Essay about Henry VIII

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Henry VIII

From any point of view the destruction of the English monasteries by Henry VIII must be regarded as one of the great events of the sixteenth century. They were looked upon in England, at the time of Henry's breach with Rome, as one of the great bulwarks of the papal system. The monks had been called "the great standing army of Rome." One of the first practical results of the assumption of the highest spiritual powers by the king was the supervision by royal decree of the ordinary episcopal visitations, and the appointment of a layman -- Thomas Cromwell -- as the king's vicar-general in spirituals, with special authority to visit the monastic houses, and to bring them into line with the new order of things. This was in
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It must have been felt, however, by the astute Cromwell, who is credited with the first conception of the design, that to succeed, a project such as this must be sustained by strong yet simple reasons calculated to appeal to the popular mind. Some decent pretext had to be found for presenting the proposed measure of suppression and confiscation to the nation, and it can hardly now be doubted that the device of blackening the characters of the monks and nuns was deliberately resorted to.

The visitation opened apparently in the summer of 1535, although the visitatorial powers of the bishops were not suspended until the eighteenth of the following September. Preachers were moreover commissioned to go over the country in the early autumn, in order, by their invectives, to educate public opinion against the monks. These pulpit orators were of three sorts:

"railers", who declaimed against the religious as "hypocrites, sorcerers, and idle drones, etc.";
"preachers", who said the monks "made the land unprofitable"; and those who told the people that, "if the abbeys went down, the king would never want any taxes again."
This last was a favourite argument of Cranmer, in his sermons at St. Paul's Cross. The men employed by Cromwell -- the agents entrusted with the task of getting up the required evidence -- were chiefly four, Layton, Leigh,

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