appeared at the convent, took away the abbot, and shut him up in the Tower, where he was put upon bread and water. 'What have I done,' he kept asking, 'to incur his Majesty's displeasure to such a degree?' After a few weeks, Henry went to the state prison, and concealing himself in an ante-room whence he could see the abbot, ordered a sirloin of beef to be set before him. The famished monk in his turn fell upon the joint, and (according to tradition) eat it all. The king now showed himself: 'Sir abbot,' he said, 'I have cured you of your qualms; now pay me my wages. It is a hundred pounds, you know.' The abbot paid and returned to Reading; but Henry never after forgot the monks' kitchen.


The state of the monasteries was an occasion of scandal: for many centuries all religious life had died out in most of those establishments. The monks lived, generally, in idleness, gluttony, and licentiousness, and the convents which should have been houses of saints had become in many cases mere sties of lazy gormandizers and impure sensualists. 'The only law they recognize,' said Luther, speaking of these cloisters, 'is that of the seven deadly sins.' History encounters here a twofold danger: one is that of keeping back what is essential, the scandalous facts that justify the suppression {80} of monasteries; the other is that of saying things that cannot be named. We must strive to steer between these two quicksands.

All classes of society had become disgusted with the monasteries: the common people would say to the monks: 'We labor painfully, while you lead easy and comfortable lives.' The nobility regarded them with looks of envy and irony which threatened their wealth. The lawyers considered them as parasitical plants, which drew away from others the nutriment they required. These things made the religious orders cry out with alarm: 'If we no longer have the pope to protect us, it is all over with us and our monasteries.' And they set to work to prevent Henry from separating from the pope: they circulated anonymous stories, seditious songs, trivial lampoons, frightful prophecies and biting satires against the king, Anne Boleyn, and the friends of the Reformation. They held mysterious interviews with the discontented, and took advantage of the confessional to alarm the weak-minded. 'The supremacy of the pope,' they said, 'is a fundamental article of the faith: none who reject it can be saved.' People began to fear a general revolt.

When Luther was informed that Henry VIII. had abolished the authority of the pope in his kingdom, but had suffered the religious orders to remain, he smiled at the blunder: 'The king of England,' he said, 'weakens the body of the papacy but at the same time strengthens the soul.'[162] That could not endure for long.


Cromwell had now attained high honors and was to mount higher still. He thought with Luther that the pope and the monks could not exist or fall one without the other. After having abolished the Roman pontiff, it became necessary to abolish the monasteries. It was he who had prevailed on the king to take the place of head {81} of the Church; and now he wished him to be so really. 'Sire,' he said to Henry, 'cleanse the Lord's field from all the weeds that stifle the good corn, and scatter everywhere the seeds of virtue.[163] In 1525, 1528, 1531 and 1534 the popes themselves lent you their help in the suppression of monasteries; now you no longer require their aid. Do not hesitate, Sire: the most fanatical enemies of your supreme authority are to be found in the convents. There is buried the wealth necessary to the prosperity of the nation. The revenues of the religious orders are far greater than those of all the nobility of England. The cloister schools have fallen into decay, and the wants of the age require better ones. To suppress the pope and to keep the monks is like deposing the general and delivering the fortresses of the country up to his army. Sire, imitate the example of the protestants and suppress the monasteries.'

Such language alarmed the friends of the papacy, who stoutly opposed a scheme which they believed to be sacrilegious. 'These foundations were consecrated to Almighty God,' they told the king; 'respect therefore those retreats where pious souls live in contemplation.'[164] 'Contemplation!' said Sir Henry Colt smiling; 'tomorrow, Sire, I undertake to produce proofs of the kind of contemplation in which these monks indulge.' Whereupon, says an historian, Colt, knowing that a certain number of the monks of Waltham Abbey had a fondness for the conversation of ladies, and used to pass the night with the nuns of Chesham Convent, went to a narrow path through which the monks would have to pass on their return, and stretched across it one of the stout nets used in stag-hunting. Towards daybreak, as the monks, lantern in hand, were making their way {82} through the wood, they suddenly heard a loud noise behind them—it was caused by men whom Colt had stationed for the purpose—and instantly blowing out their lights they were hurrying away, when they fell into the toils prepared for them.[165] The next morning, he presented them to the king, who laughed heartily at their piteous looks. 'I have often seen better game,' he said, 'but never fatter. Certainly,' he added, 'I can make a better use of the money which the monks waste in their debaucheries. The coast of England requires to be fortified, my fleet and army to be increased, and harbors to be built for the commerce which is extending every day.[166] All that is well worth the trouble of suppressing houses of impurity.'

The protectors of the religious orders were not discouraged, and maintained that it was not necessary to shut all the convents, because of a few guilty houses.


Dr. Leighton, a former officer of Wolsey's, proposed a middle course: 'Let the king order a general visitation of monasteries,' he said, 'and in this way he will learn whether he ought to secularize them or not. Perhaps the mere fear of this inspection will incline the monks to yield to his Majesty's desires.' Henry charged Cromwell with the execution of this measure, and for that purpose named him vicegerent and vicar-general, conferring on him all the ecclesiastical authority which belonged to the king.[167] 'You will visit all the churches,' he said, 'even the metropolitan, whether the see be vacant or not; all the monasteries both of men and women; and you will correct and punish whoever may be found guilty.' Henry gave to his vicar precedence over all the peers, and decided that the layman should preside over the assembly of the clergy instead of the {83} primate; overlook the administration not only of the bishops but also of the archbishops; confirm or annul the election of prelates, deprive or suspend them, and assemble synods. This was at the beginning of September 1535. The influence of the laity thus re-entered the Church, but not through the proper door. They came forward in the name of the king and his proclamations, whilst they ought to have appeared in the name of Christ and of His Word. The king informed the primate, and through him all the bishops and archdeacons, that as the general visitation was about to commence, they should no longer exercise their jurisdiction.[168] The astonished prelates made representations, but they were unavailing: they and their sees were to be inspected by laymen. Although the commission of the latter did not contain the required conditions, namely the delegation of the flocks, this act was a pretty evident sign that the restoration of the members of the Church to their functions was at that time foreseen and perhaps even regarded by many as one of the most essential parts of the Reformation of England.

The monks began to tremble. Faith in the convents no longer existed—not even in the convents themselves. Confidence in monastic practices, relics, and pilgrimages had grown weaker; the timbers of the monasteries were worm-eaten, their walls were just ready to fall, and the edifice of the Middle Ages, tottering on its foundations, was unable to withstand the hearty blows dealt against it. When an antiquary explores some ancient sepulchre, he comes upon a skeleton, apparently well preserved, but crumbling into dust at the slightest touch of the finger; in like manner the puissant hand of the sixteenth century had only to touch most of these monastic institutions to reduce them to powder. The real dissolver of the religious orders was neither Henry VIII. {84} nor Cromwell: it was the devouring worm which, for years and centuries, they had carried in their bosom.

The vicar-general appointed his commissioners[169] and then assembled them as a commander-in-chief calls his generals together. In the front rank was Dr. Leighton, his old comrade in Wolsey's household, a skilful man who knew the ground well and did not forget his own interests. After him came Dr. Loudon, a man of unparalleled activity, but without character and a weathercock turning to every wind. With him was Sir Richard Cromwell, nephew of the vicar-general, an upright man, though desirous of making his way through his uncle's influence. He was the ancestor of another Cromwell, far more celebrated than Henry VIII.'s vicegerent. Other two were Thomas Legh and John Apprice, the most daring of the colleagues of the king's ministers; besides other individuals of well known ability. The vicegerent handed to them the instructions for their guidance, the questions they were to put to the monks, and the injunctions they were to impose on the abbots and priors; after which they separated on their mission.

The Universities, which sadly needed a reform, were not overlooked by Henry and his representative. Since the time when Garret, the priest of a London parish, circulated the New Testament at Oxford, the sacred volume had been banished from that city, as well as the Beggar's Petition and other evangelical writings. Slumber had followed the awakening. The members of the university, especially certain ecclesiastics who, forsaking their parishes, had come and settled at Oxford, to enjoy the delights of Capua,[170] passed their lives in idleness and sensuality. The royal commissioners aroused them from this torpor. They dethroned Duns Scotus, 'the subtle doctor,' who had reigned there for three hundred years, and the leaves of his books were scattered to the {85} winds. Scholasticism fell; new lectures were established; philosophical teaching, the natural sciences, Latin, Greek, and divinity were extended and developed. The students were forbidden to haunt taverns, and the priests who had come to Oxford to enjoy life, were sent back to their parishes.


The visitation of the monasteries began with those of Canterbury, the primatial church of England. In October 1535, shortly after Michaelmas, Dr. Leighton, the visitor, entered the cathedral, and Archbishop Cranmer went up into the pulpit. He had seen Rome: he had an intimate conviction that that city exerted a mischievous influence over all Christendom; he desired, as primate, to take advantage of this important opportunity to break publicly with her. 'No,' he said, 'the bishop of Rome is not God's vicar. In vain you will tell me that the See of Rome is called Sancta Sedes, and its bishop entitled Sanctissimus Papa: the pope's holiness is but a holiness in name.[171] Vain-glory, worldly pomp, unrestrained lust, and vices innumerable prevail in Rome. I have seen it with my own eyes. The pope claims by his ceremonies to forgive men their sins: it is a serious error. One work only blots them out, namely, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. So long as the See of Rome endures, there will be no remedy for the evils which overwhelm us. These many years I had daily prayed unto God that I might see the power of Rome destroyed.'[172] Language so frank necessarily displeased the adherents of the pope, and accordingly, when Cranmer alluded to his energetic daily prayer, the Superior of the Dominicans, trembling with excitement, exclaimed: 'What a want of charity!'

He was not the only person struck with indignation and fear. As soon as the sermon was over, the Dominicans assembled to prevent the archbishop from carrying out his intentions. 'We must support the {86} papacy,' they said, 'but do it prudently.' The prior was selected, as being the most eloquent of the brothers, to reply to Cranmer. Going into the pulpit, he said: 'The Church of Christ has never erred. The laws which it makes are equal in authority to the laws of God Himself. I do not know a single bishop of Rome who can be reproached with vice.'[173] Evidently the prior, however eloquent he might be, was not learned in the history of the Church.


The visitation of the Canterbury monasteries began. The immorality of most of these houses was manifested by scandalous scenes, and gave rise to questions which we are forced to suppress. The abominable vices that prevailed in them are mentioned by St. Paul in his description of the pagan corruptions.[174] The commissioners having taken their seats in one of the halls of the Augustine monastery, all the monks came before them, some embarrassed, others bold, but most of them careless. Strange questions were then put to men who declared themselves consecrated to a devout and contemplative life: 'Are there any among you,' asked the commissioners, 'who disguising themselves, leave the convent and go vagabondizing about? Do you observe the vow of chastity, and has any one been convicted of incontinence? Do women enter the monastery,[175] or live in it habitually?' We omit the questions that followed. The result was scandalous: eight of the brothers were convicted of abominable vices. The black sheep having been set apart for punishment, Leighton called the other monks together, and said to them: 'True religion does not consist in shaving the head, silence, fasting, and other observances; but in uprightness of soul, purity of life, sincere faith in Christ, brotherly love, and {87} the worship of God in spirit and in truth. Do not rest content with ceremonies, but rise to sublimer things, and be converted from all these outward practices to inward and deep considerations.'[176]

One visitation still more distressing followed this. The Carthusian monastery at Canterbury, four monks of which had died piously, contained several rotten members. Some of them used to put on lay dresses, and leave the convent during the night. There was one house for monks and another for nuns, and the blacksmith of the monastery confessed that a monk had asked him to file away a bar of the window which separated the two cloisters. It was the duty of the monks to confess the nuns; but by one of those refinements of corruption which mark the lowest degree of vice, the sin and absolution often followed close upon each other. Some nuns begged the visitors not to permit certain monks to enter their house again.[177]

The visitation being continued through Kent, the visitors came on the 22nd of October to Langdon Abbey, near Dover. William Dyck, abbot of the monastery of the Holy Virgin, possessed a very bad reputation. Leighton, who was determined to surprise him, ordered his attendants to surround the abbey in such a manner that no one could leave it. He then went to the abbot's house, which looked upon the fields, and was full of doors and windows by which any one could escape.[178] Leighton began to knock loudly, but no one answered. Observing an axe, he took it up, dashed in the door with it, and entered. He found a woman with the monk, and the visitors discovered in a chest the men's clothes which she put on when she wished to pass for one of the younger brethren. She escaped, but one of Cromwell's servants caught her and took her before the mayor at {88} Dover, where she was placed in the cage. As for the holy father abbot, says Leighton, he was put in prison. A few of the monks signed an act by which they declared that their house being threatened with utter ruin, temporal and spiritual, the king alone could find a remedy, and they consequently surrendered it to his Majesty.[179]

The abbot of Fountains had ruined his abbey by publicly keeping six women. One night he took away the golden crosses and jewels belonging to the monastery, and sold them to a jeweller for a small sum.[180] At Mayden-Bradley, Leighton found another father prior, one Richard, who had five women, six sons, and a daughter pensioned on the property of the convent: his sons, tall, stout young men, lived with him and waited on him. Seeing that the Roman Church prohibited the clergy from obeying the commandment of Scripture, which says: A bishop must be the husband of one wife, these wretched men took five or six. The impositions of the monks to extort money injured them in public opinion far more then their debauchery. Leighton found in St. Anthony's convent at Bristol a tunic of our Lord, a petticoat of the Virgin, a part of the Last Supper, and a fragment of the stone upon which Jesus was born at Bethlehem.[181] All these brought in money.

Every religious and moral sentiment is disgusted at hearing of the disorders and frauds of the monks, and yet the truth of history requires that they should be made known. Here is one of the means—of the blasphemous means—they employed to deceive the people. At Hales in Gloucestershire, the monks pretended that {89} they had preserved some of Christ's blood in a bottle. The man whose deadly sins God had not yet pardoned could not see it, they said; while the absolved sinner saw it instantaneously. Thousands of penitents crowded thither from all parts. If a rich man confessed to the priest and laid his gift on the altar, he was conducted into the mysterious chapel, where the precious vessel stood in a magnificent case. The penitent knelt down and looked, but saw nothing. 'Your sin is not yet forgiven,' said the priest. Then came another confession, another offering, another introduction into the sanctuary; but the unfortunate man opened his eyes in vain, he could see nothing until his contribution satisfied the monks. The commissioners having sent for the vessel, found it to be a 'crystall very thick on one side and very transparent on the other.'[182] 'You see, my lords,' said a candid friar, 'when a rich penitent appears, we turn the vessel on the thick side; that, you know, opens his heart and his purse.'[183] The transparent side did not appear until he had placed a large donation on the altar.


No discovery produced a greater sensation in England than that of the practices employed at Boxley in Kent. It possessed a famous crucifix, the image on which, carved in wood, gave an affirmative nod with the head, if the offering was accepted, winked the eyes and bent the body. If the offering was too small, the indignant figure turned away its head and made a sign of disapproval.[184] One of the Commissioners took down the crucifix from the wall, and discovered the pipes which carried the wires that the priestly conjuror was wont to pull.[185] Having put the machine in motion, he {90} said: 'You see what little account the monks have made of us and our forefathers.' The friars trembled with shame and alarm, while the spectators, says the record, roared with laughter, like Ajax.[186] The king sent for the machine, and had it worked in the presence of the court. The figure rolled its eyes, opened its mouth, turned up its nose, let its head fall, and bent its back. 'Upon my word,' said the king, 'I do not know whether I ought not to weep rather than laugh, on seeing how the poor people of England have been fooled for so many centuries.'

These vile tricks were the least of the sins of those wretches. In several convents the visitors found implements for coining base money.[187] In others they discovered traces of the horrible cruelties practised by the monks of one faction against those of another. Descending into the gloomy dungeons, they perceived, by the help of their torches, the bones of a great number of wretched people, some of whom had died of hunger and others had been crucified.[188] But debauchery was the most frequent case. Those pretended priests of a God who has said: Be ye holy, for I the Lord am holy, covered themselves with the hypocritical mantle of their priesthood, and indulged in infamous impurities. They discovered one monk, who, turning auricular confession to an abominable purpose, had carried adultery into two or three hundred families. The list was exhibited, and some of the Commissioners, to their great astonishment, says a contemporary writer, found the names of their own wives upon it.[189]

There were sometimes riots, sieges, and battles. The {91} Royal Commissioners arrived at Norton Abbey in Cheshire, the abbots of which were notorious for having carried on a scandalous traffic with the convent plate. On the last day of their visit, the abbot sent out his monks to muster his supporters, and collected a band of two or three hundred men, who surrounded the monastery, to prevent the commissioners from carrying anything away. The latter took refuge in a tower, which they barricaded. It was two hours past midnight: the abbot had ordered an ox to be killed to feed his rabble, seated round the fires in front of the convent, and even in the courtyard. On a sudden Sir Piers Dulton, a justice of the peace, arrived, and fell with his posse upon the monks and their defenders. The besiegers were struck with terror, and ran off as fast as they could, hiding themselves in the fish-ponds and out-houses. The abbot and three canons, the instigators of the riot, were imprisoned in Halton Castle.[190]

Fortunately, the king's Commissioners met with convents of another character. When George Gifford was visiting the monasteries of Lincolnshire, he came to a lonely district, abounding in water but very poor,[191] where the abbey of Woolstrop was situated. The inhabitants of the neighborhood, notwithstanding their destitution, praised the charity of the recluses. Entering the convent, Gifford found an honest prior and some pious monks, who copied books, made their own clothes, and practised the arts of embroidering, carving, painting, and engraving. The visitor petitioned the king for the preservation of this monastery.


The Commissioners had particular instructions for the women's convents. 'Is your house perfectly closed?' they asked the abbess and the nuns. 'Can a man get into it?[192] Are you in the habit of writing love-letters?'[193] {92} At Litchfield the nuns declared that there was no disorder in the convent; but one good old woman told everything, and when Leighton reproached the prioress for her falsehood, she replied: 'Our religion compels us to it. At our admission we swore never to reveal the secret sins that were committed among us.'[194] There were some houses in which nearly all the nuns trampled under foot the most sacred duties of their sex, and were without mercy for the unhappy fruits of their disorders.

Such were frequently in those times the monastic orders of the West. The eloquent apologists who eulogize their virtues without distinction, and the exaggerating critics who pronounce the same sentence of condemnation against all, are both mistaken. We have rendered homage to the monks who were upright; we may blame those who were guilty. The scandals, let us say, did not proceed from the founders of these orders. Sentiments, opposed beyond a doubt to the principles of the Gospel, although they were well-intentioned, had presided over the formation of the monasteries. The hermits Paul, Anthony, and others of the third and fourth centuries gave themselves up to an anti-Evangelical asceticism, but still they struggled courageously against temptation. However, one must be very ignorant not to see that corruption must eventually issue from monastic institutions. Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up, is the language of the Gospel.

We do not exaggerate. The monasteries were sometimes an asylum in which men and women, whose hearts had been wrecked in the tempests of life, sought a repose which the world did not offer. They were mistaken; they ought to have lived with God, but in the {93} midst of society. And yet there is a pleasure in believing that behind those walls, which hid so much corruption, there were some elect souls who loved God. Such were found at Catesby, at Godstow, near Oxford, and in other places. The Visitors asked for the preservation of these houses.

If the visitation of the convents was a bitter draught to many of the inmates, it was a cup of joy to the greater number. Many monks and nuns had been put into the convents during their infancy, and were detained in them against their will. No one ought to be forced, according to Cromwell's principles. When the visitation took place, the Visitors announced to every monk under twenty-four years of age, and to every nun under twenty-one, that they might leave the convent. Almost all to whom the doors were thus opened, hastened to profit by it. A secular dress was given them, with some money, and they departed with pleasure. But great was the sorrow among many whose age exceeded the limit. Falling on their knees, they entreated the Commissioners to obtain a similar favor for them. 'The life we lead here,' they said, 'is contrary to our conscience.'[195]


The Commissioners returned to London, and made their report to the Council. They were distressed and disgusted. 'We have discovered,' they said, 'not seven, but more than seven hundred thousand deadly sins.[196] ... These abominable monks are the ravening wolves whose coming Christ has announced, and who under sheep's clothing devour the flock. Here are the confessions of the monks and nuns, subscribed with their own hands.[197] This book may well be called The Book of God's Judgment. The monasteries are so full of iniquity that they ought to fall down under such a weight. If there be here and there any innocent cloister, they are {94} so few in number that they cannot save the others. Our hearts melt and all our limbs tremble at the thought of the abominations we have witnessed. O Lord! what wilt Thou answer to the five cities which Thou didst consume by fire, when they remind Thee of the iniquities of those monks, whom Thou hast so long supported?[198] The eloquence of Ptolemy, the memory of Pliny, and the pen of St. Augustine would not be able to give us the detestable history of these abominations.'


The Council began to deliberate, and many of the members called for the secularization of a part of the monasteries. The partisans of the religious orders took up their defence, and acknowledged that there was room for reform. 'But,' they added, 'will you deprive of all asylum the pious souls who desire to quit the world, and lead a devout life to the glory of their Maker?' They tried even to invalidate in some points the testimony of the Visitors; but the latter declared that, far from having recorded lightly those scandalous facts, they had excluded many.[199] 'We have not reported certain public scandals,' they said, 'because they seem opposed to the famous charter of the monks—Si non caste, tamen caute.' Men of influence supported the Commissioners' conclusions; a few members of the Council were inclined to indulgence; even Cromwell seemed disposed to attempt the reform of whatever was susceptible of improvement; but many believed that all amendment was impossible. 'We must, above all things, diminish the wealth of the clergy,' said Dr. Cox; 'for so long as they do not imitate the poverty of Christ, the people will not follow their teaching. I have no doubt,' he added, with a touch of irony, 'that the bishops, priests, and monks will readily free themselves from the heavy burden of wealth of every kind, which renders {95} the fulfilment of their spiritual duties impossible.'[200] Other reasons were alleged. 'The income of the monasteries,' said one of the privy-councillors, 'amounts to 500,000 ducats, while that of all the nobility of England is only 380,000.[201] This disproportion is intolerable, and must be put an end to. For the welfare of his subjects and of the Church, the King should increase the number of bishoprics, parishes, and hospitals. He must augment the forces of the State, and prepare to resist the Emperor, whose fleets and armies threaten us. Shall we ask the people for taxes, who have already so much trouble to get a living, while the monks continue to consume their wealth in laziness and debauchery? It would be monstrous injustice. The treasures which the convents derive from the nation ought no longer to be useless to the nation.'

In February 1536, this serious matter was laid before Parliament. It was Thomas Cromwell whose heavy hand struck these receptables of impurity, and whom men called 'the hammer of the monks,'[202] who proposed this great reform. He laid on the table of the Commons that famous Black Book, in which were inscribed the misdeeds of the religious orders, and desired that it should be read to the House. The book is no longer in existence: it was destroyed, in the reign of Queen Mary, by those who had an interest in its suppression. But it was then opened before the Parliament of England. There had never before been such a reading in any assembly. The facts were clearly recorded—the most detestable enormities were not veiled: the horrible confessions of the monks, signed with their own hands were exhibited to the members of the Commons. The recital produced an extraordinary effect. Men had had {96} no idea of such abominable scandals.[203] The House was horror-stricken, and 'Down with them—down with them!' was shouted on every side.

The debate commenced. Personally, the members were generally interested in the preservation of the monasteries: most of them had some connection with one cloister or another; priors and other heads had relations and friends in Parliament. Nevertheless the condemnation was general, and men spoke of those monkish sanctuaries as, in former times, men had spoken of the priests of Jezebel—'Let us pull down their houses, and overturn their altars.'[204] There were, however, some objections. Twenty-six abbots, heads of the great monasteries, sat as barons in the Upper House: these were respected. Besides, the great convents were less disorderly than the small ones. Cromwell restricted himself for the moment to the secularization of 376 cloisters, in each of which there were fewer than twelve persons. The abbots, flattered by the exception made in their favor, were silent, and even the bishops hardly cared to defend institutions which had long been withdrawn from their authority. 'These monasteries,' said Cromwell, 'being the dishonor of religion, and all the attempts, repeated through more than two centuries, having shown that their reformation is impossible, the King, as supreme head of the Church under God, proposes to the Lords and Commons, and these agree, that the possessions of the said houses, shall cease to be wasted for the maintenance of sin, and shall be converted to better uses.'[205]


There was immediately a great commotion throughout England. Some rejoiced, while others wept: superstition {97} became active, and weak minds believed everything that was told them. 'The Virgin,' they were assured, 'had appeared to certain monks, and ordered them to serve her as they had hitherto done.' 'What! no more religious houses,' exclaimed others, through their tears.[206] 'On the contrary,' said Latimer; 'look at that man and woman living together piously, tranquilly, in the fear of God, keeping His Word and active in the duties of their calling: they form a religious house, one that is truly acceptable to God. Pure religion consists not in wearing a hood, but in visiting the fatherless and the widows, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. What has hitherto been called a religious life was an irreligious life.'[207] 'And yet,' said the devout, 'the monks had more holiness than those who live in the world.' Latimer again went into the pulpit and said: 'When St. Anthony, the father of monkery, lived in the desert, and thought himself the most holy of men, he asked God who should be his companion in heaven, if it were possible for him to have one. "Go to Alexandria," said the Lord; "in such a street and house you will find him."[208] Anthony left the desert, sought the house, and found a poor cobbler in a wretched shop mending old shoes. The saint took up his abode with him, that he might learn by what mortifications the cobbler had made himself worthy of such great celestial honor. Every morning the poor man knelt down in prayer with his wife, and then went to work. When the dinner-hour arrived, he sat down at a table on which were bread and cheese; he gave thanks, ate his meal with joy, brought up his children in the fear of God, and faithfully discharged all his duties. At this sight, St. Anthony looked inwards, became contrite of heart, and put away his pride. Such is the new sort of religious houses,' {98} added Latimer, 'that we desire to have now.'

And yet, strange to say, Latimer was almost the only person among the Evangelicals who raised his voice in favor of the religious bodies. He feared that if the property of the convents passed into the greedy hands of Henry's courtiers, the tenants, accustomed to the mild treatment of the abbots, would be oppressed by the lay landlords, desirous of realizing the fruits of their estate unto the very last drop. The Bishop of Worcester, being somewhat enthusiastic, was anxious that a few convents should be preserved as houses of study, prayer, hospitality, charity, and preaching.[209] Cranmer, who had more discernment and a more practical spirit, had no hope of the monks. 'Satan,' he said, 'lives in the monasteries; he is satisfied and at his ease, like a gentleman in his inn, and the monks and nuns are his very humble servants.'[210] The primate, however, took little part in this great measure.[211]


The Bill for the suppression of the monasteries passed the two Houses on the 4th of February, 1536. It gave to the king and his heirs all the convents whose annual income did not exceed £200 sterling. About ten thousand monks and nuns were secularized. This Act added to the revenue of the Crown a yearly rental of £32,000 sterling, besides the immediate receipt of £100,000 sterling in silver, jewels, and other articles. The possessions hitherto employed by a few to gratify their carnal appetites seemed destined to contribute to the prosperity of the whole nation.

Unhappily, the shameless cupidity of the monks was replaced by a cupidity of a different nature. Petitions poured in to Cromwell from every quarter. The saying of Scripture was fulfilled, Wheresoever the carcass is, there {99} will the eagles be gathered together. Thomas Cobham, brother of Lord Cobham, represented that the Grey Friars' monastery at Canterbury was in a convenient position for him; that it was the city where he was born, and where all his friends lived. He consequently asked that it should be given him, and Cranmer, whose niece he had married, supported the prayer.[212] 'My good Lord,' said Lord-Chancellor Audley, 'my only salary is that of the chancellorship; give me a few good convents; I will give you my friendship during my life, and twenty pounds sterling for your trouble.' 'My specially dear Lord,' said Sir Thomas Eliot, 'I have been the king's ambassador at Rome; my services deserve some recompense. Pray his Majesty to grant me some of the suppressed convent lands. I will give your lordship the income of the first year.'

History has to record evils of another nature. Some of the finest libraries in England were destroyed, and works of great value sold for a trifle to the grocers. Friends of learning on the continent bought many of them, and carried away whole shiploads. One man changed his religion for the sake of a piece of abbey land. The king lost at play the treasures of which he had stripped the monastic orders, and used convents as stables for his horses. Some persons had imagined that the suppression of the monasteries would lead to the abolition of taxes and subsidies; but it was not so, and the nation found itself burdened with a poor-law in addition to the ordinary taxes.[213] There were, however, more worthy cases than those of the king and his courtiers. 'Most dread, mighty, and noble prince,' wrote the lord-mayor of London to the king, 'give orders that the three city hospitals shall henceforward subserve not the pleasures of those canons, priests, and {100} monks, whose dirty and disgusting bodies encumber our streets; but be used for the comfort of the sick and blind, the aged and crippled.'

The Act of Parliament was immediately carried out. The earl of Sussex, Sir John St. Clair, Anthony Fitzherbert, Richard Cromwell, and several other commissioners, travelled through England and made known to the religious communities the statutory dissolution. The voice of truth was heard from a small number of monasteries. 'Assuredly,' said the Lincolnshire Franciscans, 'the perfection of Christian life does not consist in wearing a gray frock, in disguising ourselves in strange fashion, in bending the body and nodding the head,[214] and in wearing a girdle full of knots. The true Christian life has been divinely manifested to us in Christ; and for that reason we submit with one consent to the king's orders.' The monks of the convent of St. Andrew at Northampton acknowledged to the commissioners that they had taken the habit of the order to live in comfortable idleness and not by virtuous labor, and had indulged in continual drunkenness, and in carnal and voluptuous appetites.[215] 'We have covered the gospel of Christ with shame,' they said. 'Now, seeing the gulf of everlasting fire gaping to swallow us up, and impelled by the stings of our conscience, we humble ourselves with lowly repentance, and pray for pardon, giving up ourselves and our convent to our sovereign king and lord.'


But they did not all use the same language. It was the last hour for the convents. There was a ceaseless movement in the cloisters; bursts of sorrow and fear, of anger and despair. What! No more monasteries! no more religious pomps! no more gossip! no more refectory! Those halls, wherein their predecessors had paced for centuries; those chapels, in which they had worshipped kneeling on the pavement, were to be converted {101} to vulgar uses. A few convents endeavored to bribe Cromwell: 'If you save our house,' said the abbot of Peterborough, 'I will give the king two million five hundred marks, and yourself three hundred pounds sterling.'[216] But Cromwell had conceived a great national measure, and wished to carry it out. Neither the eloquence of the monks, their prayers, their promises, nor their money could move him.

Some of the abbots set themselves in open revolt against the king, but were forced to submit at last. The old halls, the long galleries, the narrow cells of the convents, became emptier from day to day. The monks received a pension in proportion to their age. Those who desired to continue in the religious life were sent to the large monasteries. Many were dismissed with a few shillings for their journey and a new gown.[217] 'As for you,' said the commissioners to the young monks under twenty-five, 'you must earn a living by the work of your hands.' The same rule was applied to the nuns.

There was great suffering at this period. The inhabitants of the cloisters were strangers in the world: England was to them an unknown land. Monks and nuns might be seen wandering from door to door, seeking an asylum for the night. Many, who were young then, grew old in beggary. Their sin had been great, and so was their chastisement. Some of the monks fell into a gloomy melancholy, even into frightful despair: the remembrance of their faults pursued them; God's judgment terrified them; the sight of their miseries infuriated them. 'I am like Esau,' said one of them, 'I shall be eternally damned.' And he strangled himself with his collar. Another stabbed himself with a penknife. Some compassionate people having deprived him of the power of injuring himself, he exclaimed with rage, {102} 'If I cannot die in this manner, I shall easily find another;' and taking a piece of paper, he wrote on it: Rex tanquam tyrannus opprimit populum suum.[218] This he placed in one of the church books, where it was found by a parishioner, who in great alarm called out to the persons around him. The monk, full of hope that he would be brought to trial, drew near and said, 'It was I who did it: here I am; let them put me to death.'

Erelong those gloomy clouds, which seemed to announce a day of storms, appeared to break. There were tempests afterwards, but, speaking generally, England found in this energetic act one of the sources of her greatness, instead of the misfortunes with which she was threatened. At the moment when greedy eyes began to covet the revenues of Cambridge and Oxford, a recollection of the pleasant days of his youth was awakened in Henry's mind. 'I will not permit the wolves around me,' he said, 'to fall upon the universities.' Indeed, the incomes of a few convents were employed in the foundation of new schools, and particularly of Trinity College, Cambridge; and these institutions helped to spread throughout England the lights of the Renaissance and of the Reformation. An eloquent voice was heard from those antique halls, saying: 'O most invincible prince, great is the work that you have begun. Christ had laid the foundation; the apostles raised the building. But alas! barren weeds had overrun it; the papal tyranny had bowed all heads beneath its yoke. Now, you have rejected the pope; you have banished the race of monks. What more can we ask for? We pray that those houses of cenobites, where an ignorant swarm of drones was wont to buzz,[219] should behold in {103} their academic halls a generous youth, eager to be taught, and learned men to teach them. Let the light which has been restored to us spread its rays through all the universe and kindle other torches, so that the darkness should flee all over the world[220] before the dawn of a new day.'

It was not learning alone that gained by the suppression of the monasteries. The revenues of the crown, which were about seven hundred thousand ducats, increased by those of the convents which were about nine hundred thousand, were more than doubled. This wealth, hitherto useless, served to fortify England and Ireland, build fortresses along the coasts, repair the harbors, and create an imposing fleet. The kingdom took a step in the career of power. By the reformation of the convents the moral force of the nation gained still more than the material force. The abolition of the papacy restored to the people that national unity which Rome had taken away; and England, freed from subjection to a foreign power, could oppose her enemies with a sword of might and a front of iron.


Political economy, rural economy, all that concerns the collection and distribution of wealth, then took a start that nothing has been able to check. The estates, taken from the easy-going monks, produced riches. The king and the nobility, desirous of deriving the greatest gain possible from the domains that had fallen to them, endeavored to improve agriculture. Many men, until that time useless, electrified by the movement of minds, sought the means of existence. The Reformation, from which the nation expected only purity of doctrine, helped to increase the general prosperity, industry, commerce, and navigation. The poor remembered that God had commanded man to eat his {104} bread, not in the shade of the monasteries, but in the sweat of his brow. To this epoch we must ascribe the origin of those mercantile enterprises, of those long and distant voyages which were to be one day the strength of Great Britain. Henry VIII. was truly the father of Elizabeth.

Moral, social, and political development was no less a gainer by the order that was established. At the first moment, no doubt, England presented the appearance of a vast chaos: but from that chaos there sprang a new world. Forces which had hitherto been lost in obscure cells, were employed for the good of society. The men who had been dwelling carelessly within or without the cloister walls, and had expended all their activity in listlessly giving or listlessly receiving alms, were violently shaken by the blows from the Malleus monachorum, the hammer of the monks: they aroused themselves, and made exertions which turned to the public good. Their children, and especially their grandchildren, became useful citizens. The third estate appeared. The population of the cloisters was transformed into an active and intelligent middle class. The very wealth, acquired, it is true, greedily by the nobility, secured them an independence, which enabled them to oppose a salutary counterpoise to the pretensions of the crown. The Upper House, where the ecclesiastical element had predominated, became essentially a lay house by the absence of the abbots and priors. A public grew up. A new life animated antique institutions that had remained almost useless. It was not, in truth, until later that mighty England, having become decidedly evangelical and constitutional, sat down victoriously on the two great ruins of feudalism and popery; but an important step was taken under Henry VIII. That great transformation extended its influence even beyond the shores of Great Britain. The blow aimed at the system of the Middle Ages re-echoed throughout Europe, and everywhere {105} shook the artificial scaffolding. Spain and Italy alone remained almost motionless in the midst of their ancient darkness.

The suppression of the monasteries, begun in 1535, was continued in 1538, and brought to a conclusion in 1539 by an Act of Parliament.


A voice was heard from these ruined convents, exclaiming: 'Praise and thanksgiving to God! For other foundation can no man lay than Jesus Christ. Whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the pacifier who turneth away from our heads the strokes of God's wrath,[221] lays the true foundation; and on that firm base he shall raise a better building than that which had the monks for its pillars!' This prophecy of Sir William Overbury's did not fail to be accomplished.

[161]   'A Sir Loyne of beaf, so knighted by this king Henry.'—Fuller, p. 299.

[162]   'Des Pabstes Leib plaget er, abes seine Seele stærkt er.'—Lutheri Opp. xxii. p. 1466.

[163]   'Ecclesiam vitiorum vepribus purgare, et virtutum seminibus conserere.'—Collyer's Records, ii. p. 21.

[164]   'For the benefit of a retired and contemplative disposition.'—Ibid. i. p. 102.

[165]   'The monks coming out of the nunnery ... ran themselves into the net.'—Fuller, p. 317.

[166]   'He intended to build many havens.'—Burnet, i. p. 181.

[167]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 785.—Coll. Rec. 21.

[168]   'Nullus vestrum ea quæ sunt jurisdictionis exercere.'—Collyer's Records, p. 22.

[169]   Audley to Cromwell, 30th Sept. 1535.—State Papers, i. p. 450.

[170]   Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 71, sqq.

[171]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 326.

[172]   Ibid. p. 327.

[173]   'He knew no vices by none of the bishops of Rome.'—Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 327.

[174]   Epistle to the Romans, ch. i.

[175]   'By backways or otherwise.'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 783.

[176]   Wilkins, Concilia, p. 791.

[177]   Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 48.—Fuller, p. 318.

[178]   'Like a coney clapper, full of starting-holes.'—Fuller, pp. 75, 76.

[179]   'Surrender of the monastery of Langdon.'—Burnet, Records, i. p. 133.

[180]   Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 100.

[181]   'Pars petræ super qua natus erat Jesus in Bethlehem.'—Strype, i. p. 391.

[182]   Collyer's Records, ii. p. 149.

[183]   'This, as it is said, was done to open his heart and his pocket.'—Ibid.

[184]   'Capite nutare, innuere oculis, barbam convertere, incurvare corpus.'—Records or Documents in Burnet, iii. p. 131.

[185]   'Occultæ passim fistulæ in quibus ductile per rimulas ferrum a mystagogo trahebatur.'—Ibid. p. 132.

[186]   'Aliis Ajacem risu simulantibus.'—Records or Documents in Burnet, iii. p. 132.

[187]   'The instruments for coining.'—Ibid. p. 182.

[188]   'Some crucified.'—Ibid. p. 182.

[189]   'Some of the commissioners found of their own wives titled among the rest.'—W. Thomas in Strype, i. p. 386.—Burnet, i. p. 182.

[190]   Ellis, Letters, 3rd Series, vol. iii. p. 42.

[191]   'Standing in a wet ground, very solitary.'—Strype, i. p. 393.

[192]   'An sint aliqua loca pervia, per quæ secrete intrari possit?'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 789.

[193]   'Whether any of you doth use to write any letters of love or lascivious fashion.'—Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 789.

[194]   Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 91.

[195]   Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 81.

[196]   Strype, i. p. 385.

[197]   'Their own confessions, subscribed with their own hands, be a proof thereof.'—Strype, i. p. 387.

[198]   Strype, i. p. 385.

[199]   We suppress circumstances which were quoted then; they may be seen in Fuller (p. 318) and elsewhere.

[200]   Strype, i. p. 418.

[201]   Relazione d'Inghilterra, by Daniele Barbaro, ambassador of Venice.—Ranke, iv. p. 61.

[202]   'Malleus monachorum.'

[203]   'When their enormities were first read in the Parliament House, they were so great and abominable.'—Latimer's Sermons, p. 123.

[204]   'There was nothing but "Down with them!"' Ibid. p. 123.

[205]   State Papers. 27 Henry VIII. c. 28.

[206]   Latimer's Sermons, p. 391.

[207]   Ibid. p. 392.

[208]   'There he should find a cobbler which should be his fellow in heaven.'—Ibid.

[209]   Strype, i. p. 400.

[210]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 64.

[211]   'I will not take upon me to make any exposition.'—Ibid. p. 317.

[212]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 330.

[213]   Latimer's Sermons, pp. 93, 256.—Dean Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, passim.

[214]   'Dolking and becking.'—Collyer's Records, ii. p. 159.

[215]   Ibid.

[216]   Collyer's Records, ii. pp. 156-159.

[217]   'A new gown of strong cloath.'—Fuller, Church History, p. 311.

[218]   'The king oppresses his people like a tyrant.'—Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 319.

[219]   'Ignarus fucorum grex evolare solebat.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 136.

[220]   'Novæ ut lampades, novique faces possint accendi.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 337.

[221]   'The pacifier of God's wrath, the bearer of sins.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 307.

(1534 to 1535.)

Henry VIII. having thrown down the pillar of the papacy—the monks—felt the necessity of strengthening the work he had begun by alliances with the continental protestants. He did not turn to the Swiss or the French Reformers: their small political importance, as well as the decided character of their Reform, alienated him from them. 'What inconsiderate men they are,' said Calvin, 'who exalt the king of England. To ascribe sovereign authority to the prince in everything, to call {106} him supreme head of the Church under Christ, is in my opinion blasphemy.'[222]


Henry hoped more from Germany than from Switzerland. As early as 1534 three senators of Lubeck had presented to him the Confession of Augsburg, and proposed an alliance against the Roman pontiff.[223] Anne Boleyn pressed the king to unite with the protestants, and in the spring of 1535 Barnes was sent to Wittemberg, where he induced the Reformers to claim his master's protection. Melanchthon, who was more inclined than Luther to have recourse to princes, since he did not refuse to unite with Francis I., did not reject the advances of Henry VIII. 'Sire,' he wrote in March 1535, 'this is now the golden age for Britain.[224] In times of old, when the armies of the Goths had stifled letters in Europe, your island restored them to the universe. I entreat you in the name of Jesus Christ to plead for us before kings.' The illustrious doctor dedicated to this prince the new edition of his Common-Places, and commissioned Alesius, a Scotchman, to present it with the hope that he should see England become the salvation of many nations, and even of the whole Church of Christ.[225] Alesius, who had taken refuge in Saxony, was happy to return to that island from which the fanaticism of the Scotch clergy had compelled him flee. He was presented to the uncle of his king, and Henry, delighted with the Scotchman, said to him: 'I name you my scholar,' and directed Cranmer to send Melanchthon two hundred crowns. {107} They were accompanied by a letter for the illustrious professor, in which the king signed himself: Your friend Henry.

But it was not long before the hopes of a union between Germany and England seemed to vanish. Scarcely had Melanchthon vaunted in his dedication to Henry VIII. the moderation of the king—a moderation worthy (he had said) of a wise prince—when he heard of the execution of Fisher and More. He shrank back with terror. 'Morus,' he exclaimed, 'has been put to death, and others with him.' The cruelties of the king tortured the gentle Philip. The idea that a man of letters like More should fall by the hands of the executioner, scandalized him. He began to fear for his own life. 'I am myself,' he said, 'in great peril.'[226]

Henry did not suspect the horror which his crime would excite on the continent, and had just read with delight a passage of Melanchthon's in which the latter compared him to Ptolemy Philadelphus! He therefore said to Barnes: 'Go and bring him back with you.' Barnes returned to Wittemberg in September and delivered his message. But the doctor of Germany had never received so alarming an invitation before. He imagined it to be a treacherous scheme. 'The mere thought of the journey,' he said, 'overwhelms me with distress.' Barnes tried to encourage him. 'The king will give you a magnificent escort,' he said, 'and even hostages, if you desire it.'[227] Melanchthon, who had More's bleeding head continually before him, was immovable. Luther also regarded Barnes with an unfavorable eye, and called him the black Englishman.[228]

The envoy was more fortunate with the elector. John Frederick, hearing that the king of England was {108} desirous of forming an alliance with the princes of Germany, replied that he would communicate this important demand to them. He then entertained Barnes at a sumptuous breakfast, made him handsome presents, and wrote to Henry VIII. that the desire manifested by him to reform religious doctrine augmented his love for him, 'for,' he added, 'it belongs to kings to propagate Christ's gospel far and wide.'[229]

Luther also, but from other motives than those of the elector, did not look so closely as Melanchthon; the suppression of the monasteries prepossessed him in favor of his ancient adversary. The penalties with which the Carthusians and others had been visited did not alarm him. Vergerio, the papal legate, who was at Wittemberg at the beginning of November, invited Luther to breakfast with him. 'I know,' he said, 'that king Henry kills cardinals and bishops, but ...' and biting his lips, he made a significant movement with his hand, as if he wished to cut off the king's head. When relating this anecdote to Melanchthon, who was then at Jena, Luther added: 'Would to God that we possessed several kings of England to put to death those bishops, cardinals, legates, and popes who are nothing but robbers, traitors, and devils!'[230] Luther was less tender than he is represented when contrasted with Calvin. Those hasty words expressed really the thoughts of all parties. The spiritual leaven of the gospel had to work for a century or more upon the hard material of which the heart of man is made, before the errors of Romish legislation, a thousand years old, were banished. No doubt there was an immediate mitigation produced by the Reformation; but if any one had told the men of the {109} sixteenth century that it was wrong to put men to death for acts of impiety, they would have been as astonished, and perhaps more so, than our judges, if they were abused because, in conformity with the law, they visited murder with capital punishment. It is strange, however, that it required so many centuries to understand those glorious words of our Saviour: The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.[231]

The condition which the protestants placed on their union with Henry VIII. rendered the alliance difficult. 'We only ask one thing,' said the Reformers to Barnes, 'that the doctrine which is in conformity with Scripture be restored to the whole world;'[232] but Henry still observed the catholic doctrine. But he was told that the Lutherans and Francis I., thanks to Melanchthon's mediation, were probably coming to an agreement, and that a general council would be summoned. What treatment could he expect from such an assembly, he who had so grievously offended the papacy! Desirous of preventing a council at any price, the king determined in September, 1535, to send a more important embassy to the Lutherans, in order to persuade them to renounce the idea of coming to terms with the pope, and rather to form an alliance with England.


Consequently Fox, bishop of Hereford, a proud and insolent courtier, and Archdeacon Hare, an amiable and enlightened man, with some others, started for Germany and joined Barnes and Mount who had preceded them. On the 24th of December they were admitted into the presence of the Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, and other protestant deputies and princes: 'The king our master,' they said, 'has abolished the power of the Roman bishop throughout his dominions, and rejected {110} his pretended pardons and his old wives' stories.[233] Accordingly the pope, in a transport of fury, has summoned all the kings of the earth to take arms against him. But neither pope nor papists alarm our prince. He offers you his person, his wealth, and his sceptre to combat the Roman power. Let us unite against it, and the Spirit of God will bind our confederation together.'[234] The princes replied to this eloquent harangue, 'that if the king engaged to propagate the pure doctrine of the faith as it had been confessed at the diet of Augsburg; if he engaged, like them, never to concede to the Roman bishop any jurisdiction in his States, they would name him Defender and Protector of their confederation.'[235] They added that they would send a deputation, including one man of excellent learning (meaning Melanchthon), to confer with the king upon the changes to be made in the Church. The Englishmen could not conceal their joy, but the theologian had lost all confidence in Henry VIII. 'The death of More distresses me: I will have nothing to do with the business.'[236] Nevertheless the treaty of alliance was signed on the 25th December, 1535.[237] The catholic party, especially in England, was troubled at the news, and Gardiner, then ambassador in France, lost no time in writing to oppose designs which would establish protestantism in the Anglican Church.

While the king was uniting with the Confession of Augsburg, his relations with the most decided partisans of the papacy were far from improving. His daughter Mary, whose temper was melancholy and irritable, observed {111} no bounds as regards her father's friends or acts, and refused to submit to his orders. 'I bid her renounce the title of princess,' said Henry in a passion.—'If I consented not to be regarded as such,' she answered, 'I should go against my conscience and incur God's displeasure.'[238] Henry, no friend of half-measures, talked of putting his daughter to death, and thus frightening the rebels. That wretched prince had a remarkable tendency for killing those who were nearest to him. We may see a father correct his child with a stripe; but with this man, a blow from his hand was fatal. There was already some talk of sending the princess to the Tower, when the evangelical Cranmer ventured to intercede in behalf of the catholic Mary. He reminded Henry that he was her father, and that if he took away her life, he would incur universal reprobation. The king gave way to these representations, predicting to the archbishop that this intervention would some day cost him dear. In fact, when Mary became queen she put to death the man who had saved her life. Henry was content to order his daughter to be separated from her mother. On the other hand, the terrified Catherine endeavored to mollify the princess. 'Obey the king in all things,' she wrote from Buckden, where she was living, 'except in those which would destroy your soul. Speak little; trouble yourself about nothing, play on the spinet or lute.' This unhappy woman, who had found so much bitterness in the conjugal estate, added: 'Above all, do not desire a husband, nor even think of it, I beg you in the name of Christ's passion.

'Your loving mother, Catherine the Queen.'[239]


But the mother was not less decided than the daughter in maintaining her rights, and would not renounce {112} her title of queen, notwithstanding Henry's orders. A commission composed of the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Sussex, and others, arrived at Buckden to try and induce her to do so, and all the household of the princess was called together. The intrepid daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella said with a firm voice: 'I am the queen, the king's true wife.'[240] Being informed that it was intended to remove her to Somersham and separate her from some of her best friends, she answered: 'I will not go unless you bind me with ropes.'[241] And to prevent this she took to her bed and refused to dress, saying she was ill.[242] The king sent two catholic prelates, the archbishop of York and the bishop of Durham, hoping to soften her. 'Madam,' said the archbishop, 'your marriage being invalid....'—'It is a lawful marriage,' she exclaimed with passionate vehemence.[243] 'Until death I shall be his Majesty's wife.'—'Members of your own council,' continued the archbishop, 'acknowledge that your marriage with Prince Arthur was actually consummated.'—'It is all false!' she exclaimed in a loud tone.—'The divorce was consequently pronounced.'...—'By whom?' she asked.—'By my lord of Canterbury.'—'And who is he?' returned the queen. 'A shadow![244] The pope has declared in my favor, and he is Christ's vicar.'—'The king will treat you like a dear sister,' said bishop Tonstall.[245]—'Nothing in the world,' answered Catherine, 'neither the loss of my possessions nor the prospect of death, will make me give up my rights.' {113}

In October, 1535, Catherine was still at Buckden. That noble but fanatic woman increased her austerity, indulged in the harshest practices of an ascetic life, prayed frequently bare-kneed on the floor, while at the same time a deadly sorrow was undermining her health. At last consumption declared itself;[246] and as her condition required a change of air, she was removed to Kimbolton. She longed for the society of her daughter, which would no doubt have alleviated her sufferings; but she asked in vain with tears to see her. Mary also entreated the king to let her visit her mother: he was inflexible.[247]


Henry's harshness towards the aunt of Charles V. excited the wrath of that monarch to the highest degree. He was then returning victorious from his first African expedition, and determined to delay no longer in carrying out the mission he had received from the pope. To that end it was necessary to obtain, if not the co-operation, at least the neutrality of Francis I. That was not easy. The king of France had always courted the alliance of England: he had signed a treaty with Henry against the emperor and against the pope, and had just sought an alliance with the Lutheran princes. But the emperor knew that the acquisition of Italy, or at least of Lombardy, was the favorite idea of Francis I. Charles was equally desirous of it, but he was so impatient to re-establish Catherine of Aragon on the throne, and bring England again under the dominion of the pope, that he determined to sacrifice Italy, if only in appearance. Sforza, duke of Milan, having just died without children, the emperor offered Francis I. the duchy of Milan for his second son, the duke of Orleans, {114} if he would not oppose his designs against England.[248] The king of France eagerly accepted the proposal, and wishing to give a proof of his zeal, he even proposed that the pope should summon all the princes of Christendom to force the king of England to submit to the See of Rome. The love he had for Milan went so far as to make him propose a crusade against his natural ally, Henry VIII.[249]


The matter was becoming serious: rarely had a greater danger threatened England, when an important event suddenly removed it. At the very time when Charles V., aided by Francis I., desired to rouse Europe in order to replace his aunt on the throne, she died. About the end of December, 1535, Catherine became seriously ill, and felt that God was bringing her great sorrows to an end. The king, wishing to keep up appearances, sent to inquire after her. The queen, firm to the last in her principles, sent for her lawyers and dictated her will to them. 'I am ready,' she said, 'to yield up my soul unto God.... I supplicate that five hundred masses be said for my soul; and that some personage go in pilgrimage for me to Our Lady of Walsingham.[250] I bequeath my gowns to the convent, and the furs of the same I give to my daughter.' Then Catherine thought of the king: to her he was always her husband, and despite his injustice, she would not address him but with respect. Feeling that the end was not far off, she dictated the following letter, at once so simple and so noble:—

'My most dear Lord, King, and Husband:

'The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, advise you of your soul's health. You have cast me into many {115} calamities and yourself into many troubles; but I forgive you all, and pray God to do likewise. I commend unto you Mary our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.'[251]

The queen, therefore, sought to bid farewell of him who had wrought her so much evil. Henry was moved, and even shed tears,[252] but did not comply with the queen's wish: his conscience reproached him with his faults. On the 7th January Catherine received the last sacraments, and at two o'clock she expired.

Anne felt at the bottom of her heart the rights of this princess. She had yielded to her imagination, to the absolute will of the king; her marriage had given her some moments of happiness, but her soul was often troubled. She thought to herself that the proud Spanish woman was the one to whom Henry had given his faith; and doubted whether the crown did not belong to the daughter of Isabella. Catherine's death removed her anxieties. 'Now,' she said, 'now I am indeed a queen.' She went into mourning, but according to the custom in France at that period. The tears of the people accompanied to the tomb that unhappy and (to say truth) superstitious woman; but she was an affectionate mother, a high-spirited wife, and a queen of indomitable pride.[253]

This decease was destined to effect great changes in Europe. The emperor, who was forming a holy alliance to replace his aunt on the throne, and who, to succeed, had gone so far as to sacrifice the northern part of Italy, having nothing more to do with Catherine, sheathed his sword and kept Milan. Francis I., vexed at seeing {116} the prey slip from him which he had so eagerly coveted, and fancied already in his hands, went into a furious passion, and prepared for a war to the death. The emperor and the king of France, instead of marching together against Henry, began each of them to court him, desiring to have him for an ally in the fierce struggle that was about to begin.

At the same time Catherine's death facilitated, as we have said, the alliance of the king with the protestants of Germany, who had maintained the validity of his marriage with the princess of Aragon. One of their chief grievances against Henry VIII. had thus disappeared. Both sides now thought they could make a step forward and strive to come to an understanding theologically. The points on which they differed were important. 'The king of England,' they said at Wittemberg, 'wishes to be pope in the place of the pope, and maintains most of the errors of the old popery, such as monasteries,[254] indulgences, the mass, prayers for the dead, and other Romish fables.'[255]


The discussion began at Wittemberg. The champions in the theological tournament were Bishop Fox and Archdeacon Heath on one side; Melanchthon and Luther on the other. Heath, one of the young doctors whom Queen Anne had maintained at Cambridge University, charmed Melanchthon exceedingly. 'He excels in urbanity and sound doctrine,' said the latter. Fox, on the other hand, who was the king's man, showed, in Philip's opinion, no taste either for philosophy or for agreeable and graceful conversation. The doctrine of the mass was the principal point of the discussion. They could not come to an understanding. Luther, who thought it would be only a three days' matter, seeing the time slip away, said to the elector: 'I have done more in four weeks than these Englishmen in twelve {117} years. If they continue reforming in that style, England will never be inside or out.'[256] This definition of the English Reformation amused the Germans. They did not discuss, they disputed: it became a regular quarrel.[257] 'I am disgusted with these debates,' said Luther to vice-chancellor Burkhard, 'they make me sick.'[258] Even the gentle Melanchthon exclaimed: 'All the world seems to me to be burning with hatred and anger.'[259]

Accordingly the theological discussions were broken off, and the ambassadors of Henry VIII. were admitted on the 12th of March into the presence of the elector. 'England is tranquil now,' said the bishop of Hereford; 'the death of a woman has forever terminated all wrangling. At this moment the creed of Jesus Christ alone is the concern of his Majesty. The king therefore prays you to make an alliance between you and him possible, by modifying a few points of your Confession.' Whereupon the vice-chancellor of Saxony addressed Luther: 'What can we concede to the king of England?'—'Nothing,' answered the reformer. 'If we had been willing to concede anything, we might just as well have come to terms with the pope.' After this very positive declaration, Luther softened down a little. He knew well, as another reformer has said, 'that some men are weaker than others, and if we do not treat them very mildly, they lose their courage and turn away from religion; and that Christians who are more advanced in doctrine are bound to comfort the infirmities of the ignorant.'[260] The Saxon reformer, retracing his steps a little, wrote to the vice-chancellor: 'It is true that {118} England cannot embrace the whole truth all at once.'[261] He thought it possible in certain cases to adopt other expressions, and tolerate some diversity of usages. 'But,' he said, always firm in the faith, 'the great doctrines can neither be given up nor modified. Whether to make an alliance or not with the king, is for my most gracious lord to decide: it is a secular matter. Only it is dangerous to unite outwardly, when the hearts are not in harmony.' The protestant states assembled on the 24th of April, 1536, at Frankfort on the Main, required Henry VIII. to receive the faith confessed at Augsburg, and in that case expressed themselves ready to acknowledge him as protector of the evangelical alliance. The elector, who was much displeased with certain English ceremonies, added: 'Let your Majesty thoroughly reform the pontifical idolomania in England.'[262] It was agreed that Melanchthon, Sturm, Bucer, and Dracon should go to London to complete this great work of union. England and evangelical Germany were about to join hands.

This alliance of the king with the Lutherans deeply chafed the catholics of the kingdom, already so seriously offended by the suppression of the monasteries and the punishment of the two men to whom Henry (they said) was most indebted. While the Roman party was filled with anger, the political party was surprised by the bold step the prince had taken. But the blow which had struck two great victims had taught them that they must submit to the will of the monarch or perish. The scaffolds of Fisher and More had read them a great lesson of docility, and moulded all those around Henry to {119} that servile spirit which leaves in the palace of a king nothing but a master and slaves.

They were about to see an illustrious instance in the trial of Anne Boleyn.

[222]   'Inconsiderati homines. . . . Dederunt illi (Regi Angliæ) summam rerum omnium potestatem, et hoc me semper graviter vulneravit. Erant . . . enim blasphemi, quum vocarent ipsum Summum caput Ecclesiæ sub Christo.'—Calvinus in Amos, vii. 13.

[223]   'Fœdus contra Romanum pontificem.'—Rymer, Fœdera, VI. ii. p. 214.

[224]   'Tale nunc aureum seculum esse tuæ Britanniæ.'—Corpus Reform. ii. p. 862.

[225]   'Multarum gentium et Ecclesiæ Christianæ salutem.'—Ibid. p. 920.

[226]   'Ego quoque magno versor in periculo.'—Corpus Reform. ii. p. 918.

[227]   'Und auch Geissel dafür anbeüt.'—Lutheri Epp. iv. p. 633.

[228]   'Ille niger Anglicus.'—Ibid. p. 630.

[229]   'Ut Christi gloria latissime propagetur.'—Corpus Reform. ii. p. 944.

[230]   'Reverendissimi cardinales, papæ et eorum legati, proditores, fures, raptores, et ipsi diaboli. Utinam haberent plures Reges Angliæ, qui illos occiderent.'—Lutheri Epp. iv. p. 655.

[231]   St. Luke ix. 56.

[232]   'Pia ac sana doctrina, divinis literis consentanea, toti orbi restituatur.'

[233]   There is a play upon words in the Latin: 'Venias vel potius Nenias prorsus antiquavit.'—Corpus Reform. ii. p. 1029.

[234]   'Dei spiritum qui utrosque conglutinet.'—Ibid. p. 1032.

[235]   'S. M. obtineat nomen Defensoris et Protectoris.'—Ibid. 1034.

[236]   'Thomæ Mori casu afficior, nec me negotiis illis admiscebo.'—Ibid. p. 1034.

[237]   Corpus Reform. ii. pp. 1032-36. The signatures of Fox, Heath, and Barnes, the English envoys, precede those of the Elector of Saxony and of the Landgrave.

[238]   Letter from Lady Mary to King Henry VIII.—Foxe, Acts, vi. p. 353.

[239]   Burnet, Records, ii. p. 220.

[240]   'Persisting in her great stomake and obstinacy, made answer with an open voice.'—State Papers, i. p. 415.

[241]   Ibid. p. 417.

[242]   'She may faine her self sycke and kepe her bed, and will not put on her clothes.'—Ibid.

[243]   'In great coler and agony, and always interrupting our words.'—Ibid. i. p. 420.

[244]   'Lord of Canterbury, whom she called a shadow.'—Ibid. p. 420.

[245]   'As your Grace's most dearest sister.'—Ibid. p. 421.

[246]   'Catharina ... animi mœrore confecta, cœpit ægrotare.'—Polydore Virgil, p. 690.

[247]   'Conjux a viro, mater pro filia impetrare non potuit.'—Polus, Apol. ad Cæsarem, p. 162. This fact has been doubted, but no evidence has been produced against it.

[248]   'Scribebat se contentari dare ducatum Mediolani duci Aurelianensi.'—State Papers, vii. p. 649.

[249]   Mémoires de Du Bellay.

[250]   'The last will, &c.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 252.

[251]   Herbert, p. 432.

[252]   'Rex ubi literas legit, amanter lachrymavit.'—Polydore Virgil, p. 690.

[253]   The Lord Chamberlain to Cromwell.—State Papers, i. p. 452.

[254]   The great monasteries were not yet suppressed.

[255]   Corpus Reform. iii. p. 12.

[256]   'Werden sie nimmermehr daraus noch drein kommen.'—Lutheri Epp. iv. p. 671.

[257]   'Cum Anglicis disputamus, si disputare est rixari.'—Ibid. p. 669.

[258]   'Usque ad nauseam.'—Ibid. p. 669.

[259]   'Orbis terrarum ardet odiis et furore.'—Corpus Reform. iii. p. 53.

[260]   Calvin.

[261]   'In England nicht so plötzlich kann alles nach der Lehre in's Werk bracht werden.'—Letter to the Vice-Chancellor. Lutheri Epp. iv. p. 688.

[262]   'Regia dignitas vestra suscipiat emendationem Idolomaniæ pontificiæ.'—Corpus Reform. iii. p. 64.

(1535 to May 1536.)

If feeble minds did not shrink from bending beneath the royal despotism, men of fanatical mould cherished vengeance in their hearts. Great wounds had been inflicted on the papacy, and they burnt to strike some signal blow against the cause of Reform. That also, they said, must have its victim. For all these monasteries sacrificed, one person must be immolated: one only, but taken from the most illustrious station. The king having, on the one side, struck his tutor and his friend, must now, to maintain the balance, strike his wife on the other. A tragedy was about to begin which would terminate in a frightful catastrophe. Anne Boleyn had not been brought up, as some have said, 'in the worst school in Europe,'[263] but in one of the best—in the household of the pious Margaret of Angoulême, who was the enlightened protectress not only of the learned, but of all friends of the Gospel. Anne had learnt from that princess to love the Reformation and the Reformers. And accordingly she was in the eyes of the papal partisans, the principal cause of the change that had been wrought in the king's mind, and by him throughout the kingdom. The Reformation, as we have seen, began in England about 1517 with the reading of the Holy {120} Scriptures in the universities; but the most accredited Roman doctors have preferred assigning it another origin, and, speaking of Cranmer's connexion with Anne Boleyn, thirteen years later, have said, 'Such is the beginning of the Reformation in England.'[264] In this assertion there is an error both of chronology and history.


Since her coronation, the queen had been in almost daily communication with the archbishop of Canterbury, and habitually—even her enemies affirmed it—the interests of the evangelical cause were treated of. At one time Anne prayed Cranmer to come to the assistance of the persecuted protestants. At another, full of the necessity of sending reapers into the harvest, she interested herself about such young persons as were poor, but whose pure morals and clear intellect seemed to qualify them for the practice of virtue and the study of letters;[265] these she assisted with great generosity.[266] This was also an example that Margaret of Valois had given her. The queen did not encourage these students heedlessly: she required testimonials certifying as to the purity of their morals and the capacity of their intellect. If she was satisfied, she placed them at Oxford or Cambridge, and required them to spread around them, even while studying, the New Testament and the writings of the reformers. Many of the queen's pensioners did great service to the Church and State in after years. With these queenly qualities Anne combined more domestic ones. Cranmer saw her, like good Queen Claude, gathering round her a number of young ladies distinguished by their birth and their virtues, and working with them at tapestry of admirable perfection for the palace of {121} Hampton Court, or at garments for the indigent. She established in the poor parishes vast warehouses, filled with such things as the needy wanted. 'Her eye of charity, her hand of bounty,' says a biographer, 'passed through the whole land.'[267] 'She is said in three quarters of a year,' adds Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the celebrated philosopher and historian, 'to have bestowed fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds in this way,' that is, in alms.[268] And this distinguished writer, ambassador of England at the court of Louis XIII., and known in France by the exertions he made in behalf of the protestants, adds: 'She had besides established a stock for poor artificers in the realm.'[269] Such were the works of Queen Anne. Cranmer, who had great discernment of men and things, being touched by the regard which the queen had for those who professed the Gospel, and seeing all that she did for the Reformation and the consolation of the wretched, declared that next to the king, Anne was of all creatures living 'the one to whom he was most bound.'[270]

Cranmer was not the only person among the evangelicals with whom Anne Boleyn entertained relations. From the first day she had seen Latimer, the Christian simplicity and apostolic manners of the reformer had touched her. When she heard him preach, she was delighted. The enthusiasm for that bold Christian preacher was universal. 'It is as impossible,' said his hearers, 'for us to receive into our minds all the treasures of eloquence and knowledge which fall from his lips, as it would be for a little river to contain the waters of the ocean in its bed.' From the period (1535) when Latimer preached the Lent Sermons before the king, he was one {122} of the most regular instruments of the queen's active charity.

A still more decided reformer had a high esteem for Anne Boleyn: this was Tyndale. No one, in his opinion, had declared with so much decision as the queen in favor of the New Testament and its circulation in English. Wishing, accordingly, to show his gratitude and respect, Tyndale presented her with a unique copy of his translation, printed in beautiful type on vellum, illuminated and bound in blue morocco, with these words in large red letters: Anne Regina Angliæ (Anne, queen of England).[271] This remarkable volume, now preserved in the library of the British Museum, is a monument of the veneration of the prisoner of Vilvorde for Anne Boleyn. A manuscript manual of devotion for the use of this princess has also been preserved: she used to present copies of it to her maids of honor. We see in it the value she attached to the Holy Scriptures: 'Give us, O Father of Mercies,' we read, 'the greatest of all gifts Thou hast ever conferred on man—the knowledge of Thy holy will, and the glad tidings of our salvation. Roman tyranny had long hidden it from us under Latin letters; but now it is promulgated, published, and freely circulated.'[272]


Anne having in 1535 lost Dr. Betts, one of her almoners, looked out for a man devoted to the Gospel to take his place, for she loved to be surrounded by the most pious persons in England. She cast her eyes upon Matthew Parker, a native of Norwich, professor at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and a man who for two years had been preaching the truth with fervor. Parker loved retirement and obscurity; accordingly, when he received on the Wednesday following Palm Sunday two letters summoning him to court 'because {123} the queen wished to see him,'[273] he was amazed and confounded. At first he wanted to refuse so brilliant a call; but Latimer wrote to him: 'Show yourself to the world; hide yourself no longer; do good, whilst you have the opportunity. We know what you can do; let not your will be less than your power.'[274] Parker went to London, and in a short time his knowledge, piety, and prudence gained the entire esteem of the queen. That modest, intelligent, active man was just the person Anne wanted, and she took pleasure thenceforward in bestowing on him marks of her consideration. He himself tells us that if, in the course of his duties, he was called upon to receive friends at his table, the queen, eking out his narrow means, would send him a hare or a fawn taken in her parks.[275] Parker was from this time one of those employed by Anne to distribute her benevolence. He had hardly arrived at court, when he presented to the queen one W. Bill, a very young and very poor man, but by no means wanting in talent. Anne, rich in discernment, placed him in the number of students whom she was preparing for the ministry: he afterwards became dean of Westminster. Parker, who began his career with Anne, was to finish it with Elizabeth. When he was deprived of all his offices by Queen Mary in 1554, he exclaimed: 'Now that I am stripped of everything, I live in God's presence, and am full of joy in my conscience. In this charming leisure I find greater pleasures than those supplied by the busy and perilous life I led at the court.' Forced to hide himself, often to flee by night, to escape the pursuit of his persecutors, the peace which he enjoyed was never troubled. He looked upon trials as the privilege of the child of God. All of a sudden a strange and unexpected calamity {124} befell him. The daughter of Anne Boleyn, having ascended the throne, desired to have her mother's chaplain for archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England. 'I kneel before your Majesty,' he said to Queen Elizabeth, 'and pray you not to burden me with an office which requires a man of much more talent, knowledge, virtue, and experience than I possess.' A second letter from Chancellor Bacon repeated the summons. Then the unhappy Parker exclaimed in the depth of his sorrow: 'Alas! alas! Lord God! for what times hast Thou preserved me![276] I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. O Lord! strengthen me by Thy mighty Spirit!' Parker was at the head of the Church of England for sixteen years, and dignified the elevated seat on which he had been constrained to sit. Such were the men whom Anne Boleyn gathered round her.

We should be mistaken, however, if we represented the young queen as a bigot, living like Catherine in the practices of a rigid austerity. It appears even doubtful whether she knew by experience that inner, spiritual, and living Christianity which was found in Latimer, Tyndale, Cranmer, and Parker. She was a virtuous wife, a good protestant, attached to the Bible, opposed to the pope, fond of good works, esteeming men of God more than courtiers: but she had not renounced the world and its pomps. A woman of the world, upright, religious, loving to do good, a class of which there is always a large number, she was unacquainted with the pious aspirations of a soul that lives in communion with God. Even her position as queen and wife of Henry VIII. may have hindered her from advancing in the path of a Christian life. She thought it possible to love God without renouncing the enjoyments of the age, and looked upon worldly things as an innocent recreation. Desiring to {125} keep her husband's heart, she endeavored to please him by cheerful conversation, by organizing pleasure parties of which she was the life, and by receiving all his courtiers gracefully. Placed on a slippery soil and watched by prejudiced eyes, she may occasionally have let fall some imprudent expression. Her sprightliness and gaiety, her amiable freedom were in strong contrast with the graver and stiffer formalities of the English ladies. Latimer, who saw her closely, sometimes admonished her respectfully, when he was alone with her, and the grateful Anne would exclaim unaffectedly: 'You do me so much good![277] Pray never pass over a single fault.'


It is not from the writings of the pamphleteers that we must learn to know Anne Boleyn. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, opposite parties, in their extreme excitement, have painted her at one time in colors too dark, at another in colors too flattering. We must in this matter especially listen to men whose testimony is sanctioned by universal respect. There are not many princesses in history who have enjoyed, like Anne, the esteem of the most elevated minds—of Cranmer and Latimer, of Tyndale and Parker, and other Christians, less illustrious, perhaps, but not less respectable. In the eyes of the papal partisans, however, she had committed an unpardonable crime: she had separated England from the papacy; and accordingly their savage hatred has known no bounds, and they have never ceased to blacken her memory with their vile calumnies. Of all the misdeeds that history can commit, the greatest consists in representing the innocent as if they were guilty. It is wholesale calumny for the use not only of the present generation but for generations to come. Many writers have forged and still forge base imputations against the reformers Luther, Calvin, and others. Anne Boleyn {126} has had her full share of slander in this huge conspiracy of falsehood.[278]

The grandeur with which Anne was surrounded, had opened her heart to the tenderest sympathies. To be the joy of her husband and the delight of her relations, to protect the friends of the Gospel and to be loved by England—these were for some time the dreams of her young imagination. But ere long the crown of St. Edward pressed heavily on her forehead. The members of her own family became her enemies. Her uncle, the proud duke of Norfolk, the chief along with Gardiner of the ultramontane party, was animated by a secret hatred against the young woman who was the support of the evangelical party. Her father, the earl of Wiltshire, imagining he saw that the king was not flattered at being his son-in-law, had quitted London, regretting a union which his ambition had so much desired. Lady Rocheford, wife of Anne's brother, a woman of despicable character, whose former perfidies the queen had pardoned, and whom she had attached to the court, repaid this generous magnanimity by secretly plotting the ruin of a sister-in-law whose elevation had filled her with jealousy. At length, one of those who ate her bread and received favors from her, was about to show her ingratitude to the unfortunate queen.

Among her ladies of honor was Jane Seymour, who united all the attractions of youth and beauty, and whose disposition held a certain mean between the severe gravity of Queen Catherine and the fascinating sprightliness of Queen Anne. Constancy in affection was not a feature of Henry's character; his heart was easily {127} inflamed; his eye rested on the youthful Jane Seymour, and no sooner had he become sensible of her graces, than the charms of Anne Boleyn, which had formerly captivated him, became unendurable. The genial gaiety of the queen fatigued him; the accomplishments which are ordinarily the means of pleasing, gave him umbrage; the zeal she manifested for Protestantism alienated him. Anne's enemies, especially the duke of Norfolk and Lady Rocheford, observed this, and resolved to take advantage of it to ruin the woman who overshadowed them.


One circumstance, innocent enough of itself, favored the designs of the queen's enemies. Anne, who had been brought up in France, among a people distinguished for their inexhaustible stores of gaiety, easy conversation, witty and ingenious sallies, ironical phrases, and amiable hearts, had brought something of all this to London. Frank and prepossessing, she loved society; and her ordinary manners seemed too easy among a nation which, with deep affections, possesses much gravity and external coldness. Anne had found a certain freedom of speech in the court of France—it does not appear that she even imitated it; but in a moment of gaiety she might have let slip some keen railleries, some imprudent words, and thus furnished her enemies with weapons. She had some difficulty in conforming with the strict etiquette of the court of England, and had not been trained to the circumspection so necessary with a husband like Henry VIII.

Anne was, at the same time, a friend of the Reformation in the midst of a society that was catholic at heart, and a Frenchwoman in the midst of an English court; these were her two capital crimes. She was not understood. Her gaiety did not degenerate into frivolity: she did not possess that love of pleasure, which, carried to excess, engenders corruption of manners; we have named the truly pious men whom she loved to {128} gather round her. But it was quite enough for some persons that Anne was agreeable, like the ladies of St. Germains and Fontainebleau, to suspect her of being a flirt, like many of them. Moreover, she had married above her station. Having lived at court as the equal of the young nobles belonging to it, she was not always able, after she ascended the throne, to keep herself on the footing of a queen. From that time her enemies interpreted unfavorably the innocent amiability with which she received them. The mistrustful Henry VIII. began to indulge in suspicions, and Viscountess Rocheford endeavored to feed that prince's jealousy by crafty and perfidious insinuations.


Anne soon noticed the king's inclination for Jane Seymour: a thousand trifles, apparently indifferent, had struck her. She often watched the maid of honor; her pride was offended, and jealousy tortured her heart night and day. She endeavored to win back the king's love; but Henry, who perceived her suspicions, grew more angry with her every hour. The queen was not far from her confinement; and it was at the very moment when she hoped to give Henry the heir he had longed for during so many years, that the king withdrew from her his conjugal affection. Her heart was wrung, and, foreseeing a mournful future, she doubted whether a blow similar to that which had struck Catherine might not soon be aimed at her. Jane Seymour did not reject the king's advances. Historians of the most opposite parties relate that one day, towards the end of January 1536, the queen, unexpectedly entering a room in the palace, found the king paying his court to the young maid of honor in too marked a manner. They may possibly exaggerate,[279] but there is no doubt that Henry gave cause for very serious complaints on the part of his wife. It was as if a sword had pierced {129} the heart of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn: she could not bear up against so cruel a blow, and prematurely gave birth to a dead son. God had at length granted Henry that long-desired heir, but the grief of the mother had cost the child's life. What an affliction for her! For some time her recovery was despaired of. When the king entered her room, she burst into tears. That selfish prince, soured at the thought that she had borne him a dead son, cruelly upbraided her misfortune, instead of consoling her. It was too much: the poor mother could not restrain herself. 'You have no one to blame but yourself,' she exclaimed.[280] Henry, still more angry, answered her harshly and left the apartment.[281] These details are preserved by a well-informed writer of the time of Elizabeth. To present Henry under so unfavorable a light, if it were untrue, could hardly have been an agreeable mode of paying court, as some have insinuated, to a queen who took more after her father than her mother.

Anne now foresaw the misfortunes awaiting her: she recovered indeed after this storm, and exerted herself by taking part once more in conversaziones and fêtes; but she was melancholy and uneasy, like a foundering ship, which reappears on the waves of the sea after the storm, and still keeps afloat for a time, only to be swallowed up at last. All her attempts to regain her husband's affections were useless, and frightful dreams disturbed her during the slumbers of the night. This agony lasted three months.

The wind had changed: everybody noticed it, and it was, to certain heartless courtiers, like the signal given to an impatient pack of hounds. They set themselves to hunt down the prey, which they felt they could rend without danger. The ultramontanists regained their courage. They had feared that, owing to Anne's intervention, {130} the cause of Rome was lost in England, and their alarm was not unreasonable. Cranmer, uniting his efforts with those of the queen, never ceased pushing forward the Reformation. When some one spoke in the House of Lords about a General Council in Italy, he exclaimed: 'It is the Word of God alone that we must listen to in religious controversies.' At the same time, in concert with Anne, he circulated all over England a new Prayer-book, the Primer, intended to replace the dangerous books of the priests.[282] The people used it. A pious and spiritual reader of that book exclaimed one day, after meditating upon it: 'O bountiful Jesu! O sweet Saviour! despise not him whom Thou hast ransomed at the price of such a treasure—with Thy blood! I look with confidence to the throne of mercy.'[283] Religion was becoming personal with Anne Boleyn.


The queen and the archbishop had not stopped there: they had attempted, so far as Henry would permit, to place true shepherds over the flocks, instead of merchants who traded with their wool. The bishopric of Worcester, which had been taken from Ghinnucci, was given (as we have seen) to Latimer; so that the valley of the Severn, which four Italian bishops had plundered for fifty years, possessed at last a pastor who 'planted there the plenteousness of Jesus Christ.'[284] Shaxton, another of Anne's chaplains, who at this time professed a great attachment to Holy Scripture, had been appointed bishop of Salisbury, in place of the famous Cardinal Campeggio. Hilderly, formerly a Dominican prior—who had at one time defended the immaculate conception of the Virgin, but had afterwards acknowledged and worshipped Jesus Christ as the only Mediator—had been nominated to the see of Rochester, {131} in place of the unfortunate Bishop Fisher. Finally, George Brown, ex-provincial of the Augustines in England—an upright man, a friend of the poor, and who, caught by the truth, had exclaimed from the pulpit, 'Go to Christ and not to the saints!'—had been elected archbishop of Dublin, and thus became the first evangelical prelate of Ireland, a difficult post, which he occupied at the peril of his life.[285] Other prelates, like Fox, bishop of Hereford, although not true Protestants, proved themselves to be anti-Papists.

The members of the ultramontane party saw the influence of the queen in all these nominations. Who resisted the proposal that the English Church should be represented at the General Council? Who endeavored to make the king advance in the direction of the Reformation? Who threw England into the arms of the princes of Germany?—The queen, none but the queen. She felt unhappy, it was said, when she saw a day pass without having obtained some favor for the Reformation.[286] Men knew that the pope was ready to forgive everything, and even to unite with Henry against Charles V., if the king would submit to the conditions laid down in the bull—that is to say, if he would put away Anne Boleyn.[287]

The condition required by the pontiff was not an impossible one, for Henry liked to change his wives: he had six. Marriage was not to him a oneness of life. At the end of 1535, Anne had been his wife for three years; it was a long time for him, and he began to turn his eyes upon others. Jane Seymour's youth eclipsed the queen's. Unfortunate Boleyn! Sorrow had gradually diminished her freshness. Jane had natural allies, who might help her to ascend the throne. Her two {132} brothers, Edward and Thomas—the elder more moderate, the younger more arrogant—each possessing great ambition and remarkable capacity, thought that a Seymour was as worthy as a Boleyn to wear the English crown. The first blow did not however proceed from them, but from a member of the queen's family—from her sister-in-law. There is no room for indifference between near relations: they love or, if they do not love, they hate. Lady Rocheford, so closely allied to the queen, felt continually piqued at her. Jealousy had engendered a deep dislike in her heart, and this dislike was destined to lead her on to contrive the death of the detested object. Rendered desperate by the happiness and especially by the greatness of Anne Boleyn, it became her ruling passion to destroy them. One obstacle, however, rose up before her. Lord Rocheford, her husband and Anne's brother, would not enter into her perfidious schemes. That depraved woman, who afterwards suffered capital punishment for conniving at crime, determined to ruin her sister-in-law and her husband together. It was arranged that three of the courtiers should give Henry the first hints. 'Thus began,' says an author of that day, 'a comedy which was changed into a sorrowful tragedy.'[288] Nothing was omitted that tended to the success of one of the most infamous court intrigues recorded in history.

Anne became cognizant almost at the same time of her sister-in-law's hatred of her and of her husband's love for Jane Seymour. From that moment she foreboded an early death, and her most anxious thoughts were for her daughter. She wondered what would become of the poor child, and, desirous of having her brought up in the knowledge of the Gospel, she sent {133} for the pious simple-minded Parker, told him of her apprehensions and her wishes, and commended Elizabeth to him with all a mother's love.[289] Anne's words sank so deep into his heart that he never forgot them;[290] and twenty-three years later, when that child, who had become queen, raised him to the primacy, he declared to Lord Burghley, that if he were not under such great obligations to her mother, he would never have consented to serve the daughter in such an elevated station.[291] After consigning the youthful Elizabeth to the care of a man of God, the unhappy queen was more at ease.


Meantime the plot was forming in silence, and two or three circumstances, such as occur in the most innocent life, were the pretext for Anne's destruction.

One day, when she was with the king at Winchester, she sent for one of the court-musicians, named Smeton, 'to play on the virginals.'[292] This was the first count in the indictment.

Norris, a gentleman of the king's chamber, was engaged to Margaret, one of Anne's maids of honor, and consequently was often in the queen's apartments. Slanderous tongues affirmed that he went more for the sake of his sovereign than for his betrothed. The queen hearing of it, and desiring to stop the scandal, determined to bind Norris to marry Margaret. 'Why do you not go on with your marriage?' she asked him. 'I desire to wait a little longer,' answered the gentleman. Anne, with the intent of making him understand that there were serious reasons for not putting it off any longer, added: 'It is said at court that you are waiting for a dead man's shoes, and that if any misfortune {134} befell the king, you would look to have me for your wife.'[293] 'God forbid!' exclaimed Norris, in alarm; 'if I had such an idea, it would be my destruction.' 'Mind what you are about,' resumed the queen, with severity. Norris, in great emotion, went immediately to Anne Boleyn's almoner. 'The queen is a virtuous woman,' he said; 'I am willing to affirm it upon oath.'[294] This was the second count in the indictment.

Sir Francis Weston, a bold frivolous man, was (although married) very attentive to a young lady of the court, a relative of the queen. 'Sir Francis,' said Anne, who was distressed at his behavior, 'you love Mistress Skelton, and neglect your wife.' 'Madam,' answered the audacious courtier, 'there is one person in your house whom I love better than both.' 'And who is that?' said the queen. 'Yourself,' answered Weston. Offended by such insolence, Anne ordered him, with scorn and displeasure, to leave her presence.[295] This was the third count of the indictment.

Lord Rocheford, a man of noble and chivalrous character, indignant at the calumnies which were beginning to circulate against his sister, endeavored to avert the storm. One day, when she kept her bed, he entered her room to speak to her; and, the maids of honor being present, he leant towards the queen, to say something on this matter which was not fit for the ears of strangers to the family. The infamous Lady Rocheford made use of this innocent circumstance to accuse her husband and sister-in-law of an abominable crime.

Such are the four charges that were to cost Anne Boleyn her life. Futile observations, malicious remarks {135} to which persons are exposed in the world, and especially at court, reached the ears of the king, and inspired him with jealousy, reproaches, angry words, and coldness. There was no more happiness for Anne.

There was enough in these stories to induce Henry VIII. to reject his second wife, and take a third. This prince—and it was the case generally with the Tudors—had a temper at once decided and changeable, a heart susceptible and distrustful, an energetic character, and passions eager to be satisfied at any price. Very mistrustful, he did not easily get the better of his suspicions, and when any person had vexed him, he was not appeased until he had got rid of him. Common-sense generally appreciates at their true worth such stories as those we have reported; but the characters now on the stage were more irritable than those usually to be found in the world. 'A tempest,' says Lord Herbert of Cherbury on this subject, 'though it scarce stir low and shallow waters, when it meets a sea, both vexeth it, and makes it toss all that comes thereon.'[296]

Henry, happy to have found the pretext which his new passion made him long for, investigated nothing; he appeared to believe everything he was told. He swore to prove Anne's guilt to others by the greatness of his revenge. Of his six wives, he got rid of two by divorce, two by the scaffold; only two escaped his criminal humor. This time he was unwilling to proceed by divorce; the tediousness of Catherine's affair had wearied him. He preferred a more expeditious mode—the axe.


On the 25th of April the king appointed a commission to enquire into Anne's conduct, and placed on it the duke of Norfolk, a maternal uncle but (as we have said) an implacable enemy of the unfortunate queen; the duke of Suffolk, who, as Henry's brother-in-law, served {136} him in his least desires; the earl of Oxford, a skilful courtier; William Paulet, comptroller of the royal household, whose motto was, 'To be a willow and not an oak;' Audley, the honestest of all, but still his master's humble servant; Lord Delawarr, and several other lords and gentlemen, to the number of twenty-six. It has been said, by Burnet and others, that the king named Anne's father, the earl of Wiltshire, one of the judges. It would, no doubt, have been the most striking trait of cruelty, of which Henry gave so many proofs; but we must in justice declare that the wretched prince did not perpetrate such a monstrosity. Burnet, after the most searching investigations, retracted his error.[297] On Thursday, the 27th of April, the king, understanding the necessity of a Parliament to repeal the laws made in favor of Anne and her children, issued writs for its assembling. He was resolved to hurry on the business—equally impatient to hear no more of his wife, and to possess her who was the object of his desires.

Anne, who was ignorant of what was going on, had gradually recovered a little serenity, but it was not so with those around her. The court was agitated and uneasy. The names of the commissioners were canvassed, and people wondered where the terrible blows of the king would fall. Many were alarmed for themselves or their friends. Would the storm burst on Sir Thomas Wyatt, who wrote verses in Anne's honor? or on Lord Northumberland, whom the queen had loved before Henry cast his eyes upon her? The king did not intend to go so high.

The indecision did not last long. At two o'clock on the 27th of April—the very day when the writs for the new Parliament were issued—William Brereton, one of the gentlemen of the king's household, pointed out by {137} the queen's enemies, was arrested and taken to the Tower. Two days later, on the 29th of April, Anne was crossing the presence-chamber, where a miserable creature happened to be present at that moment. It was Mark Smeton, the court-musician—a vain, cowardly, corrupt man, who had felt hurt because, since the day when he had played before the queen at Winchester, that princess had never even looked at him. He was standing, in a dejected attitude, leaning against a window. It is possible that, having heard of the disgrace that threatened the queen, he hoped, by showing his sorrow, to obtain from her some mark of interest. Be that as it may, his unusual presence in that room, the posture he had assumed, the appearance of sorrow which he had put on, were evidently intended to attract her attention. The trick succeeded. Anne noticed him as she passed by. 'Why are you sad?' she asked. 'It is no matter, madam.' The queen fancied that Smeton was grieved because she had never spoken to him. 'You may not look to have me speak to you,' she added, 'as if you were a nobleman, because you are an inferior person.' 'No, madam,' replied the musician, 'I need no words; a look sufficeth me.'[298] He did not receive the look he asked for, and his wounded vanity urged him from that moment to ruin the princess, by whom he had the insolence to wish to be remarked. Smeton's words were reported to the king, and next day (April 30), the musician was arrested, examined at Stepney, and sent to the Tower.


A magnificent festival was preparing at Greenwich, to celebrate the First of May in the usual manner. This was the strange moment which Henry had chosen for unveiling his plans. In certain minds there appears to be a mysterious connection between festivities and bloodshed; another prince (Nero) had shown it in old times, and some years later Charles IX. was to celebrate {138} the marriage of his sister Margaret by the massacres of St. Bartholomew. Henry VIII. gave to two of the victims he was about to immolate the foremost places in the brilliant tournament he had prepared. Lord Rocheford, the queen's brother, was the principal challenger, and Henry Norris was chief of the defenders. Sir Francis Weston was also to take part in these jousts. Henry showed himself very gracious to them, and hid with smiles their approaching destruction. The king having taken his place, and the queen, in a magnificent costume, being seated by his side, Rocheford and Norris passed before him, lowering their spears—morituri te salutant. The jousting began immediately after. The circumstances of the court gave a gloomy solemnity to the festival. The king, who was watching with fixed eyes the struggles of his courtiers, started up all of a sudden, with every appearance of anger, and hastily quitted the balcony. What had happened? The ultramontane Sanders, notorious as being a most malicious and fabulous writer, mentions that the queen had dropped her handkerchief into the lists, and that Norris took it up and wiped his face with it. Lord Herbert, Burnet, and others affirm that there is nothing to corroborate the story, which, were it true, might be very innocent. However, the festivities were interrupted by the king's departure. The confusion was universal, and the alarmed queen withdrew, eager to know the cause of the strange procedure.[299] Thus ended the rejoicings of the First of May.

Henry, who had gone back to the palace, hearing of the queen's return, refused to see her, ordered her to keep her room, mounted his horse, and, accompanied by six gentlemen, galloped back to London. Slackening his pace for a time, he took Norris aside, and, telling him the occasion of his anger, promised to {139} pardon him if he would confess. Norris answered, with firmness and respect: 'Sire, if you were to cut me open and take out my heart, I could only tell you what I know.'[300] On reaching Whitehall, Henry said to his ministers: 'To-morrow morning you will take Rocheford, Norris, and Weston to the Tower; you will then proceed to Greenwich, arrest the queen, and put her in prison. Finally, you will write to Cranmer and bid him go immediately to Lambeth, and there await my orders.' The victims were seized, and the high-priest summoned for the sacrifice.

The night was full of anguish to Anne Boleyn, and the next day, when she was surrounded by her ladies, their consternation increased her terror. It seemed to her impossible that a word from her would not convince her husband of her innocence. 'I will positively see the king,' she exclaimed. She ordered her barge to be prepared, but, just as she was about to set out, another barge arrived from London, bringing Cromwell, Audley, and the terrible Kingston, lieutenant of the Tower. That ominous presence was a death-warrant: on seeing him the queen screamed aloud.


They did not, however, remove her at once: the council, on which sat her most violent adversaries, assembled in the palace, and Anne was summoned to appear before it. The duke of Norfolk, the president, informed her coldly of what she was accused, and named her pretended accomplices. At these words, the queen, struck with astonishment and sorrow, fell on her knees and cried out: 'O Lord, if I am guilty, may I never be forgiven!' Then, recovering a little from her emotion, she replied to the calumnious charges brought against her, to which Norfolk answered carelessly and contemptuously, as if he were still speaking {140} to the little girl whom he had seen born, 'Tut, tut, tut,' and shook his head disdainfully.[301] 'I desire to see the king,' said Anne. 'Impossible,' answered the duke; 'that is not included in our commission.' 'I have been very cruelly treated,' said Anne Boleyn, later, when speaking of this horrible conversation with her uncle. 'It is his Majesty's good pleasure that we conduct you to the Tower,' added Norfolk. 'I am ready to obey,' said the queen, and all went in the same barge. When they reached the Tower, Anne landed. The governor was there to receive her. Norfolk and the other members of the council committed her into his charge and departed. It was five in the afternoon.

Then the gates of the fortress opened; and at this moment, when she was crossing the threshold under the charge of heinous crimes, Anne remembered how, three years before, she had entered it in triumph for the ceremony of her coronation, in the midst of the general acclamations of the people. Struck by the fearful contrast, she fell on her knees 'as a ball,'[302] and exclaimed, 'O Lord, help me, as I am guiltless of that whereof I am accused!' The governor raised her up, and they entered. She expected to be put into close confinement. 'Mr. Kingston,' she said, 'shall you put me into a dungeon?' 'No, madam,' answered the governor; 'you will be in your own lodging, where you lay at your coronation.' 'It is too good for me,' she exclaimed. She entered, however, and on reaching those royal chambers, which recalled such different recollections, she knelt again and burst into tears. The violence of her grief presently brought on convulsive movements, and her tears were succeeded by hysterical laughter.[303] Gradually she came to herself, and tried to {141} collect her thoughts. Feeling the need of strengthening herself by the evidences of the Lord's love, she said to Kingston, 'Entreat his Majesty to let me have the sacrament.'[304] Then, in the consciousness of innocence, she added, 'Sir, I am as clear from the company of man as I am of you. I am the king's true wedded wife.'[305]


She was not absorbed in her own misfortunes: she was moved by the sufferings of the others, and uneasy about her brother. 'Can you tell me where Lord Rocheford is?' she asked. Kingston replied that he had seen him at Whitehall. She was not tranquillized by this evasive answer. 'Oh, where is my sweet brother?' she exclaimed. There was no reply. 'Mr. Kingston,' resumed Anne, after a few moments, 'do you know why I am here?' 'No, madam.' 'I hear say that I am to be accused of criminal familiarities.' (Norfolk had told her so in the barge.) 'I can say no more than—Nay!' Suddenly tearing one of her garments, she exclaimed, as if distracted: 'If they were to open my body, I should still say—No.' After this her mind wandered. She thought of her mother, and the love she felt for the countess of Wiltshire made her feel more than anything else the bitterness of her situation: she imagined the proud lady was before her, and cried, with unutterable agony, 'O my mother, my mother, thou wilt die for sorrow!' Then her gloomy thoughts were turned to other objects. She remembered that, while in the barge, the duke of Norfolk had named Norris and Smeton as her accusers, which was partly false. The miserable musician was not grieved at being wrongfully accused of a crime likely to make him notorious, but Norris had stoutly rejected the idea that the queen could be guilty. 'O Norris, hast thou accused me!' she ejaculated; 'and thou too, Smeton!' After a few moments' silence, Anne fixed her eyes on the governor. 'Mr. Kingston,' she asked, 'shall I die {142} without justice?' 'Madam,' answered the governor, 'the meanest subject of the king has that.' At these words the queen again laughed hysterically. 'Justice—justice!' she exclaimed, with disdainful incredulity. She counted less upon justice than the humblest of her subjects. Gradually the tempest calmed down, and the silence of the night brought relief to her sorrow.

The same day (May 2) the news spread through London that the queen was arrested. Cranmer, who had received the royal intimation to go to his palace at Lambeth, and wait there until further orders, had arrived, and was thunderstruck on hearing what had happened. 'What! the queen in prison! the queen an adulteress!'... A struggle took place in his bosom. He was indebted to the queen for much; he had always found her irreproachable—the refuge of the unhappy, the upholder of the truth. He had loved her like a daughter, respected her as his sovereign. That she was innocent, he had no doubt; but how account for the behavior of the king? The unhappy prelate was distracted by the most painful thoughts during the whole of Tuesday night. This truly pious man showed excessive indulgence towards Henry VIII., and bent easily beneath his powerful hand; but his path was clearly traced—to maintain unhesitatingly the innocence of her whom he had always honored. And yet he was to be an example of the fascination exerted by a despot over such characters—of the cowardice of which a good man may be guilty through human respect. Doubtless there are extenuating circumstances in his case. It was not only the queen's fate that made the prelate uneasy, but also the future of the Reformation. If love for Anne had helped to make Henry incline to the side of the Reformation, the hatred which he now felt against his unhappy wife might easily drive him into the other direction. Cranmer desired to prevent this at any price, and accordingly thought himself obliged {143} to use extreme precaution. But these circumstances are really no extenuation. No motive in the world can excuse a man from not frankly defending his friends when they are falsely accused—from not vindicating an innocent woman when she is declared to be guilty. Cranmer wrote to the king: 'I cannot without your Majesty's command appear in your presence; but I can at least desire most humbly, as is my duty, that your great wisdom and God's help may remove the deep sorrow of your heart.


'I cannot deny that your Majesty has great cause to be overwhelmed with sorrow. In fact, whether the things of which men speak be true or not, your honor, Sire, according to the false appreciation of the world, has suffered; and I do not remember that Almighty God has ever before put your Majesty's firmness to so severe a proof.

'Sire, I am in such a perplexity that I am clean amazed; for I never had a better opinion in woman than I had of her, which maketh me think that she cannot be culpable.'[306]

This was tolerably bold, and accordingly Cranmer hastened to tone down his boldness. 'And yet, Sire,' he added, 'would you have gone so far, if you had not been sure of her crime?... Your Grace best knoweth that, next unto your Grace, I was most bound unto her of all creatures living. Wherefore I must humbly beseech your Grace to suffer me in that which both God's law, nature, and her kindness bindeth me, unto that I may (with your Grace's favor) wish and pray for her. And from what condition your Grace, of your only mere goodness, took her, and set the crown upon her head, I repute him not your Grace's faithful servant and subject, nor true to the realm, that would not desire the offence to be without mercy punished, to the example of all {144} others. And as I loved her not a little, for the love I judged her to bear towards God and His holy Gospel; so, if she be proved guilty, there is not one that loveth God and His Gospel that will ever favor her, for then there never was creature in our time that so much slandered the Gospel.

'However,' he added, appearing to recover his courage, 'forget not that God has shown His goodness to your Grace in many ways, and has never injured you; whilst your Grace, I am sure, acknowledged that you have offended Him. Extend, therefore, to the Gospel the precious favor you have always shown it, and which proceedeth not from your love for the queen your wife, but from your zeal for the truth.

'From Lambeth, 3d of May, 1636.'

When Cranmer addressed these soothing words to the king, it was doubtless on the supposition (on which he gives no opinion) that Anne was guilty. But, even admitting this hypothesis, is it not carrying flattery of the terrible autocrat very far, to compare him with Job as the prelate does? In another part of this letter he says: 'By accepting all adversity, without despair and without murmuring, your Grace will give opportunity to God to multiply His blessings, as He did to His faithful servant Job, to whom, after his great calamity, and to reward his patience, He restored the double of what He had possessed.' As regards the king, Cranmer had found for himself a false conscience, which led him into deceitful ways: his letter, although he still tries to defend Anne, cannot be justified.

He was about to dispatch the letter, when he received a message from the lord-chancellor, desiring him to come to the Star-Chamber. The archbishop hastened across the Thames, and found at the appointed place not only Audley, but the Lords Oxford and Sussex, and the lord-chamberlain. These noblemen {145} laid before him the charges brought against Anne Boleyn, adding that they could be proved, though they did not themselves produce any proof. On his return to Lambeth, Cranmer added a postscript to his letter, in which he expressed his extreme sorrow at the report that had just been made to him.


The morning of the same day (May 3) was a sad one in the Tower. By a refinement of cruelty, the king had ordered two of the queen's enemies—Lady Boleyn and Mistress Cosyns—to be always near her; to which end they slept in her room, while Kingston and his wife slept outside against her chamber-door. What could be the object of these strange precautions? We can only see one. Every word that fell from Anne, even in her convulsions or in her dreams, would be perfidiously caught up, and reported to the king's agents with malicious interpretations. Anne, pardoning the former conduct of these ladies, and wholly engrossed with her father's sorrow, thought she might ask for news about him from the persons who had been given her for companions; but those wicked women, who never spoke to her without rudeness, refused to give her any information. 'The king knew what he was doing,' said Anne to Kingston, 'when he put these two women about me. I could have desired to have two ladies of my chamber, persons whom I love; but his Majesty has had the cruelty to give me those whom I could never endure.'[307]

The punishment continued. Lady Boleyn, hoping to detect some confusion in her niece's face, told her that her brother, Lord Rocheford, was also in the Tower. Anne, who had somewhat recovered her strength, answered calmly, 'I am glad to learn that he is so near me.' 'Madam,' added Kingston, 'Weston {146} and Brereton are also under my charge.' The queen remained calm.[308]

She purposed, however, to vindicate herself, and her first thought turned towards two of the most pious men in England: 'Oh, if God permitted me,' she said, 'to have my bishops (meaning Cranmer and Latimer), they would plead to the king for me.' She then remained silent for a few minutes. A sweet reflection passed through her mind and consoled her. Since she had undertaken the defence of the persecuted evangelicals, gratitude would doubtless impel them to pray for her. 'I think,' she said, 'that the greater part of England is praying for me.'[309]

Anne had asked for her almoner, and, as some hours had elapsed without his arrival, gloomy images once more arose to sadden her mind. 'To be a queen,' she said, 'and to be treated so cruelly—treated as queen never was before!' Then, as if a ray of sunshine had scattered the clouds, she exclaimed: 'No, I shall not die—no, I will not die!... The king has put me in prison only to prove me.' The terrible struggle was too great for the young woman: she had convulsions and fits, and almost lost her senses. Attacked by a fresh hysterical paroxysm, the unfortunate lady burst into laughter. On coming to herself after a while, she cried: 'I will have justice ... justice ... justice!'[310] Kingston, who was present, bowed and said: 'Assuredly, madam.' 'If any man accuses me,' she continued, 'I can only say—No. They can bring no witness against me.'[311] Then she had, all at once, an extraordinary attack: she fell down in delirium, and with eyes starting, as if she were looking {147} into the future, and could foresee the chastisement with which God would punish the infamous wickedness of which she was the victim, she exclaimed: 'If I am put to death, there will be great judgments upon England for seven years.... And I ... I shall be in heaven ... for I have done many good deeds during my life.'[312]

[263]   Froude.

[264]   Bossuet, Histoire des Variations, liv. vii. art. 8.

[265]   'Quorum morum ingenuitas et candor aliquis ingenii præluceret.'—Letter of Sir John Cheke, 1535. Parker's Correspondence, p. 3.

[266]   'Reginæ magnificentia quæ erga studiosos late patuit.'—Ibid. p. 2.

[267]   Wyatt, Memoirs of Anne Boleyn, p. 442.

[268]   Herbert, Reign of Henry VIII. The sum was equivalent to about 60,000l. of our money.

[269]   Herbert.

[270]   'I was most bound unto her of all creatures living.'—Cranmer to Henry VIII., 1536. Letters and Remains, p. 324.

[271]   Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, Notice, p. lxiv.

[272]   History of the Translation of the Bible, p. 97. Todd's Life of Cranmer, i. p. 136.

[273]   Parker's Correspondence, pp. 1, 2.

[274]   'Notum est quid potes; fac non minus velis quam potes.'—Ibid. p. v.

[275]   Parker to Sir W. Cecil, ibid. p. 178.

[276]   'Heu, heu! Domine Deus, in quæ tempora servasti me!'—Parker's Memoranda, Corresp. p. 484.

[277]   'She heard her chaplain gladly to admonish her.'—Fuller, p. 200.

[278]   This sort of conspiracy extends from the publication of the work entitled, De origine et progressu schismatis Anglicani, 1585, by Sanders—'a book,' says Bayle, 'in which there is much passion and very little accuracy'—down to the Histoire de Henri VIII., by Audin, a worthy successor of Sanders, and whose work is in high favor in all papal coteries. This miserable manufacture of outrageous fictions began even before Sanders, and is not yet ended.

[279]   'Janam (Seymour) genibus Henrici insidentem.'—Sanders, Heylin, Lingard.

[280]   'Laying the fault upon unkindness.'—Wyatt.

[281]   'Which the king took more hardly.'—Ibid.

[282]   'Pestilent and infectious books.'—Preface to the Primer.

[283]   Strype, i. p. 339; Liturgies, p. 477.

[284]   Latimer's Sermons, p. 82.

[285]   'It was to the hazard of his life.'—Cranmer's Memorials, p. 38.

[286]   Meteren, Histoire des Pays-Bas, p. 21.

[287]   'Hanno fondata questa bolla sopra la causa del matrimonio.'—State Papers, vii. p. 637, 640.

[288]   Histoire de Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, p. 181.—This History, written in French verse of the sixteenth century, which M. Crapelet has printed after three manuscripts in the Imperial Library at Paris, is from the pen of Crespin, lord of Milherve, who was in London at the time of which he speaks.

[289]   'What words her Grace's mother said to me of her (Elizabeth) not six days before her apprehension.'—Parker's Correspondence, p. 59.

[290]   Parker to Lord Burghley, 6th October, 1572.—Ibid. p. 400.

[291]   Parker to Lord Burghley, 19th March, 1571.—Ibid. p. 391.

[292]   Kingston's Letters, p. 455.

[293]   Kingston's Letters, p. 452.

[294]   'He would swear for the queen that she was a good woman.'—Ibid.

[295]   'And then she defied him in scorn and displeasure.'—Strype, p. 433.

[296]   Herbert, p. 381 (ed. 1649).

[297]   Addenda to the Third Book of his History.—He acknowledges that this mistake, as he calls it, was an invention of the miserable Sanders.

[298]   Kingston's Letters, p. 455.

[299]   'This much troubled the whole company, especially the queen.'—Herbert, p. 445.

[300]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, by Crespin, p. 186. See also Archéologie, xxiii. p. 64.

[301]   Kingston's Letters, p. 456.

[302]   'This gracious queen falling down upon her knees as a ball, her soul beaten down with affliction to the earth.'—Wyatt, p. 144.

[303]   'In the same sorrow, fell into great laughing.'—Kingston's Letters, p. 451.

[304]   Kingston's Letters, p. 451.

[305]   Ibid.

[306]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, letter clxxiv. to King Henry VIII., pp. 323, 324.

[307]   Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 457.

[308]   'She made a very good countenance.'—Cranmer's Letters and Remains, p. 454.

[309]   'I think the most part of England prays for me.'—Kingston's Letters, p. 457.

[310]   Kingston's Letters, p. 457.

[311]   Ibid.

[312]   Kingston's Letters, p. 457.

(May 1536.)


Everything was preparing for the unjust judgment which was to have so cruel a termination. Justice is bound to watch that the laws are observed, and to punish the guilty; but if law is to be just law, the judges must listen fairly to the accused, diligently discharge all the duties to which their office calls them, and not permit themselves to be influenced either by the presents or the solicitations, the threats or the favors, or the rank (even should it be royal) of the prosecutor. Their decisions should be inspired only by such motives as they can give an account of to the Supreme Judge; their sentences must be arrived at through attentive consideration and serious reflection. For them there are no other guides than impartiality, conscience, and law. But the queen was not to appear before such judges: those who were about to dispose of her life set themselves in opposition to these imperious conditions.

Henry's agents redoubled their exertions to obtain, either from the ladies of the court or from the accused {148} men, some deposition against Anne; but it was in vain. Even the women whom her elevation had eclipsed could allege nothing against her. Henry Norris, William Brereton, and Sir Francis Weston were carefully interrogated, one after the other: the examiners tried to make them confess their adultery, but they stoutly denied it; whereupon the king's agents, who were determined to get at something, began a fresh inquiry, and cross-examined the prisoners. It is believed that the gentlemen of the court were exempted from torture, but that the rack was applied to Mark Smeton, who was thus made to confess all they wanted.[313] It is more probable that the vile musician, a man of weak head and extreme vanity, being offended that his sovereign had not condescended even to look at him, yielded to the vengeance of irritated self-esteem. The queen had not been willing to give him the honor of a look—he boasted of adultery. The three gentlemen persevered in their declaration touching the queen's innocence: Lord Rocheford did the same.[314] The disheartened prosecutor wrote to the Lord-Treasurer: 'This is to inform you that no one, except Mark, will confess anything against her; wherefore I imagine, if there be no other evidence, the business will be injurious to the king's honor.'[315] The lawyers knew the value to be given to the musician's words. If the verdict was left to the equitable interpretation of the law—if the king did not bring his sovereign influence to bear upon the decisions of the judges, there could be no doubt as to the issue of the hateful trial.

But every passion was at work to paralyze the power of right. Vainly the queen's innocence shone forth on every side—the conspiracy formed against her grew {149} stronger every day. To the wickedness of Lady Rocheford, the jealousies of an intriguing camarilla, the hatred of the ultramontane party, the unbridled ambition aroused in certain families by the prospects of the despot's couch soon to be empty though stained with blood, and to the instability of weak men, was added the strong will of Henry VIII., as determined to get rid of Anne by death as he had been to separate from Catherine by divorce. The queen understood that she must die; and, wishing to be prepared, she sought to wean herself from that life which had so many attractions for her. She felt that the pleasures she had so enjoyed were vain; the knowledge that she had endeavored to acquire, superficial; the virtue to which she had aspired, imperfect; and the active life she had desired, without decisive results. The vanity of all created things, once proclaimed by one who also had occupied a throne, struck her heart. Everything being taken from her, she renounced

Le vain espoir de ce muable monde.[316]

Anne, giving up everything, turned towards a better life, and sought to strengthen herself in God.[317]


Such were her affecting dispositions when the duke of Norfolk, accompanied by other noblemen, came in the king's name to set before her the charges brought against her, to summon her to speak the truth, and to assure her that, if she confessed her fault, the king might pardon her. Anne replied with the dignity of a queen still upon the throne, and with the calmness of a Christian at the gates of eternity. She threw back with noble indignation the vile accusations of which the royal commissioners were the channel:

A ces seigneurs, parlant comme maîtresse.[318]


'You call upon me to speak the truth,' she said to Norfolk. 'Well then, the king shall know it,' and she dismissed the lords. It was beneath her to plead her cause before these malicious courtiers, but she would tell her husband the truth. Left alone, she sat down to write that celebrated letter, a noble monument of the elevation of her soul; a letter full of the tenderest complaints and the sharpest protests, in which her innocence shines forth, and which combines at once so much nature and eloquence that in the opinion of the most competent judges it deserves to be handed down to posterity. It ran as follows:—


'Your Grace's displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, that what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you sent to me (willing me to confess a truth and so obtain your favor), by such a one whom you know to be my ancient professed enemy; I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command.

'But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought thereof ever proceeded. And, to speak truth, never a prince had wife more loyal in all duty and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn—with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your Grace's pleasure had so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received queenship, but that I always looked for such alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace's fancy, the least alteration was fit and sufficient (I knew) to draw that fancy to some other subject.

'You have chosen me from a low estate to be your {151} queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honor, good your Grace, let not any light fancy or bad counsel of my enemies withdraw your princely favor from me; neither let that stain—that unworthy stain—of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace ever cast so foul a blot on me and on the infant princess, your daughter.

'Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and as my judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shames. Then shall you see either mine innocence cleared, your suspicions and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped—or my guilt openly declared; so that whatever God and you may determine of, your Grace may be freed from an open censure, and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace may be at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me, as an unfaithful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am; whose name I could, some good while since, have pointed unto, your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein. But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death but an infamous slander must bring you the joying of your desired happiness, then I desire of God that He will pardon your great sin herein, and likewise my enemies, the instruments thereof; and that He will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me at His general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear; and in whose just judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocency shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.

'My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor {152} gentlemen, who, as I understand, are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favor in your sight—if ever the name of Anne Boleyn have been pleasing in your ears—then let me obtain this request; and so I will leave to trouble your Grace any further; with mine earnest prayer to the Trinity to have your Grace in His good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions.

'From my doleful prison in the Tower, the 6th of May.

'Anne Boleyn.'

We see Anne thoroughly in this letter, one of the most touching that was ever written. Injured in her honor, she speaks without fear, as one on the threshold of eternity. If there were no other proofs of her innocence, this document alone would suffice to gain her cause in the eyes of an impartial and intelligent posterity.[319]


That noble letter aroused a tempest in the king's heart. The firm innocence stamped on it; the mention of Henry's tastes, and especially of his inclination for Jane Seymour; Anne's declaration that she had anticipated her husband's infidelity, the solemn appeal to the day of judgment, and the thought of the injury which such noble language would do to his reputation—all combined to fill that haughty prince with vexation, hatred, and wrath. That letter gives the real solution of the enigma. A guilty caprice had inclined Henry to Anne Boleyn; another caprice inclined him now to Jane Seymour. This explanation is so patent that no one need look for another.

Henry determined to inflict a great humiliation upon {153} this daring woman. He would strip her of the name of wife, and pretend that she had only been his concubine. As his marriage with Catherine of Aragon had been declared null because of her union with his brother Arthur, Henry imagined that his marriage with Anne Boleyn might be annulled because of an attachment once entertained for her by Percy, afterwards duke of Northumberland. When that nobleman was summoned before Cromwell, he thought that he also was to be thrown into the Tower as the queen's lover; but the summons had reference to quite a different matter. 'There was a pre-contract of marriage between you and Anne Boleyn?' asked the king's vicar-general. 'None at all,' he answered; and in order that his declaration might be recorded, he wrote it down and sent it to Cromwell. In it he said: 'Referring to the oath I made in this matter before the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and before the Blessed Body of our Saviour, which I received in the presence of the duke of Norfolk, and others of his majesty's counsellors, I acknowledge to have eaten the Holy Sacrament to my condemnation, if there was any contract or promise of marriage between the queen and me. This 13th of May, in the twenty-eighth year of his majesty King Henry VIII.'[320] This declaration was clear, but the barbarous monarch did not relinquish his idea.

A special commission had been appointed, on the 24th of April, 'to judge of certain offences committed at London, Hampton Court, and Greenwich.' They desired to give to this trial the appearance at least of justice; and as the alleged offences were committed in the counties of Middlesex and Kent, the indictment was laid before the grand juries of both counties. On the 20th of May they found a true bill. The writers favorable to Henry VIII. in this business—and they {154} are few—have acknowledged that these 'hideous charges' (to use the words of one of them) were but fables invented at pleasure, and which 'overstepped all ordinary bounds of credulity.'[321] Various explanations have been given of the conduct of these juries; the most natural appears to be that they accommodated themselves, according to the servile manner of the times, to the king's despotic will, which was always to be feared, but more especially in matters that concerned his own person.

The acts that followed were as prompt as they were cruel. Two days after (on May 12) Norris, Weston, Brereton, and the musician were taken to Westminster, and brought before a commission composed of the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Henry's two intimates, and other lords, and it is even said that the earl of Wiltshire was present.[322] The three gentlemen repelled the charge with unshakable firmness. 'I would endure a thousand deaths,' said Norris, 'sooner than betray the innocent. I declare, upon my honor, that the queen is innocent, and am ready to support my testimony in arms against all the world.'[323] When this language of Henry VIII.'s favorite was reported to that prince, he cried out: 'Hang him up, then—hang him up!'[324] The wretched musician alone confessed a crime which would give him a place in history. He did not reap the reward promised to his infamy. Perhaps it was imagined that his death would guarantee his silence, and that his punishment would corroborate his defamations. The three gentlemen were condemned to be beheaded, and the musician to be hanged.


Three days later (on May 15) the queen and her {155} brother were taken before their peers in the great hall of the Tower, to which the Lord Mayor and a few aldermen and citizens alone were admitted. The duke of Norfolk had received orders to assemble a certain number of peers to form a court: they were twenty-six in all, and most of them enemies of Anne and of the Reformation.[325] The earl of Wiltshire was not of the number, as Sanders pretends.[326] The duke of Norfolk, the personal enemy of the unfortunate queen, that uncle who hated her as much as he should have loved her, had been appointed to select the judges and to preside over the trial: a circumstance indicative of the spirit in which it was to be conducted. Norfolk took his seat, having the lord-chancellor on his right and the duke of Suffolk on his left, and in front of him sat as deputy-marshal the earl of Surrey, Norfolk's son, an upright man, but a proud and warm supporter of Romanism. The queen was announced: she was received in deep silence. Before her went the governor of the Tower, behind her came Lady Kingston and Lady Boleyn. Anne advanced with dignity, adorned with the ensigns of royalty, and, after gracefully saluting the court, took her seat in the chair accorded either to her weakness or her rank. She had no defender; but the modesty of her countenance, the dignity of her manner, the peace of her conscience, which found expression in the serenity of her look, touched even her enemies. She appeared before the tribunal of men, thinking only of the tribunal of God; and, relying upon her innocence, she did not fear those whom but yesterday she had ruled as a queen. One might have said from the calmness and nobility of her deportment, so assured and so majestic, that she was come, not to be tried as a criminal, but to receive the honors due to sovereigns. She was as firm, says a contemporary, as {156} an oak that fears neither the hail nor the furious blasts of the wind.[327]

The court ordered the indictment to be read; it charged the queen with adultery, incest, and conspiracy against the king's person. Anne held up her hand and pleaded 'not guilty,' and then refuted and tore to tatters, calmly yet forcibly, the accusations brought against her. Having an 'excellent quick wit,' and being a ready speaker, she did not utter a word that did not strike home,[328] though full of moderation; but the tone of her voice, the calmness of her features, and the dignity of her countenance, pleaded more eloquently than her words. It was impossible to look at her or to hear her, and not declare her innocent, says an eye-witness.[329] Accordingly there was a report in the Tower, and even in the city, that the queen had cleared herself by a most wise and noble speech and that she would be acquitted.

While Anne was speaking, the duke of Northumberland, who had once loved her and whom Henry had cruelly enrolled among the number of her judges, betrayed by his uneasy movements the agitation of his bosom. Unable to endure the frightful torment any {157} longer, he rose, pretending indisposition, and hastily left the hall before the fatal verdict was pronounced.

The king waited impatiently for the moment when he could introduce Jane Seymour into Anne Boleyn's empty apartments. Unanimity of votes was not necessary in the House of Peers. In England, during the sixteenth century, there was pride in the people, but servility (with few exceptions) among the great. The axe that had severed the head of the venerable bishop of Rochester and of the ex-chancellor More, had taught a fearful lesson to all who might be disposed to resist the despotic desires of the prince. The court feared to confront the queen with the musician, the only witness against her, and declared her guilty without other formality. The incomprehensible facility with which the nobility were then accustomed to submit to the inflexible will of the monarch, could leave no room for doubt as to the catastrophe by which this tragedy would be terminated.[330]


The duke of Norfolk, as lord high-steward, pronounced sentence: that the queen should be taken back to the Tower, and there on the green should be burnt or beheaded, according to his majesty's good pleasure. The court, desirous of leaving a little space for Henry's compassion, left the mode of death to him: he might do the queen the favor of being only decapitated.

Anne heard this infamous doom with calmness.[331] No change was observed in her features: the consciousness of innocence upheld her heart. Clasping her hand and raising her eyes to heaven, she cried out, 'O Father, O Creator! Thou who art the way, the truth, and the life, knowest that I have not deserved this death!'[332] Then, turning to her cruel uncle and {158} the other lords, she said: 'My lords, I do not say that my opinion ought to be preferred to your judgment; but if you have reasons to justify it, they must be other than those which have been produced in court, for I am wholly innocent of all the matters of which I have been accused, so that I cannot call upon God to pardon me. I have always been faithful to the king my lord; but perhaps I have not always shown to him such a perfect humility and reverence as his graciousness and courtesy deserved, and the honor he hath done me required. I confess that I have often had jealous fancies against him which I had not wisdom or strength enough to repress. But God knows that I have not otherwise trespassed against him. Do not think I say this in the hope of prolonging my life, for He who saveth from death has taught me how to die, and will strengthen my faith. Think not, however, that I am so bewildered in mind that I do not care to vindicate my innocence. I knew that it would avail me little to defend it at the last moment, if I had not maintained it all my life long, as much as ever queen did. Still the last words of my mouth shall justify my honor. As for my brother and the other gentlemen who are unjustly condemned, I would willingly die to save them; but as that is not the king's pleasure, I shall accompany them in death. And then afterwards I shall live in eternal peace and joy without end, where I will pray to God for the king—and for you, my lords.'[333]

The wisdom and eloquence of this speech, aided by the queen's beauty and the touching expression of her voice, moved even her enemies. But Norfolk, determined upon carrying out his hateful task, ordered her to lay aside her royal insignia. She did so, and commending herself to all their prayers, returned to her prison. {159}

Lord Rocheford now came forward and took his sister's place. He was calm and firm, and answered every question point by point, with much clearness and decision. But it was useless for him to affirm the queen's innocence—useless to declare that he had always respected her as a sister, as an 'honored lady:' he was condemned to be beheaded and quartered.

The court then broke up, and while the courtiers, who had just sealed with the blood of an innocent queen their servile submission to the most formidable of despots, were returning to their amusements and base flatteries, the Lord Mayor turned to a friend and said to him: 'I can only observe one thing in this trial—the fixed resolution to get rid of the queen at any price.' And that is the verdict of posterity.


The wretches who had entered into this iniquitous plot were eager to have it ended. On the 17th of May the gentlemen who were to be executed were brought together into a hall of the Tower. They embraced, commended each other to God, and prepared to depart.[334] The constable of the Tower, fearing that they would speak upon the scaffold, reminded them that the honor due to the king would not permit them to doubt the justice of their sentence. When they reached the place of punishment, Lord Rocheford, no longer able to keep silence, turned towards the spectators and said: 'My friends, I am going to die, as such is his majesty's pleasure. I do not complain of my death, for I have committed many sins during my life, but I have never injured the king. May God grant him a long and happy life!' Then, according to the chronicler, he presented his head

Au dur tranchant qui d'un coup l'emporta.[335]

Norris, Weston, and Brereton were beheaded after him.


The king, before putting his wife to death, desired to perform an act not less cruel: he was determined to annul his marriage with Anne, notwithstanding Northumberland's denials. Did he wish to avoid the reproach of causing his wife to perish by the hands of the executioner? or, in a fit of anger, did he desire to strike the queen on all sides at once? We cannot tell. Be that as it may, the king in his wrath did not see that he was contradicting himself; that if there was no marriage between him and Anne, there could be no adultery, and that the sentence, based on this crime, was ex facto null. Cranmer, the most unfortunate, but perhaps not the least guilty of all the lords who lent themselves servilely to the despotic wishes of the prince—Cranmer believed (as it appears) that the position of the queen would thus become better; that her life would be saved, if she could no longer be regarded as having been Henry's wife. This excuses, although slightly, his great weakness. He told the unhappy lady that he was commissioned to find the means of declaring null and void the ties which united her to the king. Anne, stunned by the sentence pronounced upon her, was also of opinion that it was an expedient invented by some relics of Henry's regard, to rescue her from the bitterness of death. Her heart opened to hope, and imagining that she would only be sent into banishment, she formed a plan of returning to the continent. 'I will go to Antwerp,' she said at dinner, with an almost happy look.[336] She knew that she would meet with protestants in that city, who would receive her with joy. But vain hope! In the very letter wherein the governor of the Tower reports this ingenuous remark of the queen, he asks for the king's orders as to the construction of the scaffold.[337] {161} Henry desired personally to order the arrangement of those planks which he was about to stain with innocent blood.

About nine o'clock in the forenoon of the 17th of May the lord-chancellor, the duke of Suffolk, the earl of Essex (Cromwell), the earl of Sussex, with several doctors and archdeacons entered the chapel at Lambeth.[338] The archbishop having taken his seat, and the objections made against the marriage of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn having been read, the proctors of the king and of the queen admitted them, and the primate declared the marriage to be null and void. The queen was not present, as some historians have thought.


On the very day of Anne Boleyn's divorce, Da Casale, the English envoy at Rome, having heard of the queen's imprisonment, hurried to the pontifical palace to inform Paul III. of the good news.[339] 'I have never ceased praying to heaven for this favor,' said the pope with delight, 'and I have always hoped for it. Now his majesty may accomplish an admirable work for the good of Christendom. Let the king become reconciled with Rome, and he will obtain from the king of France all that he can wish for. Let us be friends. I will send him a nuncio for that purpose. When the news of cardinal Fisher's death reached Rome,' he continued, recollecting that terrible bull, 'it is true I found myself driven to a measure somewhat severe ... but I never intended to follow up my words by deeds.' Thus, according to the pope and his adherents, the imprisonment of Anne Boleyn was to reconcile England and Rome. This fact points to one of the causes {162} which made Norfolk and other catholics enter into the conspiracy against her.

On the same day also (17th of May), towards evening, the queen learnt that the sentence would assuredly be carried out. Although it was declared that she had never been the king's wife, the doom pronounced upon her for adultery must nevertheless be accomplished. This is what Henry VIII. called administering justice.


Anne desired to take the Lord's Supper, and asked to be left alone. About two hours after midnight the chaplain arrived; but, before partaking of the holy rite, there was one thing she wished to do. One fault weighed heavily on her heart. She felt that she had sinned against queen Catherine by consenting to marry the king. Her conscience reproached her with having injured the princess Mary. It filled her with the deepest sorrow, and she was eager, before she died, to make reparation to the daughter of the woman whose place she had taken. Anne would have liked to see Mary, to fall a queen at her feet, and implore her pardon; but alas! she could not: she was only to leave the prison for the scaffold. Resolved, however, to confess her fault, she did so in a striking manner, which showed all the sincerity of her repentance and her firm determination to humble herself before Catherine's daughter. She begged Lady Kingston, the wife of the constable of the Tower, who had little regard for her, to take her seat in the chair of state. When the latter objected, Anne compelled her, and kneeling before her, she said, all the while crying bitterly: 'I charge you—as you would answer before God—to go in my name to the princess Mary, to fall down before her as I do now before you, and ask her forgiveness for all the wrongs I have done her. Until that is done,' she added, 'my conscience will have no rest.'[340] At the moment when she was about to appear before the throne of God, she {163} wished to make reparation for a fault that weighed heavily upon her heart. 'In that,' she said, 'I wish to do what a Christian ought.' This touching incident leads us to hope that if, during life, Anne was simply an honest protestant, trusting too much to her own works, the trial had borne fruit and had made her a true Christian. But of this she was to give a still more striking proof.

As she rose from her knees, Anne felt more calm and prepared to receive the sacrament. Before taking it, she once more declared her innocence of the crime imputed to her. The governor was present, and he did not fail to inform Cromwell of this declaration, made as it were in the presence of God. Anne had found in Christ's death new strength to endure her own: she sighed after the moment that would put an end to her sorrows. Contrary to her expectation, she was told that the execution was put off until the afternoon. 'Mr. Kingston,' she said, 'I hear that I am not to die this afternoon, and I am very sorry for it; for I thought by this time to be dead and past my pain.'—'Madam,' replied the governor, 'you will feel no pain, the blow will be so sharp and swift.'—'Yes,' resumed Anne, 'I have heard say that the headsman is very clever,' and then she added: 'and I have but a little neck,' putting her hand about it and smiling.[341] Kingston left the room.

Meanwhile the devout adherents of the Roman primacy were full of exultation, and allowed the hopes to appear which Anne's death raised in their bosoms. 'Sire,' they told the king, 'the tapers placed round the tomb of queen Catherine suddenly burst into flame of their own accord.'[342] They concluded, from this prodigy, that Roman-catholicism was once more about to shed its light on England. The priests were eager to chant their Deo gratias, and a report was circulated that this new victory {164} over the Reformation was going to be inaugurated by hanging a group of heretics along with Anne.[343] Neither friends nor enemies drew any real distinction between the cause of Anne and the cause of protestantism; and many evangelical Christians, imagining that when Anne was dead there would be no one to protect them any longer, prepared to quit the kingdom.

Henry, however, keenly desiring to have if it were but one word from Anne that would exculpate him, sent some one to her with a commission to sound her, and to discover whether the hope of escaping death would not induce her to satisfy him. Anne replied, and they were the last words she addressed to the king: 'Commend me to his majesty, and tell him that he has ever been constant in his career of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a queen; and now that he has no higher degree of honor left, he gives my innocence the crown of martyrdom.'[344] The gentleman went and reported this noble farewell to his master. Even the jailer bore testimony to the peace and joy which filled Anne Boleyn's heart at this solemn moment. 'I have seen men and also women executed,' wrote Kingston to Cromwell, 'and they have been in great sorrow; but to my knowledge this lady has much joy and pleasure in death.'[345]


Everything was arranged so that the murder should be perpetrated without publicity and without disturbance. Kingston received orders to turn all strangers out of the Tower, and readily obeyed. About eleven in the forenoon of the 19th of May, the dukes of Suffolk and Richmond, the lord-chancellor, Cromwell, the lord-mayor with the sheriffs and aldermen, entered the Tower, and took their stations on the green, where the {165} instrument of punishment had been erected. The executioner, whom Henry had summoned from Calais, was there with his axe and his attendants. A cannon, mounted on the walls, was to announce both to king and people that all was over. A little past noon Anne appeared, dressed in a robe of black damask, and attended by four of her maids of honor. She walked up to the block on which she was to lay her head. Her step was firm, her looks calm; all indicated the most complete resignation. She was then thirty years old, and 'never had she looked so beautiful before,'[346] says a French contemporary, then in London. Her eyes expressed a meek submission; a pleasing smile accompanied the look she turned on the spectators of this tragic scene.[347] But just when the executioners had made the last preparations, her emotion was so keen that she nearly fainted. Gradually she recovered her strength, and her faith in the Saviour filled her with courage and hope.

It is important to know what, in this last and solemn moment, were her sentiments towards the king. She had desired that Mary should be asked to forgive her wrongs: it was her duty, if she died a Christian, also to pardon Henry's faults. She must obey her Saviour, who said: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.' She had pardoned everything; but it was her duty to declare it before she died, and if she was humble, she would do so without affectation. Addressing those who had been her subjects and were then standing round her, she said: 'Good Christian people, I am not come here to justify myself; I leave my justification entirely to Christ, in whom I put my trust. I will accuse no man, nor speak anything of that whereof I am accused, as I know full well that aught that I could say in my defence doth not appertain unto you, and that I could {166} draw no hope of life from the same. I come here only to die, according as I have been condemned. I commend my judges to the Lord's mercy. I pray God (and I beg you to do the same) to save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler or more merciful prince there never was. To me he was ever a good, gentle, and sovereign lord. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord, have mercy upon me! To God I commit my soul!'[348]

Such are the simple words in which Anne gave utterance to the feelings of peace with which her heart was filled towards her husband, at the moment when he was robbing her of life. Had she said that she forgave him, she would have called up the memory of the king's crime, and would thus have appeared to claim the merit of her generous pardon. She did nothing of the sort. During one part of their wedded life, Henry had been a 'good lord' to her. She desired to recall the good only, and buried the evil in oblivion. She did so without any thought of self; for she knew that before the gracious words could reach the king's ears, the axe would have already fallen upon her, and it would be impossible for Henry to arrest the fatal blow.

This Christian discourse could not fail to make a deep impression on all who heard her. As they looked at the unfortunate queen, they felt the tenderest compassion and the sharpest pain.[349] The firmer her heart became, the weaker grew the spectators of the tragedy. Ere long they were unable to check the tears which the sufferer had the strength to restrain.[350] One of the ladies of the royal victim approached her to cover her eyes; {167} but Anne refused, saying that she was not afraid of death, and gave her as a memorial of that hour, a little manuscript prayer-book that she had brought with her.

The queen then removed her white collar and took off her hood, that the action of the axe might not be impeded;[351] this head-dress formed a queue and hung down behind. Then falling on her knees, she remained a few moments silent and motionless, praying inwardly. On rising up, she approached the fatal block, and laid her head on it: 'O Christ, into thy hands I commit my soul!' she exclaimed. The headsman, disturbed by the mild expression of her face, hesitated a few seconds, but his courage returned. Anne cried out again: 'O Jesus, receive my soul!' At this instant the axe of the executioner flashed in the air and her head fell. A cry escaped from the lips of the spectators, 'as if they had received the blow upon their own necks.'[352] This is honorable to Anne's enemies, so that we may well believe the evidence. But immediately another sound was heard: the gunner, placed as a signal-man on the wall, had watched the different phases of the scene, holding a lighted match in his hand; scarcely had the head fallen, when he fired the gun, and the report, which was heard at a distance, bore to Henry the news of the crime which gave him Jane Seymour.[353] The ladies of queen Anne, though almost lifeless with terror, would not permit the noble remains of the mistress, whom they had loved so much, to be touched by rude hands; they gathered round the body, wrapped it in a white sheet, and carried it (almost fainting as they were) to an old elm chest, which had been brought out of the arsenal and had been used for storing arrows. This rough box was the last home assigned to her who had inhabited costly palaces: not so much as a coffin had been provided for {168} her. The ladies placed in it Anne's head and body; 'the eyes and lips were observed to move,' says a document, as if her mouth was repeating the last words it had uttered. She was immediately buried in the Tower chapel.[354]

Thus died Anne Boleyn. If the violent passions of a prince and the meanness of his courtiers brought her to an untimely death, hatred and credulity have killed her a second time. But an infamous calumny, forged by dishonest individuals, ought to be sternly rejected by all sensible men. Not in vain did Anne, at the hour of death, place her cause in the hands of God, and we willingly believe that all enlightened men, without prejudice or partiality, among Roman-catholics as among others, turn with disgust from the vile falsehoods of malicious courtiers and the deceitful fables of the papist Sanders and his followers.


On the morning of this day, Henry VIII. had dressed himself in white, as for a festival, and ordered a hunting-party. There was a great stir round the palace; huntsmen hurrying to and fro, dogs baying, horns sounding, nobles arriving. The troop was formed and they all set off for Epping Forest, where the sport began. At noon the hunters met to repose themselves under an oak which still bears the name of the King's Oak. Henry had taken his seat beneath it, surrounded by his suite and the dogs; he listened and seemed to be agitated. Suddenly a cannon shot resounded through the forest—it was the concerted signal—the queen's head had fallen. 'Ha, ha!' exclaimed the king, rising, 'the deed is done! uncouple the hounds and away.'[355] Horns and trumpets were sounded, and dogs and horses were soon in pursuit. The wretched prince, led away {169} by his passions, forgot that there is a God to whom he would have to render an account not only of the execution in the Tower, but of the chase in the forest; and by these cruel acts, which should have shocked the hearts even of his courtiers, he branded himself with his own hands as a great criminal. The king and his court returned to the palace before nightfall.

At last Henry was free. He had desired Jane Seymour, and everything had been invented—adultery, incest—to break the bonds that united him to the queen. The proofs of Anne's crimes failing, the ferocious acts of the king were to supply their place. Could those who witnessed the cruelty of the husband venture to doubt the guilt of the wife? Henry had become inhuman that he might not appear faithless. Now that the object was obtained, it only remained to profit by his crime. His impatience to gratify his passions made him brave all propriety. The mournful death of his queen; the Christian words that she had uttered, kissing as it were the cruel hand that struck her—nothing softened that man's heart, and the very next day he married the youthful maid of honor. It would have been difficult to say in a more striking manner: 'This is why Anne Boleyn is no more!' When we see side by side the blood-stained block on which Anne had received her death-blow, and the brilliant altar before which Henry and Jane were united, we all understand the story.[356] The prince, at once voluptuous and cruel, liked to combine the most contrary objects in the same picture—crime and festivities, marriage and death, sensuality and hatred. He showed himself the most magnificent and most civilized monarch of Europe; but also the rival of those barbarous {170} kings of savage hordes who take delight in cutting off the heads of those who have been their favorites and even the objects of their most passionate love. We must employ different standards in judging of the same person, when we regard him as a private and as a public individual. The Tudor prince, so guilty as a husband, father, and friend, did much good as a ruler for England. Louis XIV., as well as Henry VIII., had some of the characteristics of a great king; and his moral life was certainly not better than that of his prototype in England. He had as many, and even more mistresses than the predecessor of the Stuarts had wives; but the only advantage which the French monarch had over the English one, is that he knew how to get rid of them without cutting off their heads.

The death of Anne Boleyn caused a great sensation in Europe, as that of Fisher and More had done before it. Her innocence, which Henry (it is said) acknowledged on his death-bed,[357] was denied by some and maintained by others; but all men of principle expressed a feeling of horror when they heard of her punishment. The protestant princes and divines of Germany had not a doubt that this cruel act was the pledge of reconciliation offered to the pope by Henry VIII., and renounced the alliance they were on the point of concluding with England. 'At last I am free from that journey,' said Melanchthon, whom Anne Boleyn's death, added to that of Sir Thomas More, had rendered even less desirous of approaching the prince who had struck them. 'The queen,' he continued, 'accused, rather than convicted, of adultery, has suffered the penalty of death, and that catastrophe has wrought great changes in our plans.'[358]


Somewhat later the protestants ascribed Anne's death especially to the pope: 'That blow came from Rome,' they cried; 'in Rome all these tricks and plots are contrived. Even Petrarch had long since called that city

Nido di tradimenti, in cui si cuova
Quanto mal per lo mondo hoggi si spande.'[359]

In this I suspect there is a mistake. The plots of the Roman court against Elizabeth have caused it to be accused of similar designs against the mother of the great protestant queen. The friends of that court in England were probably no strangers to the crime, but the great criminal was Henry.

[313]   'The saying was that he was grievously racked.'—Archéologie, xxiii. p. 164.

[314]   'No man will confess anything against her.'—Kingston's Letters, p. 458.

[315]   Kingston's Letters, p. 458.

[316]   'The vain hope of this changeable world.'—Histoire d'Anne de Boleyn, by Crespin, p. 140.

[317]   'Avecque Dieu lors plus se fortifie.'—Ibid. p. 190.

[318]   'Speaking like a mistress to these lords.'

[319]   A copy of this letter was found among the papers of Cromwell, at that time the king's chief minister. 'It is universally known,' says Sir Henry Ellis, 'as one of the finest compositions in the English language.'—Original Letters, ii. p. 53.

[320]   Burnet, Records, book iii. No. 49. The original is in the Cotton Library.

[321]   Froude.

[322]   Baga de Secretis, pouch 8.

[323]   Meteren, Histoire des Pays-Bas.

[324]   Godwin's Annals, p. 139.—Queen Elizabeth raised his son to the peerage, and four of his grandsons were among the greatest of England's captains during the reign of Anne Boleyn's daughter.

[325]   Burnet, Addenda, vol. i.

[326]   Ibid. Baga de Secretis, pouch 8.


'On vit la reine au jugement venir,
Qui ne se veut que de Dieu souvenir;
Ne faisant cas de chose qui la touche;
Mais plus se tient constante qu'une souche,
Qui ne craint grêle ou vent impétueux.'

Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin, p. 200. The last lines of this narrative are dated 2d of June, 1536, only seventeen days after the queen's trial and sentence. It would appear that the author, Crespin, lord of Milverne, was an eye-witness of the scene.

[328]   'Having an excellent quick wit and being a ready speaker, she did so answer all objections.'—Harleian MSS.


'Peu parlait, mais qui la regardait,
Coulpe de crime en elle n'attendait.'

Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin, p. 201.

[330]   The catholic historian, Lingard, makes this remark. Vol. iii. ch. v.

[331]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin, p. 202.

[332]   Meteren, Histoire des Pays-Bas, p. 21.

[333]   Meteren, Histoire des Pays-Bas, p. 21.

[334]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin, pp. 196, 198, 199, 205.

[335]   Ibid. pp. 205, 206.—To the sharp axe which severed it at a blow.

[336]   'This day at dinner the queen said that she should go to Antwerp.'—Kingston, Letters, p. 460.

[337]   'I desire to know the king's pleasure for the preparation of the scaffold.'—Ibid.

[338]   'Inter horas ix et xi ante meridiem, in quodam basso sacello.'—Wilkins, p. 803. It is an error of the copyist or of the printer which makes Wilkins say that the act relates to Anne of Cleves (Annam Clivensem).

[339]   'Ten days have elapsed since I went to the pope and narrated to him the tidings.'—Cotton MSS. Vitellius, B. xiv. fol. 215, May 27th, 1536.

[340]   Burnet, i. p. 185.

[341]   Burnet, i. p. 185.

[342]   Cotton MSS., Vitellius, B. xiv. p. 216; Turner, ii. p. 457.

[343]   Cotton MSS., Vitellius, B. xiv. p. 216; Turner, ii. p. 457.

[344]   'Purposing to make her by martyrdom a saint in heaven.'—Strype, p. 437.

[345]   Kingston, Letters, p. 461.

[346]   'Oncque n'avoit été vue si belle.'

[347]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin.

[348]   Anne Boleyn's last words are given by Hall, p. 819; Burnet, i. p. 373; Turner, ii. p. 455; Wyatt, p. 214. See also the Memorial of Constantine who was present (Archeologia, vol. xxiii.), and the letter of a Portuguese gentleman quoted by Lingard, vol. iii. ch. v.

[349]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin.

[350]   Ibid.

[351]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre, by Crespin.

[352]   Wyatt, p. 449.

[353]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre.

[354]   Histoire d'Anne Boleyn, royne d'Angleterre. Spelman, Hall, Burnet.

[355]   Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, i. p. 476; Tytler, Life of King Henry VIII., p. 383; Nott, &c.

[356]   Hume, who is certainly an impartial judge, has described these things with justice, and better than the most recent historians. See his History of England, House of Tudor, ch. viii.; and also Burnet, Turner, &c.

[357]   Thevet: Cosmographie Universelle, p. 656. This author was a contemporary Franciscan monk, and consequently an impartial witness. Meteren, Histoire des Pays-Bas, p. 21; Burnet, iii. p. 120; Turner, ii. p. 459.

[358]   'Posterior regina, magis accusata quam convicta adulterii, ultimo supplicio affecta est; magna conciliorum mutatio secuta est.'—Corpus Reformatorum, iii. p. 89.

[359]   Memoir of Anne Boleyn, by G. Wyatt, p. 445.

(Summer, 1536.)


After queen Anne's death the two parties were agitated in opposite directions. The friends of the Reformation wished to show that the disgrace of that princess did not carry with it the disgrace of the cause they had at heart, and consequently believed that they ought to accelerate the Reform movement. The friends of Rome and its doctrines, imagining, on their part, that the queen's death had put their affairs in good train, thought they had but to redouble their activity to gain a complete victory. The latter seemed indeed to have some reasons for encouragement. If Catherine's death {172} had reconciled Henry VIII. and the emperor just when the latter was threatening England with invasion, the death of Anne Boleyn appeared as if it would reconcile the king with Paul III., who was ready to issue his terrible bull. Henry's wives played a great part in his private history, but they had also a certain importance in his relations with the powers of Europe, especially with the pope. As soon as the pontiff had seen Charles V. and Francis I. preparing for war, he had instructed his son to hint to Da Casale, that the court of Rome was very desirous of reviving the ancient friendship which had united it to England.[360] These desires increased rapidly.

On the 20th of May, when the news of the queen's prosecution arrived in Rome, both pope and cardinals were transported with joy. The frightful calumnies of which that princess was the victim, served the cause of the papacy too well not to be accepted as truths, and all felt persuaded that, if Anne fell from the throne, the acts done at London against the Italian primacy would fall with her. When Da Casale informed the pope that the queen had been sent to prison, Paul exclaimed with delight: 'I always thought, when I saw Henry endowed with so many virtues, that heaven would not forsake him. If he is willing to unite with me,' he added, 'I shall have authority enough to enjoin the emperor and the king of France to make peace; and the king of England, reconciled with the Church, will command the powers of Europe.' At the same time Paul III. confessed that he had made a mistake in raising Fisher to the cardinalate, and wound up this pontifical effusion in the kindest of terms. Da Casale, much delighted on his part, asked whether he was to repeat these matters to the king. 'Tell him,' answered the pope, 'that his majesty {173} may, without hesitation, expect everything from me.'[361] Da Casale, therefore, made his report to London, and intimated that, if Henry made the least sign of reconciliation, the pope would immediately send him a nuncio. Thus Paul left not a stone unturned to win over the king of England. He extolled his virtues, promised him the foremost place in Europe, flattered his vanity as an author, and did not fear—he the infallible one—to acknowledge that he had made a mistake. Everybody at the court of Rome felt convinced that England was about to return to the bosom of the Church; cardinal Campeggi even sent his brother to London to resume possession of the bishopric of Salisbury, of which he had been deprived in 1534.[362] Up to the end of June, the pope and the cardinals became kinder and more respectful to the English, and entertained the most flattering expectations regarding the return of England.


Would these expectations be realized? Henry VIII. was not one man, but two: his domestic passions and his public acts formed two departments entirely distinct. Guided as an individual by passion, he was, as a king, sometimes led by just views. He believed that neither pope nor foreign monarch had a right to exercise the smallest jurisdiction in England. He was therefore decided—and this saved Great Britain—to maintain the rupture with Rome. One circumstance might have taught him that in all respects it was the best thing he could do.

Rome has two modes of bringing back princes under her yoke—flattery and abuse. The pope had adopted {174} the first: a person, at that time without influence, Reginald Pole, an Englishman, and also a relative and protégé of Henry's, undertook the second. In 1535 he was in the north of Italy; burning with love for the papacy and hatred for the king, his benefactor, he wrote ab irato a defence of the unity of the Church, addressed to Henry VIII., and overflowing with violence. The wise and pious Contarini, to whom he showed it, begged him to soften a tone that might cause much harm. As Pole refused, Contarini entreated him at least to submit his manuscript to the pope; but the young Englishman, fearing that Paul would require him to suppress the untoward publication, declined acceding to his friend's request. His object was, not to convert the king, but to stir up the English against their lawful prince, and induce them to fall prostrate again before the Roman pontiff. The treatise, finished in the winter of 1536, before Anne's trial, reached London the first week in June. Tonstall, bishop of Durham, and Pole's friend, read the book, which contained a few truths mixed up with great errors, and then communicated it to the king. Never did haughty monarch receive so rude a lesson.


'Shall I write to you, O prince,' said the young Englishman, 'or shall I not? Observing in you the certain symptoms of the most dangerous malady, and assured as I am that I possess the remedies suitable to cure you, how can I refrain from pronouncing the word which alone can preserve your life? I love you, sire, as son never loved his father, and God perhaps will make my voice to be like that of his own Son, whose voice even the dead hear. O prince, you are dealing the most deadly blow against the Church that it can possibly receive, you rob it of the chief whom it possesses upon earth. Why should a king, who is the supreme head of the State, occupy a similar place in the Church? If we may trust the arguments of your doctors, we must conclude {175} that Nero was the head of the Church.[363] We should laugh, if the laughter were not to be followed by tears. There is as great a distance between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, as there is between heaven and earth. There are three estates in human society: first, the people; then the king, who is the son of the people; and lastly, the priest, who being the spouse of the people is consequently the father of the king.[364] But you, in imitation of the pride of Lucifer, set yourself above the vicar of Jesus Christ.

'What! you have rent the Church, as it was never before rent in that island, you have plundered and cruelly tormented it, and you claim, in virtue of such merits, to be called its supreme head. There are two Churches: if you are at the head of one, it is not the Church of Christ; if you are, it is like Satan, who is the prince of the world, which he oppresses under his tyranny.... You reign, but after the fashion of the Turks. A simple nod of your head has more power than ancient laws and rights. Sword in hand you decide religious controversies. Is not that thoroughly Turkish and barbarian?[365]

'O England! if you have not forgotten your ancient liberty, what indignation ought to possess you, when you see your king plunder, condemn, murder, squander all your wealth, and leave you nothing but tears. Beware, for if you let your grievances be heard, you will be afflicted with still deeper wounds. O my country! it is in your power to change your great sorrow into greater joy. Neither Nero nor Domitian, nor—I dare {176} affirm—Luther himself, if he had been king of England,[366] would have wished to avenge himself by putting to death such men as Fisher and Sir Thomas More!

'What king has ever given more numerous signs of respect to the supreme pontiff than that Francis I. who spoke of you, O Henry, in words received with applause by the whole Christian world: "your friend,—till the altar," Amicus—usque ad aras.—The emperor Charles has just subdued the pirates; but is there any pirate that is worse than you? Have you not plundered the wealth of the Church, thrown the bodies of the saints into prison, and reduced men's souls to slavery? If I heard that the emperor with all his fleet was sailing for Constantinople, I would fall at his feet, and say—were it even in the straits of the Hellespont—"O emperor, what are you thinking of? Do you not see that a much greater danger than the Turks threatens the Christian republic? Change your route. What would be the use of expelling the Turks from Europe, when new Turks are hatched among us?" Certainly the English for slighter causes have forced their kings to put off their crowns.'[367]

After the apostrophe addressed to Charles V., Reginald Pole returns to Henry VIII., and imagining himself to be the prophet Elijah before king Ahab, he says with great boldness: 'O king, the Lord hath commanded me to curse you; but if you will patiently listen to me, he will return you good for evil. Why delay to confess your sin? Do not say that you have done everything according to the rules of Holy Scripture. Does not the Church, which gives it authority, know what is to be received and what rejected? You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Return to the Church, O prince! {177} and all that you have lost you shall regain with more splendor and glory.

'But if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and does not heed it, the sword is drawn from the scabbard, the guilty is smitten, and his blood is upon his own head.'


We have hardly given the flower of this long tirade, written in the style of the 16th century, which, divided into four books, fills one hundred and ninety-two folio pages. It reached England at the moment of the condemnation of the innocent Anne, which Pole unconsciously protested against as unjust, more unjust even than the sentences of Fisher and More. Henry did not at first read his 'pupil's' philippic through. He saw enough, however, to regard it as an insult, a divorce which Italy had sent him. He ordered Pole to return to England; but the latter remembered too well the fate of Fisher and Sir Thomas More to run the risk. Bishop Tonstall, one of the enemies of the Reformation, wrote, however, to Pole, that as Christ was the head of the Church, to separate it from the pope was not to separate from its head. This refutation was short but complete.

The king was resolved to maintain his independence of the pope. Some have ascribed this determination to Pole's treatise, and others to the influence of Jane Seymour. Both these circumstances may have had some weight in Henry's mind; but the great cause, we repeat, is that he would not suffer any master but himself in England. Gardiner replied to Pole in a treatise which he entitled: On True Obedience,[368] to which Bonner wrote the preface.

Paul III. was not the only one who descried the signal of triumph in Anne's death: the princess Mary believed that she would now become heiress-presumptive to the crown. Lady Kingston, having discharged {178} Anne Boleyn's Christian commission, Catherine's daughter, but slightly affected by this touching conduct, took advantage of it for her own interest, and charged that lady with a letter addressed to Cromwell, in which she begged him to intercede for her with the king, so that the rank which belonged to her should be restored. Henry consented to receive his daughter into favor, but not without conditions: 'Madam,' said Norfolk, who had been sent to her by the king, 'here are the articles which require your signature.'

The daughter of the proud Catherine of Aragon was to acknowledge four points: the supremacy of the king, the imposture of the pope, the incest of her own mother, and her own illegitimacy. She refused, but as Norfolk was not to be shaken, she signed the two first articles;[369] then laying down the pen, she exclaimed: 'As for my own shame and my mother's—never!' Cromwell threatened her, called her obstinate and unnatural, and told her that her father would abandon her: the unhappy princess signed everything. She was restored to favor, and from that time received yearly three thousand pounds sterling; but she was deceived in thinking that the misfortune of her little sister Elizabeth would replace her on the steps of the throne.


Parliament met on the 8th of June, when the chancellor announced to them that the king, notwithstanding his mishaps in matrimony, had yielded to the humble solicitations of the nobility, and formed a new union. The two houses ratified the accomplished facts. No man desired to stir the ashes from which sparks might issue and kindle a great conflagration. At no price would they compromise the most exalted persons in the kingdom, and especially the king. All the allegations, even the most absurd, were admitted: Parliament wanted to have done with the matter. It even went further: the king was thanked for the most excellent goodness which {179} had induced him to marry a lady whose brilliant youth, remarkable beauty, and purity of blood were the sure pledges of the happy issue which a marriage with her could not fail to produce; and his most respectful subjects determined to bury the faults of their prince under flowers, compared him for beauty to Absalom, for strength to Samson, and for wisdom to Solomon. Parliament added, that as the daughters of Catherine and Anne were both illegitimate, the succession had devolved upon the children of Jane Seymour. As, however, it was possible that she might not have any issue, parliament granted him the privilege of naming his successor in his will: an enormous prerogative, conferred upon the most capricious of monarchs. Those who refused to take the oath required by the statute were to be declared guilty of high treason.

Parliament having thus arranged the king's business, set about the business of the country. 'My lords,' said ministers on the 4th of July to the upper house, 'the bishop of Rome, whom some persons call pope, wishing to have the means of satisfying his love of luxury and tyranny, has obscured the Word of God, excluded Jesus Christ from the soul, banished princes from their kingdoms, monopolized the mind, body, and goods of all Christians, and, in particular, extorted great sums of money from England by his dreams and superstitions.' Parliament decided that the penalties of præmunire should be inflicted on everybody who recognized the authority of the Roman pontiff, and that every student, ecclesiastic, and civil functionary should be bound to renounce the pope in an oath made in the name of God and all his saints.[370]

This bill was the cause of great joy in England; the protestant spirit was stirred; there was a great outburst of sarcasms, and one could see that the citizens of the {180} capital naturally were not friends to the papacy. Man is inclined to laugh at what he has respected when he finds that he has been deceived, and then readily classes among human follies what he had once taken for the wisdom of Heaven. A contest of epigrams was begun in London, similar to that which had so often taken place at Rome between Pasquin and Marforio: perhaps, however, the jokes were occasionally a little heavy. 'Do you see the stole round the priest's neck?' said one wit; 'it is nothing else but the bishop of Rome's rope.'[371]—'Matins, masses, and evensong are nothing but a roaring, howling, whistling, murmuring, tomring, and juggling.'[372]—'It is as lawful to christen a child in a tub of water at home or in a ditch by the way, as in a font-stone in the church.'—Gradually this jesting spirit made its way to the lower classes of society.—'Holy water is very useful,' said one who haunted the London taverns; 'for as it is already salted, you have only to put an onion in it to make sauce for a gibbet of mutton.'—'What is that you say,' replied some blacksmith, 'it is a very good medicine for a horse with a galled back.'[373] But while frivolity and a desire to show one's wit, however coarse it might be, gave birth to silly jests merely provocative of laughter, the love of truth inspired the evangelical Christians with serious words which irritated the priests more than the raillery of the jesters. 'The Church,' they said, 'is not the clergy, the Church is the congregation of good men only. All ceremonies accustomed in the Church and not clearly expressed in Scripture ought to be done away. When the sinner is converted, all the sins over which he sheds tears are remitted freely by the Father who is in heaven.'[374]

After the words of the profane and of the pious came the words of the priests. A convocation of the clergy was summoned to meet at St. Paul's. The bishops came {181} and took their places, and anyone might count the votes which Rome and the Reformation had on the episcopal bench. For the latter there were: archbishop Cranmer; Goodrich, bishop of Ely; Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury; Fox, bishop of Hereford; Latimer, bishop of Worcester; Hilsey, bishop of Rochester; Barlow, bishop of St. David's; Warton, bishop of St. Asaph; and Sampson, bishop of Chichester—nine votes in all. For Rome there were: Lee, archbishop of York; Stokesley, bishop of London; Tonstall, bishop of Durham; Longland, bishop of Lincoln; Vesey, bishop of Exeter; Clerk, bishop of Bath; Lee, bishop of Lichfield; Salcot, bishop of Bangor; and Rugge, bishop of Norwich—nine against nine. If Gardiner had not been in France there would have been a majority against the Reformation. Forty priors and mitred abbots, members of the upper house, seemed to assure victory to the partisan of tradition. The clergy, who assembled under their respective banners, were divided not by shades but by glaring colors, and people asked, as they looked on this chequered group, which of the colors would carry the day. Cranmer had taken precautions that they should not leave the church without being enlightened on that point.


The bishop of London having sung the mass of the Holy Ghost, Latimer, who had been selected by the primate to edify the assembly, went up into the pulpit. Being a man of bold and independent character, and penetrating, practical mind, which could discover and point out every subterfuge, he wanted a Reform more complete even than Cranmer desired. He took for his text the parable of the unjust steward.[375] 'Dear brethren,' he said, 'you have come here to-day to hear of great and weighty matters. Ye look, I am assured, to hear of me such things as shall be meet for this assembly.' Then having introduced his subject, Latimer {182} continued: 'A faithful steward coineth no new money, but taketh it ready coined of the good man of the house. Now, what crowds of our bishops, abbots, prelates, and curates, despising the money of the Lord as copper and not current, teach that now redemption purchased by money and devised by men is of efficacy, and not redemption purchased by Christ.'

The whole of Latimer's sermon was in this strain. He did not stop here; in the afternoon he preached again. 'You know the proverb,' he said—'"An evil crow, an evil egg."[376] The devil has begotten the world, and the world in its turn has many children. There is my Lady Pride, Dame Gluttony, Mistress Avarice, Lady Lechery, and others, that now hard and scant ye may find any corner, any kind of life, where many of his children be not. In court, in cowls, in cloisters, yea, where shall ye not find them? Howbeit, they that be secular are not children of the world, nor they that are called spiritual, of the clergy. No, no; as ye find among the laity many children of light, so among the clergy ye shall find many children of the world. They do execrate and detest the world (being nevertheless their father) in words and outward signs; but in heart and works they coll and kiss him.[377] They show themselves to be as sober as Curius the Roman was,[378] and live every day as if all their life were a shroving time (a carnival). I see many such among the bishops, abbots, priors, archdeacons, deans, and others of that sort, who are met together in this convocation, to take into consideration all that concerns the glory of Christ and the wealth of the people of England. The world has sent us some of its whelps.[379] What have you been doing these seven years and more? Show us what the English have gained by your long and great assemblies. Have {183} they become even a hair's breadth better? In God's name, what have you done?—so great fathers, so many, so long a season, so oft assembled together—what have you done? Two things: the one, that you have burnt a dead man (William Tracy); the other, that ye went about to burn one being alive.[380] Ye have oft sat in consultation, but what have ye done? Ye have had many things in deliberation, but what one is put forth whereby either Christ is more glorified, or else Christ's people made more holy? I appeal to your own conscience.'

Here Latimer began, as Luther had done in his Appeal to the German Nobility, to pass in review the abuses and errors of the clergy—the Court of Arches, the episcopal consistories, saints' days, images, vows, pilgrimages, certain vigils which he called 'bacchanalia,' marriage, baptism, the mass, and relics.

After this severe catalogue, the bishop exclaimed: 'Let us go home even as good as we came hither, right-begotten children of the world. Let us beat our fellows, let us eat and drink with drunkards. But God will come, God will come, yea and he will not tarry. He will come upon such a day as we nothing look for him. He will come and cut us in pieces, and let be the end of our tragedy.[381] These be the delicate dishes prepared for the world's well-beloved children. These be the wafers and junkets provided for worldly prelates—wailing and gnashing of teeth.

'If you will not die eternally, live not worldly. Preach truly the Word of God. Feed ye tenderly the flock of Christ. Love the light. Walk in the light, and so be the children of light while you are in the world, that you may shine in the world to come bright as the sun, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.'

An action full of simplicity and warmth had accompanied the firm and courageous words of the Reformer. {184} The reverend members of convocation had found their man, and his sermon appeared to them bitterer than wormwood. They dared not, however, show their anger, for behind Latimer was Cranmer, and they feared lest they should find the king behind Cranmer.

Ere long the clergy received another mortification which they dared not complain of. A rumor got abroad that Cromwell would be the representative of Henry VIII. in the assembly. 'What!' they cried out, 'a layman, a man who has never taken a degree in any university!' But what was the astonishment of the prelates, when they saw not Cromwell enter, but his secretary, Dr. Petre, one of the convent visitors, whom the primate seated by his side—a delegate of a delegate! On the 21st of June, Cromwell came down, and took his seat above all the prelates. The lay element took, with a bold step, a position from which it had been so long banished.


It was to be expected that the champions of the middle ages would not submit to such affronts, and particularly to such a terrible fire as Latimer's, without unmasking their batteries in return, and striving to dismantle those of the enemy. They saw that they could not maintain the supremacy of the pope and attack that of the king; but they knew that Henry adhered to transubstantiation and other superstitious doctrines of the dark ages; and accordingly they determined to attack by this breach, not only Latimer, but all the supporters of the Reformation. Roman-catholicism did not intend to perish without a struggle; it resolved—in order that it might hold its ground in England—to make a vigorous onslaught. The lower house having chosen for its prolocutor one Richard Gwent, archdeacon of bishop Stokesley and a zealous ultramontanist, the cabal set to work, and the words of Wycliff, of the Lollards, of the Reformers, and even of the jesting citizens having been carefully recorded, {185} Gwent proposed that the lower house should lay before the upper house sixty-seven evil doctrines (mala dogmata). Nothing was forgotten, not even the horse with the galled back. To no purpose were they reminded that what was blamable in this catalogue were only 'the indiscreet expressions of illiterate persons;' and that the rudeness of their imagination alone had caused them to utter these pointed sarcasms. In vain were they reminded that, even in horse races, the riders to be sure of reaching their goal pass beyond it. The enumeration of the mala dogmata was carried, without omitting a single article.

On the 23d of June, the prolocutor appeared with his long list before the upper house of convocation. 'There are certain errors,' he said, 'which cause disturbance in the kingdom,' and then he read the sixty-seven mala dogmata. 'They affirm,' he continued, 'that no doctrine must be believed unless it be proved by Holy Scripture; that Christ, having shed his blood, has fully redeemed us, so that now we have only to say, O God, I entreat Thy Majesty to blot out my iniquity.[382] They say that the sacrifice of the mass is nothing but a piece of bread; that auricular confession was invented by the priests to learn the secrets of the heart, and to put money in their purse; that purgatory is a cheat; that what is usually called the Church is merely the old synagogue, and that the true Church is the assembly of the just; that prayer is just as effectual in the open air as in a temple; that priests may marry. And these heresies are not only preached, but are printed in books stamped cum privilegio, with privilege, and the ignorant imagine that those words indicate the king's approbation.'[383]

The two armies stood face to face, and the scholastic {186} party had no sooner read their lengthy manifesto than the combat began. 'Oh, what tugging was here between these opposite sides,' says honest Fuller.[384] They separated without coming to any decision. Men began to discuss which side they should take: 'Neither one nor the other,' said those who fancied themselves the cleverest. 'When two stout and sturdy travellers meet together and both desire the way, yet neither is willing to fight for it, in their passage they so shove and shoulder one another, that they divide the way between them, and yet neither gets the same.[385] The two parties in convocation ought to do the same: there ought to be neither conquerors nor conquered.' Thus the Church, the pillar of truth, was required to admit both black and white—to say Yes and No. 'A medley religion,' exclaims an historian; 'to salve (if not the consciences) at least the credits of both sides.'[386]


Cranmer and Cromwell determined to use the opportunity to make the balance incline to the evangelical side. They went down to convocation. While passing along the street Cromwell noticed a stranger—one Alesius, a Scotchman, who had been compelled to seek refuge in Germany for having professed the pure Gospel, and there he had formed a close intimacy with Melanchthon. Cranmer, as well as Cromwell, desirous of having such an evangelical man in England—one who was in perfect harmony with the Protestants of Germany, and whose native tongue was English—had invited him over to London.[387] Melanchthon had given him a letter for the king, along with which he sent a copy of his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Henry was so charmed with the Scotchman, that he {187} gave him the title of 'King's Scholar.' Alesius was living at the archbishop's palace in Lambeth. Cromwell, observing him so seasonably, called him and invited him to accompany them to Westminster. He thought that a man of such power might be useful to him; and it is even possible that the meeting had been prearranged. Together the Englishman and the Scotchman entered the chamber in which the bishops were sitting round a table, with a number of priests standing behind them. When the vicar-general and Alesius, who was unknown to most of them, appeared, they all rose and bowed to the king's representative. Cromwell returned the salutation, and, after seating the exile in the highest place opposite the two archbishops, he addressed them as follows: 'His majesty will not rest until, in harmony with convocation and parliament, he has put an end to the controversies which have taken place, not only in this kingdom but in every country. Discuss these questions, therefore, with charity, without brawling or scolding, and decide all things by the Word of God.[388] Establish the divine and perfect truth as it is found in Scripture.'


Cromwell wanted the submission of all to the divine revelations: the traditional party answered him by putting forward human doctrines and human authorities. Stokesley, bishop of London, endeavored to prove, by certain glosses and passages, that there were seven sacraments: the archbishop of York and others supported him by their sophistry and their shouts. 'Such disputes about words, and such cries,' said Cranmer, 'are unbecoming serious men. Let us seek Christ's glory, the peace of the Church, and the means by which sins are forgiven. Let us inquire how we may bring consolation to uneasy souls; how we may give the assurance of God's love to consciences troubled by the remembrance {188} of their sins. Let us acknowledge that it is not the outward use of the sacraments that justifies a man, and that our justification proceeds solely from faith in the Saviour.'[389] The prelate spoke admirably and in accordance with Scripture: it was necessary to back up this noble confession. Cromwell, who kept his Scotchman in reserve, now introduced him to the clergy, as the 'king's scholar,' and asked him what he thought of the discussion. Alesius, speaking in the assembly of bishops, showed that there were only two sacraments—Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and that no ceremony ought to be put in the same rank with them. The bishop of London chafed with anger in his seat. Shall a mere Scotchman, driven from his country and entertained by German protestants, presume to teach the prelates of England? He shouted out indignantly, 'All that is false!' Alesius declared himself ready to prove what he had said out of Scripture and the old fathers. Then Fox, bishop of Hereford, who had just returned from Wittemberg, whither he had been sent by the king, and where he had been enlightened by conversing with Luther and Melanchthon, rose up and uttered these noble sentiments: 'Christ hath so lightened the world at this time,' he said, 'that the light of the Gospel hath put to flight all misty darkness; and the world will no longer endure to be led astray by all that fantastic rubbish with which the priests formerly filled their imaginations and their sermons.' This was pointed at bishop Stokesley and his friends: 'It is vain to resist the Lord; his hand drives away the clouds. The laity know the Holy Scriptures now better than many of us.[390] The Germans have made the text of the Bible so easy, by the Hebrew and Greek tongue, that even women and {189} children wonder at the blindness and falsehood that hath been hitherto. Consider that you make not yourselves to be laughed to scorn of all the world. If you resist the voice of God, you will give cause for belief that there is not one spark of learning or godliness in you. All things consist not in painted eloquence and strength of authority. For truth is of so great power, strength, and efficacy, that it can neither be defended with words nor be overcome with any strength; but after she hath hidden herself long, at length she pusheth up her head and appeareth.' Such was the eloquent and Christian language with which even bishops endeavored to bring about the triumph of that English Reformation which some have been pleased to represent as 'the product of an amorous caprice.'[391] Moved by such Christian remarks, Alesius exclaimed, 'Yes, it is the Word of God that bringeth life; the Word of God is the very substance and body of the Sacrament. It makes us certain and sure of the will of God to save our souls: the outward ceremony is but a token of that lively inflammation which we receive through faith in the Word and promise of the Lord.' At these words the bishop of London could not contain himself. 'The Word of God,' he cried; 'Yes, granted! But you are far deceived if you think there is no other Word of God but that which every souter and cobbler may read in his mother-tongue.' Stokesley believed in another Word of God besides the Bible; he thought, as the council of Trent did a little later, 'That we must receive with similar respect and equal piety the Holy Scriptures and Tradition.'[392] As it was noon, Cromwell broke up the meeting.

The debate had been sharp. The sacerdotal, sacramental, ritualist party had been beaten; the evangelicals desired to secure their victory. {190}

Alesius, after his return to Lambeth, began to compose a treatise; Stokesley, on the other hand, prepared to get up a conspiracy against Alesius. Next day the bishops, who arrived first at Westminster, entered into conversation about the last sitting, and were very indignant that a stranger, a Scotchman, should have been allowed to sit and speak among them. Stokesley called upon Cranmer to resist such an irregularity. The archbishop, who was always rather weak, consented, and Cromwell entering shortly after with his protégé, an archdeacon went up to the latter and told him that his presence was disagreeable to the bishops. 'It is better to give way,' said Cromwell to Alesius; 'I do not want to expose you to the hatred of the prelates. When once they take a dislike to a man, they never rest until they have got him out of the way. They have already put to death many Christians for whom the king felt great esteem.' Alesius withdrew and the debate opened. 'Are there seven sacraments or only two?' was the question. It was impossible to come to an understanding.

Convocation, an old clerical body, in which were assembled the most resolute partisans of the abuses, superstitions, and doctrines of the middle ages, was the real stronghold of Rome in England. To undertake to introduce the light and life of the Gospel into it was a rash and impracticable enterprise. The divine Head of the Church himself has declared that 'no man putteth new cloth to an old garment, neither do men put new wine into old bottles.' There was but one thing to be done. Suppress the assembly and form a new one, composed of members and ministers of the Church, who acknowledge no other foundation, no other rule, than the Word of God. 'New wine must be put into new bottles.' Such a step as this would have helped powerfully to reform the Church of England really and completely. But it was not taken.

[360]   'Pristina rediret amicitia.'—Da Casale to Cromwell. State Papers, vii. p. 643.

[361]   'Proculdubio vestra Majestas omnia de ipso sibi polliceri possit.' This letter of the 27th of May, which is among the Cotton MSS. (Vitellius, B. xiv.), has suffered by fire, but is given almost entire by Turner in a note to the second volume of his History, pp. 483-5.

[362]   Letter from Campeggi to the duke of Suffolk, dated 5th of June, 1536.—State Papers, vii. p. 657.

[363]   'Quid aliud quam Neronem fuisse caput ecclesiæ.'—R. Poli, Pro Ecclesiasticæ Unitatis defensione. Libri quatuor, 1555, without place, fol. 7, verso.

[364]   'Sacerdos ergo tanquam vir populi erga regem patris personam gerit.'—Ibid. fol. 17, verso 18-20.

[365]   'Atque hoc Turcicum plane et barbarum.'—R. Polus, fol. 71, verso. Pole forgot that this reasoning applied still better to the popes than to Henry VIII.

[366]   'Audeo autem jurare ne Lutherum quidem ipsum, si rex Angliæ fuisset, &c.'—R. Polus, fol. 75.

[367]   'Corona se et sceptro abdicare coegerunt.'—Ibid. fol. 79, verso.

[368]   De Vera Obedientia.

[369]   State Papers, i. p. 459.

[370]   'So help me God, all saints, and the Holy Evangelist.'—Collyers, ii. p. 119.

[371]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 805.

[372]   Ibid. p. 806.

[373]   Ibid. p. 807.

[374]   Ibid. p. 806.

[375]   St. Luke xi. 1-8.

[376]   Latimer's Sermons, p. 42.

[377]   Wilkins, Concilia, p. 43.

[378]   Curius Dentatus.—'Incomptis Curium capillis.' Horace.

[379]   Latimer's Sermons, p. 44.

[380]   Referring to himself.

[381]   Latimer's Sermons, p. 57.

[382]   'Deprecor Majestatem tuam, ut tu Deus deleas iniquitatem meam.'—Wilkins, Concilia, p. 806.

[383]   The list of mala dogmata is given by Collier.

[384]   Fuller, p. 213.

[385]   Ibid.

[386]   Ibid.

[387]   Preface to Alesius's treatise On the Authority of the Word of God. See also Anderson, Annals of the Bible, i. p. 451.

In the history of the Reformation in Scotland we shall sketch the most remarkable traits of the life of Alesius.

[388]   'Ye will conclude all things by the Word of God, without all brawling or scolding.'—Anderson, Annals of the Bible, i. p. 499.

[389]   'Whether the outward worth of them doth justify man, or whether we receive our justification through faith.'—Anderson, Annals of the Bible, i. p. 499. Todd's Life of Cranmer, i. p. 163.

[390]   Burnet, i. p. 205. Anderson, Annals of the Bible, i. p. 502.

[391]   Audin, Histoire de Henri VIII. Preface.

[392]   Council of Trent, 4th sitting, 8th of April, 1546.


(Autumn, 1536.)

After Anne Boleyn's death, the men of the Reformation had taken the initiative, and Cranmer, Cromwell, Latimer, and Alesius seemed on the point of winning the prize of the contest. The intervention of a greater personage was about to turn the medal.


Anne's disgrace and the wedding with Jane Seymour had occupied the king with far other matters than theology. Cranmer had the field free to advance the Reformation. This was not what Henry meant; and as soon as he noticed it, he roused himself, as if from slumber, and hastened to put things in order. Though rejecting the authority of the pope, he remained faithful to his doctrines. He proceeded to act in his character as head of the Church, and resolved to fulminate a bull, as the pontiffs had done. Reginald Pole, in the book which he had addressed to him, observed that in matters touching the pope, we must not regard either his character or his life, but only his authority; and that the lapses of a pope in morals detract nothing from his infallibility in faith. Henry understood this distinction very clearly, and showed himself a pope in every way. He did not believe that there was any incompatibility between the right he claimed of taking a new wife whenever he pleased, by means of divorce or the scaffold, and that of declaring the oracles of God on contrition, justification, {192} and ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies. The rupture of the negotiations with the protestants gave him more liberty, and even caused him a little vexation. His chagrin was not unmingled with anger, and he was not grieved to show those obstinate Germans what they gained by not accepting him. In this respect Henry was like a woman who, annoyed at being rejected by the man she prefers, gives her hand to his rival in bravado. He returned, therefore, to his theological labors. The doctors of the scholastic party spared him the pains of drawing up for himself the required articles; but he revised them and was elated at the importance of his work. 'We have in our own person taken great pain, study, labors, and travails,' he said, 'over certain articles which will establish concord in our Church.'[393] Cromwell, always submissive to his master and well knowing the cost of resistance, laid this royal labor before the upper house of Convocation. In religious matters Henry had never done anything so important. The doctrine of the authority of the prince over the dogmas of the Church now became a fact. The king's dogmatic paper, entitled Articles about religion set out by the Convocation, and published by the King's authority, bears a strong resemblance to the Exposition and the Type of Faith, published in the seventh century, during the monothelite controversy, by the emperors of Constantinople—Heraclius and Constant II. That prince, who in a political sense gave England a new impulse, sought his models as an ecclesiastical ruler, in the Lower Empire. Everybody was eager to know what doctrines the new head of the Church was going to proclaim. The partisans of Rome were doubtless quite as much surprised as the Reformers, but their astonishment was that of joy; the surprise of the evangelicals was that of fear. The vicar-general read the royal oracles aloud: 'All {193} the words contained in the whole canon of the Bible.' he said, 'and in the three creeds—the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian—according to the interpretation which the holy approved doctors in the Church do defend,[394] shall be received and observed as the infallible words of God, so that whosoever rejects them is not a member of Christ but a member of the devil, and eternally damned.'


That was the Romish doctrine, and Bossuet, in his examination of the royal document, appears much satisfied with the article.[395]

'The sacrament of baptism should be administered to infants, in order that they may receive the Holy Ghost and be purified of sin by its secret virtue and operation. If a man falls after baptism the sacrament of penance is necessary to his salvation; he must go to confession, ask absolution at the priest's hands, and look upon the words uttered by the confessor as the voice of God speaking out of heaven.'[396]

—'That is the whole substance of the catholic doctrine,' the partisans of Rome might urge.[397]

'Under the form of the bread and the wine are verily, substantially, and really contained the body and very blood of the Saviour which was born of the Virgin.'

—'That indicates most precisely the real presence of the body,' say the Romish doctors.[398]

'The merits of the Saviour's passion are the only and worthy causes of our justification; but, before giving it to us, God requires of us inward contrition, perfect faith, hope, and charity, and all the other spiritual motions which must necessarily concur in the remission of our sins.'


—The council of Trent declared the same doctrine not long after.[399]

'Images ought to be preserved in the churches. Only let those who kneel before them and adore them know that such honor is not paid to the images, but to God.'

—'To use such language,' Roman-catholics have said, 'is to approve of image-worship to the extreme.'[400]

'It is praiseworthy,' continued Cromwell, 'to address prayers to our Blessed Lady, to St. John the Baptist, to each of the apostles, or to any other saint, in order that they may pray for us and with us; but without believing there is more mercy in them than in Christ.'

—'If the king looks upon this as a kind of Reformation,' said a Romish doctor, 'he is only making game of the world; for no catholic addresses the saints except to have their prayers.'[401]

'As for the ceremonies, such as sprinkling with holy water, distributing the consecrated bread, prostration before the cross and kissing it, exorcisms, &c., these rites and others equally praiseworthy ought to be maintained as putting us in remembrance of spiritual things.'

—'That is precisely our idea,' said the partisans of Romish tradition.[402]

'Finally, as to purgatory, the people shall be taught that Christians ought to pray for the souls of the dead, and give alms, in order that others may pray for them, so that their souls may be relieved of some part of their pain.'[403]

—'All that we teach is here approved of,' said the great opponent of protestantism.[404]

Such was the religion which the prince, whom some {195} writers call the father of the Reformation, desired to establish in England. If England became protestant, it was certainly in spite of him.


A long debate ensued in convocation and elsewhere. The decided evangelicals could see nothing in these articles but an abandonment of Scripture, a 'political daubing,' in which the object was only to please certain persons and to attain certain ends. The men of the moderate party said, on the other hand, 'Ought we not to rejoice that the Scriptures and ancient creeds are re-established as rules of faith, without considering the pope?' But above these opposite opinions rose the terrible voice of the king: Sic volo, sic jubeo: Such is my pleasure, such are my orders. If the primate and his friends resisted, they would be set aside and the Reformation lost.

It does not appear that Cranmer had any share in drawing up these articles, but he signed them. It has been said, to excuse him, that neither he, nor many of his colleagues, had at that time a distinct knowledge of such matters, and that they intended to make amendments in the articles; but these allegations are insufficient. Two facts alone explain the concessions of this pious man: the king's despotic will and the archbishop's characteristic weakness. He always bent his head; but, we must also acknowledge, it was in order to raise it again. Archbishop Lee, sixteen bishops, forty abbots or priors, and fifty archdeacons or proctors signed after Cromwell and the primate. The articles passed through Convocation, because—like Anne's condemnation—it was the king's will. Nothing can better explain the concessions of Cranmer, Cromwell, and others in the case of Anne Boleyn, than their support of these articles, which were precisely the opposite of the Scriptural doctrine whose triumph they had at heart. In both cases they had yielded slavishly to those magic words: Le roi le veut, The king wills it. Those four words were {196} sufficient: that man was loyal who sacrificed his own will to the sovereign. It was only by degrees that the free principles of protestantism were to penetrate among the people, and give England liberty along with order. Still that excuse is not sufficient: Cranmer would have left a more glorious name if he had suffered martyrdom under Henry VIII., and not waited for the reign of Mary.

When the king's articles were known, discontent broke out in the opposite parties. 'Be silent, you contentious preachers and you factious schoolmen,' said the politicians: 'you would sooner disturb the peace of the world, than relinquish or retract one particle!'[405] The articles were sent all over England, with orders that everyone should conform to them at his peril.

Cranmer did not look upon the game as lost. To bend before the blast, and then rise up again and guide the Reform to a good end, was his system. He first strove to prevent the evil by suggesting measures calculated to remedy it. Convocation resolved that a petition should be addressed to the king, praying him to permit his lay subjects to read the Bible in English, and to order a new translation of it to be made;[406] moreover, a great number of feast-days were abolished as favoring 'sloth, idleness, thieves, excesses, vagabonds, and riots;'[407] and finally, on the last day of the session (20th of July), Convocation declared—to show clearly that there was no question of returning to popery—that there was nothing more pernicious than a general council;[408] and that, consequently, they must decline to attend that which the pope intended to hold in the city of Mantua. Thereupon parliament and Convocation {197} were dissolved, and the king did without them for three years.


Henry VIII. was satisfied with his minister. Cromwell was created Lord Privy-Seal, the 2d of July, 1536, baron, and a few days later vicegerent in ecclesiastical matters (in rebus ecclesiasticis). Wishing to tone down what savored too much of the schools in the king's articles, he circulated among all the priests some instructions which were passably evangelical. 'I enjoin you,' he said, 'to make your parishioners understand that they do rather apply themselves to the keeping of God's commandments and fulfilling of his works of charity, and providing for their families, than if they went about to pilgrimages.[409] Advise parents and masters to teach their children and their servants the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and the Ten Commandments, in their mother-tongue.' He even undertook to reform the clergy. 'Deans, parsons, vicars, curates, and priests,' he said, 'are forbidden to haunt taverns, to drink or brawl after dinner or supper, to play at cards day or night. If they have any leisure, they should read the Scriptures, or occupy themselves with some honest exercise.'

Cranmer and Cromwell went farther than this. They wished to circulate the Holy Scriptures. Tyndale's version was, in Cromwell's opinion, too far compromised to be officially circulated; he had, therefore, patronized another translation. Coverdale, who was born in 1488, at a place of that name in Yorkshire, had undertaken (as we have seen) to translate the Bible, and had applied to Cromwell to procure him the necessary books.[410] Tyndale was more independent, a man of firmer and bolder character than Coverdale. He did not seek the {198} aid of men, and finished his work (so to say) alone with God. Coverdale, pious no doubt like his rival, felt the need of being supported, and said, in his letter to Cromwell, that he implored his help, 'prostrate on the knees of his heart.'

Coverdale knew Greek and Hebrew. He began his task in 1530; on the 4th of October, 1535, the book appeared, probably at Zurich, under the title: Biblia, the Bible, that is to say, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and reached England in the early part of 1536. At the beginning of the volume was a dedication to Henry VIII., which ended by imploring the divine blessing on the king and on his 'dearest, just wife, and most virtuous princess, queen Anne.' Cromwell was to present this translation to the king, and circulate it throughout the country; but this dearest wife, this most virtuous princess, had just been accused by Henry, dragged before the tribunals, and beheaded. It was impossible to distribute a single copy of this version without arousing the monarch's anger. Those who desired that the ship which had come so far should not be wrecked in the harbor, had recourse to several expedients. The decapitated queen's name was Anne, that of the queen-regnant was Jeanne: there was a resemblance between them. Some copies corrected with a pen have instead of queen Anne,—queen JAne; in others the name of the queen is simply scratched out.[411] These expedients were not sufficient: a new title-page was printed and dated 1536, the current year. But it was all of no use: it was impossible to obtain the royal sanction.

Still, if Coverdale's Bible was not admitted into England, the Reformation, taught by pious ministers, was spreading more and more. The priests murmured in vain: 'Not long ago,' they said, 'the Lollards were put {199} to death for reading the Gospel in English, and now we are ordered to teach it in that language. We are robbed of our privileges, and our labors are increased.'


The king had proclaimed and laid down his ten articles to little purpose: faith gave pious ministers and Christians a courage which the great ones of the earth did not possess. John Gale, pastor of Twaite, in Suffolk, a quick, decided, but rather imprudent man, attacked the royal articles from his pulpit. But he did not stop there. His church was ornamented with images of the Virgin and Saints, before which the devout used to stick up tapers. 'Austin,' said he one day to a parishioner, 'follow me;' and the two men, with great exertions, took away the iron rods on which the worshippers used to set their tapers, and turned the images to the wall.—'Listen,' said Dr. Barret to his parishioners, 'the lifting up of the host betokens simply that the Father has sent his Son to suffer death for man, and the lifting up of the chalice, that the Son has shed his blood for our salvation.'—'Christ,' said Bale, prior of Dorchester, 'does not dwell in churches of stone, but in heaven above and in the hearts of men on earth.'[412]—The minister of Hothfield declared that: 'Our Lady is not the queen of heaven, and has no more power than another woman.' 'Pull him out of the pulpit,' said the exasperated bailiff to the vicar. 'I dare not,' answered the latter. In fact, the congregation were delighted at hearing their minister say of Jesus, as Peter did: Neither is there salvation in any other, and that very day more than a hundred embraced their pastor's doctrines.[413] Jerome, vicar of Stepney, endeavored to plant the pure truth of Christ in the conscience,[414] and root out all vain traditions, dreams and fantasies. Being invited to preach at St. Paul's Cross, on the fourth Sunday in Lent, he said: 'There {200} are two sorts of people among you: the free, who are freely justified without the penance of the law and without meritorious works; and the slaves, who are still under the yoke of the law.'—Even a bishop, Barlow of St. David's, said in a stately cathedral: 'If two or three cobblers or weavers, elect of God, meet together in the name of the Lord, they form a true Church of God.'[415]

This was going too far: proceedings were commenced against those who had thus braved the king's articles. Jerome appeared before Henry VIII. at Westminster. The poor fellow, intimidated by the royal majesty, tremblingly acknowledged that the sacraments were necessary for salvation; but he was burnt five years after in the cause of the Gospel. Gale and others were accused of heresy and treason before the criminal court. The books were not spared. There were some, indeed, that went beyond all bounds. One, entitled The little garden of the soul,[416] contained a passage, in which the beheading of John the Baptist and of Anne Boleyn were ascribed to the same motive—the reproach of a criminal love uttered against two princes: one by Anne, and the other by John. Henry compared to Herod! Anne Boleyn to Saint John the Baptist! Tonstall denounced this audacious publication to Cromwell.

The crown-officers were to see that the doctrines of the pope were taught everywhere; but, without the pope and his authority, this system has no solid foundation. The Holy Scriptures, to which evangelical Christians appeal, is a firm foundation. The authority of the pope—a vicious principle—at least puts those who admit it in a position to know what they believe. But catholicism with Romish doctrine and without the pope, {201} has no ground to stand on. Non-Roman-catholicism has but a treacherous support. Another system had already, in the sixteenth century, set up reason as the supreme rule; but it presents a thousand different opinions, and no absolute truth. There is but one real foundation: Thy word is truth, says Jesus Christ.

[393]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 817.

[394]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 818.

[395]   Bossuet, Histoire des Variations, liv. vii. § 30.

[396]   Wilkins, Annals, iii. p. 819.

[397]   Bossuet, Histoire des Variations, liv. vii. § 26.

[398]   Ibid. § 25.

[399]   Council of Trent, sixth session, canons 9 & 11.

[400]   Bossuet, Variations, liv. vii. § 26.

[401]   Ibid.

[402]   Ibid. § 27.

[403]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 822.

[404]   Bossuet, Variations, liv. vii. § 28.

[405]   Lord Herbert of Cherbury, p. 470.

[406]   Heylin, Ecclesia vindicata, p. 15. Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, i. p. 507.

[407]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. pp. 823, 827.

[408]   'Nullius Synodi finem vidi bonum.'—Ibid. p. 808.

[409]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 814.

[410]   State Papers, i. p. 383. Coverdale's Remains, p. 490. The letter is dated the 1st of May, but has no year: it appears to me to be 1530.

[411]   Such copies may be found at the British Museum, and in the libraries at Lambeth and Sion College.

[412]   Strype, i. p. 442.

[413]   Ibid. i. p. 443.

[414]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 429.

[415]   'Two cobblers and weavers, in company, elected in the name of God, there was the true Church of God.'—Strype, Records, i. p. 443.

[416]   Hortulus animæ.—Strype, i. p. 444.

(October, 1536.)

The bastard system of a catholicism without a pope, put forward by the king, did not enjoy great favor, and the evangelical Reform gained fresh adherents every day. The more consistent popish system endeavored to stand against it. There were still many partisans of Rome in the aristocracy and among the populations of the North. A mighty effort was about to be made to expel both Cranmer's protestantism and the king's catholicism, and restore the papacy to its privileges. A great revolution is rarely accomplished without the friends of the old order of things combining to resist it.


Many members of the House of Lords saw with alarm the House of Commons gaining an influence which it had never possessed before, and taking the initiative in reforms which were not (as they thought) within its sphere. Trained in the hatred of heresy, those noble lords were indignant at seeing heretics invested with the episcopal dignity, and a layman, Cromwell, presuming to direct the convocation of the clergy. Some of them {202} formed a league, and Lord Darcy, who was at their head, had a conference on the subject with the ambassador of Charles V. That prince assured him that he should be supported.[417] The English partisans of the pope, aided by the imperialists, would be amply sufficient, they thought, to re-establish the authority of the Roman pontiff.

There was great agitation especially among the inhabitants of the towns and villages of the North. Those of the counties of York and Lincoln, too remote from London to feel its influence, besides being ignorant and superstitious, were submissive to the priests as to the very representatives of God. The names of the Reformers Luther, Melanchthon, Œcolampadius, and Tyndale were known by the priests, who taught their flocks to detest them. Everything they saw exasperated them. If they went a journey, the convents which were their ordinary hostelries existed no longer. If they worked in the fields, they saw approaching them some ragged monk, with tangled hair and beard, with haggard eye, without bread to support him, or roof to shelter him, to whom hatred still gave strength to complain and to curse. These unhappy wretches went roaming up and down the country, knocking at every door; the peasants received them like saints, seated them at their table, and starved themselves for their nourishment. 'See,' said the friars, showing their rags to the people about them, 'see to what a condition the members of Jesus Christ are reduced! A schismatic and heretical prince has expelled us from the houses of the Lord. But the Holy Father has excommunicated and dethroned him: no one should henceforth obey him.' Such words produced their effect.

When the autumn of 1536 had arrived, the ferment increased among the inhabitants of the rural districts who had no longer their field labors to divert them. {203} They assembled in great numbers round the convents to see what the king meant to do with them. They looked on at a distance, and with angry eyes watched the commissioners who at times behaved violently, indulged in exactions, or threw down one after another the stones of the building which had been held in such long reverence. Another day they saw the agent of some lord settle in the monastery with his wife, children, and servants; they heard those profane lay-folks laugh and chatter as they entered the sacred doors, whose thresholds had until now been trodden only by the sandals of the silent monks. A report spread abroad, that the monasteries still surviving were also about to be suppressed. Dr. Makerel, formerly prior of Barlings, disguised as a laborer, and a monk (some writers say a shoemaker) named Melton, who received the name of 'Captain Cobbler,'[418] endeavored to inflame men's minds and drive them to revolt. Everywhere the people listened to the agitators; and ere long the superior clergy appeared in the line of battle. 'Neither the king's highness nor any temporal man,' they said, 'may be supreme head of the Church. The Pope of Rome is Christ's vicar, and must alone be acknowledged as supreme head of Christendom.'[419]


On Monday, 2d of October, 1536, the ecclesiastical commission was to visit the parish of Louth in Lincolnshire,[420] and the clergy of the district were ordered to be present. Only a few days before, a neighboring monastery had been suppressed and two of Cromwell's agents placed in it to see to the closing. The evening before the inspection (it was a Sunday) a number of the townspeople brought out a large silver cross which belonged to the parish, and shouting out, 'Follow the cross! All follow the cross! God knows if we can do so for long,' marched in procession through the town, with {204} Melton leading the way. Some went to the church, took possession of the consecrated jewels, and remained under arms all night to guard them for fear the royal commissioners should carry them off. On Monday morning one of the commissioners, who had no suspicions, quietly rode into the town, followed by a single servant. All of a sudden the alarm-bell was rung, and a crowd of armed men filled the streets. The terrified commissioner ran into the church, hoping to find it an inviolable asylum; but the mob laid hold of him, dragged him out into the market-place, and pointing a sword at his breast, said to him, 'Swear fidelity to the Commons or you are a dead man.' All the town took an oath to be faithful to King, Commons, and Holy Church. On Tuesday morning the alarm-bell was rung again; the cobbler and a tailor named Big Jack marched out, followed by a crowd of men, some on foot and some on horseback. Whole parishes, headed by their priests, joined them and marched with the rest. The monks prayed aloud for the pope, and cried out that if the gentry did not join them they should all be hanged; but gentlemen and even sheriffs united with the tumultuous troops. Twenty thousand men of Lincolnshire were in arms. England, like Germany, had its peasant revolt;[421] but while Luther was opposed to it, the archbishop of York, with many abbots and priests, encouraged it in England.

The insurgents did not delay proclaiming their grievances. They declared that if the monasteries were restored, men of mean birth dismissed from the Council,[422] and heretic bishops deprived, they would acknowledge the king as head of the Church.[423] The movement {205} was got up by the monks more than by the pope. Great disorders were committed.

The court was plunged into consternation by this revolt. The king, who had no standing army, felt his weakness, and his anger knew no bounds. 'What!' he said to the traitors (for such was the name he gave them), 'what! do you, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm, presume to find fault with your king? Return to your homes, surrender to our lieutenants a hundred of your leaders, and prepare to submit to such condign punishment as we shall think you worthy of; otherwise you will expose yourselves, your wives and children, your lands and goods, not only to the indignation of God, but to utter destruction by force and violence of the sword.'

Such threats as these only served to increase the commotion. 'Christianity is going to be abolished,' said the priests; 'you will soon find yourselves under the sword of Turks! But whoever sheds his blood with us shall inherit eternal glory.' The people crowded to them from all quarters. Lord Shrewsbury, sent by the king against the rebellion, being unable to collect more than 3,000 men, and having to contend against ten times as many, had halted at Nottingham. London already imagined the rebels were at its gates, and mighty exertions were made. Sir John Russell and the duke of Suffolk were sent forward with forces hurriedly equipped.

The insurgents were 60,000 strong, but with no efficient leader or store of provisions. Two opinions arose among them: the gentlemen and farmers cried, 'Home, home!' the priests and the people shouted, 'To arms!' The party of the friends of order continued increasing, and at last prevailed. The duke of Suffolk entered Lincolnshire on October 13, and the rebels dispersed.[424]



A still greater danger threatened the established order of things. The men of the North were more ultramontane than those of Lincoln. On October 8 there was a riot at Beverley, in Yorkshire. A Westminster lawyer, Robert Aske, who had passed his vacation in field-sports, was returning to London, when he was stopped by the rebels and proclaimed their leader. On October 15 he marched to York and replaced the monks in possession of their monasteries. Lord Darcy, an old soldier of Ferdinand of Spain and Louis XII., a warm papal partisan, quitted his castle of Pomfret to join the insurrection. The priests stirred up the people,[425] and ere long, the army, which amounted to 40,000 men, formed a long procession, 'the Pilgrimage of Grace,' which marched through the county of York. Each parish paraded under a captain, priests carrying the church cross in front by way of flag. A large banner, which floated in the midst of this multitude, represented on one side Christ with the five wounds on a cross, and on the other a plow, a chalice, a pix, and a hunting-horn. Every pilgrim wore embroidered on his sleeve the five wounds of Christ with the name of Jesus in the midst. The insurgents had a thousand bows and as many bills, besides other arms,[426] but hardly one poor copy of the Testament of Christ. 'Ah!' said Latimer, preaching in Lincolnshire, 'I will tell you what is the true Christian man's pilgrimage. There are, the Saviour tells us, eight days' journeys.' Then he described the eight beatitudes in the most evangelical manner: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the rest.[427]

Aske's pilgrimage was of another sort. Addressing {207} the people of those parts, he said to them: 'Lords, knights, masters, and friends, evil-disposed persons have filled the king's mind with new inventions: the holy body of the Church has been despoiled. We have therefore undertaken this pilgrimage for the reformation of what is amiss and the punishment of heretics.[428] If you will not come with us we will fight and die against you.' Great bonfires were lighted on all the hills to call the people to arms. Wherever these new crusaders appeared the monks were replaced in their monasteries and the peasants constrained to join the pilgrimage, under pain of seeing their houses pulled down, their goods seized, and their bodies handed over to the mercy of the captains.

There was this notable difference between the revolt in Germany and that in the North of England. In Germany, a few nobles only joined the people and were compelled to do so. In England, almost all the nobility of the North rallied to it of their own accord. The earls of Westmoreland, Rutland, and Huntingdon, Lords Latimer, Lumley, Scrope, Conyers, and the representatives of several other great families, followed the example of old Lord Darcy. One single nobleman, Percy, earl of Northumberland, remained faithful to the king. He had been ill since the unjust sentence which had struck the loyal wife of Henry VIII.—a sentence in which he had refused to join—and was now at his castle lying on a bed of pain which was soon to be the bed of death. The rebels surrounded his dwelling and summoned him to join the insurrection. He might now have avenged the crime committed by Henry VIII. against Anne Boleyn, but he refused. Savage voices shouted out, 'Cut off his head, and make Sir Thomas {208} Percy earl in his stead.' But the noble and courageous man said calmly to those around him, 'I can die but once; let them kill me, and so put an end to my sorrows.'[429]

The king, more alarmed at this revolt than at the former one, asked with terror whether his people desired to force him to replace his neck under the detested yoke of the pope. In this crisis he displayed great activity. Being at Windsor, he wrote letter after letter to Cromwell.[430] 'I will sell all my plate,' he said. 'Go to the Tower, take as much plate as you may want, and coin it into money.'[431] Henry displayed no less intelligence than decision. He named as commander of his little army a devoted servant, who was also the chief of the ultramontane party at the court—the duke of Norfolk. Once already, for the condemnation of the protestant Anne Boleyn, Henry had selected this chief of the Romish party. This clever policy succeeded equally well for the king in both affairs.

London, Windsor, and all the south of England were in great commotion. People imagined that the papacy, borne on the lusty arms of the northern men, was about to return in triumph into the capital; that perhaps the Catholic king of the Scots, Henry's nephew, would enter with it and place England once more under the papal sceptre. The friends of the Gospel were deeply agitated. 'That great captain the devil,' said Latimer in the London pulpits, 'has all sorts of ordnance to shoot at Christian men. These men of the North, who wear the cross and the wounds before and behind,[432] are marching against Him who bare the cross and suffered those wounds. They have risen (they {209} say) to support the king, and they are fighting against him. They come forward in the name of the Church, and fight against the Church, which is the congregation of faithful men. Let us fight with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.'

The rebels, far from being calmed, showed—part of them at least—that they were animated by the vilest sentiments. A body of insurgents had invested the castle of Skipton, the only place in the county of York which still held for the king. The wife and daughters of Lord Clifford, and other ladies who inhabited it, happened to be at an abbey not far off, just when the castle was beleaguered. The insurgents caused Lord Clifford to be informed that if he did not surrender, his wife and daughters would be brought next day to the foot of the walls and be given up to the camp-followers. In the middle of the night, Christopher Aske, brother of Robert, who had remained faithful, crept through the camp of the besiegers, and by unfrequented roads succeeded in bringing into the castle all those ladies, whom he thus saved from the most infamous outrages.[433]


Robert Aske, Lord Darcy, the archbishop of York, and several other leaders had their head-quarters at Pomfret castle, where the Lancaster herald, dispatched by the king, presented himself on the 21st of October. After passing through many troops of armed men—'very cruel fellows,' he says[434]—he was at last introduced to the great captain. Seeing Lord Darcy and the archbishop before him—persons more important than the Westminster lawyer—the herald began to address them. Aske was offended, and rising from his seat told him haughtily, that he was the person to be addressed. The messenger discharged his mission. He represented to the leaders of the rebellion that they were but a handful {210} before the great power of his Majesty,[435] and that the king had done nothing in regard to religion, but what the clergy of York and of Canterbury had acknowledged to be in conformity with the Word of God. When the speech was ended, Aske, as if he did not care for the herald's words, said rudely to him, 'Show me your proclamation.' 'He behaved,' wrote the envoy, 'as though he had been some great prince, with great rigor and like a tyrant.' 'Herald,' said Aske, 'this proclamation shall neither be read at the market-cross nor elsewhere amongst my people. We want the redress of our grievances, and we will die fighting to obtain them.' The herald asked what were their grievances. 'My followers and I,' replied the chief, 'will walk in pilgrimage to London, to his Majesty, to expel from the council all the vile blood in it, and set up all the noble blood again;[436] and also to obtain the full restitution of Christ's Church.' 'Will you give me that in writing?' said the herald. Aske gave him the oath which the rebels took, and at the same time putting his hand on the paper, he said with a loud voice, 'This is my act; I will die in its defence, and all my followers will die with me.' The herald, intimidated by the authoritative tone of the chief, bent his knee before the rebel captain, for which he was brought to trial and executed in the following year. 'Give him a guard of forty men, and see him out of town,' said Aske.


Forthwith thirty thousand well-armed men, of whom twelve thousand were mounted, set out under the orders of Aske, Lord Darcy, and other noblemen of the country. Norfolk had only a small force, which he could not trust; accordingly the rebels were convinced, that when they appeared, the king's soldiers and perhaps {211} the duke himself would join them. The Roman-catholic army arrived on the banks of the Don, on the other side of which (at Doncaster) the king's forces were stationed. Those ardent men, who were six against one, inflamed by monks who were impatient to return to their nests, proposed to pass the Don, overthrow Norfolk, enter London, dictate to the king the execution of all the partisans of the Reformation, and restore the papal power in England. The rising of the water, increased by heavy rains, did not permit them to cross the river. Every hour's delay was a gain to the royal cause; the insurgents having brought no provisions with them, were forced to disband to go in search of them elsewhere. Norfolk took advantage of this to circulate an address among the rebels. 'Unhappy men!' it said, 'what folly hath led you to make this most shameful rebellion against our most righteous king, who hath kept you in peace against all your enemies? Fye, for shame! How can you do this to one who loves you more than all his subjects? If you do not return, every man to his house, we will show you the hardest courtesy that ever was shown to men, that have loved you so well as we have done. But if you go to your homes, you shall have us most humble suitors to his Highness for you.'[437] This proclamation was signed by Lords Norfolk, Shrewsbury, Exeter, Rutland, and Huntingdon, all catholics, and the greatest names in England.

The insurgents thus found themselves in the most difficult position. They must attack the supporters of their own cause. If the lords who had signed the proclamation were slain, England would lose her best councillors, and her greatest generals, and the Church would be deprived of the most zealous catholics. The strength of England would be sacrificed and the country opened to her enemies. Old Lord Darcy was for attacking; young Robert Aske for negotiation. On Saturday, 28th {212} of October, commissioners from both parties met on the bridge leading to Doncaster. The rebel commissioners consented to lay down their arms, provided the heresies of Luther, Wicliff, Huss, Melanchthon, Œcolampadius, and the works of Tyndale were destroyed and nullified; that the supremacy was restored to the see of Rome; that the suppressed abbeys were re-established; that heretical bishops and lords were punished by fire or otherwise; and that a parliament was held promptly at Nottingham or York.[438]

There could no longer be any doubt, that the object of the insurrection was to crush the Reformation. The names of most of the reformers were mentioned in the articles, and fire or sword were to do justice to the most illustrious of their adherents. The same evening they handed in a letter addressed: To the King's Royal Highness. From Doncaster, this Saturday, at eleven of the clock at night. Haste, post, haste, haste, haste![439] The rebels themselves were in such haste that they waited no longer. The next day (29th of October) the king's lieutenant announced at one in the afternoon, that the insurgents had dispersed and were returning to their homes.[440] Two of the rebel leaders were to carry the stipulated conditions to the king, and Norfolk was to accompany them. That zealous catholic was not perhaps without a hope that the petition would induce Henry to become reconciled to the pope. He was greatly deceived.

Thus God had scattered the forces of those who had stood up against Wicliff, Huss, and Luther. The kingdom resumed its usual tranquillity. A little later the men of the North, excited by the intrigues of the pope and Reginald Pole, then a cardinal, again took up arms; but they were defeated; seventy of them {213} were hanged on the walls of Carlisle, and Lords Darcy and Hussey, with many barons, abbots, priors, and a great number of priests, were executed in different places. The scheming archbishop of York alone escaped, it is not known how. The cottages, parsonages, and castles of the North were filled with anguish and terror. Henry, who cut off the heads of his most intimate friends and of his queen, did not think of sparing rebels. It was a terrible lesson, but not very effectual. The priests did not lose their courage; they still kept asking for the re-establishment of the pope, the death of the Lutherans, and the annihilation of the Reform. An event which occurred at this time seemed likely to favor their desires. A great blow was about to be dealt against the Reformation. But the ways of God are not as our ways, and from what seems destined to compromise His cause, He often makes His triumph proceed.

[417]   'That he should lack no help.'—State Papers, i. p. 558.

[418]   State Papers, i. p. 462, note.

[419]   Wilkins, Concilia, iii. p. 812.

[420]   State Papers, i. p. 462.

[421]   The State Papers contain several documents relating to this insurrection (vol. i. pp. 462-534). Others are in the Chapter House.

[422]   'Counsellors of mean birth'—particularly Cromwell.—Herbert, p. 474.

[423]   'They might accept his grace to be Supreme Head of the Church.'—Ibid.

[424]   State Papers, i. pp. 462, 471.

[425]   'Certain abbots moved to insurrection.'—Coverdale, Remains, p. 329.

[426]   Bale, Works, p. 327. Bale was Archbishop of York in 1553.

[427]   Latimer, Sermons, i. p. 476.

[428]   State Papers, i. p. 467. Dr. Lingard says that this expedition was named jestingly 'the Pilgrimage of Grace.' He is mistaken: the rebels themselves seriously call it by this name six times in their proclamation.

[429]   Stapleton's Examination.

[430]   October 17 and 18, 1536. Letters liv. to lviii. pp. 475-478, of the State Papers, vol. i.

[431]   State Papers, i. p. 478, 482.

[432]   Latimer, Sermons, p. 29.

[433]   This fact is mentioned in one of the depositions of the trial which followed the revolt. See Christopher Aske's Examination.

[434]   Lancaster Herald's Report.—State Papers, i. p. 485.

[435]   The herald added: 'They shall be constrained the next year to eat their own fingers.'—State Papers, i. p. 476.

[436]   'To have all the vyle blood of his counsell put from him and all noble blood set up again.'—Lancaster Herald's Report, p. 486.

[437]   State Papers, i. p. 495.

[438]   These articles are more or less numerous according to the sources whence they are derived.

[439]   State Papers, i. p. 496.

[440]   Ibid. p. 497.

(From 1535 to October 1536.)

Most of the reformers, Luther, Zuingle, Calvin, Knox, and others have acquired that name by their preachings, their writings, their struggles, and their actions. It is not so with the principal reformer of England: all his activity was concentred in the Holy Scriptures. Tyndale was less prominent than the other instruments of God, who were awakened to upraise the Church. We might say, that knowing the weakness of man, he had retired and hidden himself to allow the Word from {214} Heaven to act by itself. He had studied it, translated it, and sent it over the sea: it must now do its own work. Is it not written: The field is the world, and the seed is the Word? But there is another characteristic, or rather another fact, which distinguishes him from them, and this we have to describe.


While the new adversaries of Henry VIII., Pole and the papistical party, were agitating on the continent, Tyndale, the man whom the king had pursued so long without being able to catch, was in prison at Vilvorde, near Brussels. In vain was he girt around with the thick walls of that huge fortress. Tyndale was free. 'There is the captivity and bondage,' he could say, 'whence Christ delivered us, redeemed and loosed us.[441] His blood, his death, his patience in suffering rebukes and wrongs, his prayers and fastings, his meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law broke the bonds of Satan, wherein we were so strait bound.' Thus Tyndale was as truly free at Vilvorde, as Paul had been at Rome. He felt pressed to accomplish a vow made many years before. 'If God preserves my life,' he had said, 'I will cause a boy that driveth a plow to know more of the Scriptures than the pope.' True Christianity shows itself by the attention it gives to Christ's little ones. It was time for Tyndale to keep his promise. He occupied his prison hours in preparing for the humble dwellers in the Gloucestershire villages and the surrounding counties, an edition of the Bible in which he employed the language and orthography used in that part of England.[442] When near his end, he returned lovingly to the familiar speech of his childhood; he wrote in the dialect of the peasantry to save the souls of {215} the peasants, and for the first time put titles to the chapters of the Scripture, in order to make the understanding of it easier to his humbler fellow-countrymen. Two other editions of the New Testament appeared during the first year of his captivity. He did more: he had translated the Old Testament according to the Hebrew text, and was going to see to the printing of it just when Philips betrayed him. The fear that this labor would be lost grieved him even more than his imprisonment: a friend undertook the work he could no longer do himself.


At that time there lived at Antwerp, as chaplain to the English merchants in that city, a young man from the county of Warwick, named Rogers, who had been educated at Cambridge, and was a little more than thirty years old. Rogers was learned, but submissive to the Romish traditions. Tyndale having made his acquaintance, asked him to help in translating the Holy Scriptures, and Rogers caught joyfully at the opportunity of employing his Greek and Hebrew. Close and constant contact with the Word of God gradually effected in him that great transformation, that total renewal of the man which is the object of redemption. 'I have found the true light in the Gospel,' he said one day to Tyndale; 'I now see the filthiness of Rome, and I cast from my shoulders the heavy yoke it had imposed upon me.'[443] From that hour Tyndale received from Rogers the help which he had formerly received from John Fryth, that pious martyr, whose example Rogers was to follow by enduring, the first under Mary, the punishment of fire. The Holy Scriptures have been written in English with the blood of martyrs—if we may so speak—the blood of Fryth, Tyndale, and Rogers: it is a crown of glory for that translation. At the moment of Tyndale's perfidious arrest, Rogers had fortunately saved the manuscript of the Old Testament, {216} and now resolved to delay the printing no longer. When the news of this reached the Reformer in his cell at Vilvorde, it cast a gleam of light upon his latter days and filled his heart with joy. The whole Bible,—that was the legacy which the dying Tyndale desired to leave to his fellow-countrymen. He took pleasure in his gloomy dungeon in following with his mind's eye that divine Scripture from city to city and from cottage to cottage; his imagination pictured to him the struggles it would have to go through, and also its victories. 'The Word of God,' he said, 'never was without persecution—no more than the sun can be without his light. By what right doth the pope forbid God to speak in the English tongue? Why should not the sermons of the Apostles, preached no doubt in the mother-tongue of those who heard them, be now written in the mother-tongue of those who read them?' Tyndale did not think of proving the divinity of the Bible by learned dissertations. 'Scripture derives its authority from Him who sent it,' he said. 'Would you know the reason why men believe in Scripture?—It is Scripture.—It is itself the instrument which outwardly leads men to believe, whilst inwardly, the spirit of God Himself, speaking through Scripture, gives faith to His children.'[444] We do not know for certain in what city Rogers printed the great English folio Bible. Hamburg, Antwerp, Marburg, Lubeck, and even Paris have been named. Extraordinary precautions were required to prevent the persecutors from entering the house where men had the boldness to print the Word of God, and from breaking the printing-presses. Tyndale had the great comfort of knowing that the whole Bible was going to be published, and that prophets, apostles, and Christ himself would speak by it after his death.[445]



This man, so active, so learned, and so truly great, whose works circulated far and wide with so much power, had at the same time within him a pure and beneficent light—the love of God and of man—which shed its mild rays on all around him. The depth of his faith, the charm of his conversation, the uprightness of his conduct, touched those who came near him.[446] The jailer liked to bring him his food, in order to talk with him, and his young daughter often accompanied him and listened eagerly to the words of the pious Englishman. Tyndale spoke of Jesus Christ; it seemed to him that the riches of the divine Spirit were about to transform Christendom; that the children of God were about to be manifested, and that the Lord was about to gather together his elect. 'Grace is there, summer is nigh,' he was wont to say, 'for the trees blossom.'[447] In truth, young shoots and even old trees, long barren, flourished within the very walls of the castle. The jailer, his daughter, and other members of their house were converted to the Gospel by Tyndale's life and doctrine.[448] However dark the machinations of his enemies, they could not obscure the divine light kindled in his heart, and which shone before men. There was an invincible power in this Christian man. Full of hope in the final victory of Jesus Christ, he courageously trampled under foot tribulations, trials, and death itself. He believed in the victory of the Word. 'I am bound like a malefactor,' he said, 'but the Word of God is not bound.' The bitterness of his last days was changed into great peace and divine sweetness.


His friends did not forget him. Among the English {218} merchants at Antwerp was one whose affection had often reminded him that 'friendship is the assemblage of every virtue,' as a wise man of antiquity styles it.[449] Thomas Poyntz, one of whose ancestors had come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror, had perhaps known the reformer in the house of Lady Walsh, who also belonged to this ancient family. For nearly a year the merchant had entertained the translator of the Scriptures beneath his roof, and a mutual and unlimited confidence was established between them. When Poyntz saw his friend in prison, he resolved to do everything to save him. Poyntz's elder brother John, who had retired to his estate at North Okendon, in Essex, had accompanied the king in 1520 to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and although no longer at court, he still enjoyed the favor of Henry VIII. Thomas determined to write to John. 'Right well-beloved brother,' he said, 'William Tyndale is in prison, and like to suffer death, unless the king should extend his gracious help to him. He has lain in my house three quarters of a year, and I know that the king has never a truer-hearted subject.[450] When the pope gave his Majesty the title of Defender of the Faith, he prophesied like Caiaphas. The papists thought our prince should be a great maintainer of their abominations; but God has entered his grace into the right battle. The king should know that the death of this man will be one of the highest pleasures to the enemies of the Gospel. If it might please his Majesty to send for this man, it might, by the means thereof, be opened to the court and council of this country (Brabant) that they would be at another point with the bishop of Rome within a short space.'

John lost no time: he succeeded in interesting Cromwell in the reformer's cause, and on the 10th of September {219} 1535, a messenger arrived in Antwerp with two letters from the vicar-general—one for the marquis of Bergen-op-zoom, and the other for Carondelet, archbishop of Palermo and president of the council of Brabant. Alas! the marquis had started two days before for Germany, whither he was conducting the princess of Denmark. Thomas Poyntz mounted his horse, and caught up the escort about fifteen miles from Maestricht. The marquis hurriedly glanced over Cromwell's dispatch. 'I have no leisure to write,' he said; 'the princess is making ready to depart.' 'I will follow you to the next baiting place,' answered Tyndale's indefatigable friend. 'Be it so,' replied Bergen-op-zoom.

On arriving at Maestricht, the marquis wrote to Flegge, to Cromwell, and to his friend the archbishop, president of the council of Brabant, and gave the three letters to Poyntz. The latter presented the letters of Cromwell and of the marquis to the president, but the archbishop and the council of Brabant were opposed to Tyndale. Poyntz immediately started for London, and laid the answer of the council before Cromwell, entreating him to insist that Tyndale should be immediately set at liberty, for the danger was great. The answer was delayed a month.[451] Poyntz handed it to the chancery of Brabant, and every day this true and generous friend went to the office to learn the result. 'Your request will be granted,' said one of the clerks on the fourth day. Poyntz was transported with joy. Tyndale was saved.[452]

The traitor Philips, however, who had delivered him to his enemies, was then at Louvain. He had run away from Antwerp, knowing that the English merchants were angry with him, and had sold his books {220} with the intent of escaping to Paris. But the Louvain priests, who still needed him, reassured him, and remaining in that stronghold of Romanism, he began to translate into Latin such passages in Tyndale's writings as he thought best calculated to offend the catholics. He was thus occupied when the news of Tyndale's approaching deliverance filled him and his friends with alarm. What was to be done? He thought the only means of preventing the liberation of the prisoner was to shut up the liberator himself.[453] Philips went straight to the procurator-general. 'That man, Poyntz,' he said, 'is as much a heretic as Tyndale.' Two sergeants-at-arms were sent to keep watch over Poyntz at his house, and for six days in succession he was examined upon a hundred different articles. At the beginning of February 1536, he learnt that he was about to be sent to prison, and knowing what would follow, he formed a prompt resolution. One night, when the sergeants-at-arms were asleep, he escaped and left the city early, just as the gates were opened. Horsemen were sent in search of him; but as Poyntz knew the country well, he escaped them, got on board a ship, and arrived safe and sound at his brother's house at North Okendon.


When Tyndale heard of this escape, he knew what it indicated; but he was not overwhelmed, and almost at the foot of the scaffold, he bravely fought many a tough battle. The Louvain doctors undertook to make him abjure his faith, and represented to him that he was condemned by the Church. 'The authority of Jesus Christ,' answered Tyndale, 'is independent of the authority of the Church.' They called upon him to make submission to the successor of the Apostle Peter. 'Holy Scripture,' he said, 'is the first of the Apostles, and the ruler in the kingdom of Christ.'[454] The {221} Romish doctors ineffectually attacked him in his prison: he showed them that they were entangled in vain traditions and miserable superstitions, and overthrew all their pretences.

During this time Poyntz was working with all his might in England to ward off the blow by which his friend was about to be struck. John assisted Thomas, but all was useless. Henry just at that time was making great efforts to arrest some of his subjects, whom their devotion to the pope had driven out of England. 'Cover all the roads with spies, in order to catch them,' he wrote to the German magistrates;[455] but there was not a word about Tyndale. The king cared very little for these evangelicals. His religion consisted in rejecting the Roman pontiff and making himself pope; as for those reformers, let them be burnt in Brabant, it will save him the trouble.

All hope was not, however, lost. They had confidence in the vicegerent, the hammer of the monks. On the 13th of April Vaughan wrote to Cromwell from Antwerp: 'If you will send me a letter for the privy-council, I can still save Tyndale from the stake; only make haste, for if you are slack about it, it will be too late.'[456] But there were cases in which Cromwell could do nothing without the king, and Henry was deaf. He had special motives at that time for sacrificing Tyndale: the discontent which broke out in the North of England made him desirous of conciliating the Low Countries. Charles V. also, who was vigorously attacked by Francis I., prayed his very good brother (Henry VIII.) to unite with him for the public good of Christendom.[457] Queen Mary, regent of the Netherlands, wrote from Brussels to her uncle, entreating him to yield to this prayer, and the king was quite ready to abandon Tyndale to such powerful allies. Mary, a woman of upright heart but {222} feeble character, easily yielded to outward impressions, and had at that time bad counsellors about her. 'Those animals (the monks) are all powerful at the Court of Brussels,' said Erasmus. 'Mary is only a puppet placed there by our nation; Montigny is the plaything of the Franciscans; the cardinal-archbishop of Liège is a domineering person, and full of violence; and as for the archbishop of Palermo, he is a mere giver of words and nothing else.'[458]

Among such personages, and under their influence, the court was formed, and the trial of the reformer of England began. Tyndale refused to be represented by counsel. 'I will answer my accusers myself,' he said. The doctrine for which he was tried was this: 'The man who throws off the worldly existence which he has lived far from God, and receives by a living faith the complete remission of his sins, which the death of Christ has purchased for him, is introduced by a glorious adoption into the very family of God.' This was certainly a crime for which a reformer could joyfully suffer. In August 1536, Tyndale appeared before the ecclesiastical court. 'You are charged,' said his judges, 'with having infringed the imperial decree which forbids any one to teach that faith alone justifies.'[459] The accusation was not without truth. Tyndale's Unjust Mammon had just appeared in London under the title: Treatise of Justification by Faith only. Every man could read in it the crime with which he was charged.

Tyndale had his reasons when he declared he would defend himself. It was not his own cause that he undertook to defend, but the cause of the Bible; a Brabant lawyer would have supported it very poorly. It was in his heart to proclaim solemnly, before he died, {223} that while all human religions make salvation proceed from the works of man, the divine religion makes it proceed from a work of God. 'A man, whom the sense of his sins has confounded,' said Tyndale, 'loses all confidence and joy. The first thing to be done to save him is, therefore, to lighten him of the heavy burden under which his conscience is bowed down. He must believe in the perfect work of Christ which reconciles him completely with God; then he has peace, and Christ imparts to him, by his Spirit, a holy regeneration.—Yes,' he exclaimed, 'we believe and are at peace in our consciences, because that God who cannot lie, hath promised to forgive us for Christ's sake. As a child, when his father threateneth him for his fault, hath never rest till he hear the word of mercy and forgiveness of his father's mouth again; but as soon as he heareth his father say, "Go thy way, do me no more so; I forgive thee this fault!" then is his heart at rest; then runneth he to no man to make intercession for him; neither, though there come any false merchant, saying: "What wilt thou give me and I will obtain pardon of thy father for thee," will he suffer himself to be beguiled. No, he will not buy of a wily fox what his father hath given him freely.'[460]


Tyndale had spoken to the consciences of his hearers, and some of them were beginning to believe that his cause was the cause of the Gospel. 'Truly,' exclaimed the procurator-general, as did formerly the centurion near the cross; 'truly this was a good, learned, and pious man.'[461] But the priests would not allow so costly a prey to be snatched from them. Tyndale was declared guilty of erroneous, captious, rash, ill-sounding, dangerous, scandalous, and heretical propositions, and was condemned to be solemnly degraded and then handed {224} over to the secular power.[462] They were eager to make him go through the ceremonial, even all the mummeries, used on such occasions: it was too good a case to allow of any curtailment. The reformer was dressed in his sacerdotal robes, the sacred vessels and the Bible were placed in his hands, and he was taken before the bishop. The latter, having been informed of the crime of the accused man, stripped him of the ornaments of his order, took away the Bible from the translator of the Bible; and after a barber had shaved the whole of his head, the bishop declared him deprived of the crown of the priesthood, and expelled, like an undutiful child, from the inheritance of the Lord.

One day would have been sufficient to cut off from this world the man who was its ornament, and those who walked in the darkness of fanaticism waited impatiently for the fatal hour; but the secular power hesitated for awhile, and the reformer stayed nearly two months longer in prison, always full of faith, peace, and joy. 'Well,' said those who came near him in the castle of Vilvorde, 'if that man is not a good Christian, we do not know of one upon earth.' Religious courage was personified in Tyndale. He had never suffered himself to be stopped by any difficulty, privation, or suffering; he had resolutely followed the call he had received, which was to give England the Word of God. Nothing had terrified him, nothing had dispirited him; with admirable perseverance he had continued his work, and now he was going to give his life for it. Firm in his convictions, he had never sacrificed the least truth to prudence or to fear; firm in his hope, he had never doubted that the labor of his life would bear fruit, for that labor had the promises of God. That pious and intrepid man is one of the noblest examples of Christian heroism.



The faint hope which some of Tyndale's friends had entertained, on seeing the delay of justice, was soon destroyed. The imperial government prepared at last to complete the wishes of the priests. Friday, the 6th of October, 1536, was the day that terminated the miserable but glorious life of the reformer. The gates of the prison rolled back, a procession crossed the foss and the bridge, under which slept the waters of the Senne,[463] passed the outward walls, and halted without the fortifications. Before leaving the castle, Tyndale, a grateful friend, had intrusted the jailer with a letter intended for Poyntz; the jailer took it himself to Antwerp not long after, but it has not come down to us. On arriving at the scene of punishment, the reformer found a numerous crowd assembled. The government had wished to show the people the punishment of a heretic, but they only witnessed the triumph of a martyr. Tyndale was calm. 'I call God to record,' he could say, 'that I have never altered, against the voice of my conscience, one syllable of his Word. Nor would do this day, if all the pleasures, honors, and riches of the earth might be given me.'[464] The joy of hope filled his heart: yet one painful idea took possession of him. Dying far from his country, abandoned by his king, he felt saddened at the thought of that prince, who had already persecuted so many of God's servants, and who remained obstinately rebellious against that divine light which everywhere shone around him. Tyndale would not have that soul perish through carelessness. His charity buried all the faults of the monarch: he prayed that those sins might be blotted out from before the face of God; he would have saved Henry VIII. at any cost. While the executioner was fastening him to the post, the reformer exclaimed in a loud and suppliant voice: 'Lord, open the king of England's eyes!'[465] They were his last words. {226} Instantly afterwards he was strangled, and flames consumed the martyr's body. His last cry was wafted to the British isles, and repeated in every assembly of Christians. A great death had crowned a great life. 'Such,' says the old chronicler, John Foxe, 'such is the story of that true servant and martyr of God, William Tyndale, who, for his notable pains and travail, may well be called the Apostle of England in this our later age.'[466]

His fellow-countrymen profited by the work of his life. As early as 1526 more than twenty editions of Tyndale's New Testament had been circulated over the kingdom, and others had followed them. It was like a mighty river continually bearing new waters to the sea. Did the reformer's death dry them up suddenly? No. A greater work still was to be accomplished: the entire Bible was ready. But could it be circulated? The king had refused his consent to the circulation of Coverdale's Bible; would he not do the same with this, and with greater reason? A powerful protector alone could secure the free circulation of Scripture. Richard Grafton, the printer, went to London to ask permission to sell the precious volume, and with the intention of applying to Cranmer.

Would Cranmer protect it? The king and Cromwell had declared against Tyndale, and the primate had looked on: that was too much his custom. His essentially prudent mind, the conviction he felt that he could do no good to the Church unless he kept the place he occupied, and perhaps his love of life, inclined him to yield to his master's despotic will. So long as Henry VIII. was on the throne of England, Cranmer was (humanly speaking) the only possible reformer. A John the Baptist, a Knox, would have been dashed to pieces at the first shock. The sceptre was then an axe; to save the head, it was necessary to bend it. The primate, therefore, bent his head frequently. He hid {227} himself during the royal anger, but when the storm had passed he appeared again. The primate was the victim of an error. He had said that the king ought to command the Church, and every time the tyrant's order was heard, he appeared to believe that God himself enjoined him to obey. Cranmer was the image of his Church which, under the weight of its greatness and with many weaknesses hidden beneath its robes, has notwithstanding always had within it a mighty principle of truth and life.

Grafton, the printer, had an audience of the archbishop at Forde, in Kent: he presented the martyr's Bible, and asked him to procure its free circulation. The archbishop took the book, examined it, and was delighted with it. Fidelity, clearness, strength, simplicity, unction—all were combined in this admirable translation. Cranmer had much eagerness in proposing what he thought useful. He sent the volume to Cromwell, begging him to present it to his Majesty and obtain permission for it to be sold, 'until such time that we (the bishops),' he added, 'shall put forth a better translation—which, I think, will not be till a day after doomsday.'[467]


Henry ran over the book: Tyndale's name was not in it, and the dedication to his Majesty was very well written. The king regarding (and not without reason) Holy Scripture as the most powerful engine to destroy the papal system, and believing that this translation would help him to emancipate England from the Romish domination, came to an unexpected resolution: he authorized the sale and the reading of the Bible throughout the kingdom. Inconsistent and whimsical prince! at one and the same time he published and imposed all over his realm the doctrines of Romanism, and circulated without obstacle the Divine Word that overthrew them! We may well say that the blood of a {228} martyr, precious in the eyes of the Supreme King, opened the gates of England to the Holy Scriptures. Cromwell having informed the archbishop of the royal decision, the latter exclaimed, 'What you have just done gives me more pleasure than if you had given me a thousand pounds. I doubt not but that hereby such fruit of good knowledge shall ensue, that it shall well appear hereafter, what high and acceptable service you have done unto God and the king, which shall so much redound to your honor that (besides God's reward) you shall obtain perpetual memory for the same.'[468]


For centuries the English people had been waiting for such a permission, even from before the time of Wycliff; and accordingly the Bible circulated rapidly. The impetuosity with which the living waters rushed forth, carrying with them everything they met in their course, was like the sudden opening of a huge floodgate. This great event, more important than divorces, treaties, and wars, was the conquest of England by the Reformation. 'It was a wonderful thing to see,' says an old historian.[469] Whoever possessed the means bought the book and read it or had it read to him by others. Aged persons learnt their letters in order to study the Holy Scriptures of God. In many places there were meetings for reading; poor people clubbed their savings together and purchased a Bible, and then in some remote corner of the church,[470] they modestly formed a circle, and read the Holy Book between them. A crowd of men, women, and young folks, disgusted with the barren pomp of the altars, and with the worship of dumb images, would gather round them to taste the precious promises of the Gospel. God himself spoke under the arched roofs of those old chapels or time-worn cathedrals, where for {229} generations nothing had been heard but masses and litanies. The people wished, instead of the noisy chants of the priests, to hear the voice of Jesus Christ, of Paul and of John, of Peter and of James. The Christianity of the Apostles reappeared in the Church.

But with it came persecution, according to the words of the Master: The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child. A father exasperated because his son, a mere boy, had taken part in these holy readings, caught him by the hair, and put a cord round his neck to hang him.[471] In all the towns and villages of Tyndale's country the holy pages were opened, and the delighted readers found therein those treasures of peace and joy which the martyr had known. Many cried out with him, 'We know that this Word is from God, as we know that fire burns; not because any one has told us, but because a Divine fire consumes our hearts. O the brightness of the face of Moses! O the splendor of the glory of Jesus Christ, which no veil conceals! O the inward power of the Divine word, which compels us, with so much sweetness, to love and to do! O the temple of God within us, in which the Son of God dwells!'[472] Tyndale had desired to see the world on fire by his Master's Word, and that fire was kindled.

The general dissemination of the Holy Scriptures forms an important epoch in the Reformation of England. It is like one of those pillars which separate one territory from another. Here, for the moment, we suspend our course, and repose for a brief space ere we turn our steps to other countries.

[441]   Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 18.

[442]   'The Newe Testament dylygently corrected and compared with the Greke, by Willyam Tyndale, and finished in the yere of our Lord God M.D. anno xxv.' There is a copy of it in the Cambridge Library. In this edition Tyndale wrote, 'faether, maester, sayede,' &c., instead of 'father, master, said.'

[443]   Foxe, Acts, vi. p. 591.

[444]   Tyndale's Works, vol. i. pp. 131, 161, 148; vol. iii. pp. 136, 139.

[445]   Mr. Christopher Anderson, who has displayed such a combination of learning and discernment in his work entitled The Annals of the English Bible, comes to no decision as to the place of impression. He only remarks that if we examine well the capital letters, initials, &c., we may now be able to name the printing office from which that volume proceeded.

[446]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 127.

[447]   Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 83.

[448]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 127.

[449]   Pythagoras in the Epicteti Enchir. p. 334.

[450]   Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, i. p. 427.

[451]   'Let not to take pains with loss of time in his own business.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 124.

[452]   'Master Tyndale should have been delivered to him.'—Ibid.

[453]   'He knew no other remedy but to accuse Poyntz.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 430.

[454]   Tyndale, Works, ii. pp. 195, 251.

[455]   Tyndale, Works, ii. pp. 195, 251.

[456]   State Papers, vii. pp. 662, 663, 665.

[457]   Ibid. ix. pp. 662-664.

[458]   Letter to Cholerus. Erasmus died shortly after, on the 12th of July, 1536.

[459]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 127. Urkunden des Augsburg Reichtages, ii. p. 719.

[460]   Tyndale, Works, i. p. 294.

[461]   'Homo doctus, pius, et bonus.'—Foxe, Acts, v. p. 127.

[462]   John Hutton (the English agent) to Lord Cromwell, 12th August, 1536.—State Papers, vii. p. 665.

[463]   The present prison is built on the other bank of the river.

[464]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 134.

[465]   Ibid. p. 129.

[466]   Foxe, Acts, v. p. 114.

[467]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains (4th August, 1537), p. 344.

[468]   Cranmer, Letters and Remains, p. 346.

[469]   Strype, Cranmer Mem. p. 91.

[470]   'Several poor men ... on Sunday sat reading in the lower end of the Church.'—Ibid.

[471]   Strype, Cranmer Mem., p. 92.

[472]   Tyndale's Works, vol. i. pp. 27, 317, 373, 463; vol. ii. pp. 210, 260; vol. iii. p. 26.



(January to June 1535.)

The Reformation of Geneva, prepared by the restoration of civil liberty and begun by the reading of the Word of God and the teaching of various evangelists, was about to be definitively carried out by the devout ministry of Froment, Viret, and particularly of Farel. Afterwards Calvin, in accord with the Councils, who never renounced their right of intervention, will strengthen the foundations and organize and crown the edifice. The civil and ecclesiastical powers had (especially since the days of Hildebrand) struggled continually with each other in the different nations of Christendom, and stirred up hatreds, divisions, and wars. A better state of things was to take the place of these perpetual troubles. Church and State were not always to be united even in Geneva; but they would show more moderation in their relations, would more frequently have the same thoughts, and would advance hand in hand towards a mutual independence, which would not, however, estrange them from each other.


At the beginning of 1535 the opposition to Reform {231} was still vigorous in that city, whose inhabitants were discussing the important question whether liberty was a good or an evil? The partisans of the pope and Savoy tried to demonstrate to such of the citizens as were known to be in favor of civil liberty and religious reform, that their condition would go from bad to worse, if they did not accept the sovereignty of their bishop, the protectorate of a neighboring prince, and the supremacy of the pope—three masters for one. The fruits of that independence with which they were so captivated, would be (they said) agitation, disorder, violence, and misery. The feudal party was sincerely convinced that the path of liberty is rugged and dangerous; that he who follows it stumbles, falls, and is ruined; and that whether a nation be great or small, it needs an absolute and energetic power to keep it in order. They advised the Genevese to lay aside their fine theories, their old parchments, and their ancient franchises, and to take a master if they desired to see peace, wealth, pleasure, and prosperity abound within their walls.

The citizens rejected this advice. They believed that as the liberties they possessed came from their fathers, they ought not to rob their children of them. They knew that independence had dangers, privations, and troubles to which they must submit. But life itself is not without them, and we should not think that a reason for making away with it. If God has enriched man with noble faculties, it is not that he may mutilate or stifle them, but develop, regulate, and increase them. No man worthy of the name voluntarily accepts laws in the making of which he has had no share. Cæsarism, violence, and secret societies cannot be substituted in a nation for independence, justice, and publicity. Despotism dwarfs a man, liberty strengthens him. To take it away in order to prevent abuses, is to change the work and plan of the Creator.

And yet everything seemed to indicate that liberty {232} and reform were about to be destroyed in Geneva. An assembly of the Swiss Cantons held, as we have seen, at Lucerne on the 1st of January, 1535, had been occupied about Geneva; and Berne, the only canton that wished well to the Genevese, had consented that the bishop and the duke should be reinstated in the rights which they pretended to possess, provided religion remained free; for, the Bernese had added, 'faith is the gift of God.' But the envoys of Savoy had demanded the complete and unconditional recognition of the absolute authority of the duke and the bishop, which alone (they affirmed) could put an end to all hatred and effusion of blood.[473] The diet had decided on this, so that the reformation and independence of Geneva were about to be annihilated by the Swiss themselves.


But it is when men draw back that help is nearest. If all were resolved, outside of Geneva, to destroy its Reformation, the small phalanx of citizens within its walls was not less resolved to uphold it. Three parties called for it alike. The old huguenots wanted it to be immediate, violent even if necessary; the magistrates wished it to be legal, slow, and diplomatic; and the evangelicals desired it to be spiritual and peaceably accomplished by the Word of God. There were many pious souls in the houses of people of mark, as well as in obscure dwellings, who cried to God day and night for the triumph of the good cause. That little city of 12,000 souls had determined to resist the powers who wanted to crush it. Without hesitation, without fear, Geneva trusted in God and marched onwards. The period (7th of February) having arrived at which the magistrates were elected every year, the Genevese resolutely voted to the first offices of the state the friends of independence and reform.[474] Among the councillors there were {233} also some of the most decided huguenots.[475] With such men—with Farel, Viret, and Froment within its walls, and with the Divine protection, the transformation of Geneva seemed imminent, notwithstanding the efforts of Switzerland, Piedmont, the emperor, and the pope.

The government party desired to precipitate nothing; they intended to conciliate opposite opinions, and to seek a certain middle course which would satisfy everybody; but the cause of the Reformation and of liberty fermented in many hearts. Those waters, which the magistrates would have desired to see motionless, were strongly agitated, and the Roman ship, already dismasted, might be suddenly engulfed. Almost every day some citizen, some woman, or even some monk, left the Church of the pope and entered the Church of the Gospel; or else some foreign Christian, who had forsaken everything to obey his conscience, entered the free city, principally by the gate of France. Those pious refugees were received like brothers. People gathered round them, looked at them, and questioned them. The strangers told how they had waged a bitter war, endured vile reproaches, wept much and groaned much; but the annoyances they had suffered (they added) appeared light, now that they had found deliverance and liberty. The Christians of Geneva were strengthened by the faith of these noble confessors of Jesus Christ. The reforming torrent increased, it was seen rushing against the weakened barriers. The Roman-catholics both from without and within vainly endeavored to check it; it was about to sweep away the worm-eaten timbers of popery.[476] The council, however, {234} seemed motionless. The ardent Bandière was pushing forward, the catholic Philippin was holding back; but the halfway opinions of the chief syndic and of Du Molard finally prevailed.

The moderate party agreed that some concession ought to be made to the evangelical party, if they wished to remain in office. A good opportunity occurred of realizing this plan. They discovered a gray friar who offered to preach the Word of God, while wearing the hood of St. Francis. To give a mitigated Gospel, under a Roman form, is the plan ordinarily chosen by those who have set peace before truth. One or two days after the election of syndics, the cordelier, supported by the council, asked the Chapter for a place to preach in. The canons, who were a little mistrustful, examined him: he wore the brown frock of St. Francis, and a cord served him for a girdle. Still they feared there was something underneath. 'Go to the vicar-episcopal, who lives at Gex,' they said. The 'evangelical monk' did so; but the vicar also regarded him with an uneasy look. 'My lord bishop,' he answered, 'will soon come to Geneva; he will bring with him whatever preacher he likes.' The poor Franciscan came back and told the council that they had bowed him out everywhere. Two councillors now waited upon the Chapter to support the monk's petition; when some of them, who lived as canons do, as idly as can be imagined, suddenly found that they had their hands full. 'We have to read the service,' they answered, 'and it is so long! and then there is other work to do; there is the procession, in which we must walk in order. We have not the time to think about preaching! Make the best arrangement you can.' The council was disgusted. To bawl out litanies, that was a pressing matter; but to have the Word of God preached was a supererogatory work. 'Well then,' said the offended syndics to the monk, 'we will give you a place ourselves,' and they assigned him {235} the church of St. Germain, situated in a district devoted to catholicism. This was Saturday, 12th of February, the eve of the first Sunday in Lent.[477]

The report of this decision threw the catholics of the parish into confusion, and there were violent scenes in many a household. The women were beside themselves; they abused their husbands, called them cowards, and enjoined them to oppose the monk's sermon. One of them, by name Pernette, was distinguished in this opposition. Small, fat, short-legged, and with her head between the shoulders, she was so like a ball that they called her in the city Touteronde.[478] But a restless spirit agitated her little body, and a big voice came out of it. Pernette bestirred herself, plotted in-doors, shouted in the streets, and at last went to see the parish-priest.

The priest of St. Germain and bishop's procurator-fiscal was Thomas Vandel, brother of Robert, Pierre, and Hugues. He was an undecided character, disposed to walk like his brothers in the way of independence, but close ties attached him to the bishop, and he hesitated. Divided in heart, he was continually driven backwards and forwards by opposing sentiments.

For the moment, thanks to the efforts of certain canons and noble ladies, the wind at the parsonage was favorable for the papacy. Certain huguenots, however, were just then speaking in a loud voice; and Vandel, unwilling to pronounce for either side, threw the burden on the principal members of his parish, by requesting them to present a petition to the council.


On Sunday morning a little before the hour at which the monk was to preach, the deputation proceeded to the hôtel-de-ville. The members were really speaking for their wives. There was no question of heresy. 'We fear that there may be a disturbance,' they said, 'and therefore beg to have our usual service.' The syndics {236} answered, 'You will hear the preacher. If he preaches well, he shall stay; but if he preaches any novelty, anything contrary to Holy Scripture, he will be expelled.' Accordingly the priest had it announced in the church that the monk would preach by order of the council. The women and a few men returned to their homes much irritated. An insurrection was at once organized; a clerical partisan collected a number of the parishioners about him in the street and shouted out, 'Shut the church doors against the gray friar.' Pernette, who was there, went home, caught up a great wooden pestle with which she used to pound salt,[479] and brandishing it like a club, marched fiercely to the combat. A great number of women, among whom were some of rather questionable morality, surrounded her, crying, 'The Lutherans want to give us a preacher. Oh, the dogs, the dogs!' Pernette raised her pestle and declared she would brain the first heretic who dared approach the pulpit. Her bellicose companions followed her, entered the church, drew up in battle-array, and waited for the enemy. Directly the cordelier appeared, they began to make a great uproar,[480] and rushed in front of him, shouting and tossing their arms and their weapons. Pernette got on a chair, and brandished the pestle over their heads. The Reformed who had entered the doors gathered round the preacher, crying, 'Forward, courage!' and made a way for the monk, who, little by little, reached the foot of the pulpit. 'Then,' says sister Jeanne de Jussie, 'that apostate from St. Francis, who still wore the robe of the holy order, began to preach in the heretical fashion.'[481] But as soon as the Franciscan opened his mouth, Pernette gave the signal by raising her pestle, and immediately the bigots of both {237} sexes made such an uproar that the cordelier was compelled to be silent.

The council, unwilling to see their orders defied, took proceedings against the rioters. The friend of the priests who had prompted the insurrection lost his citizenship; Pernette was condemned to a few days' imprisonment on bread and water; and two other women of loose conduct were banished from the city. From that time the cordelier preached in peace; and the curé seeing which way the wind was blowing, graciously received him into his own house. Before long he began to have a liking for the monk's opinions, and appeared to range himself on the side of the Gospel.[482]

This victory—as was natural—precipitated the movement of the Reformation in Geneva. Easter day was kept with much fervor by the friends of the Gospel. They went in considerable numbers to the Lord's table, which was spread at the Rive convent. Husbands accompanied their wives; the young guided the old. Some huguenots, who probably were not among the communicants, wishing to prove to the catholics, that although they were in the last days of Holy Week, the bells had not made a journey to Rome, as the priests led the superstitious people to believe, rang them in loud peals on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, says sister Jeanne.[483] The fanatical adversaries of the Reformation, exasperated by this progress, were about to take a cruel revenge.


Gaudet of St. Cloud, near Paris, a pious man and formerly knight of Rhodes,[484] saw with joy this active movement of Reform. Accordingly, he had left his uncle, the Commander of Rhodes, Sire Loys Brunis de Compésières, a man heartily devoted to the pope, and had gone and settled in Geneva with his wife and {238} household. The city of the huguenots was specially adapted to offer a refuge to the exiles. Then, at least, there was no exclusive aristocracy; every individuality had its place. Any one might by his intelligence and energy take his seat among the notables. Gaudet, touched by these liberal manners, and edified by the zeal with which Farel and the other ministers scattered the true doctrine of the Son of God amidst great difficulties,[485] lived happily in Geneva, heard the preaching and even preached himself, which seemed extraordinary in a knight of Rhodes. One day a Genevese Roman-catholic, visiting the Commander of Compésières, told him what his nephew was doing. When Sire Loys heard that the knight of Rhodes was turning heretic and preacher, he resolved to get him out of so dangerous a city, and to that end gave his visitor a letter in which Gaudet was invited to go to Gex, where he would find important news from Paris. Gaudet set off. It was not an easy thing at that time to make this journey. Genevese mamelukes, Savoyard knights, and other brigands filled the castle of Peney. Perched on the walls, they kept watch on all the surrounding country, and as soon as they perceived a traveller, they swooped down upon their prey, and carried him off to their eyrie. Their brigandage was the chief topic of conversation in all the country round. 'On the 9th of February of this year,' people said at Geneva, 'three cordeliers and two printers, all disciples of the Gospel, who had come from France and were journeying hither, were carried away from the inn at which they had halted by twelve arquebusiers from Peney. A little later another Frenchman was taken, tortured, and hanged. Between the 1st and 5th of April several Genevans were taken to the castle with their hands tied behind them like criminals. A huguenot, condemned, without proof, of having helped to drive the bishop out of Geneva, was torn limb {239} from limb by horses in the courtyard at Peney. The garrison of that castle creates continual alarm night and day; and carries off cattle, goods, and even men, women and children.'[486] Such savage acts were of a nature to prevent Gaudet from acting upon his uncle's invitation; but a knight of Rhodes knows no fear. He reached Gex on the 22d of June without hindrance, and departed the next morning. He was travelling without suspicion when some armed men pounced upon him and carried him off to the castle of Peney.


The fanatics who had taken up their abode there, tried to bring Gaudet back to the teaching of Rome; but as their efforts were useless, they took other means which doubtless were not to be found in his uncle's instructions. They kept him for about five days in great torment.[487] 'If you will recant,' they said, 'your life shall be spared.' But the ex-knight knew that we have to fight continually, and he had the doctrine of salvation too deeply engraved in his heart to forget it. 'He remained constant,' say the chroniclers, 'supporting the cause of the Gospel.' The men of Peney had not expected this. In their eyes Gaudet's firmness was criminal obstinacy, and they resolved 'to put him to the cruellest death ever heard of in this country.'[488] They determined that he should be 'burnt alive over a slow fire, for having settled at Geneva, for having attended sermons, and heard and preached the Gospel.' That was his crime. Wishing to let their neighbors enjoy a spectacle so worthy of being seen, the gentlemen invited the peasantry of the neighborhood, men, women, and children, to be present. Gaudet was brought from his dungeon, and taken into the castle yard, which was filled with spectators, and there fastened to a post. One of the Peneysans brought some {240} embers and placed them 'neatly' under his feet; when the soles of his feet were burnt, the fire was removed and passed in succession over the different parts of the body. But the Christian knight remained firm. He knew that when God puts his Holy Spirit into a man, he cannot fail, although the heavens should fall. His cruel torturers showed as much determination as he did. They said that Gaudet was a member of that famous order of St. John of Jerusalem founded in the Holy Land, placed under the protection of the holy see, and which had defended with so much glory the Cross against the Crescent. The knowledge that one of its knights had joined the heretics, that he had even become a preacher, transported them with fury. Seeing that their burning coals did nothing, they tied the disciple of the Gospel to a pillar, stood round him with their arms, and, more cruel than the Red Indians, began to prick him all over with their spears and halberds.[489] Gaudet, forgivingly, blessed his enemies. 'You are putting me to death,' he said, 'because I have preached the Word of God. I call to the God of mercy, and pray that He will pardon the sufferings you inflict upon me.'[490]

The martyr was visibly sinking, but he ceased not to invoke the name of Christ; and 'that invocation,' says the chronicler, 'brought him alleviation in his bitter torments.' He had put his hope in the faithfulness of the unseen God. The punishment and the joy of the martyr had a different effect upon the spectators from what had been expected. They were seized with horror; they uttered deep sighs, and 'departed weeping and groaning to their homes, being grieved at such an outrage.'[491] At length Gaudet, exhausted, rendered up his {241} soul to God, two days after he had been fastened to the pillar. Geneva, who had had her martyrs of liberty, now had her martyrs of faith.[492]


So cruel an action revolted every heart. The priests said: 'It will do us more mischief than twenty of Farel's sermons.' The huguenots exclaimed that the brigands' nest must be destroyed. The relatives of the citizens confined in it feared lest they should meet with Gaudet's fate, and called for their deliverance. The council met one night after supper, the gates of the city being already closed, and the attack of Peney was proposed. They were reminded, in vain, 'that it contained old soldiers, men tried in war, and that the castle was strong and well supplied with artillery.' Gaudet's cruel punishment carried the day: the proposal for attacking was voted. The herald passed through the dark streets, with orders that every man, bearing arms, should go to his muster-place without delay. A force of nearly five hundred men and two pieces of artillery left the city. About an hour after midnight, the little army was under the walls of the fortress. All was quiet: everybody was asleep. Unfortunately, the ladders had not yet arrived, and the Genevese, fearing they would be observed if the assault was deferred, pointed their cannons and fired a shot. The men-at-arms in the castle were aroused: at first they imagined they were taken, says the chronicler; but recovered themselves before long. Some rang the alarm-bell to call their friends from outside, others ran to the ramparts. Renouncing their idea of scaling the walls, the Genevese aimed their cannons at the gate and battered it down; the Peneysans immediately set up another. Bullets and cannonballs rained on the besiegers, the walls seemed on fire. Some of the Genevese fell where they stood; others, who were wounded, retired out of gunshot, and sat {242} down mournfully by the road-side. At this moment it was reported that M. de Lugrin, who commanded at Gex, was approaching with his troops. As the Genevans were about to be caught between two fires, the commanders ordered a retreat.

Everybody crowded to the gates to receive the discomfited force. What a disaster! women looking for their husbands, mothers for their sons! 'What remedy can be found for the ills that now oppress us?' was the cry. The voices of the Reformers revived their drooping spirits, and said: 'God will do other and greater things. He will deliver you from your enemies, but by other means which you do not understand, in order that the honor may be entirely paid to Him, and not to your human enterprises and artillery.'[493] The Genevans neglected nothing for their defence. They took the bells from the convents and cast them into cannon; they cleared away the walls of the faubourgs which still existed; they established a permanent force to protect the open country and seek provisions; and, finally, sent away the traitors whom they found in the city. They trusted in God, but they wished to be ready for battle.

[473]   Archives générales du royaume d'Italie à Turin.—Genève, paquet 14.

[474]   The four syndics were A. Chicand, the intrepid huguenot Ami Bandière, Hudriod du Molard, and Jean Philippin: the last only, who was chosen from a feeling of equity, inclined to the catholic side.

[475]   A. Porral, J. Philippe, F. Favre, S. Coquet, d'Adda, Cl. Savoye, J. Lullin, and Et. de Chapeaurouge.

[476]   Registres du Conseil des 7 et 8 Février 1525.—Froment, Gestes le Genève, p. 131

[477]   Registres du Conseil du 12 Février 1535.

[478]   Roundabout.

[479]   'Unum pictonem nemoreum.' (Lawyer's Latin.) Registres du Conseil du 14 Février 1535.

[480]   Registres du Conseil du 14 Février 1535.

[481]   Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 105.

[482]   Registres du Conseil des 13, 14, 21 Février et 6 Mars.

[483]   Commencement de l'Hérésie, pp. 106 and 108.

[484]   See Vol. IV. book vii. ch. 10.

[485]   Crespin, Actes des Martyrs, art. P. Gaudet, p. 114.

[486]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 172.

[487]   Crespin, Martyrologue, p. 114.

[488]   'Dont onques on ouyt parler en ce pays.'

[489]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 173.

[490]   Letter from the Council of Geneva to Porral, ambassador at Berne, 29th June, 1535.

[491]   'S'en alloynt, pleurant et gémissant en leurs maysons, estant marrys d'ung tel oultraige.'

[492]   Registres du Conseil du 29 Juin 1525.—Crespin, Actes des Martyrs, p. 114.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 173.

[493]   Registres du Conseil des 4, 7, 10, 17, 18, Mai 1535.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 177, 178.—Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 114, 115.


(Spring, 1535.)


The ultramontanes were more zealous than ever. Many would only employ lawful arms; but there were some who were by no means scrupulous as to the means adopted to vanquish the enemies of Rome. Fanatics make a false conscience for themselves, and then look upon culpable actions as good ones. Empire was slipping from the hands of the Church; it must, at any cost, be restored to her, thought the extravagant Roman-catholics of Geneva. Canon Gruet, in particular—his famulus, Gardet the priest, and Barbier, in the service of the bishop of Maurienne, thought that, as neither duke, bishop, nor mameluke could do anything, other means must be devised to check that furious torrent which threatened to sweep away papacy, temples, priests, and images. Fanatics, whom the wise men of catholicism are unanimous in condemning, were plotting in the dark and muttering softly that as Farel, Viret, and Froment were all living in the same house, they could easily be got rid of at one blow. Some inkling of these guilty designs got abroad, and the Reformers were warned to be on their guard; but such plots did not trouble them. 'If we were all three dead,' said Froment, 'God would soon raise up others. Out of stones can He not raise up children unto Abraham?' The work of darkness began.[494]


There lived in Geneva at that time a married woman and mother of a family, Antonia Vax by name; she was of quick perception, melancholy temperament, enthusiastic imagination, weak rather than depraved. In those days poison was much used; Bonivard had often related, 'how pope Alexander VI., wishing to have the money and benefices of two or three cardinals, had drunk in mistake from the flagon in which stood the poisoned wine, and had been caught in his own trap.' Antonia had seen poison employed. When in service at Lyons, nine years before, she had remarked that one of her companions always carried with him a little box piously covered with an Agnus Dei: 'It contains sublimate,' he had told her. More than once after this, when the unfortunate woman, of dark and dreamy temperament, felt the vapors rise to her brain, she had cried out: 'How wretched I am! how I should like to be out of this world! If I only had some sublimate!' At Bourg she had seen her mistress, in complicity with a Spanish doctor, give her husband poison; and entering afterwards the household of an illustrious family, the Seigneur de Challe, nephew to the bishop of Maurienne, she had seen her master poison his mother's husband. After this Antonia came to Geneva with her husband and children.[495]


Barbier, one of the chief instigators of the plot, had known Antonia when she was in M. de Challe's service. On his return from a conference held at Thonon, he cast his eyes upon her to carry out the guilty designs formed by him and his accomplices. At Geneva, as in England, it was a woman whom the misguided priests selected to strike the blow which they hoped would destroy the Reformation. Neither of those wretched women was deprived of all moral sentiment; but the heated imaginations {245} of the maid of Kent and of Antonia, and their unhealthy sensibility, made them embrace enthusiastically the schemes of wicked and crafty men. Barbier accosted the woman Vax, spoke to her of the preachers, and of the ills which threatened Holy Church; and when he thought he had sufficiently prepared the ground, he represented to her the great service she would do to religion, if she freed Geneva from the heretics. 'If any suspicions should be aroused,' he added, 'you will only have to remove to Canon Gruet's, secretary to Monseigneur of Maurienne.' Antonia hesitated. Some monks of the abbey of Ambournay, in Bresse, whom she had known, and who were then at Geneva, got round her, and endeavored to persuade her that such an action would merit the glory of heaven. She appeared sensible to their persuasions, and yet the deed was repugnant to her. To decide her, Barbier took her to D'Orsière, a canon held in great esteem. 'Act, act boldly,' said the canon; 'you need not be anxious.' The unhappy woman yielded.[496]

The next step was to prepare the means: by representing her as a poor woman who fled to Geneva for the Gospel, they contrived to get her admitted into Claude Bernard's house, where Farel, Viret, and Froment lodged. Bernard's heart was touched, and he engaged Antonia to wait upon his three guests, who took their meals apart. She knew so well how to play her part, that she was in fact regarded as one of the more fervent seekers of the Gospel. To procure poison was not difficult: she had lived for some time with Michael Vallot, the apothecary, and continued to go there. One day she paid him a visit, and, at a propitious moment, caught up some poison in a box and ran away.

When the poison was in her hands, she had still (as it would appear) a moment of uneasiness; but the {246} wretches, whose tool she was, pressed her to deliver Geneva from heresy. Accordingly, on the 8th of March, Antonia, taking courage, prepared some spinach soup, which she made very thick, for fear the poison should be noticed, threw in the sublimate, and, entering the room where Farel, Viret, and Froment were at table, put the deadly broth before them. Farel looked at it, found it too thick for his taste, and, though he had no suspicion, asked for some household soup. Froment, less dainty than Farel, had taken the spoon, and was about to lift it to his mouth, when some one came in and informed him that his wife and children had just arrived in Geneva. He rose hastily, 'leaving everything,' and ran off to meet them. Viret was left, still pale and suffering from the sword-cut he had received from a priest near Payerne. The perfidious Antonia had told him that she would make him some soup 'good for his stomach,' and he therefore ate tranquilly the food she had 'dressed to kill him.'[497]

The crime was accomplished. If the good providence of God had miraculously saved two of the evangelists, the third was to all appearance lost. At this moment the wretched woman suddenly became agitated; her conscience reproached her with her crime; and bursting into tears, she ran hurriedly to the kitchen, where she began to moan. 'What is the matter with you?' asked her companions: but she made no answer. Unable to resist her remorse, and believing pure water to be a good antidote to the poison, she formed the resolution of saving her victim, poured some water into a glass, hurried up-stairs, and desired Viret to drink it. The latter was astonished, and wanted at least to know the reason of such a request. She refused to tell him, but did not cease begging him until he had drunk. Froment, much irritated against the woman, regarded her {247} emotion as 'mere crocodile's tears;' he says so in his Chronicle. We are inclined to believe them sincere.


Viret became ill, and his friends were heart-broken. 'Alas!' said Froment, 'we expect death for him, and not life.' People asked the cause of this sudden illness, and Antonia, suspected of knowing something about it, was seized with terror. She felt herself already caught and sentenced. 'I know very well that it is no sport,' she exclaimed. Her imagination was heated; she went to the house where her children lived, and, taking the youngest in her arms, leading a second by the hand, the others following her, she ran with alarm to the shore of the lake, wishing to escape, and her little ones with her. 'Take me away from the city,' she said to the boatmen. They carried her as far as Coppet, about three leagues off. Claude Bernard and one or two of his friends, who had reasons for mistrusting the woman, jumped into a boat, and, having found her, brought her back. They did not, however, charge her with anything; but her conscience accused her: her agitation kept increasing during the passage; and her haggard eyes were fixed upon her old master, his friends, and the boatmen. 'You are betraying me,' she said: 'you are playing me a trick.' At length they arrived. Antonia got out of the boat first, and while Bernard and his friends were occupied in landing the children, she slipped away lightly, plunged into a dark alley between the Molard and the Fusterie, hurried through it, climbed the Rue de la Pélisserie, and reached the house of Canon D'Orsière, who had said to her: 'Act, act boldly, you need not be anxious.'—'Save me!' she exclaimed. The canon hid her in his cellar. But some people had seen a woman pass hurriedly along: the officers of justice searched the canon's house, found Antonia crouching in a dark underground cellar, and took her away to prison, where she confessed everything.

Meanwhile Viret was in peril of death, and, as there {248} was no woman at Bernard's to tend him, Dame Pernette, a pious Christian, and wife of the councillor Michael Balthasard, begged that he might be removed to her house, which was done. Froment, who went to see him often, said: 'Really, Dame Pernette is doing him a great service, and showing him great kindness.' One doctor said he was poisoned, another denied it. The whole city was filled with the affair: men and women assembled and expressed their sorrow. 'Must the Church be robbed of such a pearl,' they said, 'by such a miserable creature?... Poor Viret! Poor reformers!... Sword-cuts in the back, poison in front.... Such are the rewards of those who preach the Gospel!' Viret was saved, but he felt the effects of the poison all his life.[498]

The investigation began on the 13th of April. Antonia was not of a character to conceal her crime: the vénéfique, as they called the poisoner, declared openly she was led into it by the 'round caps (the clergy).'[499] The priests, and even the canon who had ruined her, were arrested and taken to prison. A canon arrested by laymen! All the clergy were in commotion: Aimé de Gingins, the bishop's vicar-general, represented to the syndics that a canon ought not to be imprisoned by anybody, not being a subject of the State, but only of the chapter. The magistrates declared that the investigation of criminal matters belonged to them, and the priests were forced to submit to be tried according to the common law—a great innovation in the sixteenth century.


Antonia was condemned to have her head cut off, her body hung on the gibbet of Champel, and her head fixed on a nail. At first she remained firm. 'Take care, my lords,' she said, 'that your servants do not {249} poison you, for there are many who practise it.' But when she had returned to prison, she became quite prostrated. Pale and speechless, she rolled her haggard eyes around her. It was still worse when she was led to the place of execution. Her mind wandered: she was like one of those personages spoken of in antiquity, who were said to be pursued by the Furies. Although surrounded by an immense crowd, she did not observe it: her eyes seemed fixed on some mysterious beings. She fancied she saw the priests of Geneva and the monks of Ambournay standing round her. 'Take them away, take them away!' she exclaimed, waving her hand; and as the guards showed by their looks of astonishment that they did not know what she meant, 'Take them away,' she resumed, pointing with her finger at what she believed she saw; 'in heaven's name take away those round-caps who are before me; ... it is they who are the cause of my death!' Having mounted the scaffold, she cried out again in great anguish: 'Take them away!' and her head fell.[500] She paid dearly for her crime—a crime too frequent in those days, when fanatics thought it their duty to serve by violence the cause which they said was the cause of God. The adversaries of the Reformation, in the countries which it reached, have too frequently employed the arms of iniquity against it.

The guilty project of getting rid of the three Reformers at once had the opposite consequences to what its authors had hoped. The atrocity of the attempt increased the love of the people for the Reform, and detracted greatly from the reputation of the priests. The most sinister reports were circulated about them. It was said that they had tried to poison the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, in order to cut off all the {250} reformed at a blow. People shrank from them in the streets as they passed, as if their simple approach could inflict death.[501]

All Geneva was in commotion: a transformation of that little state became imminent. At this time ambitious popes and despotic princes exercised absolute power. Two kinds of enfranchisement were necessary for Christendom: that of the nation and that of the Church. The Genevese sought after both: some rallied round the banner of faith, others round that of liberty; but the more enlightened minds saw that these two holy causes should never be separated; and that the political awakening of a nation can only succeed so far as the awakening of the conscience tends to prevent disorder.[502] In no country, perhaps, were these two movements so simultaneous as in Geneva. Certain natural phenomena are studied in microscopic animalcules: a moral phenomenon may be illustrated in the history of this small city which may be enunciated in these words: 'He who desires to be free must believe.'[503]

The Gospel, however, was not as yet triumphant. While the Roman-catholics always had their parishes, their churches, and numerous priests, the reformed had but one place of worship, and three ministers. Such a state of things could not last long. An important event occurred to hasten the victory of the Gospel and of liberty.


At the very moment when a pious reformer was descending near to the gates of death, the head of the Franciscans in Geneva was taking the new road 'that leadeth unto life.' The three brothers Bernard—Claude, the elder, in whose house the reformers received a Christian hospitality; Louis, priest of St. Pierre; and {251} Jacques, guardian or superior of the Franciscan convent—were among the most notable citizens of Geneva. The two elder had for some time embraced the Reform; but the third, a monk, had remained a zealot for popery. Ere long he himself was shaken. Seeing the three ministers closely at his brother Claude's, he learnt by their life to esteem their doctrine, and their virtues struck him so much the more, as he had lived in popery a life by no means regular himself. He examined himself seriously whether he would not do well to renounce monasticism.[504] The light of the Gospel began to shine into his heart. Nothing struck him so much as the thought that Christ, in his great love, had procured for his followers by his death a perfect reconciliation with God. The character which popery ascribed to the mass appeared to him to do injury to the infinite price of the Saviour's passion. 'I am convinced,' said he to Farel, at the end of one of their conversations. 'I am one of you!'—'Good!' answered the reformer, 'but if faith is kindled in your heart, it is necessary that the light should be shown abroad. Confess your faith publicly before men.' Jacques was determined not to spare himself, and not only to declare for the Gospel, but, further, to endeavor to make it known to his fellow-citizens. He posted up bills on February 19th, that during Lent he would preach every afternoon in the convent church.

This was something new: a numerous crowd filled the place. 'Men and women, catholics and Lutherans, crowded in,' says the nun of Ste. Claire, 'and that during all the first week.' Some fancied that the guardian was going to thunder against the Reform; but all doubts were soon dispersed. He spoke, and the astonishment was universal. The reformed were surprised at seeing one who formerly had rejected so rudely the grace of Christ, now rushing like a common soldier into {252} the midst of the battle and defending it. The catholics were still more amazed. 'This scandalized them so much,' adds the sister, 'that they never went afterwards.'[505] It seemed impossible to come to an understanding, and the confusion continued increasing.

How could they get out of a struggle which looked as if it would never end? There appeared one very natural means which does honor to the epoch in which men had recourse to it. The magistrates of the sixteenth century, whether in Switzerland or elsewhere, studied their charters when there was a question of establishing what was right, and assimilated the principles which had dictated them. But their love of the right was not a platonic love, as among enervated jurists. These notable men wished to realize in the government of the people what was in its constitution. Now if the book of the Liberties, Franchises, Immunities, Uses, and Customs of Geneva was the charter of the state, the Holy Scriptures were the charter of the Church: the Bible was the grand muniment of their spiritual franchises. Nothing must be decided, therefore, except by this sovereign rule.[506] While such thoughts occupied the syndics, the same desire animated the Reformers. 'We will forfeit our lives,' they said, 'if we do not prove by Holy Scripture that what we preach is true.' A conference, at which, with the divine charter before them, the faith, duties, and rights of Christians should be established, seemed the wisest way of getting out of the difficulty.


One thing stopped the members of the council: they were reluctant that foreigners—two Frenchmen and a Vaudois—should be at the head of the disputation. Farel respected such a feeling, and desired that the name of an old Genevan should be inscribed first in Geneva on the list of the Reformation. He went to {253} Jacques Bernard: 'Brother,' said he, 'it is necessary that your change of life should turn to the edification of the people.[507] Write down some propositions; announce that you are ready to answer all men in a public disputation, and defend your theses by clear and manifest reasons. They would refuse us this favor, for we are foreigners; but you are a citizen of Geneva,[508] and superior of an important order. They will grant your request.' The recent epoch of Bernard's conversion, his want of Christian experience, the annoyances, the dangers to which he would be exposed, might have induced him to refuse this demand. But he knew that in the new life on which he had entered, the rule was, that every one, forgetful of himself, should work for the good of others; and that with regard to his insufficiency, God would provide. The head of the Cordeliers asked the council's permission to maintain publicly the evangelical doctrine in a conference to which all the learned in the city and abroad should be invited. The syndics, who desired that the Reformation should be accomplished by reason and not by force, granted his prayer, and everything was got ready for this important action. For a long time Geneva had seen the parties armed from head to foot, crossing their swords and halberds: now minds were to be ranged in battle-array, and the spiritual combat would, to all appearance, decide the future of the Reformation.

[494]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 94.

[495]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 95.—Le Curé Besson, Mémoires du Diocèse de Genève et de Maurienne, p. 303.—Sommaire des aveux d'Antoina (Archives de Berne). Gaberel, i., Pièces, p. 80.

[496]   Sommaire de ce que la poisonnière a confessé entre les mains de la justice. (Archives de Berne.)—Gaberel, Pièces, p. 80.

[497]   Sommaire de ce que la poisonnière a confessé entre les mains de la justice. (Archives de Berne.)—Gaberel, Pièces, p. 80.

[498]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 104, 105.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 21.

[499]   Chron. MSC. de Roset.

[500]   Registres du Conseil du 14 Juillet 1535.—Archives de Berne.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 95.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 21.

[501]   Registres du Conseil des 20 Avril, 7 Mai, 30 Août 1535.

[502]   'Nullum libertati publicæ, nisi in civibus evangelicis, præsidium.'—Geneva Restituta, p. 77.

[503]   M. de Tocqueville.

[504]   'Bernardus cogitabat de exuenda cuculla.'—Farel to Calvin, Epp. Calv. p. 77.

[505]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 106.—Lettre de Farel à Calvin.

[506]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 131, 135.

[507]   'Parum est nisi cum ædificatione majori id faceret.'—Farellus Calvino.

[508]   'Bernardus civis erat.'—Ibid.


(From April To Whitsuntide, 1535.)


Jacques Bernard and the Reformers had a meeting for the purpose of drawing up their propositions. The justifying power of faith was to hold the first place, for, according to the Gospel, man must, before everything, condemn the selfish existence he has lived until the moment of his awakening, and place all his confidence in the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ alone. The theses drawn up by the Reformers were as follows:—

I. Man must seek justification for his sins in Jesus Christ ALONE.[509]

II. Religious worship must be paid to God ALONE.

III. The constitution of the Church must be regulated by the Word of God ALONE.

IV. The atonement for sins must be ascribed to Christ's sacrifice, offered up ONCE, and which procures full and entire remission.

V. We must acknowledge ONE ONLY Mediator between God and man—Jesus Christ.

The fault of Rome had been to add to the Gospel many strange dogmas and ceremonies, and place them above the primitive edifice, stage after stage, pile after pile, thus crushing it: this is indeed the proper meaning conveyed by the word superstition. The Reformers aspired {255} to pull down this framework, and liberate Christian truth from all the fables by which it was disfigured. Hence, as we see, the word alone plays a great part in this disputation. Its object was to exclude all human additions and to exalt God alone, Christ alone, the Gospel alone. These propositions, however, did not entirely satisfy Farel. In his opinion it was necessary, after laying down truths, to point out errors. Five negative theses were, therefore, added to the five positive theses:—

VI. It is wrong to put our trust in good works and look for our justification in them.

VII. To worship saints and images is to be guilty of idolatry.

VIII. Hence our traditions and ecclesiastical (or rather Roman) constitutions are not only useless but pernicious.

IX. The sacrifice of the mass, and prayers to the dead or for them, are a sin against the Word of God, and men are wrong to look to them for salvation.

X. The intercession of saints was introduced into the Church by the authority of men and not of God.

These propositions seem to us now mere theological formulæ: they were more than that. There was the true spirit in them. 'There are different ways of speaking,' said the friend[510] to whom Farel wrote an account of this disputation; 'the roaring of a lion is different from the braying of an ass.' There was indeed in these theses, destined to throw down a whole world of errors, the formidable 'roaring of a lion.'

On the 23d of April Jacques Bernard went to the hôtel-de-ville and presented his propositions to the council, who authorized him to defend them, and desired him to inform the members of the chapter of St. Pierre and other priests, monks, and doctors.[511] At Constance, freedom of discussion had been suppressed; and that {256} assembly, therefore, had produced no other light than the flames of the scaffold. It was not thus that the Reformation was to advance. 'Let the truth appear and triumph!'

The theses were immediately distributed in all the churches and monasteries of the city. No worshipper crossed the threshold of the sanctuary without receiving one of the printed handbills. The superior of the Franciscans waited personally upon the canons and presented each of them with a copy of the propositions. He gave them to every member of the government, lay and clerical: there was no shop or refectory in which the ten propositions were not read and commented upon. They were posted on the church doors and in the public places, not only in Geneva, but in the allied and neighboring cities. They were even sent to gentlemen at their châteaux. In its very infancy, the Reformation proclaimed and practised the widest publicity. The trumpet sounded in every quarter of the city, and the herald announced that a discussion would take place on the 30th of May in the great hall of the Cordeliers of Rive, and that scholars of all classes, Genevese or foreigners, clerks or laymen, were invited with full liberty of speaking, and the offer of a safe-conduct. 'Ah!' said Froment, one of the champions, 'if such a license were given by every prince, the business would be soon settled, without burning so many poor Christians. But the pope and his cardinals forbid all discussion of this or that, except it be with fire and sword: a fashion they have learnt no doubt from the Grand Seignor.'[512]


The remark was but too true. The news of the discussion had no sooner reached the bishop than a feeling of horror came over him. 'What!' he said, 'convoke a council in my own city! nobody has the right to do it but myself.' And he immediately published {257} throughout his diocese a proclamation 'forbidding the faithful to be present at the assembly under pain of excommunication.' The duke of Savoy also forbade his subjects to attend it, and the Franciscans, at that time assembled in general chapter at Grenoble, having received the invitation, declared they would not come.[513] There were, no doubt, capable men among them; but to discuss the truths taught by the Church was, in their eyes, aiming a blow at its authority. The result was a universal silence on the part of the priests. They were very clever in making the most of miraculous appearances, of dead children restored to life; but of discussion, not a word. One or two fervent Catholics would, however, have willingly broken a lance with Farel, but the orders of their chiefs held them back. The army of the pope, summoned by the voice of the trumpet, was wanting on the day of combat.

Still Roman-catholicism did something. Monsignor de Bonmont went to the council on the 25th of May, and begged the syndics to take part in a torchlight procession and other ceremonies which were to take place on the 27th of the month, the festival of Corpus Christi. That procession, however brilliant it might be, was very displeasing to the zealous Reformers: they did not like that the Word of God should be supplanted by millinery, lace, and all the empty glitter which dazzles the eye in sacerdotal costumes. The answer of the council was judicious: 'We have appointed a discussion,' said the premier syndic to the vicar-episcopal; 'that will decide whether the procession is holy or not. Wait a little, then; if the conference is in favor of the procession, it shall be proclaimed with sound of trumpet.'[514]

At the same time the council resolved to send a {258} deputation to all the convents to invite the monks, who answered, 'We have no learned men among us; it is impossible for us to take part in the discussion.'[515]

One convent, however, displayed resolution: it was that of the nuns of Ste. Claire. The mother-vicar, Mademoiselle de Montluet de Château-Fort, a woman of warm and fiery temperament, answered the invitation: 'Begone! you are wicked people who want to vex the servants of God.' The deputies replied, 'It is said, madam, that certain of your nuns remain only by force under your instruction, and would like to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.'... At these words the mother-vicar burst out. 'Satan has no part among us,' she cried; and turning towards the nuns, added, 'My sisters, speak, speak!' Almost all exclaimed at the top of their voices, 'We will live and die in our holy calling.' The clamor was so great that the deputies could not make themselves heard. 'Do not be afraid, gentlemen,' said the mother, 'this is nothing. You will hear something very different if you take us to your synagogue. When we are there, we will make such an uproar, that we shall remain mistresses of the place.' 'Dame vicar,' said a deputy, 'you are very arrogant.' Thereupon the gentlemen retired, acknowledging however that they had not witnessed such courage in the convents of the monks.[516]

Farel, who was distressed at seeing the priests of Geneva refuse the discussion, would have supplied their place by distinguished athletes belonging to one party or the other. He wrote to Lefèvre of Etaples, the celebrated doctor of the Sorbonne, and invited him to the combat in which liberty and truth were about to engage in Geneva.[517] The aged and venerable doctor shed tears, {259} and returned thanks to God for what he heard.[518] But he was too old to take part in a disputation; perhaps, too, his faith was not bold enough; he declined the invitation. Farel turned his eyes in another direction. A chapter of the order of St. Francis was at that time sitting at Lyons, its president being Pierre de Corne, or de Cornibus, the most intrepid adversary of the heretics, the butt of Rabelais' jests and of some unbelieving worldlings, but highly extolled by the devout, and especially by Loyola's friend, Francis Xavier. Farel pressed De Cornibus to come to Geneva; the reformer could not give a plainer proof of the seriousness of his intentions and the impartiality of the discussion. 'I am quite ready to break a lance in Geneva,' wrote De Cornibus. The council were highly delighted with this answer, and prepared to receive the warlike doctor with great honor. But all of a sudden De Cornibus informed them that he could not come.

If the combatants were not to be very numerous, the spectators at least were crowding in from all sides—men and women, great and small. Everybody wanted to see and hear, but nobody was willing to speak. The reformers were in despair, lest the dialogue should be turned into a monologue, and instead of a grand combat, one army alone should appear on the field of battle.[519]


An unexpected help now appeared. A doctor of the Sorbonne, named Caroli, arrived in Geneva and declared himself ready to dispute. Possessing insupportable vanity, tossing his head as he walked along the street, assuming a haughty and impudent air with everybody, the Parisian doctor made a great stir, talked incessantly, aped the gentleman, and boasted loudly. {260} Much taken up with himself, he sought marks of honor, and to obtain them employed cunning, artifice, and intrigue. He represented himself to be, or allowed others to call him, bishop. 'Have you heard,' said the citizens, 'that a bishop has arrived from France?'[520] Everybody thought that Farel had found his man at last. But the reformer, who had known him long, shook his head. The foolish admiration which Caroli felt for his own person had drawn upon him the contempt of those who were not to be deceived by his braggadocio. The reformer knew that he was fluent of tongue, but was without firm principle, uprightness, or solid character, and that his sole desire was to make a name—whether in the Roman or in the evangelical camp mattered little to him. He was known to unite and to quarrel with everybody in turn. He was neither catholic nor reformer, but simply Caroli. As skilful as the famous Beda in the tricks of sophistry, he had disputed in Paris with that illustrious champion; and the Sorbonne having interdicted him, Margaret of Valois looked upon him as a victim of the Gospel, and gave him the living of Alençon. He had come from that city to Geneva, where nobody had expected or wanted him.[521] It was rumored abroad that there would be a great stir in the city; and Caroli, who had 'a keen scent' (to use the words of a contemporary), thought that Geneva would be a theatre where he might display his profound learning and fine voice, and gather fresh laurels to adorn his brow. There was only one point about which he still hesitated: should he take the side of Rome or of the Reformation?


Farel liked not those ambiguous characters who hoist one flag or another according to the place they may be at. Catholic at Paris, Erasmian at Alençon, Caroli {261} would probably be a reformer at Geneva. Farel went to his inn, where he found him at breakfast. Entering upon business immediately, the reformer said to him frankly: 'You are driven from France for the faith, you say; certainly you have not deserved it, for you have done nothing that was unworthy of the pope or worthy of Jesus Christ.'[522] The doctor of the Sorbonne, offended by such words, held his tongue and continued his meal. 'The song I sang him while he was at breakfast,' said Farel, 'did not seem to please him much.'[523] 'Are you willing now,' resumed Farel, 'to confess the truth openly, as God requires, and to repair the evil that you have done by your dissimulation?' The Parisian doctor cleverly turned the conversation and began to parade a great zeal for the poor. 'I am going to send my servant back to France,' he said, 'to receive the money from my benefices, and I shall distribute it among your poor refugees.' Farel remembered how certain monks in Paris had made a great display about a collection in favor of the poor, not a penny of which had the latter ever seen. 'God,' he said, 'will never fail either the poor or us. Let us now give the bread of the Word to men's souls,' and left him. Several days elapsed. Caroli compensated himself for the humiliation Farel had inflicted upon him by representing himself everywhere as one of the greatest orators of France; and accordingly all the Genevans wanted to hear him. 'Let us put him to the test,' said Farel, who asked him to preach. But Caroli, no doubt fearing the proof, urged a thousand excuses to get off. 'Your sermons charm me,' he said to Farel, 'and I cannot persuade myself not to hear them.'[524]


This braggart priest, who pretended to support the refugees, was living upon them, extorting their money, wine, and other things. 'Our master,' said one of them to Farel, 'behaves very theologically: he uses wine magisterially, and even Sorbonically.' The reputation of certain doctors of the Sorbonne was established on that point. 'He has women to make his bed,' they added, 'to pull off his stockings, and even for other familiarities.'[525] The wretched man imagined that, coming into a country which rejected the law of the pope, he could throw off the law of God. Farel, assured of the truth of these reports, visited this vain and impure priest, spoke to him of his dissolute life, reminded him of the judgment of the Lord, and entreated him to change his conduct. Farel spoke with so much authority, that all who were present were struck with it. The Sorbonne doctor was confounded: he hid his face in his hands, and did not open his mouth. From that time he behaved more prudently, and did nothing (openly, at least) that could be charged against him. He had his reasons for not quarrelling with the reformers.

Jacques Bernard, who had but recently thrown off the cowl, was not so clear-sighted as Farel; Caroli tried, therefore, to throw dust into his eyes. He hinted that, as a doctor of the Sorbonne of Paris, celebrated by former struggles with the most illustrious doctors, he was well qualified to be appointed arbiter in the disputation, and invited to pronounce authoritatively the final judgment.[526] Thus, becoming umpire between Geneva and Rome, he already fancied himself the most important person of Christendom. The simple-minded Bernard, circumvented by the artifices of the wily Frenchman, consented to make the strange proposition {263} to Farel.—'No,' at once answered the reformer; 'it is to God and to Holy Scripture that we must pay supreme honor. We do not want men as judges of our controversy: the Lord is the only judge, who will decide authoritatively by the Scriptures. That presumptuous man would only seek his own glorification in the dispute.' The magistrates supported this opinion.


In fact, the council, finding itself between two confessions—one coming, and one departing—regarded itself as mediator, and wished to see which was right or wrong; then, if there were cause, to do as certain good kings of Israel and Judah had done—'extirpate the idolatry of their people.'[527] Placed at the head of the republic, the magistracy did not understand that religious matters, so important at that period, were not within its jurisdiction; and even when the question was decided somewhat later, when the firm Calvin was established at Geneva, the State continued to hold under its jurisdiction all matters which are considered in this day as belonging to the Church. The council, therefore, nominated eight commissioners, empowered to regulate the discussion, and chose them from among the most respected leaders of the people: four belonged to the catholic party,[528] and four to the reformed opinions;[529] all of them had been syndics. The council, moreover, named four secretaries, belonging to the two parties, and instructed them to draw up the minutes. The discussion was proclaimed by sound of trumpet, and it was published everywhere, that the disputation would be entirely free. Then, fearing lest the enemy should take advantage of the opportunity to attack {264} Geneva, the syndics bade the captain-general 'keep careful watch and ward at the gates, towers, and ramparts, and prevent any disturbance taking place in the city.'[530]

[509]   'Justificationem a peccatis in solo Christo quærendam.'—Theses Genev.

[510]   Calvin.

[511]   Registres du Conseil du 23 Avril 1535.—Chron. MSC. de Roset.

[512]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 137, 138.

[513]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 138. Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 112.

[514]   Registres du Conseil des 25 et 26 Mai 1535.

[515]   Registres du Conseil du 29 Mai 1535.

[516]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 117, &c.

[517]   'Cupiebam habere pium Stapulensem.'—Farel's Letter to Calvin, Epist. Calv., p. 76.

[518]   'Non sine lacrymis audiebat.'—Farel's Letter to Calvin, Epist. Calv., p. 76.

[519]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 140.—Registres du Conseil des 26 et 29 Mai 1535.

[520]   'Dicebant omnes episcopum Gallicum venisse.'—Farel's Letter to Calvin, Epist. Calv., p. 76.

[521]   'Venit Genevam neque expectatus neque expetitus.'—Ibid.

[522]   'Cum nihil egisset pontifice indignum nec Christo dignum.'—Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv.

[523]   'Non fuit satis grata Carolo hæc cantio quæ in prandio canebatur.'—Ibid.

[524]   'Se rapi concionibus nostris.'—Ibid.

[525]   'Habere quæ lectum ejus sternerent, tibialia exuerent, ac familiarius dormituro adessent.'—Farel to Calvin.

[526]   'Satagebat per Bernardum Carolus ut præsideret in disputatione, et omnia resolveret.'—Ibid.

[527]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 134.

[528]   Girardin de la Rive, J. Balard, Cl. Richardet, and Cl. de Châteauneuf.

[529]   Michel Sept, Cl. Savoye, Ami de Chapeaurouge, and Aimé Curtet.

[530]   Registres du Conseil du 29 Mai 1535.

(June 1535.)

Sunday, the 30th of May and the feast of Pentecost, the day on which the discussion was to begin, came at last. A year had passed away since the Reformation had made its public entrance into Geneva; it was now about to take another step—one that would secure its triumph. The day of Pentecost, so important for the establishment of Christianity, was to be important also for the Reformation. The same Spirit which had begun the Church, is also that which will renew it when it has fallen. Friends and enemies crowded that day to the convent of Rive, animated with the liveliest and most opposite emotions. Nothing had been spared so that the debate should take place with solemnity. 'A theatre,' that is to say, a platform, had been erected in the great hall. The eight commissioners took their seats, and an immense concourse of Genevans and foreigners filled the vast auditory. A table had been placed in the arena for the combatants. Jacques Bernard appeared first: he was followed by Farel, Viret, and Froment; but the places set apart for the champions {265} of the Roman Church remained unoccupied, and people began to ask if Rome would fail to appear. At last two ecclesiastics came forward: one was Chapuis, prior of the Dominican convent, the most learned man at that time in Geneva; the other was Caroli, the Sorbonne doctor.


Bernard spoke first. He undertook to prove that, in the Romish Church, men did not look to Christ for justification from their sins, and for that purpose put in the rules of his order, and showed how the monks claimed to be saved by their vain practices, and gave themselves up to pride, avarice, and even to great impurity. He spoke from personal knowledge. A man of upright heart, quick, a little violent even, he repelled with energy the disorders in which he had once taken part. Standing in the great hall of his own convent, the guardian pulled down what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had pulled down. This made the father-confessor of Ste. Claire exclaim: 'How that accursed Jacques Bernard despises the frock he once wore.' Chapuis, the Dominican, came forward resolutely in defence of the monastic orders, and reproved the guardian severely. Farel rose in support of Bernard, but Chapuis, who feared such an adversary, maintained that nobody but Bernard ought to answer him.[531] The next day Bernard and Chapuis, the heads of the two great convents of Geneva, met again; but Chapuis received orders from his Provincial to leave the city immediately.

This vexed the magistrates exceedingly: they remembered Furbity, and the excessive zeal which had caused his imprisonment: they had no doubt that he would joyfully seize the opportunity of defending the faith of Rome. Having sent for the jailer's wife, they {266} ordered her to place the articles under dispute in the reverend father's hands. As she was a zealous Roman-catholic, and on good terms with Furbity, they thought that he would receive them more willingly from her than from her husband, who was ardent for the reform. The woman, a timid soul, was afraid of everybody: of her husband, whom she did not wish to displease by neglecting the commission, and of the reverend father, whom she feared to offend by giving him the heretical propositions; so she sent them by one of the turnkeys. 'Alas!' exclaimed Furbity, 'even my poor hostess is trying to seduce me.' He tossed the paper out of his cell. The jaileress sent it back to him by her little girl; but the latter, who was harshly received, brought it back to her mother, who, frightened at the probability of displeasing their worships, slipped the theses into the cell by the window. The reverend father, seeing the paper which he had cursed falling at his feet, picked it up, tore it to pieces, and trampled it under foot.[532] All hope of seeing him defend popery had to be given up.

The disputation began again without him. Bernard and Farel, having Caroli for respondent, showed by Scripture that Jesus Christ alone saves men from sin. Caroli was very weak, but hinted to his partisans that he reserved his hardest blows till the last, and would then pound his adversaries to powder. He did not speak up for either side. The honest Viret, indignant at such trickery, attacked him so skilfully, that he was constrained to pronounce for or against the truth. The Sorbonnist took the side of the reformers. 'All the efforts of man are in vain,' he said. 'Without the grace of Christ, he can neither begin what is good, nor pursue it, nor persevere.'[533] 'Very good,' exclaimed Farel; 'thank you, doctor. The glory of God and the edification {267} of the people, is all we desire.' Caroli was quite proud of having spoken so well.


The reformers were again without antagonists, Caroli appearing to agree with them. The magistrates returned to their notion about Furbity, and as Caroli had been his theological tutor in Paris, the Council asked him to invite his old pupil to come and defend his doctrine, or to disavow his errors as he himself had done. 'Willingly,' said the vainglorious doctor. After dinner, the four syndics, the great Parisian doctor, that Satan William Farel (as Sister Jeanne calls him), Pierre Viret, and several of their friends, went to the prison. The Dominican appeared: he was thin, weak, debilitated, and his feet tottered, so that when he saw the Sorbonne doctor in the company of all those heretics, he fell fainting to the ground.'[534] They lifted him up, and when he had recovered his senses, Caroli, addressing him in a doctoral tone, said: 'How is this, brother Guy; will you die in your obstinacy—in your errors, now that we have arrived at the truth? Acknowledge that you have been deceived, and return to God.' Furbity, divided between respect for his old teacher and fidelity to the pope, exclaimed: 'God forbid that I should quarrel with my master.... I desire to die in the truth as I learnt it of you.'—'Come, then, and defend it,' they said. But Furbity imposed a singular condition: he required Farel's beard to be cut off. We know that the bigots believed in the existence of a devil in each hair of the reformer's beard. 'If I must dispute with that idiot,' he exclaimed, 'let the dwelling of his master the devil be first cleared away, and all his skin shaved.'[535] They urged the doctor to no purpose: nothing could shake him. No beard or no discussion.

The debate began again, and that day Caroli was Roman-catholic from head to foot. Bernard maintained {268} that Christ was the only mediator; Caroli affirmed that it was Mary. 'The Virgin having remained upon earth, after the death of the Saviour,' he said, 'the mother naturally succeeded the Son.'[536]—'Mary, the successor to her Son!' exclaimed Farel. 'Let us have done with these foolish questions: let us get out of this labyrinth of quibbling which men call Roman theology.' It was agreed that the discussion next day should turn upon the Mass.

Caroli, determining to arm himself completely to defend this palladium of popery, spent a portion of the night in hunting over huge folios,[537] and in taking notes of the reasons that might be adduced in favor of that sacrifice. The Mysteria Missæ of Innocent III., the Summa Theologiæ of Thomas Aquinas, the Sentences of Bonaventure, were in turn examined by him. The next day he began to pour out the arguments he had hastily collected. 'Firstly,' he said; 'secondly'.... But he lost the thread and stopped short, continuing to repeat the same words. The scholar forgot his lesson. To complete the comedy, it only wanted Farel to prompt the arguments which he had forgotten. 'You mean to say this or to say that,' suggested the reformer.—'Yes, yes,' said the poor doctor, 'it is exactly what I meant to say.'[538]

Caroli, piqued at this triumph of Farel's, made an effort, and getting once more into the saddle, began to prance about valiantly. 'Really,' said Froment, who heard him, he now argues with subtlety and great earnestness.' The catholics, without waiting for the reformer's answer, ran off to the canons: 'The Parisian doctor is speaking admirably,' they said. The canons {269} ordered some of their best wine to be taken to him. Caroli was at this moment the happiest man in the world; the papacy and the Reformation both lavished their favors on him at once.

The next day the audience was more numerous than usual: the doctor's eloquence had been much talked about, and the catholics came in crowds. Sworn enemies of Reform[539] said to one another, 'Let us go and witness the triumph of the divine mysteries of popery.' That day the points to be defended were transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, the adoration of the bread, the taking away of the cup, the invocation of saints, the use of a foreign tongue, and other rites and customs. Caroli, puffed up by the good position he had acquired, tossed his head and challenged his adversaries in a loud tone: 'Give me a man who shows himself a man,' he said, 'and we will fight together.' Then stood forward to answer him a mere boy. When the veteran doctor saw this novice, so puny in body,[540] he despised him as Goliath despised David. 'Surely,' he said, 'you do not mean to pass him off for one of your pastors!' This young man was Pierre Viret, then twenty-four years old, whose health was still weakened by the poison, and who had such a pale face and weak look that he seemed ready to faint. 'Alas!' he said of himself, 'I am but a mere bag of bones.' His language showed little color or elegance: but he had a logical style, perfectly clear, the skill of an orator, and all accompanied by an indescribable sweetness and charm.


The two champions joined in combat; and Viret refuted Caroli's assertions so clearly and so completely, that all the spectators took his side.[541] Caroli, not knowing what to say, began to vociferate a long 'Bah! {270} bah! bah!'[542] It was useless for Viret to adduce the most solid reasons, the Sorbonne doctor could find no other argument than that foolish interjection. 'What do I hear?' exclaimed Farel; 'we should blush to answer in such a manner.' Caroli held his tongue, and some catholics began to ask themselves whether the doctrines they had held for sacred might not be merely the opinions of men.[543]

Quitting this part of the subject, the doctor proceeded to defend the forms of popery. 'How much more august is the service,' he said, 'if it is celebrated in Latin! What majesty there is in the Roman ceremonies! The tonsure of the priests is a crown to them.'—'It is Christ's wish,' said Farel, 'that leaving shadows, we should worship the Father in spirit and in truth. If we load the Church with ceremonies, signs, and ornaments, we rob it of the presence of Jesus Christ. If King Hezekiah broke the brazen serpent, what must be done with all these superstitions, which surpass the idolatry of the Jews in scandal?'

It was too much. The bishop, informed of the progress of the discussion, issued from Arbois on the 13th of June, in the very midst of the debates, an order, 'forbidding people of every condition to be from that day forward so bold and daring as to speak or trade with the syndics, preachers, and citizens of Geneva, under pain of excommunication and a fine of twenty-five livres.'[544]

Thus the bishop set up a quarantine to separate Geneva from Christendom; but it was precisely at this epoch that the obscure city of the Allobroges came into communication with the world, and spread abroad the {271} light which it had received. While the papacy ceased to utter its oracles there, and had in its service none but the dumb, the Word of God made its loud and mighty voice heard through the mouths of the Reformers. Such was the result of the discussion. 'In that controversy,' says a modern historian who does not belong to the Reform, 'the catholics were defeated by the reformers.'[545]

[531]   'Nollet alium respondere quam Bernardum.'—Farel to Calvin, p. 77.—Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 125.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 139, 140.

[532]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 80.

[533]   'Frustra hominem conari sine gratia, nec ordiri, nec prosequi, nec perseverare posse.'—Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv., p. 77.

[534]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 80.

[535]   Ibid. pp. 80, 81.

[536]   'Succedere matrem Filio.'—Farel to Calvin.

[537]   'Partem noctis impendit in annotandis rationibus quibus posset missa ferri.'—Ibid.

[538]   Hominem, memoria labantem, adjuvabamus, ut sua formaret argumenta.'—Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv.

[539]   'Juratissimi hostes.'—Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv.

[540]   'Cum juvenem quem ut tironem Carolus reputat.'—Ibid.

[541]   'Cum Viretus tam aperte dissolveret omnia.'—Ibid.

[542]   'Cœpit, insani more, vociferari longum ba, ba, ba.'—Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv.

[543]   'Humana et impia esse quæ divina sanctissimaque arbitrabantur.'—Ibid.

[544]   Archives de Genève.—Pièces historiques, No. 1125.

[545]   Mignet, Réforme à Genève, p. 66.

(June to August 1535.)

Rome had set up, beside the Bible and even above it, the word and the traditions of men. The Reformation demanded that the Holy Scriptures should be read by all and preached from the pulpits. The written Word and oral teaching were to displace that pretended infallible chair, which alone was authorized (they said) to set forth the will of God.


One fact of great importance was being accomplished at this time. The discussion maintained at Geneva by Farel, Bernard, Chapuis, and Caroli was but a musketry skirmish; but at a little distance from that city—at Neuchâtel—thanks to the labors of Calvin and Olivetan, a tradesman, a Picard like themselves, was preparing that great artillery, whose formidable volleys were to break down the walls of error, on the ruins of which a divine hand was to establish the truth of Jesus Christ.


Pierre Robert of Noyon, called Olivetan, had finished the work the Church had intrusted to him. On the 4th of June, 1535, appeared the first French Bible of the Reformation.[546] 'Possessing a keen and penetrating mind,' said one of its readers who was thoroughly capable of appreciating the work, 'the translator is not deficient in learning; he has spared neither labor, research, nor care, and has ably discharged the duties of a translator of the Bible.'[547] 'I have done the best I could,' said the translator himself, on presenting the book to his brethren; 'I have labored and searched as deeply as I possibly could into the living mine of pure truth; but I do not pretend to have entirely exhausted it.'[548] Some people have asserted that Olivetan's Bible was only a copy of that by Le Fevre of Etaples. The translation of the Old Testament, probably begun before Olivetan's journey to the Valleys, is the best part of his work, and it may be said to be original.[549] Calvin's cousin no doubt had his predecessor's translation before him; but the latter does not contain three consecutive verses in which Olivetan has not changed something. His New Testament is more like Le Fevre's; still numerous changes were introduced into it. It has been calculated that the new translator had corrected the biblical text of the Sorbonne doctor in twenty-three thousand five hundred places, and in more than sixty thousand, if account be taken of all the minutiæ of style.[550] Calvin's share has reference particularly to the later editions of this Bible. With regard to the mechanical part, the two cousins had found a distinguished auxiliary.

Pierre de Wingle (called also Pérot Picard) was one {273} of the good printers of the sixteenth century. The episcopal court of Lyons, where he lived, had prosecuted him for printing 'certain writings come from Germany;' he then took refuge at Geneva, but the impression of the New Testament and various pamphlets had compelled him, in 1532, to flee to Neuchâtel—a reformed city since 1530—which behaved more hospitably, and shortly after made him a citizen. About half an hour's walk from Neuchâtel, is the little village of Serrière; here Wingle set up his presses, and this modest but happy locality, which first had heard the Gospel preached by Farel, was destined also to be the first to witness the birth of Olivetan's Bible. The latter had dated his dedication,

Des Alpes, ce XIIᵉ de feburier 1535,

as if he wished to confound the Vaudois valleys of the Cottian Alps, where the idea had been conceived, with the parts of Switzerland where it had been carried out. The Vaudois had collected for this publication five hundred golden crowns, a sum equivalent to about 2,400l. sterling.


The volume had scarcely left the press, when Wingle and his friends sent it wherever the French language was spoken. 'Has not the King of kings proclaimed,' they thought, 'that His Word should go forth to the ends of the world?' 'The people who make thee this present,' said Olivetan to the Church, 'are the true people of patience who, in silence and hope, have overcome all assaults. For a long time they have seen thee maltreated, seeming rather a poor slave than the daughter and heiress of the universal Ruler. But now that thou beginnest to recognize thy origin, these people, thy brothers, come forward and lovingly offer thee their all. Cheer up then, poor little Church! go and cleanse thy spattered rags; go and wash thy befouled hands. Desirest thou to be always subject to masters? Is it not {274} time to think of the Bridegroom? Here is a precious jewel He sends thee as a wedding-gift and pledge of a loyal marriage.[551] Art thou afraid that He will some day leave thee a widow, He who lives for evermore? Courage! bid farewell to that traitorous hag whom thou hast so long called mother. It is true that thou canst bring to thy husband nothing of any value; but come, come boldly with all the nobles and titled ones of thy court, with thy insulted, excommunicated, imprisoned, banished, and plundered ones! Come with thy tortured, branded, crop-eared, dismembered ones![552] Such are those whom Christ calls to triumph with him in his heavenly court.'[553]

If the fruits of the Bible published at Neuchâtel were more numerous, those of the discussion at Geneva were more prompt. The most candid catholics were struck at seeing the men who were on the side of the Reform giving an account of their faith, while those on the other side stood dumb. There was eloquence in this contrast. Accordingly priests, laymen, and women, stripped of their prejudices, declared that the truth of God, brought forward during the discussion, had opened their eyes. No doubt many simply quitted the forms of popery for the forms of protestantism. To put aside superstitions, to break images, and to reject the authority of the pope was in their eyes the Reform: their chief was Ami Perrin. But with a great number of Genevans, the movement within, the conversion of the heart, corresponded with the movement without. There were {275} rivers of running water in that city which no man could stop, and at which many quenched their thirst.


The magistrates, however, far from reforming the Roman worship, remained motionless and silent. The friends of the Gospel took the initiative. Claude Bernard, the brother of Jacques, one of the captains of the city, a man full of zeal for the truth, went before the council on June 28th, accompanied by the ministers and several notables, and represented that the mass, images, and other inventions and idolatries,[554] being contrary to Holy Scripture, as the disputation had showed, it was time they were suppressed. The law of conscience ought to become the law of the State also. Bernard said: 'Ought a father to permit the children whose guardianship God has intrusted to him, to become attached to errors opposed to the truth of God? Magistrates, act like fathers. It will be to the glory of God and the salvation of the people.'[555]

The syndics and councils could not come to a decision. The step they were asked to take was that of a giant. They feared to excite the catholics to take up arms, and the duke of Savoy to surround Geneva with his artillery. To cross definitively the line which separated the old times from the new was too much for them. St. Paul and the Apostles had done it in their day, and the reformers were doing it now; but the syndics of Geneva were neither Pauls nor Farels. They feared civil war and escalades; they preferred waiting for the Reform to be accomplished without them, for everything to be changed without any one's observing it. The council, therefore, procrastinated and did {276} nothing.[556] 'The minutes of the discussion take a long time arranging,' answered the premier syndic to Claude Bernard; 'as soon as they are drawn out, we will see what is to be done.' The great evolution of the Reformation was metamorphosed by these worthy ediles into a question of drawing up minutes. To show their love for the status quo, they condemned to three days' imprisonment, on bread and water and the strappado, a huguenot who had destroyed the images placed in front of the chapel of Notre Dame.

Farel's friends determined to wait; but no measure of reform appeared, although they waited ten times the space required to examine the minutes. The huguenots thought that the council was taking refuge in 'tortuous hiding-places,' when it ought to act boldly in the light of day. The evangelicals thought that 'as God gives us everything openly, the secrets of our hearts ought also to be open and displayed.'

Never had courage and firmness been more necessary. Great miseries were beginning. Since the disputation not a sack of wheat or a load of wood had entered the city, while previously they used to enter in great numbers twice a week. There were no eggs, or butter, or cheese, or cattle. One day, however, a cow was brought by a man from a neighboring village; what a supply for a whole city! But the man had scarcely got out of the city, when the enemy seized him roughly and made him pay three times the price he had received. If friends wanted to bring some trifling stores from the nearest farms, they dared not do it by daylight.[557] Finding themselves reduced to such extremities, a few citizens on one or two occasions went out of the city to procure bread: they were insulted and beaten. 'Alas!' said the poor creatures, 'we {277} have only to move the tips of our fingers, or go a nail's breadth out of the city, to make our enemies cry out that we are upsetting heaven and earth.'[558]

Seeing that no progress was made, the evangelicals determined to assert the free publication of the Word of God. It was not enough for them to have it printed, they wanted it preached,—not only in their own houses or in the great hall of Rive, but in the churches. They had within their walls one of the most powerful preachers of the age—Farel: they believed that their duty towards God and their fellow-citizens called upon them to make his eloquent voice heard by the multitude.


The 22d of July was the feast of Mary Magdalen. The bells had been solemnly rung to call worshippers to the church of that name, and already a great number of catholics and even evangelicals had gathered within its walls. Was it by a Latin mass that the memory of that Magdalen ought to be commemorated to whom Jesus had said: Thy faith hath saved thee? Ought not those words to be preached which Jesus had addressed to her, and not the rubbish with which the priests sent their flocks to sleep? This was what the reformers asked each other. They observed, moreover, that the catholics, less numerous than the protestants, had six churches, while the latter had scarcely one or two places of worship. They added that if the marvellous work begun in Geneva was to be completed, great meetings must be held in the temples. Some persons called out, 'Farel.'—'Yes, Farel,' repeated many: 'let us go and fetch him;' and they all ran to the convent of Rive. The reformer had just gone into the pulpit when the message was handed to him. Farel was always ready and believed he had a right to speak in a church. 'My friends,' he said to his congregation, 'we must to-day preach the good news under the vaulted roof of the Madeleine, and abolish idolatry there.' He then {278} came down from the pulpit and bent his way towards that huge old gothic church, with its Carlovingian tower, whose foundation dates from the eleventh century. The crowd of his hearers followed him. He entered: his friends made signs of joy: the priest standing before the altar, where he was celebrating mass, stopped in alarm and ran away; his acolytes followed him, and all the worshippers wished to do the same. But the huguenots, thinking that the Word of God was specially necessary for them, shut the doors. This roused the catholics, the frightened women shrieked, and all made such an uproar, that the reformers opened the doors and let those depart who pleased. There remained, however, a certain number of undecided persons; and Farel began to preach with power, that Saviour who had pardoned the Magdalen and who still pardons sinners.

Meantime those who had fled, dispersing in the streets and houses, cried out against the scandal, while the parish priest, running off to the hôtel-de-ville, complained to the council. Farel was forbidden to preach again in that church. When the sermon was ended, the catholics returned and the priests sang mass in it with more fervor than ever. The huguenots made no opposition, but they also claimed that no one should oppose their meetings. The two worships were to be free. In fact the very same day at vespers, 'those rascals (canailles),' says Sister Jeanne, 'again took possession of the holy church, and every day afterwards it was the usual custom to preach in it.'[559]

The irritated council summoned Farel before them on the 30th of July. 'Sirs,' said the reformer, 'you have yourselves acknowledged that whatever cannot be proved by Scripture ought to be suppressed; why then do you delay doing so? Were not the defenders of popery vanquished in our debates? And has not {279} almost the whole city recognized the finger of God in this signal defeat of the papacy? Give us orders which we can obey, for fear we should be constrained to answer you with Scripture, that it is better to obey God rather than men. Assemble the Council of Two Hundred and let them decide.' The syndics, knowing that the friends of Reform had a majority in that assembly, refused the demand, and repeated their prohibition to Farel, adding: For good reasons.

Farel thought their reasons bad. In such a matter he knew but one really good: Preach the Gospel to every creature, the Lord had said. He set no bounds either to his desire for the triumph of the truth, or to his expectation of help from God to give him the victory. A holy ambition that would not be straitened, animated him, and according to the words of Elisha, he smote five or six times until the enemy was vanquished. Farel was one of those men whom God raises up for great and salutary revolutions: opposition only served to inflame his courage.


On the 1st of August he went to Saint-Gervais, where the friends of the Reform were numerous. The uneasy syndics sent a guard of fifty men; but Farel went into the pulpit and preached in the old church the ever new Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the 5th of August he became still bolder, and proclaimed the anti-Roman doctrine in the church dedicated to St. Dominic, the father of the Inquisition. This evangelist did not perform his office at his own time only and according to his own convenience: he never spared himself, whatever were the vexations he gathered from his labors. He summoned weary souls to rest at the feet of Christ; he followed up the obstinate; he argued, reproved, entreated, exhorted. He multiplied the inducements to make the dilatory enter upon the way of life, and 'his vehemence was always tempered with meekness.' The hour had arrived when divine truth was to triumph over {280} human errors; he therefore multiplied his attacks. The greatest blow yet remained to be struck. A thunder-clap was about to bring down an abundant rain upon the thirsty earth, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost which cometh from heaven.[560]

The cathedral of St. Pierre, whose three old towers soar above the city, played a great part in its history, and every Genevan was attached to its stones, though they were now (as it were) broken and scattered, and the divine service was contaminated by mournful profanations. But the greater the desolation, the more did pious men desire to see that august temple purified and the good news proclaimed beneath its vaulted roof. Fourteen canons still belonged to it, established to defend it; but those unhappy clerks, isolated, scared, and conquered before a blow was struck, waited trembling until the tide of Reform, which still kept rising, invaded their sanctuary. They had not long to wait. On Sunday morning, 8th of August, a crowd of reformed Genevans mounted the streets leading to the church, and approached it with the firm intention of replacing the light upon the candlestick. 'When rust has tarnished iron,' said a reformer, 'we endeavor to restore it to its former brightness: must we not, then, cleanse away from the Church of Christ the thick rust which ages of darkness have accumulated on it?'[561] Having entered the noble edifice, the reformers began to ring the great bell to call the people to hear the Gospel. Clémence was tolling the last hour of the Middle Ages, the De Defunctis of images, 'those gods of the priests,' as the huguenots called them. The chapel which contained the arm of St. Anthony, on which men used to swear in serious cases, was to be pulled down; all that mass of waxen hands offered by devotees, and a thousand other relics equally stupid, were to disappear. In that temple, now 'crammed {281} with idols,' God and his Word were henceforward to reign alone.


Farel arrived and went into the pulpit. The worship they were about to celebrate was not to be an ordinary service: a religious revolution was about to be accomplished. Ceremonies were the essence of popery. Now Farel was full of the idea that there are no ceremonial laws in Christianity; that an act of worship, discharged according to the rules of the Church, is not on that account pleasing to God and meritorious: that to overburden believers with festivals, bowing of the head, crossing, kneeling before pictures, and ceremonies, is opposed to worship in the spirit; that to fill the churches with images, offerings, relics, and tapers is dealing a blow at justification by faith and the merit of Christ's death which alone save the sinner. He believed with his whole heart that divine worship, according to the New Testament, does not consist in processions, elevations, salutations, bowings, genuflexions before the host, and other superstitious usages; that its essence is faith in the Gospel, the charity which flows from it, patience in bearing the cross, public confession of Jesus Christ, and the living prayer of the heart. At the sight of the statues, the pictures, the votive offerings which surrounded him—at the recollection of the superstitious ceremonies which for centuries had profaned that cathedral, Farel in great emotion was ready to do anything, even at the risk of his life, to establish that religion which is spirit and life. 'Those idols,' he said, pointing from the pulpit to the images around him, 'the mass and the whole body of popery are condemned by the Holy Ghost. The magistrates, ordained by God, ought to pull down everything that is raised in opposition to God's glory.' The images, if they remained, would be in his eyes a sign of the victory of catholicism; but if they fell, their fall would proclaim the victory of the Reformation. {282} This point had been often discussed: the priests and devout people opposed Farel's intentions with all their power, and maintained that such changes required the consent of a general council. The alarmed politicians objected that if they pulled down the images, then for one enemy Geneva would have a hundred—the duke of Savoy, the king of France, the emperor, the pope, the cardinals, and all the bishops in the world.

There were at this time two powers and two systems in the city:—the reformers, whose ideal theories had not yet been modified by reality, said that the State, as well as individuals, ought to become a new creature; that the Gospel would accomplish this work of transformation; that the Church would change the people and would make of the State a kingdom of God upon earth.... Alas! that task is still far from being accomplished, and can it ever be? On the other hand the politicians, without wishing to reject the influence of the Gospel, thought that the State occupied the first place in human society, and that order was not possible without it. They believed that the magistrates, without being the masters of the faith, ought to be the source of regularity in the Church, and accordingly the State undertook to restrain the evangelicals. It was attempted later in Calvin's day; now it was done in Farel's. The council sent for him after the sermon at St. Pierre's and asked him why he had preached in the cathedral. 'I am surprised,' said the reformer, 'that you make a crime of what is in accordance with Scripture.' If, however, he rendered unto God the things that were God's, he was willing to render unto Cæsar the things that were Cæsar's. He therefore expressed a desire that the reformers should be summoned by the legitimate authority, and renewed his demand for the convocation of the Council of Two Hundred.


The syndics ordered him to discontinue his sermons at St. Pierre's until further notice.[562]

[546]   Annales de Boyne, ad annum.

[547]   Calvin, Letter at the head of the Bible of 1535.

[548]   Preface to the Bible of 1535.

[549]   Olivetan took advantage of all the Hebrew commentaries and paraphrases contained in the Bible of Bomberg. (Venice, 1518-1526.) See the articles in the Revue de Strasbourg, by M. Reuss.

[550]   Em. Pétavel, La Bible en France, pp. 106, 107.

[551]   According to Olivetan, the Bible is the 'corbeille de mariage'—the casket containing the jewels and presents which the bridegroom sends to the bride.

[552]   'Viens avec tes tenaillés (torn with red-hot pincers), tes flétris, tes oreillés, tes démembrés.'

[553]   Calvin placed two writings at the head of the volume: Une épître à tous empereurs, rois, princes, et peuples soumis à l'empire de Christ, and a Discours préliminaire, which was long at the head of the ancient Genevan Bibles.

[554]   'Idolotramenta.' Registres du Conseil du 28 Juin 1535.—Farellus Calvino.

[555]   'Magistratus fungeretur officio patris . . . . officium faceret pro gloria Dei et plebis salute.' Farel to Calvin, Epist. Calv.—Chronique MSC. de Roset, iii. p. 37.

[556]   'Le conseil donc, délayant, ne faisait rien.'—Chronique MSC. de Roset, iii. p. 37.

[557]   Collection Galiffe.

[558]   Dépêches des Syndics, du 18 Juillet, aux Cantons Suisses.

[559]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 127.—Registres du Conseil du 23 Juillet.

[560]   Registres du Conseil du 30 Juillet.

[561]   Calvin.

[562]   Registres du Conseil du 8 Août 1535.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 142, 144.

(8th to 11th August 1535.)

The Reformation protested against a ritualistic and meritorious worship; against the multiplicity of feasts, consecrations, ecclesiastical usages and customs; against any adoration whatever rendered to creatures, images, and relics; against the invocation of mediators who usurped the function of the Son of God; lastly, and chiefly, against a pretended expiatory sacrifice, effected by the priests, which was substituted for the only sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ.


All these human vanities were about to disappear. Farel and his friends waited for the reformatory ordinance; but the ardent huguenots, among whom Ami Perrin was the most active, became impatient at the perpetual hesitations of the council. A chance event called forth an energetic demonstration on their part. The same Sunday (8th August) in the afternoon at vespers, the canons, assembling again in their church, chanted the Psalm In exitu Israël, 'When Israel went out of Egypt,'[563] and, with the utmost simplicity, repeated in Latin what Farel had said in the morning in French:

Simulacra gentium argentum et aurum,
Opera manuum hominum.
Os habent et non loquentur.
Oculos habent et non videbunt.
Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea
Et omnes qui confidunt in illis.[564]

The canons could not have chosen a fitter text. Some huguenots, who knew Latin better perhaps than they did, smiled and called out: 'Ho there, you priests, you curse in your chants those who made the images and trusted in them, and yet you allow them to remain.' They restrained themselves, however, for the moment. The magistrates continued repeating, 'There is no need to abolish the mass and images; else very formidable princes will be to you like ravening wolves rushing upon sheep.'[565]

A very extraordinary thing occurred at this moment. Nobody was willing to begin the work and yet it was accomplished. 'God,' said the reformers, 'who holds the world in his hand, loves to choose the contemptible rather than what is great and apparent.' In fact, it was a mischievous jest of some children which dealt the first blow. 'For this work,' says Froment, 'God stirred up a score of little boys.' These children had often heard the priests, and their errors and abuses spoken of; and their parents had added that it was time they were ended. They slipped into St. Pierre's; stopped and listened, and were struck with the strange intonations of the canons. Making their way towards a part of the church remote from that in which the reverend fathers were chanting, they began to play like boys of their age, 'while nobody thought anything about it,' says the chronicler. They commenced singing and shouting in {285} imitation of the canons' voices. Presently they lifted up the seats of the low stalls, on which the reverend fathers used to sit when they were not engaged in the service, and let them fall with a noise. Everybody knows the fondness little boys have for amusements of this kind. They gambolled about, but in their games there was a certain opposition to the worship which their fathers condemned. The petulance of their age carried them away. They saw in a corner certain things that resembled dolls; they could not resist their desire to take them; and catching hold of the 'priests' mannikins,'[566] as Froment calls them, they began to toss to one another the small grotesque figures with which the chapels were decorated.


At this moment Perrin, Goulay, and their friends, attracted perhaps by the noise, entered the cathedral. They saw that the great execution had begun; children were beforehand with them. Passion and impulse carried them away. They knew that it was the province of the government only to work out a reform; but when the government hangs back from its duty, what is to be done? 'We have petitioned the council to pull down the idols,' they said; 'and it has not done so for want of courage. Let us then come to its help and do what God commands.' At once the daring citizens, going farther than the children, penetrated into the choir where the priests were singing, and the latter asked in alarm what these laymen were going to do. 'On a sudden,' says the chronicler, 'Perrin and his companions threw the idols to the ground and broke them.' The children who saw this began to run about and 'jump upon those little gods.' Taking up the pieces, they ran to the door with glee, and called to the people collected in front of the church: 'Here are the gods of the priests, will you have a piece?' At the same time they threw the fragments among the crowd. There was great {286} confusion. The wiser heads ineffectually argued that this work of reform should be left to the council; those huguenots had no doubts as to their duty. If the magistrates were unwilling to have the images destroyed, the Bible commands it. 'The sun is now rising,' they said, 'and scattering throughout Christendom the dense clouds that obscure the religion of Jesus Christ.'

The order of things in the middle ages was indeed incompatible with the new wants of society. Later, in the time of Calvin, after the first victory had been gained, it was important to establish Christian doctrine and to constitute Christian society; but now it was the time of Farel. It was necessary to appeal to the spirit of liberty and to the energetic development of the will—this a conservative writer has acknowledged[567]—a necessity in the first ages at the time of the establishment of Christianity; it was no less a necessity in the sixteenth century. The powers that had invaded the Church were so tenacious that the labor necessary to pull them down was a work of revolution and of war. The moral fact was the same at the epoch of these two great dispensations. Whoever applauds the axe which shattered the colossal statue of Serapis at Alexandria,[568] cannot blame that which threw down the images of a corrupt worship in the temples of Geneva.

Great was the sorrow felt by the devotees during that execution; they seemed looking at the fall of the papacy itself. Some who had remained in the church contemplated the heart-rending spectacle from afar. Foolish women of the city, says Froment, began to weep and to groan. 'Alas! our good saints, our sacred images (they said) before which we used to kneel!... Whom shall we adore now?'—and they 'cursed those dogs (cagnes).'

A new and still more striking act increased the wrath of the priests and that of their partisans. Of all the {287} Romish dogmas there was none which more disgusted the huguenots than transubstantiation. To affirm it (they maintained) was to presume that Jesus Christ, man and God, was transformed into a little cake. And hence a French refugee, Maigret, surnamed the Magnificent, a man without pity for Roman errors, having found some wafers in the church, threw them upon the ground; his dog, who followed him, sprang upon them and ate them up. 'Now if these little cakes had been real gods,' said the pitiless Maigret, 'they would not have allowed themselves to be eaten by that beast.'[569] No one has combated the doctrine of transubstantiation more vigorously than Calvin, but he would not have approved of such a rude mode of acting; later, he expressly condemned it. 'Let us not take too great license,' he said.


The horror of the priests knew no bounds; they ran out of the church, hastened to the hôtel-de-ville, and described to the council the violent scenes that had just taken place. The syndics, irritated because the huguenots had despised their orders, sent two of their number to the cathedral—Antoine Chiquand and Ami Bandière. They were 'much excited,' shouting and threatening 'those who had done this.' But the reformed were not inclined to give way. They had made strange discoveries. Some who had begun to search after the famous arm of St. Anthony—upon which, in important cases, oaths used to be made with the ringing of bells and great pomp, found—not the arm of the saint, but the limb of a stag. Others, opening the precious shrine which inclosed the head of St. Peter, brought out a piece of pumice-stone instead of the skull. 'See,' they exclaimed, showing these objects to the surrounding crowd, 'see what the priests used to make us worship.' This gave another direction to the indignation of the delegates from the council, and one of them, disgusted {288} at such mean frauds, said to the other: 'If the gods of the priests are true gods, let them defend themselves. As for us we can do no more.' The huguenots, wishing to make these scandals known to the people, put the pumice-stone and the stag's bone under magnificent canopies, and prepared to carry these precious relics of an apostle and a saint all round the city. The novel procession attracted an immense crowd, and the disgusting falsehoods, of which it was a proof, opened the eyes of the most obstinate. 'Now we know,' they said, 'the value of the priests' words! They made us pay five florins for the ceremony; they pretended that if any one made a false oath, the saint would wither up his hand. All that was only to frighten and plunder us.' Every one began to despise a clergy who, for so many ages, had thus played upon the good faith of the people. An old writer has said: 'Justæ quibus est iræ.'[570] 'Woe unto the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!'[571]

In the evening, a certain number of citizens met together after supper, when the more excited 'proposed that they should make the round of the other churches and throw down the idols everywhere.'—'No,' replied the wiser ones, 'not now; if we did it at so late an hour, folks would say, as they did of old at Pentecost, that we are full of new wine. Let us wait until to-morrow morning.'[572] This was the general opinion.

The next day, Monday the 9th of August, early in the morning, the drum beat in the streets. Some people asked 'Whether there was any alarm of the enemy.'—'Make yourselves easy,' they answered; 'it is only a fight against Rome and her idols.' Everything {289} was conducted with order: the citizens were drawn up in their companies. Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, Pierre Vandel, and Ami Perrin, who were the three captains of the city, put themselves at their head, and then they all marched with drums beating to the church of St. Gervais. It was not a tumultuous band, but the majority of the people advancing under the orders of their regular captains. None of those citizens had the least doubt as to the lawfulness of his proceedings. The new crusade, like that of Peter the Hermit, was accomplished to the cry of—It is the will of God!


There were at St. Gervais' scandals still greater than at St. Pierre's. The priests, to procure money, pretended that St. Nazaire, St. Celsus, and St. Pantaleon were buried under the high altar. When a poor woman approached, she heard a confused noise.[573] 'It is the voices of the holy bodies,' said the priests, 'praying to be taken up and canonized; but that requires a large sum of money.' Others related how at the dead of night small luminous creatures were often seen moving about the cemetery. 'They are souls from purgatory,' explained the ecclesiastics; 'they wander about here and there asking for masses for their deliverance.' Certain persons, wishing to learn the truth, crept one night into the cemetery, caught some of those poor souls, and found that they were—crabs, with small wax tapers lighted and fastened on their backs.[574] Frivolous men laughed, but serious men, seeing to what guilty manœuvres the priests had been driven by the love of gain, were seized with horror. 'Avarice so excites them,' said Calvin one day, 'that there is nothing they will not try, how bad soever it may be—treacheries, {290} frauds innumerable, hatreds, poisonings—as soon as the gleam of silver or gold has dazzled their eyes.'

The three captains and their companies, having reached the church, began by exploring the vault where the three saints groaned, and discovered the trick. They found under the altar two earthen vessels connected by a tube, and pierced with holes like those in an organ-pipe, so that the least noise over the vessels produced the effect of organ-bellows, and caused a sound like the indistinct murmur of persons talking.[575] 'The poor papists could not believe it.'—'No!' they said; 'it is St. Nazaire, St. Celsus, and St. Pantaleon.'—'Come and see then,' answered the reformers. They came and saw, and 'some of them from that hour refused to believe any more in such abuses.'[576]


The judgment having been accomplished at St. Gervais, the three captains turned their steps towards the church of St. Dominic, one of the chief sanctuaries of popery between the Jura and the Alps. Great miracles were worked there: the huguenots called them 'great swindles.' A beautiful image adorned in a costly manner, and representing Our Lady, stood in the church, and had the power (it was said) of calling back to life the children who had died without baptism. Poor people came to Geneva from all the country round, with their lifeless little children, and laid them on the altar before the image. Then a feather placed on the infant's mouth flew into the air, or else the cheeks flushed with red: sometimes the child perspired. The spectators cried out: 'A miracle!' 'The child is resuscitated' (revicoullé), said the monks. Immediately the bells {291} rang, the child was christened, and then buried. 'The child had never been restored alive to its father or mother,' said the huguenots, 'and yet they had to pay dearly for it.' The citizens lifted up the altar and found two machines under it: on one side were certain instruments in which they blew to make the child breathe, and on the other some stones which were heated to make the child turn color or perspire. An ointment with which they had smeared it became soft, and gave a certain hue to its flesh. 'Really,' exclaimed the Genevans, 'those who believe such clumsy absurdities ought to have been converted—into blocks!' Henceforth Our Lady ceased to work miracles.[577]

The band of reformers, having passed to the refectory, found there a carving representing a big fat woman at a table cutting up a large pie, with monks seated round her. Beneath were these words from psalm cxxxiii., Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! At this moment Farel came up: 'Is it thus, my fathers,' he said, 'that you interpret Holy Scripture? Have you not jeered enough at men, but you must jeer also at the Word of God? By what right do you adapt it to your gluttony?' 'Alas!' exclaimed the monks, 'excuse us; you have come too late to make us renounce our good customs.'[578]

Meanwhile some huguenots had stopped before another piece of sculpture, at which they were quite amazed. At the top they saw a devil with seven heads: from the devil issued the pope with his triple crown; from the pope issued the cardinals; from the cardinals the bishops, monks, and priests ... and below them was a burning furnace representing hell. The reformed Genevans were astonished to find in a convent of St. {292} Dominic a satire upon the papacy, more cutting than all that they had ever imagined.[579]

The three captains and their companies arrived at last near the Arve, where stood the church of Notre Dame; but the syndic, informed of what was going on, arrived at the same time, and wishing to save a famous picture of the Virgin, had it carried before them to the hôtel-de-ville. There was no lack of raillery; people asked if they were going to work miracles with the picture? and they were compelled to burn it in the great hall to escape the jokes that were showered upon them.

The campaign was over; the citizens returned to their homes; the Christian conscience approved of their work. The suppression of so many shameful frauds—was it not ordered in heaven? From that day mass was sung no longer in any of the churches.[580] The action of the citizens was more than a popular movement: the Reform was strengthened by it. No one would have condemned the vile tricks of the priests more than the honest and brave Luther. Yet Luther, putting specially in the foreground the great doctrine of man's justification by faith, thundered against indulgences and other pretended good works, but tolerated images; while Zwingle, Farel, and Calvin, regarding especially God, His glory, and His grace, protested against every apotheosis of the creature, against all paganism, and particularly against all images in the Lord's temple. Here then was a characteristic difference between Lutheranism and the Reform.

Great was the sorrow and anger of the priests. Gathered round the ruins of what they had adored, some remained silent while others uttered cries of {293} horror. The threats of the clergy were such that the alarmed council that very day called the three captains before them, and asked if they intended to obey orders. 'Certainly,' they replied; 'we destroyed the images, because they were set up contrary to God's Word.' The syndics, struck with the firmness of those men, summoned the council of Two Hundred for the next day.[581]

The next day was the 10th of August, a memorable day which was to decide the destiny of Geneva. There was great agitation throughout the city. Some of the friends of Rome still hoped, trusting in the antiquity of their forms and traditions; but the reformed believed the cause of the Reformation gained, since there was on its side God, His Word, and the majority of the citizens and of the councils. The two hundred senators having taken their place, and many other persons of note sitting near them, Farel appeared, accompanied by Pierre Viret, Jacques Bernard, and several laymen. His slight appearance, his complexion tanned by the sun, and his red beard, so dreaded by the priests, had nothing imposing; but there was in that man a heart burning with love for Christ's Gospel, and from those thick lips flowed streams of masculine eloquence which carried away all hearers. He advanced firm and sure of the victory of the Reformation. It is written: Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. Fear not. There was much talking and agitation in the assembly: the men who composed it had a presentiment of great things; they felt the importance of the crisis, and, full of anxiety about what would happen, fixed their eyes on Farel.


Silence having been proclaimed, the reformer, holding the minutes of the disputation in his hand, began to speak, and selected as the principal points of the debate the worship of images and the sacrifice of the mass. {294} He reminded them 'that most of those who demanded their maintenance had abstained from appearing; that others had not been able to defend them, and that many had rejected them. 'Why,' he exclaimed, 'should not all embrace the Gospel? We are ready, my colleagues and I, not only to make a public confession, but (if necessary) to sprinkle it with our blood.' Then addressing the council directly, and raising his 'voice of thunder,' says a Roman-catholic author, he called upon the assembly to deliver a judgment that should give glory to God. 'What!' said he: 'the dominion of the papacy is falling, and would you lift your hands to support what God is overthrowing? Will you always halt between two opinions? If the pope really utters oracles, listen to him; but if the voice we hear in Scripture is God's voice, do what it ordains.'—Here Farel stopped: he felt the importance of the decision that was about to be taken, and a profound emotion came over him. Lifting his hands towards heaven, he exclaimed: 'O God! enlighten this council, make it understand that Thy glory and the salvation of all this people are concerned; humble the loud boasting of the priests,[582] and make Thy cause triumph.' This 'earnest prayer,' as a manuscript terms it, made a deep impression upon all who heard it.

The deliberation began: it was calm, serious, thoughtful, and marked with all the dignity such an important affair demanded. The most earnest reformers would have liked the immediate cessation of popery in Geneva; but the council thought it wiser to proceed slowly. As Farel had uttered a new challenge against the priests, the premier syndic proposed to call upon them to defend the mass and image-worship if they could. Meanwhile it was ordered, that (not to offend the catholics) the pulling down of images should be stopped, and that (not to offend the reformers) the celebration of mass {295} should cease. These resolutions passed almost unanimously.[583]

But Rome was already vanquished and the friends of the reformed were eager to prove it. A layman stood up and said: 'You call up the priests, but I am much afraid there is not one left in the city. They are all thinking of running away and carrying off the church treasures. Why should we always temporize? The reform of the abuses which disfigured religion, far from damaging its existence, will restore it to itself, just as washing a smeared and dirty picture restores it to its primitive condition. That bishop, those priests, those citizens who run away, are not the Church, they are only deserters.' The council resolved unanimously that the Romish priests who fled were not carrying the Church of Geneva with them, and ordered an inventory to be taken of all ecclesiastical property. The sitting then broke up.[584]


The mass was suppressed: this was an enormous step. The abolition of the mass was the abolition of popery. The reform was immediately carried into execution. The next day (11th August) a formal order was issued 'neither to sing nor to say mass' in the city of Geneva. The frightened priests obeyed: they drew in their horns, they hid themselves, and took good care not to permit the least chant to be heard. Ere long there was a new trouble. They saw the commissioners of the council enter the churches and draw up an inventory of the furniture, jewels, and ecclesiastical property. With downcast eyes and silent lips, the ministers of Rome beheld the disappearance of the fine portraits, pyxes, chalices, and other precious works, which were removed to a place of safety beyond the reach of dilapidation. They were valued at more than ten thousand crowns. From that day no Roman service was celebrated in the {296} city. There was not to be found among the clergy one of those enthusiastic souls who rush into the midst of danger to uphold and to proclaim their faith.

These bold acts were not, however, accomplished without a murmur. The populace generally was for the Roman worship, and some opposition cries were heard. 'If the mass is no longer sung,' said some timid souls to the syndics, 'the people may rise.'[585] 'Ah!' said some prudent men, 'if the mass is sung again, that would create a still greater disturbance.' The council therefore maintained the prohibition. A few catholics, faithful to the superstitions of ages, might be seen going at the canonical hours into the silent churches, wandering like ghosts through the deserted aisles, and shedding tears. Alas! there were no more chants, no more prayers, no more masses, no more litanies, no more incense! The priests and the organ—all were silent.

In those days of great alarm a few women only displayed any courage. 'We will not strike our colors,' said the sisters of St. Claire. And in fact they did hear the mass, but with closed doors and in low tones in the middle of the choir, and sometimes, for greater security, in the refectory. Zealous catholics went and knocked stealthily at the convent gate and begged in a whisper to be admitted to the masses celebrated without singing and without pomp. They joined in the service with trembling: they pricked up their ears and were alarmed at the least noise. This fidelity did not last long. Five days later, on the 5th of August, the feast of the Assumption, the last communion took place. The father-confessor and his companions, after saying mass timidly, stole out of the city.[586]


While night was gradually stretching its veil over {297} popery and its followers, the sun rose higher upon the friends of the Holy Scriptures. There were no more Latin chants, no more theatrical postures, sacerdotal garments, pictures and incense; none of those practices pleasing to the eye, to the ear, or to the smell, which had so long reigned in the Church; but in their place Jesus Christ;—Christ, in the past, making atonement on the cross for the sins of His people;—Christ, in the present, always in the midst of His followers, vivifying, sanctifying, and consoling their hearts. These Christian men had entered into the new era of truth and charity, to which the reformers invited them. While the councils were busy particularly with the maintenance of tranquillity; while the great body sought only independence and liberty—precious goods, but which cannot suffice—the small body of truly pious souls, acknowledging the Son of God as the author of a new life, were decided to follow wherever He should lead them.

The fall of the mass, which dates from the 10th of August, was regarded by the reformed as a sign of victory, and the Genevan Church, adopting this idea, celebrates every century in the month of August (reckoning from 1535) the jubilee of its reformation. After three years of struggles the first victory was gained; but a fourth year was to pass away before the definitive establishment of the Reform. Let us therefore continue our march until May 1536, and even until the arrival of Calvin.

[563]   Psalms cxiv. and cxv. In the Vulgate cxiii.

[564]   'Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths but they speak not; eyes have they but they see not. They that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them.'

[565]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 144.

[566]   'Les marmousets des prêtres.'

[567]   M. Guizot.

[568]   Sozomenes, vii. 15.

[569]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 146.

[570]   Virgil, Æneid, x. 716.

But otherwise the troops, with hate inspired
And just revenge, against the tyrant fired.—Dryden.

[571]   Matthew, xxiii. 14.

[572]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 144-146.—Registres du Conseil du 8 Août 1535.

[573]   'Bonæ vetulæ mulieres solebant suos chapelettos, in eas quas credebant ibidem esse sanctas reliquias, demergere.'—Registres du Conseil du 8 Décembre 1535.

[574]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 149.

[575]   'Duo vasta terrea habebant vaginam seu conductum terreum de uno ad alium; adeo ut vasa, sic sibi respondentia, resonarent ad modum murmuris hominis.'—Registres du Conseil du 8 Août 1535.

[576]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 150.

[577]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 152.

[578]   Ibid. p. 151.

[579]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 153. An engraving of this picture is given in the edition of Froment published by M. Revilliod.

[580]   Registres du Conseil du 9 Août 1535.

[581]   Registres du Conseil du 9 Août 1535.

[582]   'Rabats le haut caquet des prêtres.'

[583]   Registres du Conseil du 10 Août 1535.—MSC. Chouet.

[584]   Ibid.—Chronique de Roset, iii. ch. xxxvii.

[585]   Registres du Conseil, ad annum.

[586]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 144, 145.—Registres du Conseil des 10 et 12 Août.—Chron. MSC. de Roset.


(August to December 1535.)

The Reformation protested against the hierarchy. It denied that Christ had given to the Church or to its heads the power of making laws by the fulfilment of which Christians would be justified before God. The Reformation protested against monkery. It denied that a cloistered life could merit salvation and give a piety superior to what the Word of God requires of all Christians; it reproached the monastic discipline with lowering the divine institutions of marriage, government, and labor; and was an occasion of backsliding and unheard-of scandal.


The priests were about to quit Geneva and carry away with them those abuses; but the council, which always studied to proceed by equitable ways, would not condemn them without hearing them. The monks of the different convents, demoralized and trembling like culprits, had, it is true, fled in great numbers. Still there were some remaining, and they received an order to appear before the Great Council to defend their faith. They were very alarmed, but the order was peremptory. On the morning of the 12th of August those members of the order of St. Dominic, St. Augustin, St. Francis, and the minors of Ste. Claire who were still in Geneva arrived at the hôtel-de-ville. They were twelve in number, a poor remnant of those powerful bodies who for long had possessed such great power in the city. {299} The twelve, standing with bent heads before the council, heard a summary of the disputation read, and this added to their alarm. The premier syndic having asked them if they had anything to say in favor of the mass and of images, all remained silent. St. Dominic, St. Francis, and even St. Augustin were dumb before the Reform. The syndics, desiring at any price to extract a sound from them, ordered the monks to be called up one after the other. Chapelain, a brother of St. Dominic, was called first. 'We are simple people,' he said, 'who cannot answer for want of knowledge. We are accustomed to live as our fathers lived and to believe as the Church does. Do not ask us about matters beyond our reach.' The other monks were unanimous in requesting that they might be permitted not to inquire into such questions. Monkery fell in Geneva amid universal astonishment and indignation.

But after the monks came the priests. Monseigneur de Bonmont, vicar-episcopal, had, at the request of the council, assembled the canons and the secular clergy at his house. The same day (12th August) in the afternoon, a distinguished deputation of syndics and councillors, wishing to honor the church, went to the grand-vicar, instead of making him come to the hôtel-de-ville like the monks. The wise and pious Savoye, who had been elected spokesman, informed the priests that a summary of the great disputation having been drawn up, it was about to be read to them, 'that they might come to a better decision.' The latter displayed less weakness than the monks. Indignant that laymen should presume to catechise the priesthood, they replied haughtily: 'We do not want to hear your debate, and we do not care what Farel said. We wish to live as we have hitherto done, and beg you will leave us in peace.' As the priests rejected the opportunity given them of justifying their doctrines, the representatives of the state interdicted them from celebrating mass until {300} further orders. Some days later the council ordered them 'to worship God according to the Gospel,' and forbade them to perform 'any act of popish idolatry.'[587]

A great and salutary revolution was thus carried out. The Romish priests, seeing their vast temples now silent, their rich abbeys now bare, and themselves reduced to silence, determined to quit Geneva. The fear of being detained made them have recourse to various expedients. In the evening or early in the morning they stole out of the city, or else, hiding in some corner during the day, they fled during the night. Priests, laymen, women holding their children's hands, bade adieu to the cheerful city, to the shores of the beautiful lake, and to its smiling hills. They loved Rome and Rome was sufficient for them. On the 13th of August a cry of alarm was heard in the council: 'Geneva,' it was said, 'by losing a part of its population, will lose its importance.' But it was the contrary that happened. Confessors of the Gospel compelled to quit their country in the cause of faith, and especially Frenchmen, were to fill up the void made by the adherents of the pope.

The exodus continued day and night, but not without difficulty. Jean Regis, a priest, and two of his colleagues crept one dark night to the back of St. Victor's convent, entered the stables, and took out three horses. They were preparing to mount them when they were arrested. The council assembled at two hours after midnight, and sent to prison the priests who were running away on stolen horses.[588] The council prevented the clergy from laying hands upon what did not belong to them, but not from going wherever they pleased.

A great number of ecclesiastics and laymen succeeded, however, in gaining the states of the Duke of Savoy, and wherever they went they stirred up the anger of the catholics against Geneva. The storm that was brewing {301} became more threatening. It was not enough for the Genevans to see their fields laid waste, they learnt from Savoy that the city itself was going to be destroyed. The citizens thrilled with anger: 'As the attack is to take place in favor of popery,' they said, 'it is right that popery should pay for the defence.' The council, therefore, decided that the church jewels should be devoted to the necessities of the state. The priests of St. Germain, St. Gervais, and other parishes brought their reliquaries and vessels; but the proctors of the Madeleine appeared empty-handed at the hôtel-de-ville, and said: 'By what right do you demand our treasures?' At the same time the ex-syndic, Jean Balard, and other catholics, seizing the opportunity, exclaimed: 'Why do you deprive us of our masses?' But the council was firm, and the priests of the Madeleine, quite broken-hearted, were obliged to bring their chalices and other vessels to aid in combating the defenders of their faith. As the value of these ornaments did not exceed three hundred crowns, those of St. Pierre were added to them.[589]


It was time for Geneva to be on its guard. At the beginning of September 1535, the ambassador from the duke of Savoy, prince of Piedmont, informed the pope (on behalf of his master) of what had taken place and asked for prompt repression. He told the pontiff that 'on the 10th of August the wretched Lutherans had abolished religion; that they had entered the churches, had thrown out the relics and the images, had proclaimed the mass to be an abuse, and had set the ministers preaching.' Paul III. was thunderstruck; but true to his silent habits, he only expressed his surprise by signs. He shrugged his shoulders, said the ambassador, as if a thrill of horror had run through him. Then bowing his head he sighed gently, and said in a low tone: 'Holy Virgin! Holy Virgin!' and sank {302} into a deep silence. But if his lips were dumb and his body motionless, his mind, full of activity, was agitated and sought some means of conjuring the evil. At last, breaking silence, he turned to the ambassador: 'Tell the duke that he has behaved like a good servant of the Church. He has done all in his power to prevent this disaster. Let him persevere in the same course.'[590] The duke understood him, and, secure of the support of the pope and of his brother-in-law the emperor, he continued his preparations against Geneva.


During this time the houses of the priests who remained in the city, and the aisles of the almost deserted cloisters, resounded with wailings. This was particularly the case in the convent of St. Claire.

. . . Penitusque cavæ plangoribus ædes
Femineis ululant.[591]

That convent was the only one worthy of any interest: the reformers wished to attempt to introduce a little light into it. The Sunday of the Octave after the Visitation of the Virgin, the syndics, with Farel, Viret, one of the monks who had embraced the reform, and about a dozen notables of the city, made their appearance there about ten o'clock. When the sisters were assembled, Farel took for his text the gospel of the day: 'Maria abiit cum festinatione in civitatem Judæ:' 'Mary went with haste into a city of Juda,'[592] and tried to enlighten the nuns. 'You see,' he said, 'the Virgin Mary did not lead a solitary life; she was diligent in aiding others, and went to the town where her cousin, who was older than herself, lived, in order to do her a service. God said in the days of the Creation: It is not good that the man should be alone. Why then should man contradict {303} this law of God? The Lord is unwilling that any restraint should be imposed upon the conscience, since he has given it liberty. The service rendered to God in the cloisters is therefore a diabolical tyranny.' At these words the mother-vicar, a violent woman, rose hastily, left her seat, went and put herself between the sisters and the heretics, and said sharply to the latter: 'Be off, for you will gain nothing here!'—'Return to your place,' said the syndics; but the mother replied: 'I will do nothing of the sort.' Consequently they turned her out.

Farel continued: 'What is this monastic life that is substituted for holy matrimony and liberty? It is a life full of great abuses, monstrous errors, and carnal corruption.' At these words the sisters began to cry out, 'It is a falsehood,' and spat at the reformer in their wrath.[593] But Farel, who had suffered worse things than this, said to the confessor: 'We know that many of these poor young women would willingly come to the truth and liberty, if you and the old ones did not keep them so close.' While saying these words he was stopped by loud blows which prevented his being heard. It was the mother-vicar, who had been listening to him; she struck against the partition with her fists, and cried out: 'Hah! you wretched, cursed man! You are wasting your coaxing words. Bah! you will make nothing of them!' She then backed up her words by a terrible drumming upon the panels.[594] Some of the sisters stopped their ears with wax, so as not to hear Farel's sermon. The latter, calling to mind the saying, Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, retired, and the deputation went down the staircase. The monk who had embraced the Reform was the last of the file; one of the sisters walked behind him, thumping him on the shoulders with her fists, and saying: 'Wretched apostate, {304} out of my sight!' 'But this fine fellow did not seem to notice them,' says Jeanne, who was present; 'he said not a word, his tongue was palsied.'[595] The same could not be said of the mother-vicar, and some others, who kept on vociferating and thumping. Farel returned no more to the convent.

One nun, however, had opened her heart to the Gospel. Claudine Levet, who had a sister named Blaisine Varembert, in the cloister, had often visited her, had given her a New Testament, and prayed night and day to God that Blaisine might be enlightened. The latter was touched with the love of the Saviour, of which Claudine had spoken to her; and on the festival of Corpus Christi she refused to adore the holy sacrament. Three of the sisters fell upon her, 'and bruised her all over.' They put her in prison, and tied her hands and feet. 'Ah!' said Blaisine, 'you keep me in prison, because I reproach you for making good cheer and living in strife with one another day and night.'[596]

Claudine Levet and some other Genevan ladies, with Baudichon de la Maisonneuve and Pierre Vandel, went to the convent with the intention of liberating the poor girl. The mother-vicar 'stood upright on her feet,' and said: 'Gentlemen, consider well what you are about to do, for if any man comes near, either he or I shall die upon the spot.'[597] Upon this, the men remaining in the background, two or three ladies approached the prisoner. The latter, standing by the side of her sister, declared that she desired to serve God purely, according to Holy Scripture, and added that she was detained in the convent against her will. 'In that case you are free,' said De la Maisonneuve. To no purpose did the {305} mother-vicar rush impetuously forward, wishing to detain her by force, and several nuns did the same; Blaisine left the convent without saying a word, entered a neighboring house, took off her religious dress, and went in plain garments to her sister's.[598]

Claudine and Blaisine could not, however, make up their minds to abandon the poor recluses. Possessing the Word of God, and the salvation that it announces, they desired to share their good things with them. The Genevese ladies, attached to the Gospel, had much faith and activity. The two sisters, therefore, returned to the convent on Saturday, 28th, and Sunday, 29th August, and Dame Claude began to speak; but the nuns tossed their heads, and called out: 'Oh the great story-teller! Oh the devil incarnate!' And the mother-vicar, turning towards a syndic who had accompanied Claudine, along with other 'respectable persons,' said: 'Take that witch away from here.' 'Beware how you abuse her,' answered the magistrate, 'for she is a holy creature, enlightened by the true God, and produces great fruits by her divine doctrines, converting the poor ignorant people, and continually taking great pains for the salvation of souls.' 'Convert,' exclaimed the superior, 'you should rather say pervert.' At the same time the sisters spat in her face, according to the report of one of their number.[599]


When the syndic saw this, he lost all hope. The duke of Savoy invited the sisters to take refuge in his states, making them fine promises. 'Fair ladies,' said the magistrate, 'name the day you wish to depart.'—'To-morrow,' said the mother-superior, 'to-morrow, at daybreak.'—'Fair ladies,' resumed the syndic, 'pack up your goods.'[600]


Early next morning the syndics arrived, when the sisters, after singing a De Profundis, put their breviaries under their arm, and drew up in two ranks. The mother-vicar placed the young sisters, who might have any longing to quit the veil, by the side of some sturdy nuns who could detain them. A great crowd had assembled before the convent and in the streets. Seeing this, many of the nuns 'shrank back with fear,' but the courageous superior said, with animation: 'Cheer up, my sisters, make the sign of the cross, and keep our Lord in your hearts.' They stepped forward. This procession of veiled and silent women represented Roman-catholicism leaving Geneva. Sobs were heard here and there. Three hundred archers marched in front, behind, and at the side of the nuns, to protect them. 'If any one moves,' said the syndic to the spectators, 'he shall lose his head.' The crowd looked on silently as the sisters passed along.[601]

When the procession arrived at the Arve bridge, where the territory of the city ceased, the nuns, who had imagined they would find the duke and his court waiting at the frontiers of his states to receive them with great honor, could see nobody. A poor monk alone appeared, bringing a wretched wagon, in order to carry the old and sick.[602]

The rain and the muddy roads delayed their progress. The poor nuns, who knew nothing but their convent, were startled at everything. Seeing a few sheep grazing in a meadow, they screamed aloud, taking them (says one of the sisters) for ravening wolves. A little farther on, some cows which were in the fields, attracted by this troop passing along, stretched out their heads towards the road, and lowed. The nuns imagined they were hungry bears, and had {307} not even strength to run away. At nightfall they reached St. Julien, having taken fifteen hours to go a short league. The next day they entered Annecy, where the duke gave them the monastery of the Holy Cross. All the bells of the city rang at their arrival. Here the poor nuns found some repose; but they did not forget the judgment of God that had banished them from Geneva, and did not hide the cause of their misfortunes. 'Ah!' said Sister Jeanne de Jussie, 'the prelates and churchmen did not observe their vows at this time, but squandered dissolutely the ecclesiastical property, keeping women in adultery and lubricity, and awakening the anger of God, which brought divine punishment on them.'[603]

If the truth extorted such a confession from a nun, an honest but fanatical disciple of popery, we may understand what the reformed thought and said. A cry came from their hearts against the immorality and hypocrisy of those who ought to have been their guides. Hence there was great agitation among the priests; they came running in a distracted manner to Monseigneur de Bonmont, and asking him: 'What is to be done? must we stay or go?'


The grand-vicar thought it was necessary to go. Public opinion declared unequivocally against him: he was one of those priests who called forth Sister Jeanne's reproof. 'Monseigneur keeps in his house several mistresses and agents of debauchery,' people said. 'Gaming, mots de gueule, dances, banquets, impudicity, and every kind of dissolute living, are his delight. He generally has five vile prostitutes at his table, seated according to their degree, two at his right and two at his left, while the oldest waits upon the others. He smiles when he talks of impudicity, and says, "It is a mere backsliding, and does not count."' Seeing the {308} storm grow darker, the wretched priest was terrified in his conscience, and resolved to act like his bishop, and quit a city where he could no longer live as he had always lived. The Reformation was the re-establishment of morality as well as of faith. Monseigneur fled to the mountain, to solitude in the abbey of Bonmont, near Nyon, on a spur of the Jura, which overlooks Lake Leman and its rich valley. Another terror was soon to drive him thence.[604]

The anger of God (spoken of by Jeanne) continued to work out his judgments: opprobrium accumulated on those priests who had thought themselves the kings of the earth. On the 18th of September, some of the citizens having caught one of them in an act of impurity, they set him on a donkey, and paraded him thus through the city, making his mistress, disguised as a lackey, walk behind him. Serious men disapproved of such buffoonery. 'Ah!' they said, 'disease, the consequence of their disorders, has so punished them, that as we see them pass along in their processions we might imagine them to be soldiers returning from the war, they are so covered with scars—true martyrs of the pope!'[605] The magistrates would have liked not to punish them, not to banish them, but to reform them. 'Give up,' they said, 'your dances, gluttony, and dissolute living, and dwell in our city according to God's law, like citizens and good friends.' But that seemed too difficult for the priests: they preferred to leave Geneva.

The most active, however, remained. Dupan and some of his colleagues went from house to house, strengthening the weak. They might be seen passing along the streets, wearing their sacerdotal vestments. If a child was born, they hastened to christen it according {309} to the Roman ritual; if fervent Catholics desired the sacrament, they met secretly in some chamber, knelt down before a hastily constructed altar, crossed themselves, and said mass. They even carried their zeal so far as to visit certain of the reformed, in order to bring them back to the fold of the Church. At the very moment when the edifice was giving way on all sides, their natural inflexibility and enthusiasm for the papacy made them remain, as if their feeble hands were sufficient to support it. Such courage claims our admiration, but the reformed considered it rather as a matter for serious anxiety. They felt the necessity of concord and unity at this critical moment. 'See what your condescension exposes us to,' they said to the magistrates. 'Just as the enemy is marching against the city, these priests are going to stir up a civil war within our gates.'[606]


The syndics who knew the danger and the necessities of the city, thought that the best means of securing to Geneva her independence and her faith, would be to set everything in good order. The Reformation is a good tree; let it therefore bear its fruit! Christians ought to take care of their sick and of their poor. Accordingly, a general hospital was founded at Ste. Claire, and endowed with the revenues of the old hospitals and the property become ownerless through the departure of the ecclesiastics. Claude Salomon, one of the most fervent evangelicals, dedicated himself, his wife, and his fortune to its service.

Christians ought to take care of their children. It is true that in 1429, F. de Versonex, the syndic, had founded a school where grammar, logic, and the liberal arts were taught; but the director of that institution having left the city, the school had been shut. It must be restored and improved. Farel and his friends required that the instruction should be universal—for all {310} children. The school was established in the place which is still named Rue du Vieux Collège, and its direction intrusted to Saunier, a capable man.[607]

After the extirpation of ignorance came the suppression of mendicity. An order was published by sound of trumpet on the 29th of October, 'that no person should beg, but seek shelter in the poor-house.'[608]

Subsequently these institutions received important developments. It was not until the period when the college and academy were founded by Calvin that instruction took a start in Geneva, which carried intellectual culture to such a height in that city. But the starting-point was Saunier's college, where primary instruction was mixed up with religion. The Reformation launched Geneva like a ship, which at first coasts along the nearest shores, but reaches at last the remotest seas. It was not simply a matter of theological dogma, as some believe; it developed the conscience, the understanding, and the heart, and regulated the will. It did not form merely a few Christian men; it gave to that city a new people, school, church, literature, science, and charity; it gave new value to the great interests of man, and called into existence a well-spring of useful research and elevated thoughts. The Reformation was able to say:

Humani nihil a me alienum puto.[609]


While the council was carrying out these beneficent measures, a certain number of agitated and restless priests kept going from house to house, consulting together and professing opinions that tended to rebellion. {311} Instead of taking harsh measures against them, the magistrates loyally determined to give them a fresh opportunity of defending their faith. On the 29th of November thirty priests, headed by Dupan, appeared before the council. There were still thirty priests in Geneva and only three ministers! It was not, therefore, by numbers and by the might of man, that the Reformation was established, but by the power of God. The premier syndic asked them to undertake the defence of popery. 'We have neither the ability nor the learning,' answered Dupan; and he added: 'Sooner than expose our religion to a new discussion, we will give up all pastoral functions.' The priesthood abdicated. On the 6th of December the council again called the priests before them, and gave them this option: 'If your doctrine is good, defend it; if bad, renounce it.' Then the break-up began. 'For a long time,' said Delorme, 'I have been saying mass unwillingly,' and he passed over, with others, to the side of the Reform. Some left the city; and the council required that those who remained 'should wear other hats,' and live like the rest of the citizens. Lastly, wishing to make it evident that there was no longer in Geneva either bishop or prince, the council voted that the episcopal palace should be converted into a prison.[610] This was no change in its destination, according to certain sarcastic huguenots, since the bishop and his see had never been of any use but to keep liberty captive. Thus ended the existence of the Romish priesthood in Geneva. The magistrates, far from persecuting catholicism, had on several occasions put the priests in a position to defend it: it was the religion of the popes that fled and made way for the religion of the Holy Scriptures. Complete religions liberty, the conquest of modern times, did not certainly preside at that day in {312} the councils of the republic; but as an historian of Geneva, who is not a protestant, has said, 'We must not demand of an age ideas, theories, and acts which could not exist until after events and revolutions still to come.'[611]

Seeing that the priests were departing, that their chants no longer re-echoed through the lofty Gothic aisles, that the tapers no longer burnt upon the gorgeous altars and the varied ceremonial had disappeared, Farel, Viret, and Froment came forward and said: 'We are ready to preach without sparing ourselves either weariness or labor, and to employ all the power of the Word to lead the flock into the straight road with wisdom and gentleness.' And in fact from that hour the Word which awakeneth and teacheth was heard daily in the churches, and particularly at St. Pierre and St. Gervais. The hearers said that these true ministers of the Gospel 'did not behave like old-clothes men (revendeurs), who are accustomed to polish up their wares and put a gloss upon their old rags, in order to get more money for them; but they offered the pure and simple doctrine of Jesus Christ.' Many felt that the Word of God was a sword which pierces to the heart and kills the old man in such a manner that a new man takes the place of him that was slain.

Farel assembled the people in the cathedral in order that they should all pray for peace to God who giveth it.[612] These prayers ascended to heaven. Geneva was to have peace, but after new trials.

[587]   Registres du Conseil du 12 Août.—Chronique MSC. de Roset.

[588]   Registres du Conseil du 12 Août.

[589]   Registres du Conseil des 16 et 17 Août 1535.

[590]   Archives de Turin. Mémoire sur les droits de la maison de Savoye.

[591]   Virgil, Æneid, ii. 487. 'Shrieks of women rend the vaulted skies.'—Dryden.

[592]   Luke, i. 39.

[593]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 131.

[594]   Ibid.

[595]   'Ce brave homme n'en faisait aucun semblant, ni oncques dit mot; il avait la langue amortie.'

[596]   'Vous faites bonne chère et vivez en noise.'—Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 170-173.

[597]   Ibid. pp. 141-148.

[598]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 150-152. Registres du Conseil du 25 Août 1535.

[599]   'Décrachaient.'—Jeanne de Jussie.

[600]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 175, 189, 197.

[601]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 192, 197.

[602]   Ibid. pp. 199-201.

[603]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 34, 201-223.

[604]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, p. 34.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 157.

[605]   Jeanne de Jussie, Commencement de l'Hérésie dans Genève, pp. 154-160.—Roset, Chron. MSC. liv. iii. ch. xxxvii.

[606]   Registres des Conseils des 15 Octobre, 12 et 29 Novembre 1535.

[607]   He was probably the writer of a treatise entitled Ordre et manière d'enseigner en la ville de Genève, au collège, recently reprinted by Professor Bétant.

[608]   Registres du Conseil des 27 Août, 7 et 17 Septembre, 29 Octobre, 12, 14 et 15 Novembre 1535.—Des Hôpitaux de Genève.—Mémoires d'Archéologie, iii. pp. 155-366.

[609]   'Nothing that concerns mankind is indifferent to me.'

[610]   Registres du Conseil des 12, 23, 24 et 29 Novembre, 6 Décembre 1535.

[611]   Thourel, Histoire de Genève, ii. p. 163.

[612]   Kirchhofer, Farel, p. 193.


(September and October 1535.)


The joy which then filled Geneva was not to be of long duration. The sky was fair, and yet certain signs indicated that the tempest was not far off. The Reformation which had been accomplished excited the most serious uneasiness at Turin, at Rome, and around the puissant Charles V. Hitherto a few desultory attacks had been made against the city: its territory had been laid waste, its provisions intercepted, and ladders had been placed against its walls: but now a regular campaign was about to be opened, and the enemy were decided not to lay down their arms until they had taken it and transformed it into a popish and Savoyard city. The partisans of Rome felt their danger; they saw that as Geneva was at the gates of France, Italy, and Germany, if the Reformation was settled there, it might compromise the existence of the papacy itself.[613] Accordingly all their thoughts were bent on putting down the revolt, though at the cost of much bloodshed, and of treating Geneva as Alby, 'of holy and illustrious memory,' had been treated formerly. Paul III., a friend of the world and of the fine arts, wished, however, to employ milder means at first—to reduce the city by famine. 'These Lutherans of four days' standing,' {314} he said, 'will soon be disgusted with their heresy.' He was deceived, but the duke of Savoy did not share his mistake. That prince, who showed a certain kindness towards his party, was hard, violent, and merciless whenever Geneva was concerned. He was to be the Simon de Montfort of the new crusade. 'It is impossible,' people said, 'that the Genevans can hold out in the face of the duke's alliances. On the one hand, there is his brother-in-law the emperor, his nephew the king of France, his father-in-law the king of Portugal, and his allies the Swiss; and then all his own subjects, who hem in Geneva for two hundred leagues round, as wolves surround a fold of helpless sheep. On the other hand, there is the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, and the priests, whose favor and support the bishop of Geneva possesses.'[614] The cabinet of Turin resolved, therefore, to set to work. On the 30th of August the duke publicly proclaimed Geneva as infected with the plague, forbade his subjects, under pain of death, to have any communication with its inhabitants, and promised hospitality in his states to all who desired to escape from the pestilence. It was thought in Piedmont that only a few mischief-makers would remain, and that one bold stroke would make the ducal army master of the city. Everything was prepared in the states of Charles IV. to strike a decisive blow.[615]


On the 28th of August and 24th of September, numerous companies came as far as the gates of Geneva, but the citizens drove them back. These were mere skirmishes of outposts: more formidable attacks were in preparation. Charles V., victorious over Barbarossa, called upon the Swiss League, assembled at Baden near Zurich, to give material help to the duke of Savoy. It was said in many quarters that {315} the plan of that ambitious monarch was to destroy four cities—Algiers, Geneva, Wittemberg, and Constantinople—two cities of the Koran and two of the Gospel. Did not an old prophecy speak of an emperor who was to achieve the conquest of the world, command 'the adoration of the cross under pain of death, and then be crowned at Jerusalem by an angel of God?'—'That emperor,' said many, 'is Charles V.'[616]

Alarm was beginning to creep over the Genevese people; the councils deliberated, but in vain, as to what could be done to save the city. Fathers and mothers sat by their firesides with downcast eyes, silent lips, and foreheads burdened with care; and groups collected here and there in the streets, talking earnestly about their misfortunes! 'All round the city there is nothing but fighting, blockade of provisions, plunder, and conflagration. Within the city correspondence on a large scale with the enemy. How can a handful of men resist such a multitude?' Then the preachers of the Word pointed to the glorious deliverances recorded in the Scriptures. 'God will do the same for you to-day,' they said, 'provided you place your whole trust in Him.' And lifted up by that mighty word, those men against whom princes took counsel together, exclaimed: 'We will place our hope and our refuge in God alone.'[617]

Charles III., encouraged by the emperor's support, sent his ambassadors to the Swiss Cantons, and demanded that the duke and the bishop, 'escorted by my Lords of Berne, should be brought back to Geneva, to resume all their pre-eminence therein; and that no person should make innovations.' Happily the deputies from Geneva—Lullin, Des Clefs, and Claude Savoye were there, and remained firm as rocks to uphold the rights of their country. The Swiss, finding the two parties {316} equally inflexible, withdrew, saying: 'This affair of Geneva tires us to death; get out of it the best way you can!' Lullin and Des Clefs returned to Geneva; but Claude Savoye, determined to obtain help, remained in the territories of the League.[618]

The hopes of this energetic reformer were not without some foundation. When the council of Berne had heard of the abolition of the mass at Geneva, they had rejoiced, and, on the 28th of August, had written a letter of congratulation to the magistrates: 'Seeing that you have learnt the truth,' they said, 'be watchful over it and persevere firmly. So doing, be not afraid that God will let you be destroyed at last.' Claude Savoye departed for Berne, and on arriving there went from house to house and appeared before the heads of the State, 'What!' said he, 'you sent us your minister Farel, and now that we have obeyed the Word which he preached to us, you deliver us up into the cruel hands of our enemies.' That noble reformer, Berthold Haller, supported him with all his strength, and called upon Berne 'not to abandon Geneva faint-heartedly.' Meanwhile the deputies from Turin canvassed the lords of the council on the opposite side. Self-interest prevailed among the patricians. 'Raise troops for your own defence,' they told Claude Savoye, 'provided it be not on our territory; all that we can possibly do for you is to commend you to God's grace.' And they ended with this expressive but familiar saying: 'The shirt is nearer to us than the coat.'[619]


When the Genevans heard of Berne's refusal, they were thunderstruck. Berne, reformed like themselves, abandoned them! The faith, so necessary to nations, began to waver in many hearts; but Farel endeavored {317} to strengthen those who were shaken. 'Certainly,' he said to them, 'my lords of Berne have sent us to a great and strong master—to God. He it is who will have all the honor of our deliverance, and not men. He has done mightier things than this. He always shows his power in what is desperate; and when it seems that all is lost, it is then that all is won.'[620]

The court of Turin did not think like Farel, and seeing the Swiss abandoning Geneva, it felt no doubt that the city, coveted so long, would soon fall into its hands. It was desirable to take advantage of the dejection of the citizens; and accordingly the Piedmontese cabinet hastily sent ambassadors to summon 'my lords of Geneva,' in the name of their masters, to expel heresy and the heresiarchs, to restore the bishop and clergy to their rights, and to set up the images again. But the Genevese, prouder still in misfortune than in prosperity, replied to the envoys: 'Noble lords, we will sacrifice our fortunes, our interests, our children, our blood, and our lives in defence of the Word of God. And sooner than betray that holy trust we will set fire to the four corners of our city, as our Helvetian ancestors once did.'[621] The ambassadors carried back this heroic answer to their master, and the duke pressed forward his preparations.

A danger not less great—possibly greater—threatened Geneva: discord. An implacable hatred 'like that which in old times existed between Cæsar and Pompey,' says Froment, divided the captain-general Philippe and the syndic Michael Sept; a fatal hatred whence proceeded great woes, with loss of goods, of honor, and of men, exile, and death. Some took part with Philippe, others with Michael Sept. 'When the eldest son of the captain-general,' said the former, {318} 'was taken prisoner by the men of Peney, who offered to exchange him against a number of their comrades who were imprisoned in Geneva, Michael Sept answered: "No, it would be contrary to the interests of the state."'—'It is true,' replied the syndic's friends, 'but did he not add: "Let us redeem Philippe's son; I will give three hundred crowns as my share. If it were the case of my own child, my advice would not be different."' The council having refused the exchange in consequence of this advice, the captain-general, a liberal and brave but haughty, turbulent, and violent man, swore a deadly animosity against Michael Sept. He scattered fire and flame everywhere against that venerable magistrate, and sacrificing the interests of his country to his resentment, he retired murmuring to his tent. 'I am sick,' he replied, 'I will be captain-general no longer.' Extreme susceptibility may ruin a man and sometimes a state.

The retirement of the captain-general, in the serious position in which Geneva was now placed, as well as the divisions with which it was accompanied, greatly increased the danger of the city. Moreover, they did not know whom to appoint as Philippe's successor. Many named Baudichon de la Maisonneuve; but he was hasty and impetuous like the other, and the council would have liked a more sedate, more penetrating, more prudent character; they feared the eagerness and want of circumspection of that daring citizen. But his friends represented that nobody was more devoted to the cause of independence and of the Gospel; and that what they wanted now was a chief full of courage and zeal. De la Maisonneuve was appointed captain-general.

The new commander immediately called a muster of all the men who were ready to march out with him against the enemy. They were but four hundred in all. It mattered not. De la Maisonneuve grasped a banner {319} on which he had ordered some fiery tears to be emblazoned. Greater simplicity might have been more becoming at such a moment; yet it was a deep and true feeling of the tragical position in which Geneva was placed that animated the captain-general. He waved his standard before his four hundred soldiers, and exclaimed: 'Let every one be prepared to die. It is not common tears that we must shed, but tears of blood!'


On returning into the city, the little army went to the churches. Farel had as much ardor in praying as Baudichon in fighting. Every day there were sermons and prayers to the Lord. 'O God,' said the reformer, 'be pleased to defend thy cause!'[622]

In truth, it was not only the independence of Geneva that was threatened, but the Reformation. The Genevans enumerated their sufferings, outrages, poverty, famine, cold, loss of goods, furniture, and cattle, stolen by bands of plunderers; young children, and even men and women, carried off, maltreated, and put to death; attacks made at all hours, and so violently that it was scarcely possible to hold out longer. But greater misfortunes were still to come. Charles of Savoy, supported by the emperor, was recruiting old Italian and Spanish soldiers, and had selected to command them one of the cruellest captains of the age, employed somewhat later by Charles V. against the Protestants of Germany. The heads of the state, convinced of the danger, made this declaration on the 3d of October: 'Our enemies are preparing every day to attack us; so that, if God does not help us, we cannot escape their blood-stained hands.'[623]

During this time Claude Savoye, who was soliciting help from Berne, received nothing but refusals. He was sad and heart-stricken; all was growing darker round {320} him; he knew not whence aid could come. On a sudden a ray of light cheered him. Farel had proclaimed at Neuchâtel the Gospel he was preaching at Geneva. The towns and villages and valleys of that country were the scene of many of the reformer's victories. He had also preached to the mountaineers of the see of Basle, who had imagined they were 'listening to an angel come down from heaven.' Claude Savoye, rejected by the lords of Berne, turned his eyes towards the Jura, where the French language being in use, it would be easy for him to plead the cause of his country. He shook off the dust of his feet against Berne, and departed.

There was in those parts a man known for his evangelical zeal, a friend of Farel, and on whom Savoye thought he could reckon. Jacob Wildermuth, or Wildermeth,[624] belonged to a family whose members had filled the highest offices at Bienne, of which they were the hereditary mayors; but they also possessed the citizenship of Neuchâtel, and the one of whom we are speaking seems to have frequently resided in the latter country. His father had gained distinction in the famous battles of Morat and Grandson, and he himself had made the campaigns of Italy from 1512 to 1515. Wildermuth signifies wild courage, a name very appropriate to the intrepid warrior. Although advanced in years,[625] he had all the fire of youth and could support great fatigue. About the end of 1529, when Farel went to Neuchâtel, Wildermuth had welcomed him; and when the magistrates forbade the reformer to preach in the churches: 'Stay,' said the soldier to him, 'I will make you preach in the houses.' He was immediately assailed with threats: 'I can easily brave them,' he said, 'for I know that God is stronger than man or devil.'[626]


Such was the man to whom Claude Savoye made known the danger of Geneva. He conceived at once the design of delivering that city. Wildermuth was not only full of faith in the Gospel, and of aversion to ultramontane superstitions, but he was intelligent, skilful, and courageous; and having already made the campaigns of Italy, he knew better than others how to organize and lead a body of volunteers. 'A burgess of Berne,' said the Genevan to him, 'has given me six hundred crowns, wherewith to raise a troop to fight against the duke and the pope.'—'Very good,' said the Swiss warrior, 'I undertake, with the help of my strong-handed cousin, Ehrard of Nidau,[627] to enrol some stout fellows, and lead them secretly and promptly to Geneva.'


Half a league from Bienne, on the lake of that name, in the Seeland, which forms part of the canton of Berne, stands the pretty little town of Nidau. Ehrard Bourgeois was one of the citizens most devoted to the Gospel and to liberty; and, more than that, he was one of those strong, practical men, who know how to act upon others, and who, when they have once embraced a cause, never give it up until it has triumphed. At once he made the critical position of Geneva known in Nidau and its environs. If he had a strong hand, he had a no less powerful voice; those who loved the Gospel and hated despotism answered to his call. In a humble dwelling of this neighborhood there lived a woman with her husband and three sons, whose name has not been handed down to us. Filled with ardent zeal for the Gospel, she determined to contribute to the deliverance of her brethren of Geneva. A religious spirit has often invested women with a strength that does not seem to {322} belong to their sex. The heroine of Nidau stood up: grasping a two-handed sword, and addressing her husband and three sons, she inspired them all with courage. She burnt with desire to march with her people to encounter those soldiers of Savoy, who, urged on by the pope, were advancing against Geneva. Their number and force did not stop her. 'Though I should be alone,' she said to her husband and children, 'I would fight with this sword against all yonder Savoyards.[628] The father and sons were valiant warriors and fervent in the Gospel; and all five presented themselves to Ehrard in order to march to the rescue of Geneva. It is a great sign when women bestir themselves about the maintenance of rights, and encourage their sons and their husbands, instead of dissuading them from the battle: when this occurs, the enemy is already beaten. We have seen it in antiquity, and in modern times. The fire which animated this heroine spread all around her, and a goodly number of valiant fellows hastened from the Seeland, Bienne, and the valleys of the Jura, to be enrolled under the flag of Ehrard.

During this time Claude Savoye and Wildermuth were appealing to the men of good-will at Neuchâtel and in its valleys. In every place Savoye uttered his lament over the poor city of Geneva: 'Help us in God's name,' he said. 'Give aid and succor to your Christian brethren, who hold the same faith and obey the same law as you: and who, because they have the Gospel preached, and defend their liberties and franchises, are beleaguered by the enemies of the faith.' These words were not ineffectual. Many generous minds threw far from them the selfish thoughts that might have restrained them. 'Shall we not be moved with pity towards our brethren in the Lord?' said the men of Neuchâtel to one another. 'Shall not the charity we owe to our neighbor impel us?' One of {323} the most fervent was Jacques Baillod, called also the Banneret, whose family, one of the oldest in the Val de Travers, filled the chief offices of the state. He was, as it would appear, misshapen in body, short,[629] and a little hunch-backed, not very unlike Æsop (said some); but he was a skilful and valiant captain. Many men from the Val de Travers and other places listened to his appeal. Even at Neuchâtel, an ex-councillor was distinguished by his zeal; this was André, surnamed Mazellier, or 'the butcher,'[630] one of those firm characters who, when they have put their hands to the plow, never look back. 'In a short time,' says a contemporary chronicler, 'a thousand picked men, fine men-of-war, faithful and of stout heart—if there are any such in all Switzerland—were assembled, and ready to march at once to the succor of Geneva at their own expense.'[631] According to others, only eight or nine hundred men took up arms.


Meanwhile the rumor of these preparations reached the castle of Neuchâtel. The Sire de Rive de Prangins, governor of the county for the princess of Longueville, 'a papist and a Savoyard,' says the chronicler Roset; 'a great enemy of the Word,' says Froment; had done all he could to prevent the establishment of the Reformation in the county, and now the Neuchâtelans wanted to go and support Geneva. Astonished at so much audacity, he forbade those brave men to move under pain of his serious indignation. Among those who had answered to the appeal of Savoye, there were some who now hesitated. A certain number of these brave men had no strong belief or strong will to maintain them. Full of respect for the princess and her lieutenant, they bent easily beneath the authority {324} which presumed to constrain them. Their wives endeavored to revive their zeal. In the eyes of the latter it was not an ordinary war; it was a struggle for the Word of God. Being ardent evangelists, they had at heart, as much as Farel, to uphold the faith, and combined with pure doctrine that keen sensitiveness, that impulsiveness of the heart, which are the portion of their sex. 'Go,' they said; 'if you do not go, we will go ourselves.' Some, indeed, did go, like the heroine of Nidau. Others, speaking in the name of religion, overawed their husbands and decided them: 'We will not leave our Christian brethren of Geneva to perish miserably,' said the Neuchâtelans to those who wished to detain them; 'they are attacked for no other cause than to destroy the Gospel and their liberties. In such a quarrel we will all die.'

It was necessary to depart at once. The men who had risen in the towns, the valleys, and the plain, to defend, without official character, a city they had never seen, were not armed cap-à-pied like the brilliant knights of Savoy whom they were going to fight. Some had muskets, all had swords, but they wore neither helmet nor cuirass. The justice of their cause was to be their breast-plate. In the evening of the 7th October the most distant corps—that from Bienne, the bishopric of Basle, Nidau, and the Seeland—began their march. It is probable that they crossed the lake of Neuchâtel to avoid the city. On arriving at the entrance to the Val de Travers they halted, that being the place of rendezvous. Those from Neuchâtel, Valangin, and other places soon arrived, and all were now assembled in that picturesque country where the Areuse rushes out of the valley. The intrepid Wildermuth took the command.[632]



The little army was preparing to depart when it saw a cavalcade approaching from the direction of Neuchâtel: they were officers of the government sent to prevent any of Madame's subjects from marching to the help of Geneva. Having reached the force, these delegates from the Sire of Prangins approached the men under their jurisdiction, and ordered them to return each one to his home. To go and fight against the duke of Savoy was to put themselves in revolt against their sovereign, who would treat them as rebels. 'They were forbidden, and in stronger terms than before, and with fierce threats, so that many lost courage.' These Neuchâtelans had not at first reflected that their government was strongly opposed to the Reformation. Now their respect for the established powers counterbalanced the sentiments which had induced them to go to the help of the Gospel. They feared the unpleasant consequences that their disobedience might entail upon themselves and their families. They were agitated and divided. Wildermuth and other worthy persons perceiving that some of them were giving way, were grieved at it; but they did not want men whose hearts were weakened. It was right in their eyes to protect the innocent against the wicked; but they would not force their convictions on their brethren. Wildermuth called out: 'Comrades, if you have not the courage to die for Geneva, and kill as many false priests as shall offer themselves, go about your business! It is better for us to be few, but men of heart, as in the days of Gideon, than to drag half-hearted ones after us.'

The struggle in these Neuchâtelans became more severe. Should they go forward or should they return? {326} Wildermuth had named Gideon: they remembered how that Israelitish chief had consulted God to know if he was to march against Midian. These honest people, who had taken up arms in God's cause, believed in God and in His help. All, therefore, knelt down on the spot in order to ask of their Sovereign Lord the road they ought to take; and that troop, but lately so tumultuous, remained for some minutes in deep silence. God himself was to choose whom He would for the battle. When the prayer was ended, each man stood up, and the energetic captain exclaimed aloud and with great earnestness: 'Now, let those return home whom threats alarm; but you, to whom God has given hearts to fight for your brethren, without fear for your lives—forward!' Three or four hundred returned home.[633] It is not doubtful that they acted thus from a spirit of obedience to the superior authority.

The others, who belonged particularly to the canton of Berne and to the Jura, had not received a similar prohibition, and although diminished in number, they did not hesitate. The little force was reduced by one half, and consisted of four hundred and fifteen men; but those who remained were filled with faith and courage. They departed calling upon the name of God, and praying Him to be their helper.

[613]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p, 169.

[614]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 169.

[615]   Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. xxxvii.

[616]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 68.—Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, vol. iv. p. 118.

[617]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 168, 169.

[618]   Registres du Conseil du 26 Septembre 1535.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 69.—Chron. MSC. de Roset.

[619]   Registres du Conseil du 26 Septembre 1535.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 170.—Letters of Haller to Bullinger.

[620]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 171.

[621]   This refers to the twelve cities destroyed by the Helvetians when they departed for Gaul, about 58 B.C.

[622]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 172.

[623]   Registres MSC. du Conseil du 3 Octobre.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 168, 172, 184, 185, &c.

[624]   Dictionnaire de Len.

[625]   'Den wohlbetagten Hauptman Jacob Wildermuth.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 70.

[626]   Letter from Jacob Wildermuth to the Council of Berne, dated Neuchâtel, December 3, 1529. Archives de Berne.—Herminjard, Correspondance des Réformateurs dans les pays de Langue française, ii. p. 212.

[627]   'Seines handvesten Vetters.'—Stettler, Chronik.

[628]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 195.

[629]   Abrégé chronologique de l'Histoire de Neuchâtel, par un ancien Justicier, p. 161.

[630]   Annales de Boyne, liv. ii. p. 293.

[631]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 192.

[632]   The documents in the French language, the Gestes de Genève of Froment, an official letter in the State Archives at Geneva (Portefeuille historique, No. 1152) call the captain-in-chief Jacob Verrier. The Verriers, or glass-makers, were generally rich and influential men in the country. Wildermuth belonged to that class. See Herminjard's Correspondance des Réformateurs dans les pays de Langue française, ii. p. 211.

[633]   Froment says about three hundred.—Gestes de Genève, p. 194. The Bernese ambassadors say four hundred and fifty.—Registres du Conseil de Genève ad annum.


(11th and 12th October 1535.)


What road should this little army take? There seemed to be no other than that through the Pays de Vaud. But that country was occupied by the captains of the duke of Savoy, who separated Wildermuth's band from Geneva, and could easily oppose him with four or five thousand men. Besides, if the Swiss auxiliaries followed that road, they would have to pass near Yverdun and other strong towns capable of stopping them. 'I undertake,' Wildermuth had said, 'to lead my companions secretly and promptly to Geneva.' But how could he lead four to five hundred men secretly? With that intent he had formed a bold strange plan, by means of which he hoped to clear the distance between Neuchâtel and Geneva, without its being known what he was doing, and would present himself to the Genevese in distress, and to the Savoyards, their enemies, at a moment when neither of them expected him. The old captain intended to turn the Jura, and for that purpose to cross the Val de Travers, enter Franche Comté, make for Sainte Claude, and thence, by the pass of the Faucille, he would descend directly upon Geneva.

His troops began their march: they passed through Couvet, Môtiers, and other villages in the valley; but they had hardly crossed the last meadows, when they found the mountainous and steep roads, which separated {328} them from Les Verrières and Pontarlier, entirely closed by the Savoyards.[634] Wildermuth, after taking counsel with the other chiefs, resolved, instead of turning the Jura, to march by the upper valleys. Some objected the season, the precipices, the absence of beaten roads; but the leaders saw no other means of escaping the armed corps which desired to stop them. The troop was so small that, if it fought two or three battles before reaching Geneva, scarcely a handful of men would enter the beleaguered city.


Turning, therefore, to the left, in a southerly direction, and passing the village of Butte, the volunteers painfully climbed the steep path which, winding between Mont Chasseron and the Côte-aux-Fées, leads to Sainte-Croix. They passed through this village, descended towards Vallorbe, and then climbed again into the high valleys of Joux.

These heroic adventurers were two days (Friday and Saturday) on those cold and desert heights. Everything was already covered with snow, which was knee-deep, and forced them to clear the way with unheard-of labor. We must not forget that there were women among them. It was the coldest period of the year, says Froment, the winter being early and severe. Thick flakes of snow fell and covered those brave men with a white mantle, and obliged them to move slowly. But Wildermuth, notwithstanding his age; Baillod, notwithstanding his small stature; and Savoye, notwithstanding his fatigues, were fearless. One of them always marched in front; and when they had to encounter difficult passages, they sprang forward with fiery ardor upon those icy bulwarks, as if mounting to the assault.

At that time there were only twenty families in the valley, and some monks of the order of the Premonstrants, {329} who had been settled in the twelfth century at a place still called the Abbey. At the approach of this unexpected body of 'men in white,' the inhabitants of the heights fled in terror, with such valuables as they could carry; and those noble champions of independence and the Gospel could find nowhere either men or provisions, so that famine 'pressed them sorely.' They went into the poor gardens, but could gather nothing to appease their hunger except 'a few cabbage stalks and some turnips—and very little of these,' adds the chronicler. However, they did not lose courage: they were going to help Geneva, and every step carried them nearer. This idea stimulated them: the drifted snows, which often blocked up the road, were crossed with renewed courage.

On Saturday afternoon these warriors reached the wild lake of Les Rousses, where they turned to the left, to make for the valley of the Leman, marching slowly beneath long ranges of pine-trees. At length the troop, overwhelmed with fatigue, arrived at Saint Cergues, on the heights of the Jura overlooking Nyon, 2,800 feet above the lake. The valiant men conducted by Wildermuth expected to find provisions in this village; but there were no inhabitants, and no victuals. However, as there were houses and beds too, the chiefs determined to pass the night there, and posted sentinels all round.[635]

What were they to do next day? They might, indeed, continue their painful road over the mountain as far as La Faucille, whence they could descend by way of Gex to Geneva: this, as it appeared, was Claude Savoye's first plan; but most of his comrades, pressed by hunger, fatigued by the snow and the difficult roads of the Jura, proposed to descend at once into the beautiful valley of the Leman. It was useless to represent to them that they would infallibly {330} fall in with the ducal troops near Nyon; they answered that they had been two days without eating; how could an army, weakened by starvation, deliver Geneva? Nothing was decided, when the advanced sentinels brought in three young men whom they had taken near the village. Wildermuth and the other chiefs questioned them: they were the first human beings who had approached them since they had plunged into the Jura. 'We have been sent by the people of Geneva,' said one of the three, 'to serve you as guides. The ducal troops are assembled not far from the mountain, to the number of four to five thousand, horse and foot, and are preparing to surround you, take you prisoners, and hang you.[636] Follow us, and we will lead you to Geneva safe and sound.' Claude Savoye did not know these men, which was not a good augury; but Wildermuth and his followers had those upright hearts which do not easily suspect treachery in others. Too happy to find guides, they resolved to follow the young men next morning. It was night, and the troop prepared to take the necessary repose.

There was, however, one man in that valiant band who was not to rest. The Genevan, as he is generally called in this narrative, believing that the destiny of his country was about to be decided, could not sleep. Just at that moment a native of the district presented himself mysteriously at the outposts and desired to see him. Savoye at once went to speak with him. The messenger told him that he had come from the Seigneur d'Allinges, one of the noblemen then collected round Monseigneur de Lullin, governor of Vaud. D'Allinges had quitted the castle of his family, situated on a steep hill near Thonon, whose beautiful ruins are still the admiration of travellers, and had joined the Savoyard gentlemen. {331} Being a personal friend of Savoye's, he sent to tell him that Louis de Diesbach and Rodolph Nägueli, the envoys of Berne, had arrived at the castle of Coppet, in order to act as mediators in the affair. This news troubled Savoye; did Bernese diplomacy wish to neutralize his exertions? He might have waited until the morning, but his character always carried him forward. He determined to depart alone, and instantly. D'Allinges had sent him a paper signed with his own hand, which was to serve as a safe-conduct. After conferring with Wildermuth, Savoye quitted Saint Cergues at the moment when the others were about to seek the repose of night. He descended the mountain hastily, though not without difficulty; and, crossing rocks and penetrating thickets, he reached the foot of the Jura at last. He found there a fine Spanish courser, which D'Allinges had sent for him. Savoye sprang into the saddle, and galloped off to Coppet.[637]


On the other hand, the Swiss who had slept at Saint Cergues lost no time. Stirring early on the Sunday morning, they departed under the conduct of the three young guides. Geneva was in imminent danger; it was necessary to hasten to its assistance. The band passed near the castle, whence on a sudden a world sparkling with beauty opens before the eyes of those who have been long shut up in the gorges of the Jura: the lake, its rich valley peopled with smiling villages; the magnificent Alps, in the bosom of which Mont Blanc uplifts his kingly head; Geneva, and the towers of its antique cathedral. Delighted to perceive the city to whose succor they were hastening, these generous men hailed it with joy. They descended and marched to within a league of Nyon, at Gingins, whose castle was then occupied by the Seigneur de Gingins, brother to the vicar-general of Geneva. Wildermuth's followers, {332} tired and hungry, hoped (according to what their guides had said) to find there in abundance the provisions of which they stood so much in need.

Behind a coppice between the village and the mountain was a ravine, worn by the waters which descend from the hills during the heavy rains; it would scarcely hold two persons abreast, a streamlet flowed along the bottom, and thick underwood bordered it on both sides. The guides of these valiant men said that they must be careful not to go near the village, for fear the enemy should hear of their arrival, and desired them to hide in the ravine and wait until their return. 'We will run to Gingins,' they said, 'and bring you back refreshments; and then we will all set out for Geneva.' 'Go,' said the troop; 'we will pay fairly for all you can bring us.' The Swiss drew up noiselessly in the hollow way, and their guides quitted them.


At Gingins there was a body of the enemy composed of Italians, Savoyards, and gentlemen and men-at-arms of the bailiwicks of Nyon, La Côte, Gex, La Sarraz, and other localities. The priests had preached a crusade in those parishes.[638] They had done more: they had armed themselves[639] and marched at the head of their villages, saying that they would not lay down their arms until heresy was extirpated from the valley of the Leman. They were all waiting for the Swiss, impatient to fall upon that little band of four to five hundred ill-armed soldiers, which they had seen descending the mountain. The duke of Savoy, according to the official report, had on foot to stop them three to four thousand men. Froment, who often exaggerates numbers, speaks of four to five thousand, and reckons Spaniards among them. This force was divided into corps, one of which was then at Gingins.

This first division, composed of fifteen hundred men, {333} was commanded by the Sieur de Lugrin, chief of the Gex contingent, and an Italian, according to a chronicler. Devoted to the Romish Church and to his master the duke, Lugrin detested Geneva and the Reform. Towards him the three guides had made their way; and, being received into the castle, they informed him of the results of the stratagem to which they had had recourse, and told him that the Swiss were shut up in a narrow place, where it would be impossible for them to move, and where it would be easy to kill them all. Lugrin immediately marched out at the head of his men, confident of crushing at the first blow these adventurers, exhausted by hunger and fatigue, and of staining with heretics' blood that deep mountain ravine.

The Swiss volunteers were waiting, without suspicion and in silence, for the provisions that had been promised them. Presently they fancied they heard a noise: Captain Erhard and one or two others raised their heads. Great was their surprise when, instead of the three pretended friends bringing them food, they saw a numerous and well-armed body of cavalry and infantry advancing and preparing a very different sort of banquet for them. Wildermuth without hesitation issued from the ravine; at the same time the Sieur de Lugrin came forward, and the two chiefs, each accompanied by an officer, met between the two forces. 'What is your intention?' asked Lugrin.—'To go to Geneva,' answered Wildermuth.—'We will not grant you the passage.'—'Very well; then we will take it.' At this the officer who attended Lugrin dealt Wildermuth a blow with the butt-end of his arquebuse and knocked him down. But the Neuchâtelan who was with him struck the Savoyard back again and killed him.[640] Wildermuth sprang up immediately, {334} and ran eagerly towards his followers to give them orders to charge.

The soldiers who composed the troop of the duke of Savoy were brave men, burning with enthusiasm for the cause of Rome. They occupied a hill situated between the ravine and the castle; they were set in motion, and, on coming within gunshot, discharged their muskets; but as the Swiss were still in the ravine, the bullets passed over their heads. 'Forward!' cried Wildermuth at this moment. In an instant his followers, exasperated at being fooled and betrayed, issued from the hollow way, rushed through the hedge, drew up boldly in presence of the enemy, and fired a volley which brought several to the ground. Excited by rage and hunger, the valiant Switzers did not give themselves time to reload their arms, but rushed impetuously upon the Savoyards. They were like bears or wolves whom hunger drives from the mountains, to seek food in the plain. Those who had swords fought with them; those who had muskets used them as clubs; it was a struggle man to man, and the conflict was frightful. In the very middle of the fight was the heroine of Nidau, with her husband and three sons, 'all fervent in the Gospel.' Wielding her two-handed sword, she confronted the Savoyards. 'This family of five persons,' says Froment, 'father, mother, and children, made a great discomfiture of persons.' The husband was killed, the sons were wounded, but the mother was unhurt, which was a wonderful thing to see, says the chronicler, for nobody attacked the enemy with more intrepidity. Another woman, according to Stettler, rivalled her in courage, and four Savoyards had already bitten the dust when she fell, struck by a mortal blow.[641]



The men did not remain in the background. Fired with martial fury, they drove their swords through their enemies' bodies, or brained them with their arquebuses, or else, quickly reloading their guns, brought them down from a distance.[642] Being skilful marksmen, they picked out their victims; forty nobles, most of them Knights of the Spoon,[643] bit the dust; and the priests paid a large tribute to death. The fanatical anger of the clergy, who marched courageously to battle, was met by the avenging anger of the Swiss, who were irritated at seeing men of peace on the field of strife. Wildermuth had pointed out 'the false priests' to his men. 'There they are now; we must sacrifice them as did Elijah of old.' The curés, who had not expected such a resistance, found themselves cut down by those terrible Helvetians, to whom two days of suffering and the perfidy of their enemies gave a sort of transport. An excited imagination could alone, perhaps, secure victory to the Swiss. One of them in particular seemed like the angel of death. The indignation he felt at seeing the servants of God wielding the sword, carried him away, and twenty of them fell beneath his blows—a terrible fulfilment of the words of Christ to Peter: They that take the sword shall perish with the sword. A hundred of these ministers of peace, turned ministers of war, remained dead or wounded on the field.[644] The noise was frightful, and was heard a long way off. 'During the battle,' says Froment, 'there was fierce lightning in the air and loud thunder.' Was there a storm or {336} are these words only figurative? Perhaps persons at a distance took the flashes of the guns and the noise of the battle for thunder and lightning.


The defeat seemed total and decided. Wildermuth and his followers thought they would have nothing more to do than march into Geneva, when an unexpected circumstance forced them to begin again. Another corps d'armée of Savoye, that which was nearest, summoned by the noise of the battle, hurried forward to Lugrin's help. It was commanded (as it would appear) by Michael Mangerot, baron of La Sarraz; he is indeed the only chief of his party mentioned by some historians.[645] Mangerot, a Frenchman by extraction and owner of the barony of La Sarraz, had been, since the Sieur de Pontverre's death, the most formidable of the Knights of the Spoon. Despite his efforts, none of his men could stand before the ardor of the Swiss, and intrepidity triumphed over numbers. Those 'tall foreigners,'[646] as the German chronicler styles the Savoyards, were alarmed and discouraged; they threw away their arms, turned their backs, and shamefully took to flight,[647] leaving the field of battle covered with firelocks, breastplates, lances, dead horses and men, among whom (says the catholic Pierre-Fleur) were many goodly personages. The loss of the Savoyards has been variously estimated from five hundred to two thousand. In the first rank of the victims of the fight the Swiss recognized their perfidious guides. The latter had lost only seven men and one woman. The hill on which these terrible blows were dealt is still called, in memory of this battle, the Molard or the mound of the dead. The valiant band of the Jura, at the sight of the victims of the day, halted on the terrible battle-field, and piously bending their knees amid the scattered arms and blood-stained corpses of their enemies, returned thanks to God for the great {337} and unexpected victory He had granted them. The feelings which animated them have been expressed by a Swiss poet of the time in a Song of the Bernese Soldier after the Battle of Gingins, of which we give a few verses:

Rejoice, O Berne, rejoice![648]
Right joyful shouldst thou be,
For when our grief was sorest
God sent us victory.
By all the world we're hated,
Because the glory due
We render to His name alone.
Hail to the Bear, the brave old Bear,[649]
Who, to uphold our right,
Has armed his sons, and covered them
With his broad shield in the fight.
With haste they marched to succor
Geneva, round whose wall
Raved fiercely the mass-worshippers,
All eager for its fall.
But hunger did not stop them,
Nor mountains bar their way,
Nor the sight of the sudden foemen
Could strike them with dismay.
One man to seven we stood,
With weapons rude and few;
But 'God will be our spear,' we said,
Sprang through the hedge, and undismayed
On their steel-clad ranks we flew.
Yes! the Lord was on our side that day,
In our hearts we felt His might,
And Belial's dainty champions
Were scattered in the fight.
{338}See how the bear-cubs taught them
To tread a merry dance!
And the priests, how well we shrived them
With the pricking of a lance!
Ours is the victory! Forward then!
For aid Geneva calls,
Haste to the help of those whose shame
Is to love God's Word and Christ's dear name—
Haste! yonder are her walls!

Meanwhile the report of the battle had spread through the whole district; all the neighboring villages were in commotion; couriers, dispatched by Lugrin, hastily ordered up the various corps, stationed at intervals, to the support of their unhappy commander. These troops hurried forward at the top of their speed. When the Swiss had finished their thanksgiving, they looked before them and perceived that the hostile chiefs were busied in filled up their thinned ranks, and that fresh bands were joining the Savoyard army. The Sire de Lugrin and the Baron of La Sarraz at the head of these fresh troops, supported by the old ones, were about to attack the terrible battalion, posted on the Molard. The Savoyards were much superior in number, and their leaders were determined to do everything to recover their honor and crush liberty in Geneva. The Swiss did not hesitate; they moved forward and descended the hill to scatter their enemies once more. The struggle was about to be renewed. Could these famished and exhausted men sustain the shock of soldiers burning with desire to avenge the deaths of their comrades?

That was the question: a few hours would probably answer it; but an unexpected circumstance occurred to give a new turn to affairs.

[634]   'Die Strasse von ihren Feinden der Savoyern verhaget war.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 70.

[635]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 194.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 70.

[636]   'Zu ümgeben, fahen under hencken.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 70.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 41.

[637]   'Den Berg herab, willens mit den Bernern zu conferiren.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[638]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 70.

[639]   'Mit guten Brægedinen angethan.'—Ibid. p. 71.

[640]   Berne MS. ascribed to Bonivard.

[641]   It would appear from the chroniclers, that these are two distinct cases. Froment (Gestes de Genève, p. 195) says positively that the woman of whom he speaks n'eut pas de dommage; Stettler (Chronik, p. 71) says, on the contrary, of her whom he mentions, that she had vor ihrem Tod vier Mann erlegt. Could one or other of these writers be mistaken?

[642]   'Stachen, schlossen, und schlugen se männlich.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[643]   Supra, Vol. II. p. 377.

[644]   'Bei hundert priestlichen Personen . . . auf den Platz gelassen.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[645]   Verdeil, Histoire du Canton de Vaud.

[646]   Grands Welches.

[647]   'Den Rucken kehrten,' &c.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[648]   'O Bern! du magst wohl frölich seyn!' etc. Recueil de Werner Sterner. This song is probably by the famous contemporary poet Manuel.

[649]   The Bear, i.e. Berne, which has a bear on its shield.


(October 12th 1535.)


Diplomacy and war are the two means employed to decide international differences. It is customary to speak disparagingly of both, and not without cause. All who care for their fellow-men and desire the material and moral prosperity of nations, look upon war as a crime against humanity; and yet a people, invaded by an unjust and ambitious conqueror, who desires to despoil them of their independence and nationality, have as much right to defend themselves as the man attacked on the highway by a robber bent on depriving him of his purse or his life.

Diplomacy has its faults, like war. Its object being to conciliate jarring interests, it falls easily into narrow and selfish views, while it should possess that broad wisdom which reconciles differences with impartiality. Fully acknowledging the tact with which in ordinary times it adheres to the path it ought to follow, we think that it gets confused and goes astray in periods of transition, when society is passing from one phase to another. Seamen on a distant voyage have observed that in certain latitudes and on certain days the compass-needle is so agitated that the steersman cannot make use of it to direct his course: it turns, perhaps, to the right when it should point to the left. This is just the case with diplomacy in those great epochs, when, as in the sixteenth century, society is {340} turning on its hinges and entering into a new sphere. In such a case diplomacy acts first in a direction contrary to the impulses which prepare the future: it devotes all its care to maintain what has been, while the normal character of the new epoch is precisely that what has been must give place to what is to be. Governments, naturally enough, always begin by opposing the new developments of social, political, and religious life. This is just what the powerful aristocracy of Berne did at first with regard to Geneva: we have seen it once and we shall see it again. But if there is a bad diplomacy, there is also a good one. Would it be out of place to remark here, that if the château of Coppet, where some of the facts of our history occurred, was in 1535 the seat of bad policy, it became afterwards the centre of a liberal statesmanship?[650]

The Council of Berne had kept themselves carefully informed of the proceedings of Claude Savoye. They had learnt that about four hundred and fifty men, 'among whom were several of My Lords' subjects,' were crossing the Jura to succor Geneva, 'not without danger, because of the smallness of their number.' The Council knew that these men would have to fight the nobles and other people of the country, brought together from every quarter in the villages and on the roads, to the number of more than three or four thousand. The Bernese magistrates wished, besides, to avoid war. They had, therefore, deputed Louis of Diesbach and Rodolph Nägueli to the Pays de Vaud, with instructions to order the volunteers to return home. The two Bernese ambassadors had made their way to the castle of Coppet, situated between Geneva and Gingins.[651]


There was just then a great crowd in that feudal residence, which has since been replaced by a modern château. That place, which was one day to be the asylum of letters and of liberty, was now, by a singular contrast, the head-quarters of a rude and ignorant gentry, who desired at any price to maintain feudalism, and destroy in Geneva light, independence, and faith. Monseigneur de Lullin, governor of the Pays de Vaud in behalf of the duke, had taken up his abode there with his officers and several gentlemen of the district.


On Saturday, 29th October, the day when Wildermuth and his band reached the village of Saint Cergues, the ambassadors from Berne had arrived at the castle of Coppet, with the intention of coming to some understanding with the governor of Vaud on the means of preventing the battle that was imminent. Here they learnt that it was nearer than they had imagined, and that the Swiss were expected on the following morning. The Savoyard and Bernese chiefs immediately entered into a conference on these serious matters, and they were still in discussion when Claude Savoye, who had only two or three leagues to pass over, arrived on his panting courser. The daring Genevan was fully conscious that it was very imprudent to show himself in the castle occupied by the commander-in-chief of the enemies of Geneva; but it mattered not to him; he wanted to obtain from Diesbach, at any risk, a promise that he would not stop the troops that Claude was bringing to the help of his fellow-citizens.

The Sire de Lullin, being informed of his arrival, was surprised and exasperated: there was a stormy scene in the conference, and that clever but hasty and passionate administrator ordered the heretical and rebellious Genevan to be seized. The latter, escorted by armed men, soon appeared before him in the principal hall of the castle. To the Savoyards about the governor, a huguenot of Geneva was a kind of monster {342} which aroused alike their curiosity and horror. Savoye, finding himself in the lion's jaws, presented the paper that D'Allinges had sent him. This put a climax to the governor's passion. 'By what right,' he asked that chief, 'do you give a safe-conduct?'[652] Lullin, imagining that the noble Savoyard might be a traitor in correspondence with the enemies of his highness, ordered both the bearer and the giver of the passport to be locked up. The ambassadors of Berne did not think it their duty to offer any opposition: the main thing for them was to obtain a promise from the governor to do all in his power to hinder the arrival of the Swiss band. They therefore asked him to set out with them the next morning (Sunday, October 10th) at daybreak, to climb the mountain on whose top they hoped still to find Wildermuth and his followers, and to make them return.[653] De Lullin would not consent to this proposition. He wished to suffer the little Swiss force to descend into the plain, not doubting that the soldiers under his orders would crush them to pieces. An opportunity offered of giving a sound lesson to those adventurers who dared measure themselves against the duke of Savoy: not one of those rash men should return home. But the Bernese were still more decided than the Savoyard governor, and after many efforts succeeded in bringing him round to their views. 'We came to the conclusion, after much trouble,' they said in their report, 'to go and meet them and make them retire in confidence to their own country, at the expense of My Lord of Savoy.'[654]


Very different thoughts occupied the dwellers in the castle during the night which followed these deliberations. {343} While the Bernese were reflecting on the means of preventing a battle, the governor examined his plans: he had three to four thousand soldiers, fresh, vigorous, and ready for the combat, while the Swiss were only four or five hundred tired and starving men. Not to take advantage of such an opportunity of punishing those 'heretics and mischief-makers,' appeared to him a serious fault. Without breaking his promise, it was possible (if he procrastinated) that the Swiss would have time to come down from the mountains and be cut to pieces by the Savoyards. On Sunday morning Diesbach and Nägueli were stirring at daybreak, but Lullin made them wait a long time for him. When he appeared, the Bernese told him they were ready to start, according to their agreement. 'Excuse me, gentlemen,' said the governor, 'I must hear mass first: we catholics never begin a journey without it.'[655] The mass was very tedious; at length the Bernese, seeing the governor return, thought their long trial was ended; but Lullin, convinced as ever that by giving time to his troops they would destroy Wildermuth's band, said to them: 'Gentlemen, they are about to serve up a collation: it is impossible to start without breakfasting.'[656] The collation had to be waited for: Lullin and his officers talked much and with extreme amiability. 'Really, the governor and his gentlemen are keeping us a little too long this morning,' said the ambassadors,[657] who were quite wearied with these delays. At length they sat down to table, and would no doubt have sat there long, but that suddenly a noise like discharges of musketry was heard. The Bernese ambassadors sprang to their feet. There was no more room for doubt: the battle had begun, and it was perhaps too late to fulfil their {344} commission. They determined, notwithstanding, to ride to the field of battle. The Savoyard governor, thinking that, in consequence of all his delays, his men-at-arms would have had time to cut the Swiss to pieces, raised no more difficulties. They went down into the courtyard of the castle, where for several hours thirty horses had been stamping impatiently, and a great number of officers, guards, and servants had been gossiping. 'Bring me the Genevan's fine Spanish horse,' said the governor, 'and give him a donkey.'[658] They brought Savoye's noble courser to the Sire de Lullin. 'Give me also his arquebuse,' added the sharp-witted Savoyard, 'for I am sure it is a good one.' The troop fell in: the thirty horsemen and the governor's guards surrounded the Sire de Lullin, his officers, the Bernese, and poor Savoye mounted on his humble quadruped. They could not go very fast in consideration of the heretical donkey, which Lullin would not leave behind. Claude did not allow himself to be vexed by the ridicule with which the governor tried to cover him, and sooner than stay at Coppet he preferred they should laugh at him and treat him as a common prisoner.

Meanwhile, the governor and his escort kept advancing, looking before them and trying if they could not discover the Swiss. Suddenly, at a short distance from Gingins, the strangest and most unexpected sight met their eyes. Soldiers were flying in every direction—along the highway, through the lanes, across the fields: everywhere terror, confusion, and all the marks of a signal defeat. The governor looked attentively: it was useless trying to deceive himself, the runaways were his own soldiers. He had expected to see the hostile band destroyed, and he found those who were to accomplish his designs fleeing in confusion. Incensed by such cowardice, he approached some of the fugitives and {345} cried out: 'What are you doing, you poltroons? Stop! why are you running away? Are you not ten times as numerous as the heretics? Turn back and help me to hang them!'[659] But the Savoyards, smitten with a panic terror, passed near him almost without seeing him. It was impossible to check their flight.


What was to be done at such a strange conjuncture? There was but one course to be taken. The governor had flattered himself with the hope of seeing the Swiss crushed or of crushing them himself, and he had found them victorious. Instead of having recourse to the sword, he must make up his mind to an humble prayer. It appears that neither Lullin nor Diesbach had any hope of seeing a third attack succeed. The Bernese ambassadors, commissioned by their Council to act as mediators, must therefore advance and stop the terrible band. De Lullin gave them some of his horsemen as an escort, and they galloped off. At one time they were stopped by bands of fugitives, at another they fell into the midst of the Savoyard cavalry marching forward to rejoin their colors: at last they arrived on the field of battle. It was the moment when the Swiss, having gained two victories and returned thanks to God, had perceived that fresh troops were approaching, and were preparing to renew the combat for a third time.[660] But at the sight of the lords of Berne they halted. This important circumstance was about to give a new and unexpected turn to events.

During this time what was the Genevan doing on his donkey? The chroniclers do not tell us: he disappeared, he vanished. We may conjecture that, seeing {346} Lullin occupied in rallying his troops, still hoping that another battle would be fought, and comprehending the necessity of informing the Councils of what was going on, he took advantage of the general confusion to make for Geneva, to call his fellow-citizens to take part in this heroic affair, and unite with the Swiss. However that may be, the news of the battle of Gingins was brought to Geneva by Savoye, or some other person, on the 11th of October, the day after the fight, and the whole city was in commotion. A deadly combat (they said) has taken place between our liberators and our oppressors. Four hundred Savoyards were left on the field, but the Swiss, surrounded by numerous troops, are shut up near Nyon, and in great danger of being cut to pieces!


Then arose a cry in the free city! They knew the number of the Savoyards, and even exaggerated them; but the Swiss must be saved at any cost. Besides, there could be no doubt that if that little band was destroyed, Lugrin, Mangerot, and the other chiefs would turn against Geneva. The Genevese did not hesitate: they had already fought many a battle, and were ready to fight others. The strong man is he who struggles continuously. The swimmer who ceases to make head against the current is swept away by the stream and disappears. The people whose liberty or faith is threatened, must, like the strong man, struggle until the last, for fear the rushing waters should overwhelm him. This was the example long given by the small city of Geneva: for ages she had been struggling for her independence; for ages to come she struggled for her faith.

Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, the captain-general, summoned all the citizens to arms. There was no difficulty in collecting them. They talked in Geneva of the unheard-of difficulties which the Swiss had had to overcome in traversing the Jura. Such sufferings, toils, diligence, and love (said the people); such signal {347} services; the great dangers to which those brave men have been exposed on our account—shall we repay them only with ingratitude?[661] The Genevans resolved to deliver the Swiss or to die with them. In an instant they were under arms; 'about two thousand men,' says Froment, placed themselves, fully equipped, under the orders of Baudichon de la Maisonneuve; other documents speak of five hundred only—a number which seems nearer the truth. Froment, probably, counted all who took up arms: the oldest, who remained in the city to defend it, as well as the youngest, who left it to march to the aid of Wildermuth's band. Eight pieces of artillery were taken out of the arsenal,[662] and the army having been divided into three corps under separate captains, Baudichon de la Maisonneuve took the command-in-chief.[663]

They departed. The soldiers of Geneva advanced enthusiastically towards the Pays de Vaud, and hastened their steps for fear they should arrive too late. At the sight of Baudichon's little army the scattered Savoyards, whom fear had brought as far as Versoix and the neighborhood of Coppet, and who were still trembling at the thought of yesterday's combat, imagined that everything was lost. 'We are all going to be killed,' they said, 'and the country conquered.' Some fled in different directions across the fields; others, fearing there would be no time to run, hid themselves in the courtels or inclosed gardens in the vicinity of Coppet; while others more frightened still, wishing to put the lake between them and their enemies, jumped into some boats moored to the bank, and for want of oars employed their halberds, and thus, rowing with all their might, reached the shore {348} of Savoy. The Genevans, without stopping to pursue the fugitives, arrived to within a short distance of Coppet. 'If once we are united with the Swiss, which can be easily done,' they said, 'our country is saved.'[664]

On Sunday evening and Monday morning diplomacy had done its work. The envoys of Berne, arriving on the field of battle at the moment when the Swiss were going for a third time to rush upon the Savoyard army, had stationed themselves in front of that band of heroes, and, faithful to the diplomatic spirit which at that time prevailed in the councils of the powerful republic, had said: 'Halt! On behalf of our superiors we command you to retire. The Savoyards are many, and quite prepared to receive you warmly.' The lords of Berne were accustomed to command, and their dependents to obey: they hoped, therefore, to gain the men of Seeland. Further, Louis of Diesbach, who had distinguished himself in the Italian wars, and had been governor of Neuchâtel after the Swiss had carried off its prince, Louis of Orleans, fancied himself on that account sure of persuading those Neuchâtelers who had remained faithful to the enterprise. Calling them aside, he endeavored to show them, as well as the Bernese, 'that it would be better for them to retire with a good victory than to run into greater danger.'—'Every effort was made by soft words to induce the valiant champions to return,' says Froment.

Diplomacy was less sure than it appeared to be of the defeat which, as it pretended, awaited the companions of Wildermuth. If alone they had won two victories, what would they not do with the help of the men of Geneva? The Savoyards were placed between two fires, and it appeared to many that they were {349} all going to be taken and their country conquered.[665] The followers of La Maisonneuve, combining with those of Wildermuth, would expel the Savoyards from the country and unite it either to Geneva or to Switzerland. On the other hand, the diplomatists said to the Swiss, that another attack would expose them to the risk of a defeat as signal as their triumph had been; that the battles which such brave men had fought would not be useless; and that the Bernese, intrusted with the task of mediation, would obtain from Savoy a good peace in favor of Geneva. 'See, you have been two or three days without eating,' added Diesbach; 'two battles have exhausted your strength. Make your way to the village of Founex, above Coppet; abundant supplies are waiting for you, and there you shall receive our last directions.' Thus spoke the lords of Berne.


But the intrepid men of the Seeland and Neuchâtel contingent were 'greatly angered;' they asked whether they should let themselves be seduced by 'soft words' or 'foolish fears;' they laughed at the attempt to frighten them with the Savoyards, who were (they said) so scared that they did not know what they were about! But the ambassadors did not cease their exertions, and already the Swiss were hesitating. A number of the Bernese did not wish to put themselves in opposition to the government of their canton; and the Neuchâtelers thought that as it was the lords of Berne who had supported Neuchâtel in the work of Reform, they would not be likely to abandon Geneva. The greater number, exhausted and worn out by two days' journeying in the snow and one day of hard fighting, and having had no other food than a few turnips, were of opinion, that as they were weakened by hunger, and the food was offered them at Founex which had not been given them at Gingins, {350} it was quite natural to go there. Besides, that was not relinquishing their design. Was not Founex on the road to Geneva? The ambassadors became more urgent, and at last all marched off, leaving, not without regret, the glorious field of battle. 'And so they came to Founex, where they were supplied with meat and drink,' say the registers of Geneva.[666]

The Bernese lords saw them march off, and when the last had passed them, they breathed freely, turned their bridles, and with their escort took the road to Coppet, much pleased at having succeeded so well. But they were not yet at the end of their troubles. They had hardly proceeded half way when they were exposed to a new danger. A Savoyard squadron, about sixty strong, was approaching: on coming within a short distance of the Bernese, the horsemen set spurs to their horses and dashed upon the ambassadors and their escort, shouting out, 'Slay, slay!' One of them, placing his musket on Diesbach's breast, was preparing to kill him.[667] In the midst of the alarm that had seized them, the Bernese diplomatists began to understand that it is not wise to choose one's friends badly. However, Diesbach escaped with a fright, one of his escort having turned the musket aside. The explanations of the ambassadors did not satisfy the Savoyards, who were a reinforcement of cavalry on their way to Gingins, to help their countrymen to take satisfaction for the defeat which their friends had suffered. They were furious, and swore they would avenge their comrades murdered in two affairs by the Bernese. Convinced that these patricians of Berne were in a plot with the victors, they made them prisoners, ordered them to get off their {351} horses, and forcing them to march on foot between them, as if they were robbers, intended to put them in prison at Nyon. At last, however, after fresh parleying, those rude horsemen found out that they were taking away the governor's friends, and, intimidated by the knowledge, they hastened to release the envoys, who remounted their horses and rode off to Coppet. It was late when they arrived at the castle, where serious matters awaited them.[668]


The next morning, Monday, 11th of October, the governor, the two Bernese deputies, and several gentlemen, having met at breakfast, were discussing what was to be done, 'as they sat eating, drinking, and banqueting,' when an officer entered and informed them that a Genevese army, commanded by De la Maisonneuve, was approaching the castle. The whole place was in confusion. The Savoyard army was so far off that the Genevese might by a bold stroke seize the governor of Vaud, with his officers and gentlemen, and even the envoys of Berne, and carry them away to Geneva. Such a blow would have been quite in harmony with Baudichon's daring character; if he had been able to make the bishop quit Geneva, he might easily (thought many) deliver his city from the lords who were conspiring at Coppet. What could be done to stop him? Those gentlemen invented 'an old trick of war,' says the chronicle, according to which every man, not in a position to resist his adversaries, makes a pretence of wishing for peace, either to gain time or to draw his enemy into a snare. At any price the men of Geneva must be induced to return. Diplomacy, therefore, recommenced its stratagems. The governor of Vaud, although more determined than ever to destroy that restless city, commissioned some of his gentlemen to go and inform the Genevan commander that they were in conference, and that they {352} were even ready to sign the preliminaries of a peace advantageous to the city; but that, in order to complete the negotiations, they wanted three deputies from Geneva.

The gentlemen of Savoy, the bearers of this message, having arrived at the Genevan outposts, and being conducted to De la Maisonneuve, discharged their pacific mission. Opinions were divided. Some suspected a trick, and contended that if the troops of Geneva and Neuchâtel could meet, the independence of Geneva would be secured. They therefore did all they could to oppose the conference; but others affirmed that they could trust M. de Diesbach; and that the best course would be to send three of their men, to ascertain the sincerity of these proposals of peace and then return and make their report. 'Who will guarantee their return?' cried those who feared the Savoyard governor. Upon this the gentlemen of the Sire de Lullin pledged their 'faith and promise' that no harm should befall the delegates. The worthy Genevans, being unwilling to suspect perjury, gave way, and selected as their envoys Jean d'Arlod, Thibaut Tocker, and Jean Lambert.


When this deputation reached the castle, the Sire de Lullin and his guests were again occupied in eating, drinking, and banqueting. This intimacy of the lords of Berne with the enemies of Geneva displeased d'Arlod and his colleagues; but all the same they resolved to discharge their mission faithfully. They had not long to wait before they learnt that the Savoyard chiefs had no idea of peace; and that they wanted to crush that sect, rebellious to the laws of the Church,—that sect which they had so long loaded with their contempt, which dismissed the priests, declared its independence of the pope, made laws contrary to those which for centuries had governed Christendom, and pretended to treat with Rome as an equal. Those huguenots had deprived the saints of the honors they had enjoyed, destroyed {353} the images, abolished the mass, and interdicted the sacred rites. What was then to be done, except to treat their deputies as criminals? The Genevan plenipotentiaries asked to see the preliminaries of the peace which it was desired to conclude with them. The Sire de Lullin could not believe his ears, and, bursting with anger, he flew into a passion at their audacity: 'What! rebels dare ask to know the preliminaries!' He ordered them to be seized. It was useless for the Genevans to appeal to the promise that had been given them; Lullin would not hear a word, and, desiring war at any price, was determined to trample under foot the inviolability with which the law of nations invests internuncios. The three Genevans were 'tied and fastened like robbers.'—'Take them to the castle of Chillon,' said Lullin, 'where they will be able to talk with M. de Saint Victor (Bonivard), who has already spent six years there for the business of Geneva.' The three noble citizens were carried off and shut up in the fortress of Chillon. It was the opinion then at Coppet, as it had been a century before at Constance, 'that no one is bound to keep faith with heretics.'[669]

De la Maisonneuve and his officers waited impatiently for the return of their delegates; the time slipped away, and they did not appear. The fear of deplorable events began to disturb the least credulous minds. 'It is probable,' said some, 'that this is a going which will have no returning.'[670] The commander sent the trumpeter, Ami Voullier, to inquire what was going on—a duty belonging in those days to his office. Voullier, either because he inclined to the worse side, or was bribed by the enemy, or suffered himself to be deceived by some crafty Savoyard, returned and reported that the gentlemen at the castle were occupied in drawing up the {354} articles of peace; and that the place was not undefended, for he had seen in the vineyards round about it more soldiers than vinestocks. He added that, as peace was about to be concluded, the presence of armed men who were not to fight was useless, and that the best thing would be for every man to return home. The most pacific of the Genevans, believing their delegates to be really occupied in drawing up a real treaty, insisted upon returning to the city. An experienced and clear-sighted commander, a man of superior mind, would not have been satisfied with the trumpeter's report. He would not have left the place without being put in direct communication with the three plenipotentiaries. If he had discovered the governor's perfidy, he would have been able, especially with the support of the Swiss, to surround the castle, capture the governor and his suite, and the Bernese themselves, and not release them until he had obtained the deliverance of his envoys. Even if it were true that they were discussing a treaty of peace, would it not have been of advantage for the forces of Geneva to remain near Coppet to add strength to the representations of their delegates? De la Maisonneuve was a good citizen, a good protestant, and a soldier, but he was neither a great general nor a keen diplomatist. Besides, a noble simplicity of heart does not suspect dissimulation. Those proud huguenots, who erred sometimes through too much violence, erred now through too much simplicity. It was decided that, as peace was going to be signed, the Genevans should return home. The corps started for Geneva. This error weighed heavily upon Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, and troubled him all the rest of his life.


The skilful diplomatists assembled at Coppet, having thus got rid of the Genevese, undertook to rid themselves in a similar manner of the Swiss cantoned at Founex. Some of them, going to Wildermuth's little army, said: 'Peace is concluded. All soldiers must {355} now return home. The city of the huguenots will now be free. You have fairly acquired the right to enjoy repose. Moreover, the governor of Vaud undertakes to pay the expense of your journey.' The Swiss gave way like the Genevans. An heroic victory was succeeded by a diplomatic defeat. If the honest have their power, the cunning have theirs also. It is the fate of humble and sincere individuals and nations to be sometimes mystified by the adroit and powerful. As regards the Swiss, the last verse of the war-song of Gingins shows that, if they turned their steps homewards, it was because of their conviction that the deliverance of Geneva was secured.

'Finish the matter,' we said, 'in order that the city of Geneva may be delivered—that is all we ask; that peace may be secured to her, so that the Word of God may be preached within her walls in all liberty, that the Lord's fold may be saved, and then we shall return joyful to our homes.'[671]

But these strains were the illusions of honorable minds. If arms had wrought the triumph of right and liberty at Gingins, policy had procured the triumph of fraud and despotism at Coppet.

Still one question arises. Was the battle of Gingins useless? No, for it saved Geneva. The bravery of the Swiss and their victory were deeply imprinted in the minds of the population of Vaud. They talked of it in villages and castles, and even in Savoy. Accordingly, some months later, when an army sent by the Councils of Berne appeared in the country, no one dared measure himself with it, the bravery of the Swiss still freezing all hearts with terror.

Louis of Diesbach and his colleagues, who arrived at Geneva the day after the treason of Coppet, proposed to the council a treaty with the duke, stipulating, {356} among other things, that the traitors of Peney should be restored to their privileges. 'What!' said the premier Syndic, 'you have sent back those who were coming to our help, and you claim to place within our walls those who will never cease from making war on us!'[672] De la Maisonneuve, discovering that the trumpeter had made a false report, and that his troops, instead of returning to Geneva, ought to have marched upon Coppet, could not contain his sorrow and rage. He declared the man guilty of high-treason, and many persons joined with him in demanding Ami Voullier's head. His life was, however, spared, but he lost the esteem of his fellow-citizens.[673]

The indignation of the magistrates and of the chiefs of the soldiery was trifling compared with the anger of the people. The thought that the envoys had been shut up within the walls of Chillon made all their hearts burn. 'Let us make reprisals,' said the relatives of the victims to the syndics, 'and to make sure that they will restore us our fellow-citizens, let us seize hostages who are as good as they.' Three notable men, at that time within the reach of the Genevans—M. de Sales, the Bastard of Wufflens, and M. de Montfort—were laid hold of.[674] The last-named was a monk of the convent of St. Jean, situated on the heights bathed by the blue waters of the Rhone, at the gates of Geneva, although within the duke's territories. The people do not weigh the claims of justice so calmly as wise men in council. The flames which burnt in every heart broke out all of a sudden. There was shouting and assembling. The popular waves rose higher from street to street, tossing and foaming. 'Shall we leave at the very gates of the {357} city,' was the cry, 'a building whence the enemy can make his artillery bear upon us?' The crowd rushed to St. Jean, scaled the walls, seized De Montfort, climbed on the roof, broke, demolished, and threw down everything, and did not stop until the convent was in ruins. The crime of Coppet produced the execution at St. Jean. Popular indignation did not reflect that in all states, and especially in republics, nothing should be done except by the law.

[650]   See the works of Madame de Staël, her family, the Duc de Broglie, Comte Haussonville, and her friends.

[651]   Report of the two Bernese envoys to the Council of Geneva.

[652]   'Von Lullin sagte Alinges hatte Gleit zu geben keine Gewalt.'—Stettler, Chronik.

[653]   'Die Deutsche heim zu mahnen, und zu Ihnen den Berg hinauf zu reiten.'—Ibid.

[654]   Report of the two Bernese envoys.—Registres du Conseil de Genève.

[655]   'Hielt die Berner betrüglich auf, bemeldeter von Lullin, und sagte: Er wollte zum ersten Mess hören.'—Stettler, Chronik.

[656]   'Und eine Collation thun.'—Ibid.

[657]   Registres du Conseil de Genève du 12 Octobre 1535.

[658]   'Nahm er des Genfers starken hispanischen Hengst, setzt denselbigen hingegen auf einen Esel.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[659]   'Vermahnet sie ihren Feinden bey Hencken zügestehen.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[660]   Stettler says that the Swiss had already started for Geneva when the Bernese arrived; and Ruchat and others say the same. On reading the manuscript registers of the Council of Geneva, it is seen that the report of Messieurs de Berne states expressly the contrary; and Froment corroborates this report, p. 196.

[661]   These are the words spoken in the Council.—See the Registres du Conseil for the 11th October 1535.

[662]   Registres du Conseil, ad diem.

[663]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 197.

[664]   Registres du Conseil du 11 Octobre 1535.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 51.

[665]   'Gaigné.' Froment. Gestes de Genève, p. 197.

[666]   Registres du Conseil de Genève du 12 Octobre 1535.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 196-198.

[667]   'Die Schryen, Würgen, würgen! Setzten dem von Diesbach ein Feuerbüchsen an die Brust.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 71.

[668]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 72.

[669]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 198.—Registres du Conseil du 11 Octobre 1535.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 41.

[670]   'Une allée qui n'aura pas de retour.'

[671]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 199.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 41.—Schweizer Chronik in Liedern, Berne, 1535.

[672]   Registres du Conseil du 12 Octobre 1535.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 42.

[673]   Froment, Roset, &c.

[674]   Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 51.

(From the beginning of November 1535 to the end of January 1536.)


A reverse is not always an evil; it may sometimes lead to a decisive victory. There were few regular troops among those who had been beaten at Gingins, which made the defeat a lesson by which the duke of Savoy might profit. He resolved, in effect, to benefit by it, to bring up veteran soldiers, to place a distinguished general at their head, and thus to crush that rebellious city which presumed to set up a religion unknown at Rome. But as these troops were not ready, Charles III. ordered the chiefs of the great valley of the Leman to exact of their vassals the military service which they owed. The nobles of that district were persuaded that they would easily triumph over Geneva, if the Swiss did not come to their help; and as that was not likely, the hatred felt against the city, and the hope of enriching themselves with its spoil, induced a great number of {358} liegemen to rally round the banners of their lords. About the end of October the Sire de Lullin took his measures for blockading Geneva. Mangerot, baron of La Sarraz, a prompt, violent, obstinate man, filled with contempt for the reformation of the Church and the liberty of the citizens, was placed at the head of the attack. On the 1st of November these armed bands occupied certain villages and small towns which formed a kind of circle round the city, and began to plunder, burn, and kill all who fell into their hands. Famine and the cold, which was very severe that year, soon caused distress in the city. The churches were filled with old men, women and children, and even armed men. 'There is no resource and refuge left but God alone,' said Farel from the pulpit, and voices were heard responding to him from the midst of the congregation, 'In Him alone we place our trust.' If a musket-shot was heard, or shouts, or the drum, the armed men left immediately, but 'without noise or confusion; nobody else moved from the sermon,' and the service was not interrupted. As the firing grew hotter without, those who had remained in the temple cried to God that 'not to man's arm did they look for deliverance, but to His great faithfulness.' One night, the Genevans, startled out of their sleep and rising hastily, found the city surrounded by fires kindled by the men-at-arms of Savoy, with the intention of giving them light for the assault, and heard the bells of the convents and chapels all round ringing as loud as possible to increase their terror. The citizens fought valiantly, and the enemy was once more repulsed.[675]

Yet the blockade was still maintained round the city, and no one could tell whence succor would arrive. One day a messenger coming from France succeeded in {359} making his way through the troops which surrounded Geneva: he was the bearer of a letter conceived in these terms:

'You will certainly receive some mule loads of good and salable merchandise, and they will be there one of these days.

'Pierre Croquet.'[676]

The letter was handed to Maigrot the Magnificent. ''Tis good,' he said, 'salvation comes to us from France.'


At that moment certain evolutions were taking place in the policy of the great powers of Europe, which might favor the deliverance of Geneva. 'If you desire Milan, take Turin,' said the crafty Clement VII. to the king of France. As Sforza, the last duke of Milan, was dead, Francis I., in order to follow up the pontiff's advice, had to seek some kind of pretext for declaring war against his uncle, the duke of Savoy. There was one which presented itself quite naturally. 'Charles IV. oppresses Geneva,' said some. 'Let France oppose his laying hands on it, and war will be certain.' Francis I., who was then at Lyons and negotiating with Charles V., saw that he could not support Geneva openly; but permitted the Sieur de Vérey, a French nobleman, to raise a troop of volunteers. Men, charmed with the new liberties, flocked with enthusiasm to his banners. Many printers in particular joined the band. The printers in those times remarked that the Reformation produced not only authors who wrote for the people, but a people who read their books with eagerness; and accordingly they were ready to fight for it. Francis I. was not content to look on, but gave Vérey the company of Jean Paoli, son of the Sieur de Ceri, the old captain of the Roman {360} bands, consisting of 'excellent cavalry and valiant personages.'[677]

Meanwhile the city was going to ruin: there was no money to pay the soldiers. What was to be done? In many old houses Genevan coins were found, bearing the sun as a symbol with this device—Post tenebras spero lucem.[678] These pieces proved that the city of Geneva had once possessed the right of coining money—a right of which the prince-bishops had deprived her. Claude Savoye received instructions to issue a new coinage, and was forthwith supplied with silver crosses, chalices, patens, and other sacred utensils. The coins he struck bore on one side the key and eagle (the arms of Geneva), with the legend, Deus noster pugnat pro nobis, 1535, 'Our God fighteth for us;' and on the reverse, Geneva civitas. The following year another coinage was issued which, in addition to the ordinary device, Post tenebras lucem, bore these words of Isaiah and St. Paul, Mihi sese flectet omne genu, 'Unto me every knee shall bow,' the monogram of Jesus, I. H. S., being in the centre. Geneva did not believe in its own victory only, but in the victory of God, whose glory, hidden until then, would be magnified among all nations.


While Francis I. was stealthily aiding Geneva, the powerful republic of Berne was negotiating in its favor. Some of its statesmen crossed the Saint-Bernard on their way to the town of Aosta, where the duke of Savoy was to meet them. Berthold Haller, the reformer, and the other Bernese pastors, had gone in a body to the council and conjured them to make an appeal to the people for the deliverance of Geneva. 'They are ready,' said the ministers, 'to sacrifice their goods and their lives to uphold the Reformation in that city.' The lords of Berne, desirous of taking at least one step, sent a deputation {361} to the duke, and commissioned their general, Francis Nägueli, who was at its head, to support the cause of Geneva. Son of one of the most distinguished chiefs of the Swiss bands, Francis had grown up in the camp, and like Wildermuth, had made his first campaign in the wars of Italy in 1511. 'He was a man at twenty,' people said. His features bronzed by a southern sun presented a mixture of energy, acuteness, and antique grandeur, and the Christian piety by which he was animated imparted to them a great charm.[679] P. d'Erlach, Rodolph of Diesbach, and the chancellor P. Zyro accompanied him. Crossing the mountains with difficulty—it was in the latter half of November—and braving rain, cold, and snow,[680] the ambassadors arrived at last at the city of Aosta. The duke was not there; they were invited to push on to Turin, but the lords of Berne replied that they would wait for the duke at the foot of the glaciers. The Bernese and their suite took advantage of this delay to enter into conversation with the inhabitants, and spoke to them fearlessly of Holy Scripture and the usurpations of the Roman bishop.

At last Charles III. arrived and the conference was opened. 'First of all,' said the Bernese, 'we require you to leave the citizens of Geneva at liberty to obey the Word of God, as the supreme authority of faith.' The duke, surrounded by the servants of Rome and urged particularly by Gazzini, bishop of Aosta, declared that he could not concede their demand without the consent of the emperor, the permission of the pope, and the decision of a general council. 'I ask you once more,' said Nägueli, 'to leave the Genevans free to profess their faith.' 'Their faith,' ejaculated Charles, 'what is their faith?' 'There are Bibles enough, {362} I think, in Savoy,' answered Nägueli; 'read them, and you will discover their faith.' The duke asked for a truce of five or six months to come to an understanding on the matter with the emperor and the pope. The ambassadors, recrossing the snows of those lofty mountains, returned to Berne and made their report.[681]

During this time the Savoyard troops had drawn closer round Geneva, and on the 7th of December had attacked the city. Rodolph Nägueli, the general's brother, communicated to the council the offer made by Charles III. of a five months' truce. But the Genevese replied: 'How can the duke observe a truce of five months, when he cannot keep one of twenty days? He makes the proposal in order to starve us out. We will negotiate no more with him, except at the sword's point. All delays are war to us. Give us your assistance, honored lords. We ask it not only in the name of our alliances, but in the name of the love you owe to your poor brethren in Christ. Do what you may, the hour is come, and our God will fight for us.' The herald was sent through the city, ordering every citizen to get his arms ready and to muster round their captains.[682]


At the same time Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, who was then in Switzerland, employed all his energies to awaken the sympathy of the people in favor of Geneva. At Berne, he sought support among the middle classes, among those who loved the Gospel and liberty, feeling persuaded that they would carry the magistrates with them. He was indefatigable and pleaded the cause of his country in private houses, in society, and in the council. He labored as if desirous of repairing the fault he had committed in allowing {363} himself to be outwitted at Coppet by the Savoyard statesmen. The government of Lullin, being informed of the exertions of the Genevese citizen, ordered him to be seized when he attempted to cross the territory of Vaud on his return home. De la Maisonneuve was filled with joy, for he was succeeding in his efforts; the good cause was gradually gaining the upper hand in Berne; but one thing distressed him: he received no news from Geneva, and could not go there to communicate his great expectations to his fellow-countrymen. 'I have received no news at all from you,' he wrote on the 9th of December to the council, 'no more than if I were a Jew or a Saracen. If I could pass, I would not remain here; but I am warned that I am watched on all sides, as a mouse is watched by a cat. Know that those of Basle and other cantons who belong to the Gospel are willing to employ all their power to help us. In a short time you will see wonders and how God will work.'[683]

Meanwhile the severity of the weather had become extreme; the nobles who were blockading Geneva—the De Montforts, De Gingins, De Burchiez, and others—determined to go into winter quarters with their men. The Sire Mangerot de la Sarraz vainly conjured them to remain. 'We are compelled to return,' they said. The Genevans began to breathe. Their enemies were departing, and the refugee Maigrot kept telling them that friends from France were about to 'arrive in numbers and full of courage.' The citizens began thus to discern some gleams of light through the darkness which surrounded them.

In effect the Sieur de Montbel de Vérey, with his seven hundred foot-soldiers and four hundred horse, dispatched secretly by Francis I., with a personal object, to the support of Geneva, had arrived in the valley {364} of St Claude. This was in the middle of December. The intrepid Mangerot, disgusted at the cowardice of his allies, had remained alone at his post; and he had done so specially to oppose the French. Taking four hundred men with him, he climbed the mountains, and found from ten to twenty feet of snow in the upper valleys. De Vérey's Italian cavalry could not advance and his foot-soldiers were almost frozen. All of a sudden, at the turn of a road, a discharge of musketry spread terror and disorder in that disorganized band. The intrepid De Vérey, accompanied by seven horsemen, dashed through the enemy, and on the 14th of December eight men, the only survivors of nearly twelve hundred, arrived at the gates of Geneva.[684]

Nägueli, the Bernese deputy, fully comprehending the gravity of the circumstances, departed the same day. They soon learnt with regret that all the Sieur de Vérey's men-at-arms had either been cut to pieces or dispersed in the snows and forests of the mountains; at the same time La Sarraz, proud of his victory, once more beleaguered the city, and swore that he would put an end to its independence and heresy. The fortunes of Geneva were overcast, and some asked if this was how God saved those who followed His Word. On the 17th of December, at the moment when the frightful news arrived, William Farel went to the council and said: 'Most honored lords, the chief thing is that we should all be converted to God, and that you should make arrangements that the people should renounce sin and hear the Word of the Lord. It is because God knows that it is of no use to entice by mildness those who sleep, that He now strikes you with great blows of His hammer in {365} order to arouse you.' That holy exhortation made a deep impression on the council, and the same day the officers of the state published throughout the city that 'all men should go on the morrow and other days to the church of St. Pierre and invoke the help of God.' The next morning, the Genevese, assembling before the Most High, cried to Him by the voices of His servants.[685]


A still greater danger threatened Geneva. The Frenchman, De Vérey, although beaten, desired none the less to attain the end for which he had been sent. He had very winning ways with the Genevese. 'The king of France,' he said, 'takes your business to heart; he will send a stronger force to save you, for he loves Geneva with a strong affection.[686] Meantime, gentlemen, to give him occasion to expel your enemy, it would be advisable that you should grant him some pre-eminence in your city. The king asks for nothing but to be called the Protector of your liberties. He desires to help you to become strong.'[687] The council ruminated, discussed, and calculated all these matters well.[688] On the one hand, they did not want the protection of France; on the other, they felt the need of her support. They temporized. 'First expel our enemies,' they said, 'and we will then see how to show our respect for the king.' 'We had hoped to find you better disposed,' said De Vérey, who was not satisfied with respect for his master. 'Think upon it, gentlemen, think upon it.' He went away very discontented. But the citizens spoke out more frankly than the council. A despotic king, what a protector for their liberty! A king who hangs and burns {366} evangelical Christians, what a protector for their faith! Bold tribunes, and especially the brothers Bernard, stood forth, and demanded that if their country must perish, it should perish free. Let us write to the king, then said the council, that the Genevese offer him their humble services, 'but without any subjection.' The little city, on the verge of the abyss, rejected the hand of the powerful monarch which alone was stretched out to save them. Six days later (December 23d) the duke of Savoy ordered the commanders of his forces on this side of the mountains 'to do their duty.' It was resolved in Geneva that in case of assault all the citizens, and even the old men, women, and children, should repair to the walls.


The year 1536 opened, and on the 3d of January the Savoyard garrisons of Lancy, Confignon, Saconnex beyond the Arve, and Plan-les-Ouates, castles situated between the Rhone and the Arve, as well as those of Gaillard and Jussy, fortresses between the Arve and the lake, advanced simultaneously against the city. At the head of the last troop was Amblard de Gruyère, a fervent catholic and hot-headed feudalist, who determined first to take possession of the church of our Lady of Grace on the Arve, and thus acquire an important position a few minutes distant from the city and the Savoyard territory. Pierre Jessé and three other valiant huguenots had thrown themselves into the tower. Amblard advanced, and standing at the foot of the wall, called to them: 'Surrender! on the honor of a gentleman your lives shall be spared.' Jessé answered: 'I would sooner surrender to yon pig-drivers, for you gentlemen have no honor.' Upon this Amblard de Gruyère opened a warm fire upon his adversaries. The latter were not alarmed; they stood firm, and believed, with Farel, that a man armed with divine strength is equipped from head to foot. They threw down huge stones from the top of the tower upon their {367} assailants; they discharged their arquebuses and killed several of the enemy. Amblard ordered an assault, broke down the iron door which closed the staircase, and rushed up it, sword in hand; but just as he reached the door which opened into the belfry, a ball knocked him back upon the people behind him. Although reinforcements came up one by one to the support of the assailants, the latter, seeing their captain fall, 'had a great fright and fear.'[689] All night long the four huguenots made fire-signals to their friends in the city, to let them know that they would hold out until death. Meantime the attacking party did not relax their hold. Climbing the narrow stairs, they placed torches against the floor of the tower under the feet of the four huguenots, and set the timbers on fire. The Savoyards, thinking that the Genevans would be burnt to death, then retired, 'carrying off the body of their captain and others who had fallen.' The undaunted huguenots, already feeling the fire, rushed down the stairs through the flames, and were saved, with nothing burnt but their beards.[690] Jessé was afterwards made a member of the council.

Still, if one attack failed, it paved the way for others; and new troops were moved up against the city. The council deliberated on the course to be pursued, and two alternatives were proposed. Farel demanded, for the preservation of the city, that the inhabitants should put their trust in God, and that prayers should be offered from every heart for peace and unity, not for Geneva only, but for all Christendom.[691] Balard proposed another remedy: 'Let mass be publicly celebrated once more,' he said; 'the mass is an expiation that will render God propitious to us.'—'The mass is not worth a straw,' exclaimed a {368} huguenot.—'If it is so,' retorted a catholic, 'the death and passion of Jesus Christ are good for nothing.' At these words the assembly became greatly excited. 'Blasphemy!' exclaimed some. 'Balard has spoken blasphemy! He is a heretic. All who maintain the sacrifice of the host nullify the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.' The council put an end to the discussion by resolving 'that the priests should prove that the preachers spoke falsely, or else that they should go to the sermons and convince themselves that the ministers spoke the truth.'[692]

On the 12th of January the gates of the city were bricked up, the openings in the walls were filled in, and the armed men held themselves in readiness. The hostile force was advancing in three divisions—one between the lake and the Arve, a second between the Arve and the Rhone, and a third between the Rhone and the lake. About ten o'clock at night cries of alarm were heard from the walls; the Savoyards were placing their ladders on the southern side, while the Baron de la Sarraz and his troop had already got into the fosse on the north-west side. The Genevans hastened bravely to the defence, and threw down both ladders and soldiers. The next day the agitated council ordered these words to be entered in the minute-book of their meetings: 'They assaulted us vigorously, but God, to whom belongs all the honor, repelled them.'[693] From that time the Savoyards, 'more inflamed than ever, scarcely missed a night without making an attack.'[694] They desired to do more.

On the 24th of January the garrisons of Jussy and Gaillard, amounting to 600 or 800 men, of whom 100 {369} were horsemen, reinforced by a large number of peasants, took up a position between Chene and Cologny, a little above the ravine of Frontenex. A hundred footmen and forty horse made a sortie from Geneva, and a great number of boys from fourteen to sixteen years old accompanied them. This small body at once attacked the large one, and in a short time the wide plain between Frontenex and Ambilly was covered with fugitives and corpses. Not less than two hundred had fallen. The victors returned in triumph from the War of Cologny, through a crowd of citizens, who went out to meet them and welcome them with shouts of joy.[695]

But if the weak people of Geneva repulsed little armies, how would they resist when the grand army came?

[675]   Registres du Conseil des 9 et 12 Novembre 1535.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 179-184.

[676]   'Vos recevrez certainement charge de mullets, de bonne et mettable marchandise, et seront là un de ces jours.'

[677]   Registres du Conseil du 17 Décembre.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 11.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 187-191.

[678]   Taken from the Vulgate, Job xvii. 12.

[679]   Dictionnaire de Len. Journal de Nägueli.—Vulliemin, Continuation de l'Histoire Suisse de Müller.

[680]   'Bei Kalter Winterzeit, in Schnee und Regen.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 72.

[681]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 73.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 46.

[682]   Registres du Conseil des 8 et 10 Décembre.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 49 to 51.—Collection Galiffe dans Roget, Les Suisses et la Genève.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 73.

[683]   'Vous verrez merveilles en bref et comme Dieu besognera.'—Collection Galiffe dans Roget, Les Suisses et Genève.

[684]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 73.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 201.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 52.—Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, p. 118.

[685]   Registres du Conseil du 17 Décembre 1535.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 53.

[686]   'Fortiorem bendam . . . . Genevam ingenti amore prosequitur.'—Registres du Conseil du 17 Décembre 1535.

[687]   Ibid.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 53.

[688]   'Omnibus bene ruminatis, discussis, et calculatis, fuit solutum respondendi.'—Registres du Conseil, du 17 Décembre.

[689]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 184, 185.

[690]   Ibid.

[691]   'Farellus exhortavit eos de uniendo populum, et fidendo in Deum,' etc.—Registres du Conseil du 10 Janvier 1536.

[692]   Registres du Conseil du 10 Janvier 1536.

[693]   'Ils nous ont assaillis vigoureusement; mais Dieu, à qui en est tout honneur, les a repoussés.'—Registres du Conseil du 13 Janvier 1536.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 56.

[694]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 186, 187.

[695]   Registres da Conseil du 24 Janvier 1536.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 58.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 204-206.

(January to February 1536.)


The duke of Savoy was preparing to aim more decisive blows at Geneva. He desired to satisfy the ancient ambition of his house, and to crush a city which believed itself called upon to divorce from Rome the populations scattered around her. In this he was animated by his wife, Beatrice, a Portuguese princess, who was inspired by that religious fanaticism which generally distinguishes the women of the Iberian peninsula. The cities of Asti, Ivrea, and Verceil had fallen into the hands of the house of Savoy, and {370} Geneva was to experience the same fate. The moment seemed favorable. Charles V. was preparing to destroy protestantism: lansquenets, recruited by the emperor's brother, were arriving from Germany, and the army which Charles himself was bringing back from Africa, was moving towards the Alps. Letters from Berne announced that the emperor and the duke would begin by reducing Geneva, reformed Switzerland would follow, and last of all Lutheran Germany. Thus the subjection of the city of the huguenots formed part of a general plan. That mighty monarch, upon whose dominions the sun never set, had determined to abolish the Reformation, beginning with this city.


Charles III. had learnt that what had paralyzed his former efforts was the error he had committed by not sending disciplined troops against the huguenot city. He therefore determined on this occasion to select none but veteran soldiers and to place them under the orders of one of the boldest captains of the age, whose march should be accompanied with plunder and devastation. A person of low birth, who had settled at Milan, had acquired a small fortune by his industry. This man, Bernardino Medici (a name not to be confounded with that of the Medicis of Florence) had two sons, Giovanni Angelo, who became Pope under the name of Pius IV., and Giangiacomo, a rash, enterprising, treacherous, and cruel young man, whose ambition was insatiable and whose trade was war. Having been sent to the castle of Musso on the lake of Como, by the duke of Milan, with a letter charging the governor to put the bearer to death, the cunning Giangiacomo had opened the letter, got together a few companions, seized the castle, and made a small principality of it, which he had increased little by little, by furious inroads into the surrounding districts—the Valteline, the Milanese, Venetia, and even the Grisons. The Swiss, with Nägueli at their head, marched against {371} the robber chieftain and destroyed his lair. From that time the daring freebooter had carried his impetuosity and devastations elsewhere. Portions of French Switzerland, on the side of the Jura, had been ravaged by him. It was this Attila on a small scale whom Charles III. selected to put at the head of the new campaign against Geneva. It was not a question of merely taking the city, but of putting it in such a position that it could never lift its head again; in short, of destroying it. Giangiacomo was just the man for the work. At a later period Charles V., wishing to employ him against the German Reformation, created him marquis of Marignano, and gave him the command of the artillery in his campaign against the Lutherans. For the present, however, it was not Wittemberg but Geneva that Medici was to lay waste.[696]

The duke of Savoy placed his general at the head of an army composed of four thousand Italians,[697] besides Savoyards and Spaniards, stout, strong fellows, most of them old soldiers. A considerable number of armed men were summoned from the valley of the Leman to join Medici, and thus double or even triple his forces. The warlike brother of the future Pope Pius IV., supported by great princes, by the duke of Savoy and the emperor, had no doubt of victory. He began his march along the valley of the Leman.

The peril was great, but was everything lost? Was there not a power in Geneva which had not been found in Verceil or Asti? 'There seem to be no means of escaping from the hands of our enemies,' said the pious Genevans; 'but our hope is in God, {372} who will not suffer His holy name to be blasphemed by infidels.'[698]

Berne had long closed her ears to the cries of Geneva. Baudichon de la Maisonneuve had gone thither to point out the extremity to which his country was reduced. At the moment when the peril had become greatest, the Bear awoke, and prepared to descend from his mountains. Political motives had no doubt something to do with this decision of the Council. After the war in Burgundy, the 'pays romand' (the French-speaking part of Switzerland) had attracted the attention of that powerful republic. Somewhat later she had formed treaties of co-citizenship with Geneva and Lausanne; and when she saw the king of France raising an army, and moving it towards the Alps, she feared lest that prince should be beforehand with her. But the solicitations of Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, and the voices of the Bernese citizens who were for independence and the Reformation, had, after God, the greatest share in the decision of that state. The Bernese Council issued a proclamation to the people, in which, after setting forth the peril of Geneva, they went on to say: 'This matter touches, first of all, the glory of God, and next it touches us.' 'We are ready,' answered the people, 'to sacrifice our goods and our lives for the maintenance of the faith and of our oaths.' Twenty thousand men offered to march. The change which now took place in the councils of Berne was so unexpected that it was generally ascribed to the direction of God. 'Berne, urged by the divine inspiration, is moving,' wrote a pious Bernese to Bullinger, Zwingle's successor at Zurich.[699] And that excellent Genevan, Porral, said {373} in the fulness of his joy: 'O God, I thank Thee for that Thou hast inspired our citizens to give us help and comfort.'[700]

On the 16th of January a herald bore to the duke of Savoy a declaration of war with fire and sword. Francis Nägueli was unanimously appointed commander of the expedition. A decided Christian, a tried captain, and a skilful negotiator, he was adored by his soldiers, who called him 'our Franz.' From the twenty thousand men who offered themselves he selected six thousand. He gave two orders. A new weapon was then succeeding the halberds and the long swords; the arquebuses threw balls that struck the enemy invisibly. Nägueli wished to have the advantage of that weapon. 'Bring fire-sticks,' he said. He moreover exacted strict discipline: 'Be orderly, just, and kind towards the peasantry, as well as fearless in battle.'


There was another man in Berne who had the cause of Geneva as much at heart as Nägueli. The reformer, Berthold Haller, bowed down with suffering, had only a few days to live. Yet as the army, before leaving Berne, wished publicly to pray for God's help, he left his sick-bed with some difficulty, and, supported by his friends, crawled into the cathedral pulpit. That man, so mild, so timid, so mistrustful of himself, showed on the approach of death an energy which had hitherto been foreign to him. 'Men of Berne,' he said, with a voice almost inaudible, 'be firm and courageous. Magistrates and people, officers and soldiers, remain faithful to the Word of God. Honor the Gospel, by behaving righteously, and follow up unshrinkingly for the love of God your intention to snatch from the destruction that threatens them our poor brethren of Geneva, hitherto sadly {374} forsaken of men.'[701] Then lifting his trembling hands towards heaven, Haller stretched them above the silent army, and exclaimed, 'May God fill your hearts with faith, and may He be your Comforter!' The whole army, the whole people, in the city, in the canton, and even in the upper valleys among the perpetual snows, repeated these words—the last the reformer uttered in public—which became the watchwords of this holy war.

On Saturday (January 22d) six thousand men left the city, marching with a firm step, not under their peculiar flags (for each city had its own), but under that of Berne alone, a symbol at once of strength and unity. A hundred cavalry and sixteen pieces of cannon accompanied the infantry. They all wore a white cross on a red field; the old mark of the crusaders was their only uniform. Haller's words had borne fruit. Those children of the mountains went to the help of their brothers with enthusiasm and with faith. The noble Nägueli rode at their head. He desired to make an evangelical and Helvetic country of the beautiful valley of the Leman. He was serious and silent, for he was meditating on the means of freeing Geneva completely, but at the cost of as little blood as possible. The soldiers marched after him, active and joyful, in the midst of a crowd of men, women, and children collected from the villages round about; and those bold Helvetians, with heads erect, made the road echo with their songs of war. The Chronicle of old Switzerland has preserved them for us:

Be silent, people all, and listen to my lay.
Sing, comrades, raise to heaven the well-known strain,
For the bear has left his mountain den, and following in his train
Stalk terror and alarm to all who try to bar his way.
With eager footsteps on he goes, the weeping ones to save,
Whom all the world hath left to sink unaided to the grave.
{375}My gallant, gallant bear! God hath raised thee from the dead;
Bound in his chains, the scorn of men, the pope long held thee fast,
But Christ hath snapped thy bonds, and the night of slavery is passed.
Once more the light of day falls from heaven upon thy head.
What a crowd of joyous cubs swarms around thee in thy den,
For wondrous is the love God hath shown thee among men.
Cheer up, old mountain bear! and with head uplifted high,
Let him who tries to stop thee have a care!
Woe, woe to him that hateth thee, woe to the knaves who fear
To follow where thou leadest—to Rome and victory,
To dethrone the king of liars, at the hypocrites to laugh,
And their idolatries to scatter to the winds of heaven like chaff.
I await thee in the mountains, when the bloody strife is o'er,
And thou comest with the laurel wreath upon thy head;
Thou shalt drink our mountain streams, grassy meads shall be thy bed,
There thy wearied limbs shall rest, and thy heart be glad once more,
He who fighteth for the faith, findeth glory at the last,
And God shall crown the warrior for the dangers he has passed.[702]


On the first day the army reached the battle-field of Morat, which the soldiers hailed with enthusiasm. The contingents of Bienne, Nidau, La Neuville, Neuchâtel, Valengin, Château d'Œx, Gessenay, and Payerne, burning with affection for Geneva and the Reformation, joined the Bernese flag in the last-named town. Here the Avoyer de Watteville passed this noble army in review on the 24th of January, and administered the oath to it.

Geneva presented at this time a less showy spectacle. The famine, which for some months had distressed the city, was now prowling like a ghastly phantom in every street, frightening the women and children, and even the men themselves. Cold and sickness, the inevitable consequences of deprivation, filled the houses with suffering and mourning. These adversities were like a fierce torrent that sweeps away everything it touches. Even the brave began to grow dejected. At this conjuncture {376} a man arrived from Berne, the bearer of two messages. One, on paper, had been given him to avert suspicion in case he should be stopped by the governor of Vaud; it was a demand for Furbity's liberation. The other message was to be made verbally. 'Detain me here a prisoner,' said the Bernese, 'and put me to death, if my lords do not march out with their army to help you.' The people of Geneva could not believe him. 'In three days,' he added, 'you will see the castles of the country in flames. That will be the signal of Berne's coming.'[703]

When there was no longer any doubt of the arrival of the liberators, the Genevan population, so long afflicted, breathed and took courage. The most energetic men did not want to wait until their allies had arrived. Versoix, an important place belonging to the duke of Savoy, might stop the Bernese army. Fourscore citizens, manning a few boats, attacked it from the lake, put to flight the soldiers of Savoy by the fire of their cannon, and entered the fortress. The granaries were filled with corn, the cellars with wine, and the stalls with cattle: this was to the hungry citizens like the scene in the camp of the Syrians at the gates of Samaria.[704] The Genevese hastily removed to their boats all that they could carry away, and returning to the city displayed their booty in the market-place in the midst of an immense crowd. Wheat, barley, and cattle were sold at a low rate. Everybody ran and bought what he wanted; all rejoiced at this unexpected succor. And yet great danger still impended over Geneva.


It is true Berne was coming to her help; but more than that was required to save the city. The emperor's plan was (as we have seen) to crush the Reformation, which opposed his absolute sovereignty in Germany. It has been said that Francis I., attracted by the offer of Milan, had shown an inclination to let Charles V. do {377} what he liked. Could Berne resist that powerful monarch?[705] Would not the patricians, who more than once had shown themselves very cold with respect to Geneva, be found returning to their old system of compromises and delays? A great change in the relations and projects of the princes could alone, as it would appear, save the city. Now just at this very moment a series of events was taking place that suddenly transformed the political aspect of Europe.

Catherine of Aragon, aunt of Charles V., died. In consequence of her decease, the emperor relinquished his design of invading England, and kept the duchy of Milan, which he had offered to the king of France to induce him to combine against Henry VIII. Francis I., treated by the emperor as a person of no importance, swore that he would be avenged. But to reach Charles V. and seize Milan, it was necessary to march over the body of his uncle, the duke of Savoy. He did not hesitate to let this prince know 'how little he would be advantaged by not having France for a friend.'[706] Now, if the duke of Savoy, prince of Piedmont, is driven by the king of France beyond the Alps and further still, Geneva is saved.

At the sight of the danger which threatened him, Charles III. would have liked to renew the old alliance with his nephew; but the influence of his wife, who had 'led him into this dance,'[707] kept him bound to the cause of the emperor. In his embarrassment he formed a resolution that was not devoid of a certain cleverness, and which would make the conquest of Geneva and its annexation to the dominions of the emperor inevitable. Charles III. offered to cede to Charles V., in exchange for various Italian provinces, the western slopes of the {378} Alps, 'all the country he possessed from Nice to the Swiss League, including Geneva.'[708] By establishing the house of Austria between himself and France, the duke would raise an impassable barrier against his restless neighbor, and at the same time gratify the taste of the house of Savoy, which loved to extend itself on the side of Italy. By virtue of this exchange, the states of Charles V. would have bordered France everywhere from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. Francis I. was alarmed. 'I will not permit the emperor,' he said, 'to set up such a ladder[709] against my kingdom, in order to invade it from that quarter hereafter.'[710] All his hesitation ceased, and he determined to carry out without delay the plan he had formed of invading Savoy, Piedmont, and the Milanese. Thus at the very moment when the duke was preparing to crush Geneva, he saw a storm suddenly gathering which was at once to drive him from both slopes of the Alps and save the little city. Let us see whether such was really the result of that policy.

The Swiss army, commanded by Nägueli, had started from Payerne on the 24th of January and arrived the next day at Echallens, whence it was to march on Morges. The contingents of Orbe and Lausanne, desirous of taking part in the deliverance of Geneva, came to increase his force, which was thus raised to about ten thousand men. Sebastian de Montfaulcon, bishop of Lausanne, a proud, intriguing, domineering priest, inflamed with anger at seeing his people declare for Geneva, determined to raise troops to oppose the liberating army. His bailiff and secretary, going into the steep and narrow streets of the city, knocked at every door, and asked whether the inmates would take the side of the bishop or of the burgesses. Montfaulcon himself set out for his castle of Glérolles, {379} near St. Saphorin, in order to stir up the inhabitants of La Vaux. But Nägueli was to encounter in his march a more formidable obstacle than Montfaulcon and his extempore soldiers.

Medici, informed of the march of the Bernese army, had determined to attack it before it reached Geneva. He could see that if Nägueli were once established in that city, it would not be easy to take it. The plan of the Italian commander was to march by Thonon and Evian, carry his soldiers across the lake, give battle to the Bernese, and, after defeating them, turn upon Geneva, which would be incapable of resisting him. The character and antecedents of the devastating condottiere were sufficient to indicate the fate reserved for his conquest. The city would have been pillaged, perhaps burnt, in conformity with the habits of Giangiacomo.


That formidable chief had crossed the lake with his army in boats from Chablais, and had almost reached Morges; his intention being to give a solid base to his operations, not only by being master of Morges, which was under the duke's orders, but still further by taking possession, with the bishop's help, of Lausanne, whose liberal citizens were ready to join Nägueli. On the 27th of January, in the evening, a detachment started for that purpose under the orders of the Sieur de Colloneys. But the latter had not gone far when Medici perceived fires on the heights near the villages of Bussigny, Renens, and Crissier; it was the Bernese who were preparing to bivouac on the hills. The fugitive governor of Musso had no idea that the enemy was so near. He had not yet taken up his position and the Swiss were in sight. He called back the detachment, and early next morning sent out some of his cavalry to reconnoitre the Swiss army and skirmish with them. Nägueli, not doubting that the hour of battle had {380} arrived, drew up his formidable line on the heights of Morges; all his men were full of ardor.[711] Medici also desired to arrange his troops for the struggle, but was not blind to the disadvantages of his position. Nägueli was on the heights, while the Savoyard troops had their backs to the lake, into which they might be driven. The general, sent by the duke of Savoy to destroy Geneva, looked with astonishment at the army of the new crusaders. He found himself in presence of that valorous Nägueli who, as captain-general of the Leagues, had taken from him his castle of Musso and the lands he had seized by stratagem or force. More than once this robber-chief had said: 'What neither the emperor nor the king of France could do, that Switzer did.' And now, at the head of the troops of Piedmont and Savoy, and supported by Charles V., the late castellan of Musso had flattered himself with the hope of taking vengeance for the injury he had once endured; but it was the contrary that happened. Instead of rushing forward at the head of his veteran soldiers, he was confused; he hesitated, and his heart seemed to fail him.


How was that? Was it because the sight of the army of Berne in line of battle intimidated him? Was it because the gentlemen of Vaud and Gex, upon whom he had counted, remembering the valor of the Swiss at Gingins, had no desire to risk the chance of receiving a second lesson, and kept away? Was it because the reinforcements expected from Savoy had not arrived? Or was it because bad news reached him from Chambery, informing him that the duke could think of nothing but the defence of his hereditary states against the king of France? All these reasons had something to do with the trouble of the {381} former castellan of Musso; but the last was the strongest. What a vexation for Medici! He had vaunted that he would put an end to the interminable existence of Geneva; and at the first rencounter he has to retreat. He had reckoned on the pleasure of destroying a nest of heretics, and he cannot prevent Nägueli's saving it. At this critical moment, one of the most daring captains of the age seemed to become one of the most cowardly. There are people who, audacious in prosperity, lose their heads when the chances are against them. The flotilla in which the commander of the troops of Savoy had traversed the lake lay at anchor a little distance from Morges, on the side of Lausanne. Medici deserted the field of battle without striking a blow, and embarked a portion of his troops while the remainder stopped in Morges, a fortified city. Nägueli, seeing that the enemy was retiring, pushed the advanced guard of the Swiss down to the shore. The Italian captain, desiring at least to burn a few cartridges, discharged the guns of his fleet at the Bernese, who returned the fire; but it was not difficult for the latter to get out of reach of the cannonade.

During this petty engagement, the Spaniards and Italians, who to the number of about seven hundred had taken shelter in Morges, furious at seeing the triumph of the protestants so near at hand, behaved in that city, which belonged to the duke, as if they had been in a hostile town. They rushed into the castle, broke open private houses, and even pillaged the churches, everywhere committing the cruellest outrages;[712] after which they opened the gate on the Rolle side, and most of them ran away. Some escaped on horseback, 'and the rest, says Froment, 'got off fighting with a two-legged {382} sword.'[713] Medici sent two or three boats to Morges to bring off those who had not decamped, and then sailed away to Savoy. One might almost say that an invincible angel of the Almighty, as in the days of Judah, had put the enemies of the Word of God to flight.[714]


The break-up was complete: a panic terror had fallen upon the soldiers. The roads, the plain, the mountain paths were crowded with fugitives. The motives that induced Medici to retire were doubtless unknown to his troops; but there is another explanation, a moral explanation, of their disorderly flight. The Italian bands had crossed the Alps because their captains had promised to deliver up to them Geneva, whose wealth rumor had greatly exaggerated. It was a very different motive that animated the Swiss: they had left their mountains and their valleys to secure national independence and liberty of faith in Geneva in opposition to the pope, the bishop, and the duke. The Genevese themselves, in the obstinate struggle they had maintained for so many years, were impelled by the noblest motives. But moral principles give to an army a moral energy which bands of pillagers cannot resist. There is no doubt that Medici's condottieri were in many respects better soldiers than the shepherds of the Alps or the shopkeepers of the little city; but the latter had a holy cause to defend. Their glance sufficed to scare the bandits, who, renouncing the plunder of the hostile city, pillaged the towns of their allies and fled as fast as oars or legs could carry them. On the 30th of January the Council of Geneva were able to enter the following words on their minutes: 'Four thousand Italian and other foreigners, who had made preparations at Morges {383} for the defence of the country (Vaud), made no resistance and fled like cowards without striking a blow.'

But Nägueli might encounter adversaries more formidable than the Italians of Medici. The chiefs of all the district lying between the Alps and the Jura, not only those of Vaud, but of Gex, Chablais, and other parts of Savoy, were a real power. It was not known at that time what part they would take. Their absence from Morges might only have been occasioned by delay. Might not the priests be found arousing their parishioners and marching at their head, as they had done three months before at the battle of Gingins? If the cavaliers of the Middle Ages should unite with the mercenaries of the sixteenth century, it would be all over with Geneva. But the victory gained at Gingins by four hundred and fifty sons of the Reformation over three to four thousand nobles and soldiers, had, as we have mentioned, spread terror throughout the country. They called to mind that one had put seven to flight; that many chiefs had fallen by the balls of those keen marksmen; and that a hundred priests had bitten the dust. Hence it was that only a few of the gentry had any idea of taking up the sword: the priests kept silence, and even the intrepid baron of La Sarraz went and hid himself within the walls of Yverdun. The real feat of arms that delivered Geneva was the victory of Gingins, gained by the independent friends of the reformation: the official expedition of Berne was the triumphal march which gathered the fruits and wore the laurels.

Nägueli, who stopped in Morges until the next day, was aroused in the middle of the night by his alarmed followers. The sentries at the harbor had heard the noise of oars in the distance. Was the enemy returning from Savoy in greater force? Each man held his breath, the sound drew nearer, and presently a boat approached. It might perhaps be followed by others; but no, it was alone, and brought letters for Medici which had probably {384} been delayed. Everything was seized, and from the dispatches the Bernese general learnt that the count of Challans had dispatched to the Italian commander a considerable reinforcement of cavalry and infantry.

Nägueli, thinking to come up with this reinforcement near Geneva, hurried forward to meet them. On the morning of the 30th of January he started for Rolle; no obstacle retarded his march; nobles and soldiers 'had been reduced to dust by terror.'[715] The fields were deserted; the small towns and villages were empty; fear of the Bernese had swept the country. The general, in concert with his chiefs, had agreed that it would be an unwise policy to neglect establishing peace in that district with a firm hand, as well for the present as for the future. Another principle also animated the Bernese: they wanted to extend the territory of the Helvetic League and their own as far as the shores of Lake Leman. Now so long as the power of the nobles of Vaud, who were strongly attached to Savoy, remained unbroken, there would be perpetual insurrections, and Berne would hardly be in a position to hold her own. Nägueli was persuaded that the strength of the cruel chevaliers of those valleys lay in their strongholds. 'If we want to drive out the wolves,' he said, 'we must destroy their dens.' The castles of Rolle and Rosay were reduced to ashes; and the Genevans, seeing in the darkness of the night those distant flames, shouted with joy, 'They are coming!'

Nägueli resumed his march, sparing the inhabitants, but everywhere destroying the images. Passing near Nyon without attacking it, he moved upon Divonne and Gex, important positions from which he desired to expel the enemy before entering Geneva.


François de Gingins, lord of Divonne and Chatelard, who had at first taken part in the blockade of Geneva, but had withdrawn his troops during the frosts of {385} December, had shut himself up in his castle of Divonne on the hills which overlook that village. Nägueli desired to treat with respect a nobleman whose ancestors had been counted from the tenth century among the great vassals of the kings of Transjurassic Burgundy, and who possessed an amiable character and pacific disposition. Brought up by his maternal uncle, the count of Gruyères, and afterwards appointed by the king of France page of honor in his household, he had returned to his home and married his cousin Margaret, daughter of Antoine de Gingins, president of the sovereign council of Savoy. He had small liking for the priests, whose gross and often immoral conduct offended him; but he was alarmed at the idea of being unfaithful to the Church and feudalism, and after some hesitation attached himself to Roman-catholicism and the duke.[716] Margaret had, it is said, some share in the change which afterwards occurred in the family. The ladies of the castles were generally superior to their husbands; they were more accessible to religious impressions. While the lord was away at tournaments or on warlike expeditions, the wife remained mistress of the household, governed her children and servants, and virtues were often developed in her which would have been vainly sought for elsewhere. A son speaking of his mother, describes her beauty, her features always tranquil, her brow armed with severe chastity, her virtuous looks, her regulated conversation, her modesty, her fear of God, and her charity.[717] It is thus we love to picture to ourselves Margaret of Gingins.

The young lord of Divonne liked the neighborhood of Geneva and the intelligence of its inhabitants, and, without being aware of it, the cause of the Reformation had made some progress in his heart. In 1548 he {386} made over his four castles of Gingins, Divonne, Chatelard, and Sarraz to his sons, and retired to Geneva, where he remained to the end of his days.[718] Thus, in his person, peace was concluded between the redoubtable gentlemen of the country and the city which they had so harassed. Nägueli, aware of the good inclinations of the baron, did not burn his castle, and was content with exacting from him a ransom of three hundred crowns.

On Tuesday (February 1st) ten syndics of Geneva came to present the Bernese general with the thanks of the city. While they were in conference with him, a noise was heard in the castle. They all pricked up their ears. The old abbot De Gingins, episcopal vicar of Geneva, who had retired (as we have seen) into the Jura, to his isolated convent of Bonmont, alarmed at the approach of the army, disturbed by the recollection of his licentious life, and remembering that the Swiss had no liking for wicked priests, a great number of whom had fallen at Gingins, had taken refuge at Divonne in his nephew's castle, where he believed himself safe from all harm. He kept quiet in a secret hiding-place, greatly tormented by fear that the Bernese might discover him. Some soldiers, who were ordered to search the castle, found him and brought him more dead than alive before their general. As the latter sharply reproached the lord of Divonne with violating their convention, the alarm of the old sinner increased; but he began to breathe again, when the general declared that he would be willing to release him for a ransom of four hundred crowns. The poor abbot, though the fear of death was passed, never recovered from his fright.

The Savoyard troops, whose arrival had been announced to Medici by the count of Challans, had not appeared, and we may understand the reason. Consequently, next morning (February 2d) Nägueli, finding {387} that there was no enemy to prevent his entering Geneva, divided his soldiers into three corps: one was to reduce the country between the Rhone and the Jura as far as the Fort de l'Ecluse, which it was to take; the other was to march to Gex, and burn the castle; while the rest of the army started for Geneva.[719]


The Genevans awaited with great impatience the arrival of their liberators. The sun cheered with its beams the brightest of the days in Genevese history. The snows which covered the mountains glittered in the distance; but in the plain at their feet, flashes of light were observed which delighted the citizens still more. 'Two leagues off,' says Froment, 'we could see the arms glittering, which was a great joy to us.' The young people ran forward to meet their deliverers, and in a short time the Bernese army approached and passed through an enthusiastic crowd stationed on both sides of the road. The leaders Nägueli, Weingarten, Cyro, Diesbach, and Graffenried, came first on horseback; then followed the bannerets, councillors, provosts, and other members of the Councils of Berne; and last of all the liberating army, seventeen pieces of artillery, and the companies of Neuchâtel, Lausanne, and other places in Vaud. As the Bernese passed the gates and entered the city, they sang aloud once more these strains to the glory of God:

When the people's heart is silent,
And their eyes are closed in death,
Then God, the great Deliverer,
Awakes them with a breath.
Proud as Egyptian Pharaoh
Was the Duke on Leman's shore,
For twice five tedious years his yoke
Geneva, groaning, bore.
A martyr to the faith, she flies
Panting and still oppressed.
The hour is come: 'Up, Judah, up!
Pass through the sea, and be at rest.'
{388}Her voice among our mountains
Resounded, and her cry
Of anguish tired the echoes,
But no man made reply.
Deaf to Geneva's woes and sleeping
Among her meads Helvetia lay;
But our rocks at last are shaken;
With a shout the Bernese waken,
And to succor the oppressed
They march with dauntless breast:
The Bear alone to pity giveth way.
To the war the fierce old bear,
With his eager cubs, has gone:
Day of safety to God's children,
Day of gladness to each one.
Day of death to thee, rash prince,
Day of sorrow and of shame,
Day of fire which shall consume thee
With inextinguishable flame.
Expect not mercy, for thy crime
Has dried up mercy's spring;
My voice, once soft, now thunders loud,
And fierce remorse thy heart shall wring.
Berne, if thy heart could counterfeit,
If thy proud neck could bend;
If thy tongue, in honeyed accents,
Could kings, as gods, commend;
Then their haughty palace gates
Would before thee open wide,—
But Christ is thy salvation,
And His cup thy boast and pride.
They have left thee all alone,
Thy friends,—where are they flown?
In the battle no man fighteth at thy side.
Fear nothing! every coming age
Shall bless thy memory;
For twice ten days thy cry has been:
'We conquer or we die!'[720]
{389}What feats have been accomplished
By thy arm! how many a town
And many a haughty ruler
Before thee hath gone down!
Burnt are their castles, and their gods
Low in the dust are laid;
While all men sing thy glory,
That knows nor spot nor shade.
Happy the people among whom
The great God loves to abide;
Who daily search the Lord's own book,
Who scorn the pope, who upward look
To Christ their heavenly guide.
They sheathe their swords, and turning
Their hearts to God above,
From morn to eve unshrinkingly
They trust upon His love.[721]


'Geneva received her deliverers with great delight,' says an eye-witness, 'and replied to their songs with cries of joy.'[722] The barbarous captain, sent against the huguenots to destroy them, had disappeared; the wild beast, after a roar, had returned hastily to his den. Their goods, their liberty, their faith, their lives were saved. Excited by this great deliverance, the Genevans were not satisfied merely with expressing their gratitude to the Bernese, but looked higher. They knew that a Supreme Power, an Infinite Love, holds the affairs of this world in His hands. It was that faith which was to make the little city grow, and they wished to give expression to it. The council being assembled, they resolved to enrol in the annals of the republic a testimony {390} of their gratitude, and ordered these words to be written:

'The power of God has confounded the presumption and rash audacity of our enemies.'[723]

Froment, too, an eye-witness of these things, wrote in his Gestes Merveilleux the following simple and touching words:

'In the year 1536, and in the month of February, Geneva was delivered from her enemies by the providence of God.'[724]

[696]   Hieronymo Soranzo, Relazione di Roma.—Ripenmonte, Historiæ urbis Mediolani.—Ranke, Römische Päpste.

[697]   'Die Soldaten, darunter 4,000 Italiäner.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 82.

[698]   Beauregard, Mémoire sur la maison de Savoie, tom. i. p. 324.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 207.—C. Zwick to B. Haller, le 12 Janvier 1536.

[699]   Veluti numine quodam instinctus.'—Sulzer to Bullinger, le 11 Février 1536.

[700]   Stettler, Chronik, p. 78.—Lettre de Porral.—Mémoire de Pierre-Fleur, p. 140.

[701]   'Die armen, verlassen, Christlichen Mitbrüder zu Genf.'—Kirchofer's Haller, p. 231.

[702]   Werner Steiner, Sammlung.—Le Chroniqueur, p. 202.—Pierre-Fleur, p. 143.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 81.

[703]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 208.

[704]   2 Kings ch. vii.

[705]   Letter from the bishop of Lausanne to the bailiff of Vevey.—Stettler, Chronik.—Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, p. 145.

[706]   Mémoires de Du Bellay, liv. v. p. 239.

[707]   Ibid. p. 240.

[708]   Mémoires de Du Bellay, liv. v. p. 240.

[709]   Echelle.

[710]   Mémoires de Du Bellay, liv. v. p. 240.

[711]   'Ihre Feinde unerschrocken anzugreifen.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 82.

[712]   Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 59.—Savion, iii. p. 175.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 82.

[713]   'En bataillant de l'épée à deux pieds.'—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 209.—Registres du Conseil du 30 Janvier 1536.—Chron. MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 59 and 60.

[714]   2 Kings ch. xix.

[715]   'Verstaubt mit solchem Schrecken.'—Stettler, Chronik, p. 512.

[716]   Manuscript archives of the family of Gingins.

[717]   Life of Guibert de Nogent.—Collection des Mémoires de M. Guizot, tom. ix. p. 346.

[718]   Manuscript archives of the Gingins family.

[719]   Registres du Conseil du 2 Février 1536.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 82.

[720]   The army left Berne on the 22d of January and entered Geneva on the 2d of February.


Die, dann, das Schwerdt verborgen,
Das Herz in Gott versenkt,
Die Gottheit lassen sorgen,
Am Abend wie am Morgen
Die alle Herzen lenkt.

Werner Steiner, MSC. Sammlung.—Froment, Gestes de Geneve, P. 209.—Registres du Conseil du 2 Février 1536.

[722]   MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 59.

[723]   'La puissance de Dieu a confondu la présomption et la téméraire audace de nos ennemis.'—Registres du Conseil du 30 Janvier 1536.

[724]   'L'an 1536 et au mois de Février, Genève fut délivrée de ses ennemis par la providence de Dieu.'—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 207.

(From February to the end of March 1536.)

There was now to be an interview between the liberators and the liberated. Berne and Geneva, united by a common faith, were to embrace each other. The members of those two republics loved one another not only as allies but as brothers. On Thursday (February 3d) the Council of Two Hundred assembled; many other citizens were present, and the hall was full. Nägueli appeared, accompanied by his principal officers and the representatives of the Council of Berne. The assembly gave utterance to its joy, and all eyes were fixed on the valiant general. {391} 'Most honored lords,' he said, 'this long while past we have heard your complaints. For these twenty months we have been making great efforts at Lucerne, Baden, and even Aosta; and having thus exhausted all the means of peace, we have drawn the sword, and the enemy has fled on every side. Now we will do whatever you command us, for we are here to fulfil the oaths that unite Geneva and Berne.' Such noble language moved the assembly. 'May God do the same for you,' replied the premier syndic. Then desiring the work to be perfect, he added: 'Now, gentlemen, march onwards; pursue the enemy until the end; we are ready to give you all necessary assistance.' It was decided that the army should make itself master of Chablais on the left shore of the lake, and push forward on the other side as far as Chambery. In all those districts they would circulate the Word of God.[725]


There was first another task to be completed. For centuries the castles had obstructed the progress of civilization, and in later years that of the gospel. It was from those eyries, perched on their lofty rocks, that the vultures swooped down upon the plain. Bishops even had been known to entreat the princes to destroy, 'for the love of God and the honor of the blessed Mary, those buildings constructed by the inspiration of Satan.'[726] This the evangelical Nägueli was about to do, and henceforth the husbandman would drive his plow in peace through fields from which he would no longer fear to see the fruit of his labors swept away.

The inhabitants of the castles had disappeared: fear of the Bernese had depopulated the country. Men, women, and children had taken refuge in the miserable {392} chalets of the Salève, Voirons, Mole, and Jura. Priests and monks, hurriedly abandoning their parishes and their convents, threw off their frocks and assumed the garb of the peasantry. 'Not one man in all the country dared represent himself as a priest or a monk.' Every now and then one of them dressed in a coarse gray coat would leave his hiding-place, and mysteriously entering some half-deserted hut, would ask the affrighted peasant 'what the bear of Berne was doing.' 'But take care,' he added, 'you tell nobody that I am a priest.' The clerical and lay despots of the Middle Ages learnt in their turn what it was to tremble.

At length a great spectacle of desolation, which was to be the last, began. A judgment—may we not call it a judgment of God?—was accomplished. Here and there at first a few flames were seen flashing forth, and these soon became an immense conflagration. Detachments, consisting of Bernese and Genevans, issued from the city: some turned to the right, others to the left; the ancient walls of some old towers were their aim. 'It was from thence,' said the Genevans, 'that rapine and death have so often rushed out upon us.' The building was surrounded, the most impetuous made their way into the interior and set fire to it, and when the flames had caught they rushed off for another execution. These detachments were followed by a numerous troop of men, women, and boys, who had their share also in the business. The judgment of God swept over the country, as of old over the land of Canaan. The fortresses of Gex, Gaillard, and Jussy, those terrible scourges of Geneva; the castles of Coppet, Prangins, Bellerive, Vilette, Ville-la-Grand, and many others, fell a prey to the flames. They were in all, according to Froment, from a hundred to a hundred and forty. Geneva was sometimes surrounded by a circle of fire. The longer and crueller the offence, the more terrible was the punishment. No one was put to death, but those feudal lairs, which crumbled away in {393} the midst of the flames, were a sacrifice offered by the Swiss to the shades of the citizens immolated by their former possessors.


There was one castle in particular whose destruction the Genevans desired: it was Peney. On the 8th of February some Bernese, accompanied by a few horsemen and gunners of Geneva, started for this purpose. The blood shed by the Peneysans and their numberless outrages made them cry out unanimously, 'No mercy for Peney!' The almost abandoned fortress was easily occupied. A fire was kindled in that courtyard where the victims had been so cruelly tortured. The castle was soon in flames, and there remained nothing but dismantled towers and blackened walls; but that was not enough. Those walls still seemed guilty, and the Genevans so completely destroyed the ill-omened ruin that not a trace of it can now be found. All the country was at length swept clean of a long-continued brigandage; but (we repeat) it does not appear that one of those gentlemen or of their dependents suffered death or even imprisonment for their crimes. The device of Geneva and of Berne during this remarkable expedition was: 'Spare the tyrants, but destroy their dens.'[727]

At the same time peace reigned within. A spirit of pardon seemed to have descended upon the Genevans. Happiness enlarged all their hearts. On Sunday (February 6th) sermons were preached in the different churches by the reformers; after which the great bell, Clémence, reserved for solemn occasions, summoned all the people to St. Pierre's. It was, as it were, the first day of the new republic. 'Citizens,' said one of the syndics, 'in order that the city may prosper we must believe what the Gospel teaches and live according to {394} its commandments. Accordingly—and this is our new decree—let all the animosities which sprang up during the war be renounced; all offences pardoned, all quarrels forgotten, all lawsuits given up. Let us drop all hateful names. Let no man henceforth say to another, "You are a papist," or the latter reply, "You are a Lutheran." But let us all live according to the Holy Gospel of God,' Such were the first fruits of the Reformation. 'We will! we will!' shouted the people. They then proceeded to the election of the four syndics who were to be at the head of the new republic. The assembly chose the energetic Claude Savoye, the amiable and persevering Ami Porral, and the zealous Etienne de Chapeaurouge, men on the side of the Reformation but especially of political experience. The people, wishing to have among their magistrates one man purely evangelical, named Ami Levet, the husband of the pious Claudine, although he was not on the list proposed by the senate. Shortly afterwards the Two Hundred elected the twenty-five members of the Council, and Balard, as well as Richardet, Roman-catholics but good citizens, preserved their seats. In the hour of their greatest enthusiasm the Genevans behaved justly and without party-spirit—a thing rarely witnessed in the annals of nations.[728]

On the evening before, Nägueli, at the head of the army, augmented by a Genevese contingent, had marched out in order to follow up his victory as far as Chambery and farther. Ambitious thoughts may then perhaps have stirred the hearts of some of the Bernese. For the triumph of the Reformation (they might possibly have said for the grandeur of Berne) they thought that Savoy, and even the north of {395} Italy, ought to be conquered. Let there be formed in the centre of Europe, on both sides of the colossal citadels of the Alps, a great confederation of independent and evangelical people, which shall circulate liberty and truth through Germany, France, and the Italian peninsula. Therefore forward to Chambery, and farther!

The dream was to melt away as soon as formed. The general was riding in front, calm and pensive, followed by some of his officers. He turned his head—there was no army to be seen. Nägueli galloped back towards Geneva, and found his soldiers drawn up in a square in a large field and deliberating democratically. What was the cause of such a breach of military discipline? The soldiers, satisfied with having delivered Geneva, did not care to follow their captain in his daring schemes. They deliberated therefore, as they were wont to do in their valleys. Should they march forward or turn back? 'To Berne,' cried many; 'to our fields, our flocks, our mountains!' Nägueli succeeded, however, in getting the army to march. Was he not their good Franz?[729]


On Saturday, 12th of February, the Swiss advanced guard had reached Rumilly, near the lake of Bourget, eight leagues from Chambery, when M. de Villebon, grand provost of Paris, arrived in great haste at the camp. 'The king my master,' he said, 'has a quarrel with the duke of Savoy, his uncle, about his mother's rights. Yesterday (February 11th) he signed at Lyons the commission given to the Sire de Brion-Chabot, admiral of France, to attack Savoy. Eight hundred French lances, a thousand light horse, twelve thousand infantry, six thousand lansquenets, two thousand French adventurers, three thousand Italians, and a powerful artillery are about to enter the states of the duchy; and when Savoy is conquered, the {396} French army will invade Piedmont. I require you, therefore, in the name of the king, to proceed no farther.' Nägueli, already shaken by the demands of his soldiers, answered that as the King of France had rights over those countries, the Swiss would discontinue their advance.[730]


Other hands than those of Switzerland were to deal the last blows destined to secure the Reformation and independence of Geneva. Villebon had hardly got back to Lyons, when the army of Francis I. moved forward, overran Bresse and Savoy, then invaded Piedmont, and afterwards the Milanese. The duke, always irresolute, had taken no steps to check the French. It was in vain that at the last moment he called Medici to his aid; that captain, who had been unable to destroy Geneva, could not save Piedmont. Charles III., abandoned by the emperor, his brother-in-law, found himself, after spending thirty years of his life in hunting down Geneva, robbed in four months of his states, which he never entered again, and driven to bay on the shores of the Mediterranean. All kinds of disasters fell upon him at once. His country was devastated by the plague; his friends turned against him; the emperor showed him no pity; his son, the heir to his crown, was taken away by death; his beautiful and haughty wife, Beatrice of Portugal, pierced to the heart by so many misfortunes, died of a wasting sickness. Of all his states there was nothing left but the valley of Aosta, Nice, and two or three other cities. Alone and affrighted, this unhappy prince dragged out a wearisome life. He regretted his son, regretted his wife, regretted his states. His heated imagination surrounded him with phantoms; Geneva, which, unopposed, was developing her glorious and new existence, was to him an {397} avenging ghost. He fell ill: he broke out in sweats; he shivered with cold; his eyes grew dim and his face pale; he wasted away of a slow fever. After a punishment of twenty-three years, death, the consequence of his reverses and his sorrows, put an end to the painful existence of the great enemy of Genevese independence and of the Reformation.[731] His son, Emanuel Philibert, a man of great capacity, recovered his states; but having many evils to repair, he adopted a pacific policy with regard to Geneva. Forty-four years of peace permitted the Reformation and the new republic to strengthen and organize themselves. God gives to the people and the churches, whom he designs to make use of, the time necessary for their development.

While these things were going on, dangers less apparent, but as great as they were unexpected, threatened Geneva. As the Bernese desired to reap advantage from the help accorded to the little republic, their ambassadors put forward certain pretensions, which they set up a little later with respect to Lausanne and Vaud, and which were then too easily conceded. The lords of Berne, regardless of the reproach that might be urged against them of having consulted merely their own interests in the expedition, hinted to the council of Geneva that they ought to have their reward, and asked that the rights and prerogatives of the duke and the bishop should be transferred to them. Such a demand revolted the proud independence of the Genevese, and they rejected the sovereignty of Berne with as much decision as they had rejected that of Savoy. 'If we had desired to have a master,' they answered with firmness, 'we should have spared ourselves all the trouble, expense, and bloodshed of which we have been so prodigal to secure our independence.' Berne was forced to give {398} way before a resolution that appeared immovable. When Nägueli re-entered Geneva, after having taken the Fort de l'Ecluse on returning from his short campaign, he was surprised to meet with a cold and embarrassed reception, very different from the former enthusiastic welcome. The noble general, who did not like such discussions, gave immediate orders for the departure of his army.

There was still a great work to be accomplished. In conformity with the instructions of the Bernese government, Nägueli was to break the twofold yoke of the pope and the duke which pressed heavily upon the territory of Vaud. His troops marched into that country without resistance, and took Yverdun, in which the intrepid Mangerot had fortified himself. In a short time cities, villages, and castles submitted; a few towns, tired of the Savoyard rule, desired to be annexed to Berne. Others, especially Lausanne and some rural districts, wished to retain all their rights; but they gave way, when the Bernese promised to respect their franchises. Under any circumstances it was a good work to take away from the pope and unite to Switzerland the beautiful country that extends from the lake of Geneva to that of Neuchâtel. Nägueli re-entered Berne in peace, and his soldiers, proud of a four weeks' campaign that was to have such important consequences, gave vent to their exultation, and concluded their songs with this line:

Respecte l'ours, ou bien crains les oursons.[732]

The work appeared to be accomplished. The city of the Reformation thrilled with joy, and exulted in the air of liberty and of the Gospel. Here and there, however, sorrows and regrets remained. Many hearts were wrung, and many an eye was turned with mortification {399} in the direction of Chillon, where Bonivard had been languishing for six years. He had done so much to give liberty to Geneva, and he alone was not free. He was pining away, imprisoned within those rocks, which, excavated below the level of the lake, form a gigantic sepulchre. A loophole permitted a feeble ray of light to enter the dungeon, and the prisoner, while walking slowly round the column to which he was chained, delighted to turn his eyes towards that side, and sometimes contemplated (according to tradition) a little bird, which used to perch on the iron bars of the narrow opening. At the slightest noise, the bird flew off to the wood behind the castle, or skimmed away over the surface of the lake. The bird was free; but Bonivard was in chains. 'I had such leisure for walking,' he said, 'that I wore away a path in the rock, as if it had been done with a hammer.'[733] When he was seized by the perfidious hands of his enemies he had said: 'I am going alone, with God, to suffer my passion!' And suffer it he did. But while his body and heart suffered, his mind was at work. Some of the thoughts which then occupied him have been recorded by his own hand: Live in remembrance of death,—Courage increases by wounds, and such like. For five or six months the Genevan envoys, so traitorously seized at Coppet, had also been imprisoned at Chillon, but not in the underground dungeons.


Such iniquities could not be tolerated. Berne again took up her fire-sticks, and Geneva prepared her boats. On the 20th of March one hundred armed men were embarked on four war cutters and other vessels. The Genevese councils had given the command to Francis Favre and Francis Chamois. All the citizens would have liked to march in person to Chillon to set Bonivard {400} and the plenipotentiaries at liberty. On the day of sailing, everybody left their houses, and from an agitated crowd assembled near the Rhone, there rose a universal cry, 'Rescue the captives!'

On Sunday morning—it was the 26th of March—Bonivard being as usual in his dungeon, pricked up his ears. He fancied he heard an unaccustomed noise; he was not mistaken. Loud but still distant cannon shots re-echoed through the vaults of his prison. What was going on? It was the artillery of Berne which, on its arrival at Lutry, between Lausanne and Chillon, announced its presence. But that signal of deliverance was to be the signal of death to Bonivard and the three envoys. 'If the Bernese appear before the place,' wrote the duke of Savoy to the governor, 'you will give the prisoners of Geneva the estrapade twice, and then put them to death without hesitation.'[734] The duke intended that the deliverers should find nothing but corpses.

The next morning (27th of March) Chillon was surrounded. Berne had drawn up her troops and planted her guns below the village of Veytaux, between the castle and Montreux. The Valaisans, although catholics, had also taken up arms to expel the duke from their neighborhood, and had placed their artillery on the Villeneuve side; the Genevans blockaded the castle from the lake. The batteries opened fire, and the governor perceiving that all resistance was useless, demanded a parley at nightfall. Nägueli, Favre, and some other captains assembled at the foot of a steep rock between the castle and the Bernese batteries, to receive his deputies; but as they could not come at once to terms, the conference was prolonged. The garrison, by no means anxious to fall into the hands of the Swiss, determined to take advantage of this {401} momentary respite and of the veil of night, to make their escape. Silently they crept on board the great galley; not a voice, not a sound of arms was heard, and having thus mysteriously got away, they made rapidly towards Savoy. When Favre was informed of it, he went immediately on board his boat, which was moored to the shore, and hastened in pursuit of the enemy; but before he could get up with them, they had thrown their cannons into the lake, set fire to the galley, and from Lugrin, where they landed, hurried into the Savoyard Alps below the Dents d'Oche. Had they taken Bonivard and the three plenipotentiaries with them? It was a question that could not be answered, and Favre, ill at ease, veered round and returned to Chillon.[735]


The governor had surrendered just as he arrived. Nägueli, on leaving Berne, had written to him that he should answer with his head for the lives of the prisoners: he had, therefore, some hope of recovering them. Favre, Chamois, and the other Genevans hastily sprang from their boats, entered the castle, and in a minute they embraced the three envoys. But where was Bonivard? They seized the keys of the vaults, unlocked a sunk door, and entered. It was the hall of execution: beneath its rude arches were wheels, axes, pulleys, cords, and all the horrible instruments with which men were crippled or killed. The Genevans, without stopping, ran to the door of an inner vault, undid the bars, pulled back the bolts. The friends of the prior of Saint Victor sprang over the threshold, rushed into the gloomy dungeon, reached the column. 'Here he is! he is alive!' Bonivard fell into their arms. His friends found it difficult to recognize him. The features changed by suffering, the long unkempt beard, the hair {402} falling over his shoulders—had changed his appearance.[736] 'Bonivard,' they said to him, 'Bonivard, you are free!' The prisoner, who seemed to be waking from a long sleep, did not think of himself: his first words were for the city he had loved so much. 'And Geneva?' he asked. 'Geneva is free too,' they replied. His chains were taken off, and, conducted by his friends, he crossed the door of that vast prison. The bright light which burst upon him affected his eyes which had been deprived of it for so many years, and he turned them mechanically towards the gloom of his dungeon. At last he recovered himself and bade farewell to his sepulchre. The crowd looked at him for some moments with emotion, and then rushed into that dismal cell, where the wretched man had suffered so long. Every one desired to see it, and for ages yet to come the traveller will visit it. The illustrious prisoner was delivered; the last fortress of tyranny was captured; the victory of the Reformation was complete. No traveller wandering along the picturesque shore of Montreux can fail to look at those walls, rising out of the water, without a feeling of horror for despotism and of gratitude for the Gospel. Those rocks, so long the witnesses of oppression, are now hailed with emotion and joy by the friends of the Word of God and liberty.

Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar.[737]

The flotilla was soon sailing back to Geneva with Bonivard and the three parlementaires on board. They were returning joyously through the help from on high, and in a short time they landed from their boats amid the joyful shouts of their fellow-citizens, and placed their feet on a free soil.[738]

[725]   Registres du Conseil du 3 Février 1536.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 210, 211, 213.

[726]   Letter from Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, to King Robert.—Guizot, Civilisation en Europe, p. 313.

[727]   'Epargnons les tyrans; abattons leurs repaires.'—Registres du Conseil des 14 Mars et 4 Avril 1536.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 211, 212.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 61.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 82.

[728]   Registres du Conseil du 6 Février.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 62.—From this day the Council minutes are drawn up in French and not in Latin. The old times are succeeded by the new.

[729]   Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, p. 146.

[730]   Guichenon, ii. p. 212.—Froment, Gestes de Genève, p. 214.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 85.—MSC. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 61.

[731]   Costa de Beauregard, Mémoires de la Maison de Savoie, pp. 323-327.—Du Bellay, Guichenon, Calvin, passim.

[732]   'Respect the bear, or fear his cubs.'—Chant de la Guerre de Genève.—Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, pp. 148-152.—Stettler, Chronik, p. 87.

[733]   'J'avois tel loysir de me pourmener, que j'empreignis un chemin en la roche, comme si on l'eût fait avec un martel.'—This pathway is well known to all who have visited Chillon.

[734]   Bonivard MS.—Mémoires d'Archéologie, iv. p. 207.—Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, p. 153.

[735]   Bonivard MS.—Mémoires d'Archéologie. iv. p. 207.—Mémoires de Pierre-Fleur, p. 153.—Registres du Conseil du 29 Mars 1536.

[736]   'Era divenuto difforme, con un volto tutto coperto da un gran pelo et da lunghi capelli.'—Leti, Hist. Giverrina, tom. iii.—Mémoires d'Archéologie, p. 269.

[737]   Lord Byron, The Prisoner of Chillon.

[738]   Registres du Conseil ad diem.


(March to June 1536.)

An entire people is not converted to God in a body. The pagan religions were identical with the nation; but the Christian Church is distinct from it. Even the Apostolic Church soon extended beyond the narrow limits of the tribe of Judah; it was founded at Jerusalem irrespective of temple, sanhedrim, and Jews, and subsequently was established among all nations unconnected with the state. A prince cannot decree a religion by a cabinet minute; a people cannot elect it by a majority of votes. There is, however, something grand in seeing an assembled nation declare without constraint that they will take the Gospel as the rule of their faith and the source of their life. This is what Geneva was about to do.


The communities which extended from the foot of the Jura to the Alps of the Voirons and the Mole, had recognized the councils of Geneva as their legitimate lords, reserving their own customs and franchises. But, in the opinion of the Reformers, this territory would only be an embarrassment, unless a new life were communicated to its inhabitants and spread over the whole nation. Commerce, manufactures, liberty, and letters do much for the prosperity of a people, but cannot be their life. If the Word of God, if the light of the {404} world, does not enlighten them, they fall sooner or later. These opinions were sufficiently common in Geneva for an unknown poet to say to the united parishes in this unpolished strain:

Vaut-il pas mieux dire à Dieu nos secrets,
Qu'à un grand tas d'idiots indiscrets?
Vaut-il pas mieux au pauvre et au débile
Donner habit, pain, vin, chandelle et huile,
Qu'aux marmots d'or, d'argent, pierre, et bois,
Rendre l'honneur défendu tant de fois?[739]

'Messieurs,' said Farel to the council on the 13th of March, 'the Word of God ought to be preached in the parishes subject to this city.' Ten days later he made a fresh application to that assembly on the same matter, when he was supported by politicians as well as by men of piety. To leave the seeds of popery in Geneva and in her rural dependencies was (they thought) exposing the state to great danger. In order to thread the shoals and brave the storms which threatened the frail bark, there must be a cordial understanding between all the crew. Several persons exclaimed with rather an excess of energy: 'If some go to sermon and others to mass, the republic will go to the devil.'

The work was begun at once. The reformers preached in Geneva; other ministers preached in the country; heralds of the council went from village to village making proclamations by sound of trumpet: 'Let there be no more disobedience!' they said; 'no more gambling! No more blasphemy!' Still the council did not wish to exercise any constraint with regard to religion. The inhabitants of Viuz and other villages in the mandement of Thiez in Faucigny having prayed that they might be allowed their own way as to church matters, their request was granted. But the bishop, who was less tolerant, excommunicated the poor people, {405} because, although catholics, they recognized heretical magistrates. The syndics undismayed and very positive as to their episcopal capacity, wrote to the vicars that they would relieve their parishes from the excommunication and completely absolve them—which greatly comforted the worthy peasants. When Easter drew near, however, they began to feel great distress. 'Alas!' they said to the syndics, 'as we have been excommunicated, we cannot take the sacrament at Easter.' 'We hold you to be entirely absolved,' answered the reformed magistrates demurely. Upon which the simple people received the sacrament with great tranquillity of mind.[740]


These are strange actions. It has been maintained that the church, in proportion as political society becomes Christian, ought gradually to be lost in the state. It has been asserted that, at the epoch of the Reformation, Christianity had completed its ecclesiastical period, and had entered into the political period. Lastly, some men have added that to organize the church was a useless labor, a sheer loss of time, an absolute impossibility, and that presbyteries and synods were but silly child's play.[741] Was the fact that we have recorded—episcopal absolution emanating from the council—the first step in this absorption of the church by the state; and is it true that the Reformation leads to it? Quite the contrary. By reviving in the Christian conscience the idea of the kingdom of God; by awakening to life and action the members of the evangelical congregation, protestantism awoke the church throughout Christendom. Geneva, owing to the impulse given it by Calvin, became the place where it was constituted in the most independent {406} and most scriptural manner. The church must not be lost in the state, and the state must not be lost in the church, whatever socialists or priests may say. How can the state survive the church? The state is temporary, the church immortal.

But the magistrates heroically discharged their episcopal functions to little purpose; there was great difficulty in maintaining order. The villages of Vandœuvre and Celigny wished to hear mass and a protestant sermon every Sunday, while the priests universally demanded the preservation of the Romish ceremonies. The council felt the necessity of explaining the posture of affairs, and called together all the ecclesiastics and proctors of the parishes.[742] On the 3d of April, 1536, the Romanist party was drawn up on one side of the council-room, and on the other were Farel, with some other ministers, and several zealous protestants.[743] Claude Savoye, the premier syndic, spoke against the union of sermons and the mass, which some parishes desired, and declared that such a medley was by no means agreeable to the magistracy. He then said to the priests: 'Instead of preventing the people from living according to the Gospel, why do you not embrace it yourselves, and give up your mass?' Dom Claude de Puthex, canon of Satigny, stepped forward and said: 'If our neighbors of Gex change their mode of life, we will do the same.' This religion of neighborhood was a surprise to the reformers; and those simple folks reminded them of sheep who pass where others have gone before, and leap over the hedge as soon as the foremost of them have shown the way. 'Turn about, gentlemen,' said Farel, 'instead of continuing your course;' and he added several 'beautiful remonstrances.' 'Give us a month to study the Gospel,' answered the canons. {407} After the priests had withdrawn, the council asked the opinion of Farel and Bonivard. The latter declared that 'consciences must be enlightened and not forced.' Farel also was of opinion that the papists ought not to be troubled in their devotions, in order that they might not be exasperated against the Word; but that they ought to be brought to the Gospel 'with extreme gentleness.' He therefore proposed that 'the priests during the required month should give themselves up exclusively to the inquiry after truth.' When the ecclesiastics were called in, the syndic informed them that their request had been granted unanimously; and at the end of the month, they all declared that they could not prove by the Gospel either the mass, auricular confession, or other papal ordinances. The brother of Guy Furbity, who was in the assembly, declared that Farel's exhortation to the priests was 'sound according to Holy Scripture and to God.'[744] It is true that this person had a reason for wishing to please the Genevans.


There remained, however, one thing to be done. They had liberated the protestant Bonivard, they determined also to set free the Roman-catholic Furbity, whose release was demanded by his brother William. Guy left his prison on the 6th of April. He had been condemned (it will be remembered) to prove his doctrines, or to retract his insulting language; whereupon he had asked for books, and the council sent him a Bible. 'A Bible!' he exclaimed, 'they must be laughing at me. How can I prove my doctrines with the help of a Bible? I should not succeed in a twelve-month.' He wanted the Sentences of Peter Lombard, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, and so forth, and they gave him a Bible! 'Magnificent lords,' he said on the 6th of April, 'I beg your pardon; I said things that displeased you; I was wrong. I did not know how {408} matters were. Henceforward I will endeavor to lead a better life, and to preach the truth better than I have hitherto done.' The council ordered him to be set at liberty forthwith.[745]


Farel was more active than ever. He was busy in the city and in the villages with Roman-catholics and reformed: he was intent on everything that could elevate the moral and religious condition of the community. The anarchy and corruption that prevailed in Geneva upon Calvin's arrival have been exaggerated. The energetic language of the sixteenth century, interpreted by the delicate critics of our times, has perhaps contributed to this mistake. Before the Reformation there was beyond all doubt great corruption among the clergy, and particularly among the monks. That dissoluteness had also infected individuals and even families among the citizens; but one feature had distinguished this people, and especially the councils, during the struggles for political emancipation, namely, the close union of liberty with legality, that is to say, with order. The Genevese were always found ready for the greatest sacrifices—for the sacrifice of their goods, their ease, their homes, and their lives sooner than lose their independence: now these are not the manners of an epicurean people. Admiration of the Reformation period ought not to make us unjust towards the period of political emancipation. It is true that the reformers, and Calvin especially, had a hard task with this energetic and restless people, and that the struggles often proceeded from a want of faith and morality, which these austere men had remarked in certain citizens. But the struggles were aggravated by the intervention of the state, to which the ministers were not averse, and by the temporal punishments inflicted on those who infringed religious discipline. Perhaps no one in the sixteenth century perceived {409} more clearly than Calvin the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal; and yet neither he nor Farel understood it, and above all did not realize it, to its full extent. 'If there should be men so insolent and given up to all perversity,' said Farel to the syndics, 'as only to laugh at being excommunicated, it will be your business to see whether you will allow such contempt to remain unpunished.'[746] The haughty republicans who had sacrificed everything to break down the despotism of the bishop and the duke, were irritated when they saw another yoke imposed upon them in religious matters. They had the true sentiment that their consciences ought to be free, and if attempts had been made to convince them and not to constrain them, the end proposed would have been more easily attained. For many an age Rome had forgotten that the weapons of the evangelical warfare are not carnal. Unhappily magistrates and reformers sometimes forgot it also. It was an error, and the error led to the commission of many faults.

Nevertheless discipline was not the essential characteristic of Farel, Calvin, and their friends: they were in a special degree men of faith and of a living faith. In their eyes faith was the one thing needful—the good thing above all others. They desired that man should be holy and do good works; but for that, he must believe in the love which God had shown him in Christ. Faith, according to the reformers, is the presiding principle of morality. If a man has faith, he is a child of God; if he has not, he is under the dominion of sin. Moreover Farel did not want a purely negative reform, which should consist in merely rejecting the pope; he wanted it to be positive, and to that end it was necessary that the people should believe in Jesus Christ. Lastly, Farel saw disunion and disputes in Geneva. In order that the community, {410} the new Church, should be strong, it ought not to be composed (he thought) of scattered members, opposed perhaps to one another; it must form a single body, and glorify God with one voice and one heart. He desired, therefore, that a public profession of faith in the Gospel should be made at Geneva.

As sovereignty in matters of state belongs to the assembly of all the citizens, it was supposed with still further reason, that to the same body, convened according to the ancient customs, belonged the right of proclaiming the evangelical doctrine. On Friday, the 19th of May, Farel, accompanied by Antoine Saunier, his old travelling companion in the valleys, and by the pastor Henri de la Mare, appeared before the council. 'Most honored lords,' he said, 'it is of great importance for all the people to live in strict union. To get rid of the quarrels, jeers, reproaches, and dissensions, which the fretful disposition of our nation may occasion every day, we must employ mildness; and, further still, we must manifest our concord. Seeing that there is one only truth of God, all the people should declare their intention to adhere to it with one and the same heart.' The council approved of the proposition, and resolved to call together the council-general for a confession of faith, on Sunday, the 21st of May. At Augsburg it was the priests and doctors who had confessed the doctrine; at Geneva, it was to be the whole nation.[747] The difference between the two reforms is natural. Democracy ruled in Geneva, and it had become all the dearer to the citizens from their conviction that if the liberties of nations had been taken away, the crime lay at the door of the papacy. Calvin has repeated this more than once. It has been said that the communes, the liberties of the Middle Ages, issued from the furrow and the shop.[748] From the shop came specially the liberty of Geneva. The Burgundians who settled there were traders, and {411} willingly exchanged their arms for merchandise. Some of the heroes of Geneva, whose devotedness reminds us of ancient times, sprang from the counter or the factory.


Still an appeal to the people was a bold measure, for there yet existed among the citizens, and even in the council, many decided adversaries of reform, and some of them were among the most eminent men. Might not such an appeal stir up an opposition which would overthrow all that had been done? The position of the Roman-catholics was most serious. They were required to conform to the Gospel. Could they do so? Their consciences forbade them. Were they to refuse, they would disturb the unanimity and harmony so necessary to the people at that juncture. Pierre Lullin, almost a septuagenarian, uncle of the haughty huguenot Jean Lullin, was one of the most fervent catholics in Geneva. Unable to do without the mass, he had asked, in September 1535, to be allowed to have it performed by a priest in a chapel of St. Gervais, which was his private property. Another eminent man, Syndic Balard, had ceased indeed to be a partisan of the bishop, but he had taken refuge in a catholicism more spiritual than Lullin's, and yet quite as marked. According to his views, the Holy Ghost governed the Roman-catholic church, which church, communicating that spirit to its members, imposed on them the obligation of finding its doctrines in Scripture. Lullin, Balard, and some others, had frequent conferences together. The sincere catholics were not the only persons to be feared; they were supported by Genevans of scant faith, who cried out against the Reformation, principally because of its rigid morality. The reformers themselves were not without fear with regard to many of those who at that time walked with them. There were men who heard the preachers, but went no farther; they burnt the idols, but did not reform their lives. 'For faith to be secure, it must be governed by conscience,' said the theologians, {412} 'otherwise there is danger that it will be swamped, and that the ship will founder in a stormy sea.' Were they about to witness a renewal of those tumults which had so often disturbed the General Councils?[749]

At length the 21st of May arrived—that day at once so longed for and so feared. The bells rang out cheerfully; Clémence wafted through the air the words carved on her surface: 'I summon the people. Jesus, Saviour of men, Son of Mary, salvation of the world! be merciful and propitious to us!' The good citizens congratulated each other, as they obeyed the summons, that this day would put an end to innumerable struggles, and that the city, so long wasted by briers and thorns, would now be covered by the hand of God with flowers and laurels. The emotion was universal.


Besides the mass of the people, the ambassadors of Berne were present in the church, and among them the chief of the liberating army, Nägueli. One of the most heroic Genevans and most sincere Christians, the intrepid Claude Savoye, was president. When he arose to speak, he reminded them of the flight of the bishop, the arrival of the Gospel in Geneva, the glorious deliverance granted to the city; and then he added, in a voice that was heard all down the nave, 'Citizens, do you desire to live according to the Gospel and the Word of God, as it is preached to us every day? Do you declare that you will have no more masses, images, idols, and other papal abuses whatsoever? If any one knows and wishes to say anything against the doctrine that is preached to us, let him do so.'

There was a deep silence: all were in expectation. Will not some voice, friendly to Rome or to the world, protest against reform? The aged and devout Pierre Lullin, the spiritual catholic Jean Balard, the frivolous {413} Jean Philippe, the episcopal Malbuisson, Richardet, Ramel, De la Rive, and others, known for their attachment to Rome, are going, doubtless, to take up the premier syndic's challenge. The hour is striking; Geneva is about to decide its future. If it is true that the pope is Christ's vicar, and as God upon earth, let them say so! Now or never. They wait: they wait still; not a word disturbs the solemn silence of the people. No one made opposition. The fact was duly recorded. Then other accents than those which had been anticipated resounded through the aisles of the cathedral. Was it the voice of pious syndic Levet, or of one of the Two Hundred, or of some one in the body of the meeting? The council registers do not inform us. That voice, speaking in the name of the united nation, proclaimed: 'We all, with one accord, desire, with God's help, to live under that holy evangelical law, and according to God's Word as it is preached to us. We desire to renounce all masses, images, idols, and other papal ceremonies and abuses, and to live in union with one another, in obedience to justice.' When the voice ceased, all the people held up their hands and repeating a unanimous oath, exclaimed: 'We swear it.... We will do so with God's help.... We will!'[750]

The assembly broke up, and the citizens departed, congratulating each other that the innumerable tyrannies of 'Pharaoh' and the darkness of the 'sorcerers' were to be succeeded by the mild light of Jesus Christ and the life-giving breath of liberty. Even such huguenots as had struggled especially for political enfranchisement, raised no discordant voice. They knew well that if this petty people remained catholic, it would lose its independence, and infallibly become Savoyard. But others held higher views: Geneva appeared to them as a fortress which {414} God had built to save the Gospel. 'God,' said Froment, the oldest of the Genevese reformers, 'God has selected this strong territory, so difficult of access, to form a rampart as it were against the pope and his followers. It is in these rude countries, guarded on the south by the Savoy mountains and their eternal snows; on the north by the difficult gorges of the Jura; and on the east by the narrow passes of the St. Bernard and the Simplon, where our friends, the Valaisans, with half a score of men can stop an army; it is in this blessed corner of the earth that God planted His Gospel, surrounding his word with those gigantic fortresses, in order that the enemy may neither reach it nor stifle it.' While the citizens thronged the open square, the ministers went into the pulpit. 'A mighty captain hath led us,' they said; 'let us put our trust in him alone. He has more power than all the kings of the earth, and alone he has preserved us from our enemies. The captain is Jesus Christ, our Saviour, our Redeemer, and our strong tower.'[751]


Farel and several Genevans asked that some monument should be erected to recall to future ages the memory of their great deliverance. Did not Joshua set up twelve stones after he had crossed the Jordan? Farel composed a Latin inscription, which was carved in letters of gold on stone and steel. The council and people fixed it over one of the principal gates of the city and afterwards over the entrance to the Hôtel-de-Ville, so that every one might read this testimony of a grateful city.

Quum anno 1535
Profligata Romani Antichristi tyrannide
Abrogatisque ejus Superstitionibus
Hic in suam puritatem
Ecclesia in meliorem ordinem
Singulari DEI beneficio reposita
{415} Et simul pulsatis fugatisque hostibus
Urbs ipsa in suam libertatem
Non sine insigni miraculo restituta fuerit
Senatus Populusque Genevensis
Monumentum hoc perpetuæ causa fieri
Atque hoc loco erigi curavit
Quo suam erga DEUM gratitudinem
Ad posteros testatam faceret.[752]

The citizens who had left their homes to embrace the faction of the bishop and the duke, and to fight against the Reformation, were struck with the surprising deliverance accorded to Geneva. They became friends again, and many of them asked permission to return to their country. Evangelical Geneva was pleased to see those prodigal sons once more knocking at the door of their father's house, and welcomed them on their pledging themselves to obey the laws and contribute to the taxes in a manner proportionate to their means. Some of them, however, were forbidden to carry either sword or knife, 'except for the purpose of cutting {416} bread.'—'Let us put an end to all enmities and disorders,' said the citizens, 'and live together like good friends.'[753] The priests and monks who had embraced the Reform, were compensated for the stipends of which they had been deprived. The state desiring to show its gratitude to Bonivard, paid his debts, made him free of the city, and gave him the house of the vicar-episcopal, the dignity of a member of the Two Hundred, and a pension of two hundred and fifty crowns. The ex-prior of St. Victor married, thus substituting a Christian union for the ignoble life of a monk.

Evangelical Geneva furnished an example of the feelings engendered by help from heaven; patience and meekness were displayed towards everybody. The Genevans had read in Scripture, that 'Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things;' and in this spirit they acted. 'Most honored lords, I cannot go to hear the sermon,' said the timid Malbuisson, 'because I suffer from the gout.' This excuse could only be met by a smile, for the gout did not prevent him from attending the Council; but no one desired to constrain him. If even the most zealous sought to lead recalcitrants to the Gospel, they did not insist. They wanted Balard to go to sermon, but he did not; they wanted him to leave the city, but he remained; they wanted him to close his warehouse (he was a large ironmonger), and it was no sooner shut than he reopened it.[754] He continued to be a member of the Council and discharged all its functions. Girardet de la Rive took his child a league from the city to have it christened by a priest; and yet he was re-elected syndic in 1539 and 1543, and in Calvin's time, in 1547, was appointed one of the six commissioners for drawing {417} up the ordinances of justice. Those terrible huguenots were kindly people at heart. They desired to give their fellow-citizens time to compare the old life with the new, the doctrine of the Bible with that of the pope. The Roman-catholics kept holiday the feast days of the Romish church, and saw their priests in secret; but gradually their convictions were modified. As constraint was not applied outwardly, truth acted all the more inwardly. Those upright men read the Holy Scriptures, and Scripture shedding a light into their hearts, drew them day by day nearer to the truth. At last they went to hear sermons like the rest. In the sixteenth century Geneva was more liberal than people of our day suppose.[755]


What a transformation had come over the city! The Genevese, those veteran athletes, laid down their arms at the feet of the Prince of Peace. The tumultuous city, continually exposed to the brigandage of the knights, to the nocturnal attacks of the Savoyards, and to internal dissension, was transformed into a centre of civilization. 'Let us profit by our liberty,' said Bonivard. 'Let us make good laws and set up a good government, for, according to the sentiment of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, empires and great lordships are acquired by brave and valiant captains, but are kept up by just judges. Messieurs of Geneva, you are indebted to God for two blessings: one, that your republic has given birth to liberty; the other, that, on leaving its mother's womb, it found nurses ready to supply it with such nourishment that if you take advantage of it your republic will be, if not immortal, which is impossible, yet it will be of long and {418} vigorous duration.' In fact, Geneva became at once a free city, a learned city, and an evangelical city.[756]

Easter Sunday 1536 was one of the high festivals of the renovation of this little people. Farel, stationed at a humble table, which had replaced the pompous altar, broke the bread and blessed the cup, while a calm and solemn crowd drew near the symbols of the body and blood of the Saviour. 'What a sacrament we had,' he said, 'and what great things the Lord hath done for us.'[757]


But he longed for still greater things. 'I pray that He who hath increased this little flock beyond all our expectations, may increase it still more by augmenting our faith.'[758] The reformer was then almost alone in Geneva. Froment had been summoned to Aigle, and Viret had gone to Neuchâtel. Farel was sinking under his labors and called loudly for help. In his opinion the Genevans wanted a new man, some one in his place. His incessant energy, his somewhat coarse manner, and even the victories he had gained, had inspired such as were wanting in religion with prejudices that might injure the cause of the Gospel. Farel was rather one of those who found societies than of those who organize them; he was sensible of this, and desired to place in other hands the definitive establishment of the church in Geneva, in order that he might go to new scenes where he might gain new victories. He was like one of those noble war-horses that neigh for the battle.

Where could the man of God be found to complete the work? He was sought among the ministers, but to no effect. The Reform was liable to perish, not from want of work, but from want of workmen. 'Alas!' cried Farel, 'where shall we find the preachers we require? {419} I cannot tell.'[759] It is true that ex-priests and monks frequently offered themselves, but what workmen they were! One day it was a simpleton without any capacity; at another, a coward who did not care to undertake a task so full of peril; one man was immoral; another self-sufficient; a third was worldly; a fourth altogether monkish. Farel was dismayed. 'You speak to me of Dennis,' he said, 'but Dennis is a monk from head to foot.'[760] The reformer had as much trouble in putting these sham fellow-helpers aside, as in contending with desperate enemies. 'Beware of the tonsure,' he said to his friends, 'of the tonsure and the tonsured.'[761] 'We want none of those skimmers[762] of Scripture,' he said, 'who turn to every wind like weathercocks on the steeples; none of those flatterers of princes and magistrates, who wish to please them for their bellies' sake, or through fear of being banished: none of those dissolute monks, who seek only to please master or mistress. No, no; none of these mercenaries; for it is to be feared that if we take them to lead the flocks, we shall enter into a more inextricable labyrinth than that through which we have passed.'

Not only Geneva but Western Europe required 'a God-fearing pastor,' as Farel said; a doctor who could explain with learning the teachings of Holy Scripture; an evangelist who, with eloquence full of life, should convert souls to Christ; a champion who should fight valiantly against the doctors of Rome and lead them captive to the truth; and a man of administrative capacity who could establish order in the churches of God. The earth had shaken, old buildings had been thrown down. It was requisite to erect in their place an edifice {420} more conformable with the original design—one with more air, more light, more warmth. Where could the man be found who, gifted with wisdom from God like Solomon, should raise a temple to Him which should manifest his glory? He was sought for everywhere, perseveringly yet ineffectually. And yet the man whom God had elected was soon to appear.

[739]   The author is unknown, but the poem was in Bonivard's possession.—See the Mémoires d'Archéologie, iv. p. 271.

[740]   Chron. MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 63 to 67.—Registres du Conseil.

[741]   'Vergebene Arbeit, unnütze Zeitverschwendung, elendes Kinderspiel.'—Rothe, professor at Heidelberg, Theologische Ethik, iii. p. 1017.—Rothe, who has not long been dead, is considered an eminent theologian in Germany.

[742]   Registres du Conseil des 10, 13, 24 et 31 Mars 1536.—MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 63.

[743]   Registres du Conseil du 3 Avril 1536.

[744]   Registres du Conseil du 3 Avril 1536.—MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 63.

[745]   Registres du Conseil du 6 Avril 1536.

[746]   Mémoire du 16 Janvier 1537.

[747]   Registres du Conseil du 19 Mai.

[748]   Guizot.

[749]   Registres du Conseil des 24 Juillet, 15 Août, 17 Septembre 1536.—Dernier Discours et Œuvres de Calvin.

[750]   Registres du Conseil du 21 Mai 1536.—MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 68.

[751]   Froment, Gestes de Genève, pp. 166-168, 224.

[752]   MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 62.

The tyranny of the Roman Antichrist
Having been overthrown,
And its superstitions abolished
In the year 1535,
The most holy religion of Christ
Having been restored,
In its truth and purity,
And the Church set in good order,
By a signal favor of God;
The enemy having been repelled
And put to flight,
And the city by a striking miracle
Restored to liberty;
The senate and people of Geneva have erected
And set up this monument,
In this place,
As a perpetual memorial,
To attest to future ages
Their gratitude to God.

[753]   Registres du Conseil des 11 Avril; 2, 20, 21 Juin 1536; 29 Janvier 1537.—MS. de Roset, liv. iii. ch. 68.

[754]   Mémoires de la Société d'Archéologie de Genève, vol. x. p. lxvii.

[755]   Mémoires de la Société d'Archéologie de Genève, vol. x. p. lxvii.—Registres du 4 Septembre 1536.—La Réforme à Genève, by the Abbé Magnin, p. 233.

[756]   Froment, Gestes merveilleux de Genève, p. 239.—Bonivard, Mémoires d'Archéologie, iv. pp. 285-289.

[757]   Farel's Letters.

[758]   Ibid.

[759]   'Jubeor evocare undique ministros. Sed unde? Plane ignoro.'—Farel's Letters.

[760]   'Dyonisius totus monachus.'—Ibid.

[761]   'Rasis sedulo curabis.'—Ibid.

[762]   'Fleureteurs' (ceux qui effleurent).—Froment, Gestes merveilleux de Genève, p. 237.

(Winter and Spring.)

There was in Italy, as we have said in another place,[763] a city in which the love of letters flourished, and where the Gospel found a firm support: that city was Ferrara. It was embellished by a university, bishop's palace, and cathedral; by the castle of the ancient dukes, the palace of Este; but its fairest ornament was Renée of France. That princess, daughter of King Louis XII., wife of the duke of Este, was not more distinguished by the graces of her mind and her learning, than by the love of holiness which shone in her, like a divine flame, according to the testimony of one of the most learned Christians of Italy.[764] For some time she had turned her attention towards heavenly science and theological studies, and had attracted successively to Ferrara the most eminent Christians of Italy—Curione, Occhino, Flaminio, and {421} Peter Martyr. Two young Frenchmen arrived in their turn some time before the events we have just described. One was called Charles d'Espeville and the other Louis de Haulmont. They soon made their arrival known to the duchess, who was expecting them; and Renée, whose heart had remained French, was happy to possess in her palace two such distinguished fellow-countrymen. She knew that they had left their homes on account of that Gospel of Christ which she herself had learnt to love in the society of her dear cousin, Margaret of Angoulême, the king's sister. She lodged them in the Palace del Magistrato, situated in the Piazza del Duomo, and adjoining the castle.[765]


Louis de Haulmont was an amiable young man, pious but timid, still undecided as to the road he should take, and the victim of fierce struggles. His companion, Charles d'Espeville, was a man of humble appearance: his eyes were lively and piercing, his manner serious and firm, and everything in him indicated a soul of a different stamp from that of his friend. Haulmont's true name was Louis du Tillet; he was a canon and archdeacon of Angoulême; Charles d'Espeville was none other than John Calvin. As these two Frenchmen were about to sojourn in the states of a prince, a vassal of the pope, they were compelled (says Muratori) to appear under a false name and in a costume different from what they usually wore.[766]

Renée, whose compassionate heart had been so often touched by the recital of the terrible punishments and victorious faith which animated the evangelicals, could not look upon one of them who had escaped a dungeon and the scaffold, without experiencing towards him the feelings of