Henry VIII:s last speech to parliament – December 24, 1545

Henry VIII gave his last speech ever to his parliament on 24 December 1545. There is love,Henry rebukes and slight threats, maybe the king in a nutshell. A year later he would be on his deathbed. The words below was taken down by a member of his parliament, on this day 470 years ago.

‘Although my Chancellor for the time being has been used, before this time, very eloquently and substantially to answer such orations as have been set forth in this high court of parliament, yet he is not so able to open and set forth my mind and meaning and the secrets of my heart in so plain and ample manner as I myself can. Wherefore, taking it upon myself to answer your eloquent oration, master speaker, I say that where you, in the name of our well beloved commons, have both praised and extolled me for the notable qualities which you have conceived to be in me, I most heartily thank you all that you have reminded me of my duty, which is to endeavor myself to obtain and get such excellent qualities and necessary virtues as a prince or governor should or ought to have, of which gifts I recognize myself both bare and barren. But for such small qualities as God has endowed me with I render to his goodness my most humble thanks, intending with all my wit and diligence to get and acquire for myself such notable virtues and princely qualities as you have alleged to be incorporated in my person.

Having first remembered these thanks for your loving admonition and good counsel, I next thank you again because, considering our great charges (not for our pleasure but for your defense, not for our gain but to our great cost) which we have lately sustained, as well in defense against our and your enemies as for the conquest of that fortress which was to this realm most displeasant and noisome, and shall be by God’s grace hereafter most profitable and pleasant to our nation, you have freely of your own decision granted to us a certain subsidy, specified here in an act, which truly we take in good part, regarding more your kindness than the profit thereof, as he that sets more by your loving hearts than by your substance.

Besides this hearty kindness I cannot a little rejoice when I consider the perfect trust and sure confidence which you have put in me, as men having undoubted hope and unfeigned belief in my good deeds and just proceedings for you, since without my desire or request you have committed to my order and disposition all chantries, colleges, hospitals and other places specified in a certain act, firmly trusting that I will order them to the glory of God and the profit of the commonwealth. Surely if, contrary to your expectation, I should suffer the ministries of the church to decay, or learning (which is so great a jewel) to be diminished, a poor and miserable people to be unrelieved, you might say that I, being put in so special a trust as I am in this case, were no trusty friend to you, nor a charitable man to my fellow Christians, nor a lover of the public wealth, nor yet one who feared God, to whom account must be rendered of all our doings. Doubt not, I pray you, that you expectations will be fulfilled more Godly or goodly than you will wish or desire, as you will plainly see afterwards.

‘Now, since I find such kindness on your part towards me, I cannot choose but to love and favor you, affirming that no prince in the world more favors his subjects than I do you, and no subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord than I see you do me, for whose defense my treasure shall not be hidden, nor if necessity requires it will my person be not risked. But although I with you and you with me are in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue unless both you, my lords temporal, and you, my lords spiritual, and you, my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing which is surely amiss and far out of order, which I most heartily require you to do, which is that charity and concord is not amongst you, but discord and dissension bears rule in every place. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in the 12th chapter: ‘Charity is gentle, Charity is not envious, Charity is not proud,’ and so on in that chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you when one calls another heretic and anabaptist and he calls him back papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Are these tokens of charity amongst you?

No, no, I assure you that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, unless this is healed and clearly made whole. I must judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly the negligence of you, the fathers and preachers of the spirituality. For if I know a man who lives in adultery I must judge him to be a lecherous and carnal person; if I see a man boast and brag about himself I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily that you of the clergy preach against each other without charity or discretion. Some are too stiff in their old ‘Mumpsimus’, others are too busy and curious in their new ‘Sumpsimus’. Thus almost all men are in variety and discord, and few or none truly and sincerely preach the word of God as they ought to do.

Shall I now judge you to be charitable persons who do this? No, no, I cannot do so. Alas, how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my true duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant and an untrue officer.

Although (as I say) the spiritual men be in some fault that charity is not kept amongst you, yet you of the temporality be not clean and unspotted of malice and envy; for you rail on bishops, speak slanderoursly of priests and rebuke and taunt preachers; both contrary to good order and christian fraternity.  If you know surely that a bishop or preacher erreth or teacheth perverse doctrines, come and declare it to our counsel, or to us, to whom is committed, by God, the authority to reform and order such causes and behaviours and not be judges yourselves of your own fantastical opinions and vain expositions; for in such high casues you may lightly err.

And, although you be permitted to read holy scripture and to have the word of God in your mother tongue, you must understand, that it is licensed you so to do, only to inform your own conscience, and instruct your children and family, and not to dispute, and make scripture a railing stock against priests and preachers, as many light persons do.

I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same; and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst christians, never less reverenced, honoured, or served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother; love, dread, and serve God (to the which I, as your supreme head, and sovereign lord, exhort and require you); and then I doubt not, but that love and league, which I spoke of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And, as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them into execution, as you were in making and furthering the same, or else your labour shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved.

Source:

Dodd´s Church History of England from the commencement of the sixteenth century to the revolution in 1688, appendix pages 451 – 454.

 

 

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The many virtues of Katherine of Aragon

On the night between 15-16th December 1485, Catalina de Aragón was born in Alcalá KatherineofAragonde Henares in Spain. She would of course in time become more known as Katherine of Aragon, princess of Wales and eventually Queen of England, as we all know ironically not married to the same man while being the princess as when she became queen.

For some reason, there is a tendency to bring up the tragic parts of Katherine´s life when her name is mentioned, she lived in misery between the death of her first husband prince Arthur and the marriage to her second husband, Arthur´s younger brother Henry VIII. She lost a heartbreaking number of children and she was eventually cast aside when Henry in a combination of successional panic and desire for Anne Boleyn decided he wanted the marriage annulled.

But there was more to Kathrine of Aragon than just the victim she often is portrayed as, born as the youngest surviving child of “Los Reyes Catholicos”, Ferdinand and Isabella – whose actions in defeating the Moors, the Spanish inquisition and role in the conquest of the Americas one can say a lot about but this is not the place – she had a mother who was a Queen in her on right, and who herself had taken part in battle.

No doubt she raised a strong daughter in whose corner she would be until she, Isabella, died. Through Isabella Katherine herself had a claim to the English throne as she just as Henry (and Arthur) was a descendant of John of Gaunt, but unlike them not through the Beaufort line which had been barred from inheriting the crown by Henry IV (the legitimacy of that decision has been questioned). She received a thorough education in arithmetic, canon and civil law, classical literature, genealogy and heraldry, history, philosophy, religion, and theology by her tutor Alessandro Geraldini, as well as languages. Apart from the obvious Spanish she also spoke French and Greek, as well as mastering Latin. No doubt her own education played a part when she years later would insist that her own daughter Mary receive the same education as if she had been a prince in line for the throne (which she in reality was).

Her promotion of learning was praised by the scholar Desiderius Erasmus who in a letter 1518 mentions Henry´s court as more of an academy than a court, but also describes Katherine as astonishingly well read, far beyond what would be surprising in a woman, and [she is] as admirable for piety as she is for learning”.

Katherine was also the patron not only of Erasmus, but of the Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives who dedicated two of his books to the queen, De Institutione Feminae Christianae (The Education of a Christian Woman) as well as De Ratione Studii Puerilis (The Plan of Study for Children), both written in 1523 while he was tutoring princess Mary.

But let´s go back slightly in time, and re-connect to the fact that Katherine was the daughter of a female ruler, Isabella of Castile more than once proved her ability as a monarch, it may not be surprising that Katherine herself proved to be a very competent governor of the realm and captain-general of English army while Henry campaigned on the continent against the French, fighting the relatively minor Battle of Spurs.

Back home, on the other hand his wife won a devastating victory over the invading Scottish army at the battle of Flodden. I won´t go as far as to say that it´s a fact that has been ignored, but it´s certainly far too often over-shadowed by the image of the miserable Katherine.

Maybe I haven´t shared something you didn´t already know, but I think that as her 530th birthday is upon us, Katherine of Aragon should be remembered for her knowledge and strengths instead of her failures and misery instead.

 

Sources

The correspondence of Erasmus – R.A.B Mynors and D.F.S Thomson

“Catherine of Aragon.” Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries

projectcontinua.org/catherine-of-aragon/

The wives of Henry VIII – Antonia Fraser

The wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir