Benevolences

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXV. ...continued

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The immense sums which Henry had accumulated by the plunder of religious houses, appear to have melted away, like snow-wreaths in sunshine, long before the conclusion of his reign. His French and Scotch wars undoubtedly exhausted large supplies; his mistresses made large demands for their pleasures and their needy friends; yet there should have been enough, and to spare, for all these claims. When the monasteries were destroyed, the English clergy trembled for their own existence. The King could easily have dispensed with their services, and deprived them of their revenues. They were quite aware of their precarious tenure of office, and willingly agreed, in 1543, to give Henry ten per cent. on their incomes for three years, after the deduction of the tenths already vested in the crown. Their incomes were thus ascertained, and a loan was demanded, which, when granted, was made a gift by the ever-servile Parliament.

In 1545 a benevolence was demanded, though benevolences had been declared illegal by Act of Parliament. This method of raising money had been attempted at an early period of his reign; but the proposal met with such spirited opposition from the people, that even royalty was compelled to yield. A few years later, when the fatal result of opposition to the monarch's will and pleasure had become apparent, he had only to ask and obtain. Yet neither percentage, nor tenths, nor sacrilegious spoils, sufficed to meet his expenses; and, as a last expedient, the coin was debased, and irreparable injury inflicted on the country.

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