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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 297



XI.] THE GREAT DIVORCE. and the illegal exactions were condoned by subservient parliaments. The question of the high-handed confiscations leads on to further questions. I do not wish in these lectures to give more than its proper prominence to the great question of the divorce ; even to give it its proper prominence would involve discussions far more lengthy than I have time for now; I shall therefore hope that you will take as read all the details of the negotiations concerning it, and simply look upon it as a force, or the application of an impact, which had much greater consequences, and originated a larger developing series of measures, than could have possibly been calculated on. In a word, to use Sir Thomas More's expressive formula, it opened the eyes of the lion as to what he could do ; not all at once, but by a very gradual process, which may indeed be traced most distinctly with reference to the Reformation history, but is also apparent in the other departments of administration. It is clear, from the beginning of his reign, that Henry' was a prince who had only to learn the extent of his powers,, in order to attempt to exercise them. If we may believe the} law reporters, as early as 1515 he had declared himself determined not to allow any superiority of external spiritual courts in a country of which he was sovereign ; and there are signs, in Wolsey's history, that the imminent danger of the king's taking advantage of the Statute of Praemunire was in his mind long before he was actually sacrificed. But the earlier years of the reign were remarkably free from occasions on which any great constitutional crisis could arise. Henry's ambition, like Wolsey's, was mainly set upon an influentialplace in the councils of Europe, and among the people at large there was contentment. Henry had been brought up very strictly, and married, very young, to a wife, to whom he gave his full affection; the good impressions of his training were, at least for several years, strong enough to keep υ 2


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