Protestant Establishment

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIV

Henry's letter to Dr. Browne is dated July 7th, 1537; the Bishop's reply is given on the 27th September, 1537. He commences by informing his most excellent Highness that he had received his most gracious letter on the 7th September, and that "it made him tremble in body for fear of incurring his Majesty's displeasure," which was doubtless the most truthful statement in his epistle. He, mentions all his zeal and efforts against Popery, which, he adds, "is a thing not little rooted among the inhabitants here." He assures the King of his activity in securing the twentieth part and first-fruits for the royal use (what had been given to God was now given to Caesar), and states what, indeed, could not be denied, that he was the "first spiritual man who moved" for this to be done. He concludes with the fearful profanity of "desiring of God, that the ground should open and swallow him up the hour or minute that he should declare the Gospel of Christ after any sort than he had done heretofore, in rebuking the Papistical power, or in any other point concerning the advancement of his Grace's affairs."

Such a tissue of profanity and absurdity was seldom penned; but men who could write and act thus were fitting instruments for a man, who made it a point of conscience to commit immoral crimes that he might preserve the succession; who kept his mistress in the same palace with his queen; and only went through the form of marriage when he found his real or pretended wishes about the same succession on the point of being realized in a manner that even he could not fail to see would scarcely be admitted as legal or legitimate by public opinion, whatever an obsequious Parliament might do. It is at least certain that such letters never were addressed by Catholic prelates to the Holy See, and that those who speak of its tyranny and priestcraft, and the absolute submission it requires from its subjects, would do well to remember the trite motto, Audi alteram partem, and to inquire whether a similar charge might not be made more justly against the founders of the Protestant Establishment.