Flash Fiction: “Lord, Grant Me Peace…” (Tribute to THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES)

December 4, 2016 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Wars of the Roses by Beth von Staats

By Beth von Staats

Tom Sturridge as Henry VI in THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

Tom Sturridge as Henry VI in THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES
Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

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Video Credit: Great Performances, PBS 

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In celebration of next Sunday’s release of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses in the United States (PBS at 9:00 PM on December 11, 2016), enjoy some flash fiction from the point of view of King Henry VI, Episode One’s protagonist and reigning monarch.

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King Henry V

King Henry V

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“Of France and England, did this king succeed;
Whose state so many had the managing.
That they lost France and made his England bleed.”

~~~~ William Shakespeare, Henry V ~~~~

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My father, King Henry, fifth of his name, near conqueror of all of France, commander of the sea, warrior, diplomat, statesman, and ruler of a united nation, was the grandest king among all the kings of Christendom. While he reigned, there was peace within the realm. While he reigned, England was the jewel in the crown of Europe. While he reigned, crops were plentiful. The treasury grew abundantly. The arts flourished. While he reigned, the Lords were obedient, loyal to him above all. I heard all the stories. They were pounded into my head since a babe. “This would never happen while he reigned,” I hear them whisper. No, of course not, my father was God personified on earth.

Respite, I need thee respite. My Clarendon hunting lodge, though more humble than a palace, more humble than a castle, always soothed my soul. Quiet, peaceful, free of the stresses of the boulders laying hard and heavy upon my shoulders, Clarendon cleared my mind, relieved the weight of all the world that threatens to always smother me. God, so why not now? Why not now? All I seek is peace before I head on to Dorset. All I seek is quiet before I deal with the Lord’s most recent grievances. All I seek is escape from the failures of my life, escape from the shame of defeat, escape from the factions and infighting among the Lords and my subjects, some loyal to me, most not. Margaret, my beloved queen, bless her please God I pray. She in truth is the rightful King of England. She in truth is the strength upon the throne.  I am merely a scholar, a devout man of worship, a gentle man of the quill, a patron of the arts. God, you know me, all of me, the good and the bad. Why am I not a monk? Why am I not of your clergy, a servant of His Holy Father?  Worship is my calling, my greatest desire. Oh yes, this just can’t be. I am the only son of King Henry, fifth of his name.

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King Henry VI

King Henry VI

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They say the war with France has gone near 100 years now — near 100 years, battles fought, battles lost, battles won. Near 100 years, English kings maintained a stronghold, never French upon our shores. Near 100 years, we fought with glory, the war all but won when God called him home. Heir apparent to the thrown of France, he married the daughter of King Charles, inched his way across his land of fortune. The grand warrior king, he nearly won it all. God, is his seed really in me, Henry, fifth of his name? A quandary, yes a right quandary I dare say. I think not. I know not. I must be a bastard child unbeknownst, a changling. A failure of a king I am, losing all the monarchs of England gained through sweat and tears of their subjects these near 100 years, only Calais hanging on. The fool of Christendom, I rule not. The fool of Christendom, I lead not. The fool of Christendom, I heal the divides of my ever battling Lords and subjects not. I am but a pygmy king, a pretender.

As I sit by the hearth, wine full in my goblet, I watch the flames roar. Satan, there he is in the fire, urging me on. “Die, you bastard pretender, die. That’s what you want. Do it!”

I know Satan’s trickery. Yes, death comes easy to a man like me, good to no one. The seed is within her. The deed is done. Why stay now? “Die, you bastard pretender. Your realm is best without you.”

My mind spins with Satan’s words, his urging tempting me to do the deed. I am best gone. I am best invisible. The grandest sin is to follow Satan’s call. I shall go to hell. I shall rage in the fire, licking at my feet for all eternity. “Be gone, Satan, I command you!”

I am a Godly man, a pious man. Thou shalt not kill, even me. I take a long drink from the goblet, the wine warming the edge off my thoughts. I close my eyes, and rest my weary mind. Quiet and peaceful at last, the boulders lift, floating off me. My humors align, my soul is at rest. I think through scripture. It be surely a sin to kill the body, but is it sinful to kill the soul? Is it a sin to still be living, but dead? Gone, but still here?  No, I think not. I begin to pray in earnest, my mind and all within me intent on shutting down.

“Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace release my soul. Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace…”

~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.

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"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

Thomas Cranmer -mini-bio

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“Recantations” — In Memory of Saint Thomas More, Executed July 6, 1535

July 6, 2016 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), The Tudor Thomases, Tudor Y Writer's Group by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

st-thomas-more-rubens-12x14-2052212 (1)

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Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

— Book of John 20:27, King James Bible —

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“I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Over twenty years ago, Sir Thomas More spoke those words for all to hear just before the executioner swung the ax, just before his head rolled from his shoulders onto the straw, just before his self-serving martyrdom. For months beyond a year holed up in The Tower, he stoically embraced his fate, faithfully hung to his God, stubbornly held firm in his convictions, and refused to see the truth, no matter how hard dearest Cromwell, Audley and I tried to convince him, no matter how much his wife and children begged he compromise his self-righteous scruples. In scripture, there is no Pope. There is no purgatory. There are no idols, relics, or indulgences. Mary is the mother of Jesus, not a saint interceding on behalf of all who pray to her. It’s really that simple. What is not written in God’s word is not truth. Why could More not see the obvious? Was he blind? Was he daft? Was he of Satan?

And why after 20 years does More’s sorry fate still weigh my conscience down like a stone?

“More was not satisfied to be Lord Chancellor, Your Grace. His heresy burnings were not enough to fill his soul. More yearned for a higher calling than service to the realm and His Majesty. He yearned to be a martyred saint. He yearned for pilgrims to travel long journeys to touch his hair shirt and gaze upon his pickled head, disgusting as that be.”

Dearest Cromwell, I hear him ringing through my mind as if he were sitting in this dank horrid cell right alongside me. The Earl always found a way to rationalize quandaries, bless his soul. All we asked, all His Majesty wanted, all that was required to save his very life was for Sir Thomas More to take the oath, say the words out loud publicly, and do what he wanted in private. More could worship his Latin Mass, give confession, fondle his rosary, collect his idols, venerate his relics, wear his hair shirt, and whip his back bloody to his heart’s content.

“Just take the damn oath, and then do what you will.”

“No, and I will speak nothing of it.”

Again, again, again, the Earl pleaded for this simple sign of obedience to the King. Again, again, again, the same reply. My God in heaven, the Pope is the antichrist. To this day, I am still dumbfounded. The man was brilliant, scholarly, eloquent. So why was he such a fool?

After hours of mulling over my fate, I look down at the parchment. My couched recantations, written to baffle His Eminence and the Queen without sully to my conscience, baffled them not. Cardinal Pole then took a quill to parchment and wrote out another, and then an another and yet another, one that clearly says to all in the far more eloquent words of the papal whore, “The last twenty years of my life were heresy. The liturgy of the Church of England is heresy. The lyrical Evensong at Friday service is heresy. The Collects said in worship all through the year are heresy. The Book of Common Prayer is heresy. Holy Communion as a commemoration to the Lord’s Last Supper is heresy. I recant. I recant it all. The Eucharist correctly turns wine to Christ’s blood, turns bread to Christ’s body. The holy church in England and its clergy are led by His Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome. Unless you purchase an indulgence, your mother will remain rotting to the bones in purgatory. There I said it. Now, you know my truth.”

Thomas Cranmer, Parish Church of St. George

Thomas Cranmer, Parish Church of St. George

If I want to live another day, die in my own bed, not burn pitifully as my beloved friends Ridley and Latimer, I must copy this in myne own hand, and sign my name to it. And, no, this is not the same challenge More faced. More was never forced to endure a trial for treason, found guilty, and yet a second trial for heresy, found guilty again. More did not have to debate at Oxford, over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year with papist religious scholars wearing him down, chiding his every word. More did not have to watch his friends burn at the stake, poor Ridley lingering for hours due to a poor man’s misguided attempt to help. More did not have the entire Church of England and its future laying squarely on his shoulders. No, it is not the same challenge More faced. No, it is not.

If I say it enough, I might believe it.

I confess Sir Thomas More’s writings so authored while he himself imprisoned give me strength. A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is just brilliant in all truth. Though they believed pushing More down my throat would wear me down, instead, his writings give me hope, nourish my soul. As More so correctly alluded through his story telling, persecution for one’s faith is a hazardous quandary indeed. It brings upon us at the same time both the lure and comfort rewarded for recantation — and the dread of torture and a painful death if we remain steadfast and true.

I look at the parchment yet again. No, I will not copy it in myne own hand. No, I will not sign it.

More conceded, and I agree, that it is not acceptable to escape persecution by compromising some of God’s truths, while keeping true to the rest. His err laid in not knowing what God’s truths truly are, by placing his faith and belief as defined by a papal authority instead of God’s word in scripture.

I look to the flickering candle, the only light in this stench laid cell and hold the parchment near. I will burn this parchment, and then I will burn. God, give me strength.

The cell door slams open, bashing the stone wall like a death knell.

“The recantation, is it ready Dr. Cranmer?!”

I startle upright. Damn, it be the Spaniard friar, Juan de Valligarcia, bellowing at me yet again. I look to the man wearily and hold out the parchment. He snatches it from me.

“No, I refuse to write it.”

This friar, I swear he is paid handsomely just to torment my soul. He saunters to the front of me and glares me down — evil incarnate, I do swear.

“I have word from Her Majesty. She desires I give you a message and one last chance to comply. Do you wish to hear it?”

I remain silent, mulling over how best to respond. The dirty dog drums his fingers impatiently on the table.

“Am I commanded to hear it? If not, I choose you leave with her words unsaid.”

“Yes, you are so commanded!”

“Carry on then.”

“As you so professed these many years, a monarch is supreme and heads the clergy is this realm. His Majesty King Henry chose to delegate to you and the heretic Emissary of Satan, Cromwell, while Her Majesty chooses to delegate to His Holy Father,” the friar scowls. He then holds out a parchment, its wax seal of the Queen made evident for myne benefit.

“Dr. Cranmer, as your monarch I command that you recant in writing as so drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and sign your name in full. I further command that you attend Latin Mass and recant publicly through a sermon approved in advance by His Eminence. From this day forward, you will attend Mass, celebrate the Eucharist, and worship the Roman Catholic faith with all humility.”

That bastard friar begins pacing to and fro. I say nothing. What be there to add to that?

“Will you abide Her Majesty’s command? If not, I need not remind that you will burn, mayhaps hanging in a giblet liken you and the concubine’s butcher did unto poor Friar Forest. The poor man be roasted hours on end like a chicken on a spit.”

Forest? He dares speak of the devil Forest?

I be in a rage now. “Forest’s burning fulfilled God’s prophecy! Saint Derfel burned with the forest as foretold from one to the next for many a moon — a suitable punishment for the evil Franciscan. He was both a sin-filled heretic and heinous treasoner of the King’s Majesty!”

I grab hold tight onto the table. Myne humors be in a twist, near to spew. The damn Spaniard steps up right close to me and leans into myne beard, so close his putrid rank breath near makes me faint.

“Cranmer, you are a hopeless, spineless, wretched, evil little man. God forgive you.”

My gout raging in my legs, I steady myself by the table, push him back and stand strong. What there be to lose? I am already a dead man. “No, I will not abide the damn command. Leave me to rot and be gone. You can light the fags another day.”

“But Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty is supremely your head as you define by scripture, eh? Are you not by your own interpretation of God’s Holy Word sinning through your treason?”

The man, he is of Satan and chides me mockingly, finding my greatest weakness yet again. This very issue, this very dilemma, has me confused and conflicted once more. This pitiful servant of the antichrist is right, but in my heart to recant is a larger sin, an unforgivable sin.

“I said, NO, I will not abide by the damn command.”

Unsteady of feet, I sit back down.

“Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty in her great benevolence wishes to extend this offer. Queen Mary, Regina remains steadfast in her vision to route this realm of all heresy, and will burn it all wherever it lays. Her Majesty desires to reassure you that should you recant, your Lutheran whore and bastard children will sleep safe. If not, they will burn as the heretics they are  — before you, as Ridley and Latimer did.”

Did myne heart just stop? Frozen in fear, I look at the Spanish friar, my blood frozen cold, just like that. Satan speaks through him as sure as Christ died for his sins. Mary, Regina — no one could be this evil, no one, especially a woman. De Villagarcia is trying to trick me. He must be. Margarete, my children, they fled to Nuremburg. Edmund promised me.

Aye, but Satan reached Tyndale. Why not them? My mind, it be cloudy, worn thin. I can’t concentrate. Think, Thomas – think. Would she really command my Margarete burned? Thomas and Marge? Would she really kill them before myne very eyes? Or is this man baffling me? Are they safe on the Continent or did Pole’s spies find them?

I gaze just beyond the Spaniard, and dearest Bishops Latimer and Ridley stand before me, burning pitifully, screaming in agony. Yes, the friar speaks truth. The Queen of England, Satan’s mistress, seeks revenge. This is hopeless. Either way I go, I be damned.

Broken, yes, after two long years, I am finally broken. I am sorry, Sir Thomas More. For this tribulation, there is no comfort. To route out this tribulation, I am willing to burn in hell so they don’t burn. Am I selfish? Or is that God’s will? Your writing, your gentle and humble wisdom, they tell me not.

I hold out my trembling hand, and the Spaniard hands back the parchment. My voice quivering, I say in complete surrender, “Come back in the ‘morrow. It shall be done.”

The friar sits down on the table before him, and holds out a fresh quill.

“Now, Dr. Cranmer, or Her Majesty’s offer is not guaranteed.”

I swallow hard, tears welling. O Lord forgive me.  I take the quill in my hand, and though shaking,  dip the quill in ink and seal my fate.

—– fade to black —–

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Given the overwhelming breadth of the magnificent life of Saint Thomas More, many people do not realize that he was an outstanding poet. In memory of Saint Thomas More, his poem, “The Words of Fortune to the People”:
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Lady Fortune and her Wheel. Boccaccio De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

Lady Fortune and her Wheel.
Boccaccio De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

The words of Fortune to the people.
~~ Master Thomas More — 1504 ~~

.Mine high estate, power, and authority
If ye ne know, ensearch and ye shall spy1
That riches, worship, wealth, and dignity
Joy, rest, and peace, and all things finally
That any pleasure or profit may come by
To man his comfort, aid, and sustenance,
Is all at my devise and ordinance.

.Without my favour there is nothing won,
Many a matter have I brought at last
To good conclude that fondly was begun,2
And many a purpose, bounden sure and fast
With wise provision, I have overcast.
Without good hap there may no wit suffice,3
Better ’tis to be fortunate than wise!
.And therefore have there some men been ere this
My deadly foes, and written many a book
To my dispraise.   And other cause there n’is4
But for me list not friendly on them look.5
Thus like the fox they fare, that once forsook
The pleasant grapes, and ‘gan for to defy them
Because he lept and yet could not come by them.6
.But let them write, their labour is in vain;
For well ye wot, mirth, honour, and riches7
Much better is than penury and pain.
The needy wretch that ling’reth in distress
Without my help, is ever comfortless,
A very burden, odious and loath
To all the world, and eke to himself both.8
.But he that by my favour may ascend
To mighty pow’r and excellent degree,
A commonweal to govern and defend,
O! in how bless’d condition standeth he,
Himself in honour and felicity,
And over that, may farther and encrease
A region whole in joyful rest and peace.
.Now in this point there is no more to say,
Each man hath of himself the governance;
Let every wight then follow his own way.9
And he that out of poverty and mischance
List for to live, and will himself enhance
In wealth and riches, come-forth and wait on me;
And he that will be a beggar, let him be.

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Saint Thomas More “Prayer Card” of the Roman Catholic Faith

ThomasMorePrayerCard

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Boston Strong!

April 20, 2015 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Hampton Y Court, Historical Fiction, The Tudor Thomases by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

St. Botolph Church, Boston, Lincolnshire

St. Botolph Church, Boston, Lincolnshire

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Lord in heaven, life be damn good. Dear old Henry Wykes sure did take care of me, first hiring me to manage his lucrative clothing mercantile, then offering me up his pretty and hot-blooded widowed daughter in marriage – all in exchange for bailing his arse out of a tangled and convoluted legal mess. Not a bad trade, I’d say – lots of profit to be made in that arrangement, with the luck of side benefits from a wild and randy bed warmer to boot. With plenty of crowns in my pocket, a new home neighboring Austin Friars, and a pretty little wench filled with child, even my low-born seed donor is impressed. Hey Walter, I met the Pope and bribed His Holiness with sweet meats. What do you think of that? It be too late old man, there be no crowns going to Putney or your sorry shriveled cod piece. Want to wail me now, you drunken bastard?

Tonight be time for a party, and the gentlemen from Boston’s Guild of St. Mary traveled ‘plenty to join me and my good friend James Edwards, and my Bess and his Alice in celebrating our fine success, the guild’s finances now secure in perpetuity with farthings flowing from the pockets of those gullible fools who drop their coin in exchange for a ticket straight to heaven. Hey, what be the problem? Everyone wins in this deal of indulgences. The priests of the Guild Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary get their cut of the bounty, the Boston St. Mary’s Guild theirs, and the fools in line leave with the peace of mind their mothers avoid the wrath of purgatory. Need some more gaudy idols for St. Botolph’s, Your Grace? No worries, you are all set now good man. Boston strong!

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The Guild Chapel of the Virgin Mary. Papal Bulls secured in 1517 by Thomas Cromwell insured indulgences flowed in "perpetuity".

The Guild Chapel of the Virgin Mary, St. Botolph’s Church, Boston. Papal Bulls secured in 1517 by Thomas Cromwell insured indulgences flowed in “perpetuity”, well at least until his Parliamentary interventions during the Henrican Reformation outlawed the practice.

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A tad drunk from all the ale and mead pouring in abundance, a sorry jolly bunch we are. Poor Bess, heavy with my seed, she banters on with our guests and directs the servants. She’ll make a good mother, my pretty little lady will, but she needs to stop chiding me. My God in heaven that woman can preach, correcting my words to the King’s English each time I speak like the Putney cur I am. Bless her on her mission, Lord. God knows I need the lessons. As I pat my bonny wife’s bottom as she passes, good old Henry Wykes gives a corrective glare, his smile wide. “Thomas, you are incorrigible, lad. Do tell us all about your exploits with James Edwards and our friends here from the Boston Guild. Why Bess and Alice say it was quite the adventure.”

Before I can get out a damn word, laughing heartily James blurts to Master Wykes, “Oh my lord, oh my lord… It certainly was, good man. In spite of the God awful journey, we did have fun a’plenty!” James looks over at my Elizabeth, who suddenly is paying apt attention. “Dear Bess, your husband is a wily one, he is. We did get those Bulls signed, thanks be to his cunning ways. Thomas, please… do tell, man.”

He holds up a goblet and all the Boston Guild mates follow. “To Crom, the Pope’s most beloved confectioner.” All present jovially reply, “To Crom!” James drinks the ale down quick and declares, “Now this be good, I do promise.”

I look around, and everyone stays all quiet, looking at me as I be King Harry himself. “Eh good men, you will not hear this from that God awful new book of More’s or in the writings of Erasmus. In my Utopia, the Pope trades indulgences for indulgences, and he be quite fat.” We all laugh.

My Elizabeth, she gives me the eye and chides merrily, “Thomas… you be going straight to hell speaking of His Holy Father so. Do go on, but respectfully, dear husband.”

I glare over at my wife and mouth her a kiss. “Look around, love. This be all for you and that babe that be baking.” She smiles wide, and waves her finger at me in jest. I take a long swig of ale, and go on. “Well, it went like this. I ventured on to Boston, lovely city that, and met with these fine guild men. The papal bulls for their sale of trips to heaven near expired, much income was soon to falter. So we hatched a good plan, we did. Eh, gentlemen?”

They hold up their goblets. “Hear! Hear!”, one adding, “Crom did… not we, Crom did!… And it be a grand one!”

“A grand one, eh? Grander than the swindling he did to get me out of my legal entanglements?” asks Henry Wykys.

“Hell yes! Hell yes!” the man declares merrily, laughing and spewing his brew.

We laugh mighty, the ale flowing. I pause and look about the room. All eyes, though most bloodshot from the ale and mead, are all on me still. “Listen, we all decides we’ll send me and some of these fine guild members to Rome, seek an audience with His Holy Father, and get the bulls signed that way. So, bold as brass we went our way. Dumb dolts we be. We traveled far at many a crown’s expense to learn His Holy Father holds court like the Holy Roman Emperor himself. There be no audience for the likes of us, as we’d die waiting, many a Lord and Ambassador ahead. Alas! We thought all was for naught.”

“For naught? When with Crom, nothing is for naught. We wasted not a farthing,” James Edwards chimes in.

“Oh be still, James, you dog,” I chide. “Well, like the dolts we be, we wait two long days in line, finally nearly to the front. Then, we be told, in Latin yet, “Sorry, good Englishmen, His Holy Father is going on a hunting trip in the morn. You be out of luck this day and several on hence. Oh, damn it. This was not goin’ well for sure. Then I conjured, let us then go to this hunt of his, wait there where they be no line. So off we went.”

“Crom, you forgot to mention how you bribed one of the Cardinals many a crown for the locale of that hunt!” There he goes again. James will be the death of me.

We all laugh heartily, and I retort, “Well thank you so very much, you scoundrel. My dear wife will be lecturing me plenty now.” She waves her finger at me again, teasingly, me once more forgiven. “Yes, I bribed a Cardinal. I’ll say many a ‘Hail Mary’ later.” I pause and drink more ale as all have a hearty laugh at my expense.

“Thanks be to God, four of these fine guild men sing in the abbey choir, so I offered, do sing for the Pope. Maybe we shall get his attention, and as seeing he be fat, we shall bring this jolly man’s sweet meats along.” I snicker, for every man has his price. “His Holy Father be rich in crowns, so we done bribed him with confections. With him gushing with the Holy Spirit these blessed voices did raise, and with sugary snacks a’plenty, His Holy Father signed off fast on the Boston Guild of St. Mary’s Bulls, just like that, not reading a word.” Now everyone be rolling with hearty laughter and good cheer.

“Dear Thomas, did the Pope bless you? Lay hands on your head and pray for your eternal soul? I pray so, God knows you need it,” Henry Wykys joyfully chides. We all laugh again. Bess, her father be a fine man, bless his soul.

I smile wide as the moon and say in all seriousness so dearest old Wkyes knows I speak truth, “Dearest father, yes he done did. The Pope said, in proper Latin, of course, ‘You be no doubting Thomas, dear man. Go in peace and spread to all in England the true religion. And, many indulgences go to you if you name your first born for one of the great Bishops of Rome.”

I look to my wife, and as if on cue, she speaks. “I desired to name the babe Henry after my father and His Grace, but just for you Thomas, I will be first to indulge.” She rubs her belly gently, and says with a wide smile, “Gregory”.

~~~~~~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~~~~~~

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Rest in Peace

 We will never forget. 

collier

LU LINGZI, age 23

MARTIN RICHARD, age 8

KRYSTLE CAMPBELL, age 29

SEAN COLLIER, age 26

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Recantations

March 21, 2015 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), The Tudor Thomases by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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thomas cranmer beard (456x575)

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Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

— Book of John 20:27, King James Bible —

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“I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Over twenty years ago, Sir Thomas More spoke those words for all to hear just before the executioner swung the ax, just before his head rolled from his shoulders onto the straw, just before his self-serving martyrdom. For months beyond a year holed up in The Tower, he stoically embraced his fate, faithfully hung to his God, stubbornly held firm in his convictions, and refused to see the truth, no matter how hard dearest Cromwell, Audley and I tried to convince him, no matter how much his wife and children begged he compromise his self-righteous scruples. In scripture, there is no Pope. There is no purgatory. There are no idols, relics, or indulgences. Mary is the mother of Jesus, not a saint interceding on behalf of all who pray to her. It’s really that simple. What is not written in God’s word is not truth. Why could More not see the obvious? Was he blind? Was he daft? Was he of Satan? And why after 20 years does More’s sorry fate still weigh my conscience down like a stone?

thomas more statue

“More was not satisfied to be Lord Chancellor, Your Grace. His heresy burnings of those of the new religion were not enough to fill his soul. More yearned for a higher calling than service to the realm and His Majesty. He yearned to be a martyred saint. He yearned for pilgrims to travel long journeys to touch his hair shirt and gaze upon his pickled head.”

Dearest Cromwell, I hear him ringing through my mind as if he were sitting in this dank horrid cell right beside me. The Earl always found a way to rationalize quandaries, bless his soul. All we asked, all His Majesty wanted, all that was required to save his very life, was for Sir Thomas More to take the oath, say the words out loud publicly, and do what he wanted in private. More could worship his Latin Mass, give confession, fondle his rosary, collect his idols, venerate his relics, wear his hair shirt, and whip his back to his heart’s content. “Just take the damn oath, and then do what you will,” said Cromwell. “No and I will speak nothing of it,” replied misguided More. Again, again, again, the Earl pleaded for this simple sign of obedience to the King. Again, again, again, the same reply. My God in heaven, the Pope is the Anti-Christ. To this day, I am still dumbfounded. The man was brilliant, scholarly, eloquent. So why was he such a fool?

After hours of mulling over my fate, I look down at the parchment. My couched recantations, written to baffle His Eminence and the Queen without sully to my conscience, baffled them not, so Cardinal Pole took a quill and wrote out a third, and then a fouth, one that clearly says to all in the far more eloquent words of the papal whore, “The last twenty years of my life were heresy. The liturgy of the Church of England is heresy. The lyrical Evensong at Friday service is heresy. The Collects said in worship all through the year are heresy. The Book of Common Prayer is heresy. Holy Communion as a commemoration to the Lord’s Last Supper is heresy. I recant. I recant it all. The Eucharist correctly turns wine to Christ’s blood, turns bread to Christ’s body. The holy church in England and it’s clergy are led by His Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome. Unless you purchase an indulgence, your mother will remain rotting in purgatory. There I said it. Now, you know my truth.”

If I want to live another day, die in my own bed, not burn pitifully as my beloved friends Ridley and Latimer, I must copy this in mine own hand, and sign my name to it. And, no, this is not the same challenge More faced. No, it is not. More was never forced to endure a trial for treason, found guilty, and yet a second trial for heresy, found guilty again. More did not have to debate at Oxford, over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month with multitudes of religious scholars wearing him down, chiding his every word. More did not have to watch his friends burn at the stake, poor Ridley lingering for hours due to a poor man’s misguided attempt to help. More did not have the entire Church of England and it’s future laying squarely on his shoulders. No, it is not the same challenge More faced. No, it is not. If I say it enough, I might believe it.

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein

I confess Sir Thomas More’s writings so authored while imprisoned give me strength. A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is just brilliant in all truth. Though they believed pushing More down my throat would wear me down, instead his writings give me hope, nourish my soul. As More so correctly alludes through his story telling, persecution for one’s faith is a hazardous quandary indeed, because it brings upon us at the same time both the lure and comfort resulting from recantation, and the dread of torture and a painful death if we remain steadfast and true. I look at the parchment yet again. No, I will not copy it in mine own hand. No, I will not sign it. More concedes, and I agree, that it is not acceptable to escape persecution by compromising some of God’s truths, while keeping true to the rest. His err laid in not knowing what God’s truths truly are, by placing his faith and belief as defined by a papal authority instead of God’s word in scripture. I look to the flickering candle, the only light in this stench laid cell, and hold the parchment near. I will burn this parchment, and then I will burn. God, give me strength.

As I lean the parchment towards the flame, I am started upright by the slamming of the cell door and that damned Spaniard friar, Juan de Valligarcia bellowing at me yet again. “The recantation, is it ready Dr. Cranmer?!”

I look to the man wearily and hold out the parchment. He snatches it from me. “No, I refuse to write it.”

This friar, I swear he is paid handsomely just to torment my soul. He saunters to the front of me and glares me down. He is evil incarnate, I do swear. “I have word from Her Majesty. She desires I give you a message and one last chance to comply. Do you wish to hear it?”

I remain silent, mulling over how best to respond. As the man drums his fingers impatiently on the table, I finally ask, “Am I commanded to hear it? If not, I choose you leave with her words unsaid.”

“Yes, you are so commanded,” the man barks.

I say flatly, “Carry on then.”

“As you so professed these many years, a monarch is supreme and heads the clergy is this realm. His Majesty King Henry chose to delegate to you and the heretic Emissary of Satan, Cromwell, while Her Majesty chooses to delegate to His Holy Father,” the friar scowls. He then holds out a parchment, it’s wax seal of the Queen made evident for mine benefit.

“Dr. Cranmer, as your monarch I command that you recant in writing as so drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and sign your name in full. I further command that you attend Latin Mass, and recant publicly through a sermon approved in advance by His Eminence. From this day forward, you will attend Mass, celebrate the Eucharist, and worship the Roman Catholic faith with all humility.”

That bastard friar begins pacing to and fro. I say nothing. What be there to add to that?

“Will you abide Her Majesty’s command?”, he finally asks. “If not, I need not remind that you will burn as you so witnessed Latimer and Ridley.”

My gout raging in my legs, I find my courage, steady myself by the table, and stand strong. “No, I will not abide the command. Leave me to rot and be gone.”

Thomas Cranmer Jesus College

“But Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty is supremely your head as you personally define by scripture, eh? Are you not by your own interpretation of God’s Holy Word sinning through your treason?”

The man, he is of the devil and chides me mockingly, finding my greatest weakness yet again. This very issue, this very dilemma, has me confused and conflicted once more. This pitiful servant of the Anti-Christ is right, but in my heart to recant is a larger sin, an unforgivable sin. “I said, NO, I will not abide by the command.” Unsteady of feet, I sit back down.

“Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty in her great benevolence wishes to extend this offer. Queen Mary, Regina remains steadfast in her vision to route this realm of all heresy, and will burn it all wherever it lays. Her Majesty desires to reassure you that should you recant, your illegal Lutheran wife and bastard children will sleep safe. If not, they will burn as the heretics they are before you.”

Did mine heart just stop? Frozen in fear, I look at the Spanish friar, my blood frozen cold, just like that. Satan speaks through him as sure as Christ died for his sins. Mary, Regina — no one could be this evil, no one, especially a woman. de Villagarcia is trying to trick me. He must be. Margarete, my children, they fled to Nuremburg. They must have. Aye, but Satan reached Tyndale. Why not them? My mind, ’tis cloudy, worn thin. I can’t concentrate. Think, Thomas – think. Would she really command my Margarete burned? Thomas and Marge? Would she really kill them before mine very eyes? Or is this man baffling me? Are they safe on the Continent or did Pole’s spies find them?

I gaze just beyond the Spaniard, and dearest Bishops Latimer and Ridley stand before me, burning pitifully, screaming in agony. Yes, the friar speaks truth. The Queen of England, Satan’s mistress, seeks revenge. This is hopeless. Either way I go, I be damned. Broken, yes, after two long years, I am finally broken in shards. I am sorry, Sir Thomas More. For this tribulation, there is no comfort. To route out this tribulation, I am willing to burn in hell so they don’t burn. Am I selfish? Or is that God’s will? Your writing, your gentle and humble wisdom, they tell me not.

I hold out my trembling hand, and the Spaniard hands back the parchment. My voice quivering, I say in complete surrender, “Come back in the ‘morrow. It shall be done.”

The friar sits down on the table before him, and holds out a fresh quill.”Now, Dr. Cranmer, or Her Majesty’s offer is not guaranteed.”

I swallow hard, tears welling. O Lord forgive me.  I take the quill in my hand, and though shaking,  dip the quill in ink and seal my fate.

—– fade to black —–

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The Burning of Cranmer

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JUSTIFIED

*

In the Church of St. Mary’s, I stand close beside her;

She weeps as her our blessed Archbishop speaks his mind;

His recantations coerced, the lies said then are laid bare now;

Her prayers, her love, her pride, her fears, her sorrow multiplied.

Justified. The wise man of common prayers, uncommon. 

*

Confidences kept close, he risked all for the cherished Earl’s beloved;

Promises kept always, he stepped forward, and loved with all;

Gentle and reluctant, he made his way through life committed;

Pious and steadfast, he shared the scripture as his God defined;

Justified. The wise man of common prayers, uncommon.

*

True to his dearest friendships, he pleaded for the King’s mercy;

While the Lords and papists cruelly undermined for the kill.

Godfather to the departed boy King and soon Virgin Regina;

He faithfully mentored us all with his gentle wisdom and mirth;

Justified. The wise man of common prayers, uncommon. 

*

Stunned, the poor woman  follows him, dragged pitifully to the fire;

“to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”, his words, her heart;

For my father, I watch horrified to lay witness as the torches light;

True to his vow, his right hand is thrust to be burned, charred and melting;

Justified. The wise man of common prayers, uncommon. 

*

The stench of his burning flesh churns inside me, death unfolding;

Tears flowing as I place my hand upon her shaking shoulder;

His spirit rises to the heavens, my God’s and his God’s arms awaiting;

While the bloody Queen lays barren, now cursed to hell we made sure;

Justified. The wise man of common prayers, uncommon. 

*

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Composed in English by Thomas Tallis During the Reign of King Edward VI
*
Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
Ecumenical Celebration at Westminster Abbey, 17 September 2010
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As Grapes Are Stomped To Wine… (Tribute to Hilary Mantel and WOLF HALL)

January 16, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Hilary Mantel, Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Historical Fiction, The Tudor Thomases, Tudor Uk Court by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

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Elizabeth Cromwell

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“You may leave now.”

I turn, pulling the covers over me and close my eyes. I hear her rummaging to dress. Ten crowns neatly stacked sit on the bed stand, payment for her time and attention. She takes them, jingles the coins in her hand and replies seductively, “Do come again, Master Cromwell. Your talents lay far more than the Cardinal knows.”

“Just go, damn it.”

As the door slams shuts, my stomach churns. Why do I do this? I have a wife. My beloved Bess is loyal and true, pretty and soft, passionate and doting. Until a fortnight ago, she was my warm and caressing bed partner. Now on the road with James Edwards on route to visit the small monasteries to assess which ones we will close, the last two weeks I was banished to separate bed chambers at Austin Friars, a deserved punishment for straying once again from the mother of my children, the one woman in this world who truly loves me.

I toss and turn in the sheets. Sleep does not come easy, my mind swimming with thoughts of us, memories of our life together – and thoughts of her, her soft long and wavy brown hair, her curves so soft under the covers, her lilting voice, her gentle kiss, her perfect fit to me deep down inside, her reassuring words, and her steadfast devotion to our begotten. It’s no use. I rise from the hard bed, sweat pouring from the summer heat and my guilty conscience. I pour a goblet of wine, and drink it down fast, then another, and then another. The taste bitter, all I want is to dull my mind, dull the feelings, dull the pain. Numb is a good thing for a sinner, for the bastard I have become. No better than the man who spilled my seed and beat my mother until near dead before me, I crushed my wife down deep, beating her over and over again with my indiscretions, my infidelity, and my continual habit of making major life choices for us both with no regard to her happiness, with no regard to her opinions, with no regard to her well-grounded wisdom.

I retrieve a quill, ink and parchment and sit up to a side table, lighting two candles. My eyes are old and the wine settles in deep, so I squint up close and begin…

Dearest Elizabeth,

I beseech you to forgive me. I know I am but a scallywag, a cheat, a scoundrel and a sinner. I deserve you not, but I promise I will try. I promise with God’s help I will reform and treat you as the loving wife you are. I love you dearly, down deep to my soul. Please let me back in, as joined until death was our vow.

Your husband, Thomas

As I blow the ink dry, I feel tears well. Tears? The last time I felt tears, Walter kicked my mum in the stomach. Just a small lad, I cried hard, tears flowing. The bastard lifted me up, threw me into a wall, and bellowed, “Tears are for cowards. Cry no more or I will beat you into the ground — as grapes are stomped to wine.” I cried no more, ever.

As I rub my eyes and pull in quickly my composure, a loud knock hits the door and startles me upright, and then again.“Who ventures to my chamber so late? Do Tell.”

“Master Thomas, it is Ralph. I be here with Master James. Please do let us in.”

Ralph Sadlier? Oh My God, something is dead wrong for him to ride from Austin Friars. I rise, unlatch the door and let them in. James is as white as a spook, and Ralph flushed red. “Ralph, what is wrong that has you venture all the way to me? Are the girls alright? Gregory?”

“Sit down, Thomas. Please,” says James, as gentle as a pastor tends the bereft.

Enough of this. “Just tell me. Tell me, damn it.”

“Thomas, Ralph will tell you all just as soon as you sit down. Now please do sit, dear friend,” says James with a calm authority. Since when does he command me?

A little drunk, my mind swimming with dreaded possibilities, I do as told and sit. “Ralph, I beseech you tell me know why you came.”

My God, Ralph kneels before me, placing his hand on my knee. He breathes deep in, shoring himself for Go knows what. With this, I do same. Only the known be more torment than the unknown. “Master Thomas, the Mistress Elizabeth… she is… she is… gone.”

I look over at James. We tell each other all. He knows Elizabeth and I are estranged and why. “Ralph, where ever did she go? I beseech that you and Richard go find her. Do not tarry!” I pull the letter I left on the side table, now folded and wax sealed. “Give my Bess this letter, and plead she return to Austin Friars. Go now.”

“Thomas… Thomas, listen to him. Please man,” James pleads. He looks over to Ralph, nodding “Tell him all, and be clear about it this time, Ralph,” he says in a hushed tone.

“I am so sorry… so sorry, Master Thomas. Your wife… Mistress Elizabeth… on Wednesday morning, she rose sick with the sweat. By noon, she cried out for you, and then God cried out for her.” He begins tearing now, overcome. “She died quickly, Master Thomas.”

In shock, I find no words. I sit like a simpleton, mute, numb, stunned like a deer shot by arrow unawares. I feel my throat close tight as I push out the words I must. God help me. “Do the children know? Has anyone sent word to Cambridge for Gregory?”

“No Master Thomas, we await your wishes.”

I start wringing my hands to stop them from shaking. “I wish to ride home at first light. I wish to tell this horror to Grace and Anne myself.” God, how do I find the words to tell these two babes their mother is dead? “I wish Gregory be sent home forthwith with no mention as why.” My eyes burn as I hold the tears back once more, “And I wish I was with her, beside her, holding her, taken instead of her. I wish many things.”

“Thomas, I am sure Alice is with the girls and has told them nothing. You know my beloved wife. She will keep the girls diverted until you arrive. Do try and get some sleep, my friend. I will ready the horses and wake you before the birds call, and we will go home – together,” James says reassuringly. He be my best friend, my only friend in truth.

James looks over to Ralph, now standing, hands trembling and beside himself. “Ralph, please get word to His Eminence.” Ralph nods. He then walks over to me and places his hands on my shoulders as an attempt to comfort. Wanting nothing of it, I shakes them off.

“Do you wish for James or me to stay with you this night, Master Thomas?”

Dear Ralph, he really is more a son than ward. “No… no, thank you. I desire to be left alone. Go now, I beseech you.”

Both men look back at me, now both ashen gray. They bow respectfully, Ralph crossing himself for good measure. Quietly, they retreat. Alone with my thoughts, I stare at the letter I wrote to my Bess. God is punishing me. I richly deserve it. I will never see my beloved wife again. She resides in heaven, and I will travel straight to hell. The scriptures do prove there is no purgatory, no chance at redemption, no paid miracles Gregory or the girls can bequeath in my name to save my soul.

I set the letter ablaze with the candle light and stare as it burns before me. In the flame I see her. My Elizabeth stands in her wedding dress… in her child bed holding our first born Gregory, smiling with pride… in her Sunday best at services, kneeling in prayer… in her joyful glory, bending down to hug our daughters, both tugging at her feet… in my arms, sleeping gently against my chest after coming together, two as one.

The flickering flame, the stench of the burning parchment, kicks me hard in the stomach, harder than the old drunken bastard in a rage. Walter dead, and with no one to see it, I cry freely, raking sobs for Bess and for all not healed before, beat to the ground — as grapes are stomped to wine.

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WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 22, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS on April 5, 2015 in the United States.

WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 21, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS beginning April 5, 2015 in the United States.

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WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles will premiers on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.

WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles both premier on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.

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AUTHOR HIGHLIGHT

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is a highly acclaimed, award winning English historical fiction writer of novels and short stories. A two time Man Booker Prize Award honored author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, both novels featuring Thomas Cromwell as main character, Hilary Mantel is currently composing the final novel of her Tudor Era trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. 

Considered by many to be the world’s finest historical fiction author writing in the English language, Hilary Mantel’s first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985. Since then, Mantel’s exhaustive body of work includes a variety of stellar novels and short story compilations. Her commitment to and interest in composing compelling short stories greatly enhanced the genre’s popularity with readers and continued publishing viability.

Awards and prizes bestowed upon Hilary Mantel for extraordinary accomplishment in literature include the following: Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize 1987, Southern Arts Literature Prize 1990, The Cheltenham Prize 1990, Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize 1990, Sunday Express Book of the Year 1992, Hawthornden Prize 1996, CBE 2006, Yorkshire Post Book Award (Book of the Year) 2006, Costa Novel Award 2009, Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009, National Book Critics’ Circle Award (US) 2009, James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) 2010, Walter Scott Prize 2010, and Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2012.

A portrait of Hilary Mantel, the creativity of Nick Lord, is on display at the British Library. She is the only living author to be bestowed such honor.

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Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

TO PURCHASE A BOOK AUTHORED BY HILARY MANTEL

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BOOKS BY HILARY MANTEL ON AMAZON.COM

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To Make or Mar, a Gentleman or Damned to Hell

November 29, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Historical Fiction by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

Wayneflete Tower was built in about 1470 by William Wayneflete, Bishop of Winchester and Lord High Chancellor of England on the site of an 11th century manor house. The Tower is all that remains of it today, on the banks of the River Mole in Surrey. It was the gatehouse to his grand palace, Esher Place, where Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was kept under house arrest in 1529.

Wayneflete Tower was built in about 1470 by William Wayneflete, Bishop of Winchester and Lord High Chancellor of England on the site of an 11th century manor house. The Tower is all that remains of it today, on the banks of the River Mole in Surrey. It was the gatehouse to his grand palace, Esher Place, where in 1529, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey was kept under house arrest before being moved to his holy see at York.

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“And thus much I will say to you, that I intend, God willing, this afternoon, when my lord hath dined, to ride to London, and so to the court, where I will either make or mar or I come again.”

— Thomas Cromwell, as quoted by George Cavendish in his biography, The Life and Death of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey —

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November 1, 1529

Rain, does it ever not? The wind whipping, the rain pelts upon the window glass here in Esher’s Great Chamber on this day set aside for all saints. Though morning, it is dark, the clouds closing in, suffocating me as sure as the pillows undone the poor princes in the Tower. God speaks volumes, and He bellows his displeasure at me as sure as that bastard village drunk. For every sin done, and every sin wished done, and every sin yet done, He now punishes me, laughing. Last summer, my good dear wife, the woman who taught me how to be a gentleman, woke up one morning with a chill, and by noon she was dead with sweat. Three months past, she came for our daughters. Why Elizabeth? Anne was learning her Latin verse, and Grace her rhymes. I was away at Oxford at Thomas Cardinal Wolsey’s bidding yet again, yet another monastery closed for good measure, riches deferred to educate the sons of this realm. Could I not at least be with them? Did they have to die in the arms of servants, Elizabeth? Answer me woman.

I rest my head against the window pane, the cool damp mist seeping through my sorrowful soul. A year ago, I was the happiest man in Christendom. Now all I’ve strove for, worked for, fought for, slaved for, connived for, bargained for, bartered for, loved for — a family, a reputation, a comfortable home, wealth and an assured future for my son, companionship in my grey years — it’s gone, first my wife, then my daughters, and now my means of living, laid in waste at the whim of King Henry’s cod piece, the man intent on having the Boleyn girl, not his pretty discarded mistress, but the dark one.

I look down at the primer I’m gently holding, gifted from His Grace to my Grace upon her birth, and open to a random parchment. Hmmm… if I pray Our Lady Mattens right here and right now, will she come to me? Tears welling in a weak moment, I begin… mumbling along the versicles, the venite, all the psalms and lessons, like a good Catholic should in times like these.

“Hail Queen mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, our hope. Unto thee do we cry and sigh, weeping and wailing. Come of therefore our Patroness, cast upon us thy pitiful eyes, and after this our banishment shown to us the blessed fruit of thy womb. Oh Gate of glory be for as a reconciliation onto the father and the son. From the wretched their faults expel: wipe the spots of sins unclean. ”

No grace. Damn it all, there is no grace. Where is my Grace? Her mother must be holding on tightly, as she will not come. Grace never does.

“Why Master Cromwell?”

My God, I startle upright, dropping the primer on the floor. How long has he been standing there? Cavendish, he is a slippery sort, I do swear — always coming up upon me unawares. If ever a man be a spy, with desires to know all Wolsey does, all Wolsey says, all the Wolsey thinks, Cavendish is him. My dear clerk Ralph says he keeps a journal, writes down God knows what about God knows who. I trust him not. In these times, I trust not a soul — even my mother, if she still walked among us.

“What means all this, your sorrow?”

I turn towards Cavendish. God knows I must be a sight. I glare him down for good measure. How dare he interrupt my sanctity?

“Is my lord in danger, for whom you lament this? Or is it for any loss you have sustained by any misadventure?”

Downcast still, I think my answer best be good. God knows my words may end in that blasted journal of his, bound among the parchments through time eternal. His Eminence — the great Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, yes his plight is bleak. Stripped of his garter and chains of status, all his worldly goods, thrice counted and inventoried by me to be sure, the great Cardinal whom I did think one day would be Pope, turned in the great seal, now in the hands of heretic chasing More. I decide to answer frankly, nothing else to lose but my character, which already suffers much. My family pains I’ll leave unsaid. All already know, and it be no more than most men, save the celibate. “No, no, it is my unhappy adventure. I am likely to lose all that I have travailed for all these days of my life, for doing of my master, true and diligent services.”

Cavendish is the most loyal and trusted servant of my blessed Cardinal, not I, truth be told. He looks at me kindly, and my walls fall if but a smidget, no more.

“Why Sir? I trust you to be wise, to commit anything by my lord’s commandment, otherwise than you ought to do of right, whereof you have cause to doubt of loss of your goods.” 

I answer honestly. My situation bleak, I speak the obvious. “Well, well, I cannot tell; but all things I see before mine eyes is as it is taken; and this I understand right well, that I am in disdain with most men for my master’s sake; and surely without just cause. Howbeit, an ill name once gotten will not lightly be put away. ”

Aye, an ill name once gotten will not be lightly put away. Christ laments my soul to the fire, thrice burnt.

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Coat of Arms of Thomas Wolsey (left) and Coat of Arms of Thomas Cromwell (right). Note the revered homage Cromwell pays to Wolsey at his installation as knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Coat of Arms of Thomas Wolsey (left) and Coat of Arms of Thomas Cromwell (right). Note the revered homage Cromwell pays to Wolsey at his installation as Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

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To make or mar, a gentleman or damned to hell; yes, to make or mar I am — and I told that Cavendish right square. This afternoon, after the Cardinal’s last dinner with those few here still close, left with naught but his gratitude, I am riding out to Court. I lost plumb all so far as I can see, so no harm done. Stephen Vaughan, my good friend doing my bidding in Antwerp, will think me daft, but you can’t win lest you place the bet. Yes, heading to Austin Friars to barrister for land greedy folk would be my safest lot, but I told dear Ralph Sadleir, find me a seat in Parliament. Do what you can, man. Call in all favors, forgive loans if need be. With a seat, I can sweeten my fate at will, trade a vote here and there for favor, lay the King’s agenda to law if he behests — but I will cleave to no man, no faction. No longer will my fate be hinged in the back of another, for if the great Cardinal fell to the depths, so can Norfolk, Suffolk, Gardiner, More and the high rising Wiltshire, riding on the bosom, flat though it be, of his daughter, the Lady Anne Boleyn. The King, he is a fickle one — but His Eminence, my beloved Cardinal, he taught me well indeed, both what to do and say and when and how, and God save him, what not. I’ll rest my wagers with me, and me alone. God help me.

As I piss the day away preparing for the journey to a future untold, Cardinal Wolsey fell to his knees through two long masses, gave his confession that must laid bare half the morning plus I am sure, and then led yet his own mass for his yeoman and gentlemen servants. Heavens man, don’t these clerics have anything better to do but raise the host on and on and yet on once again? Won’t just one mass do? Is God deaf? Daft? The village idiot? All these priests, so devout and humble so they profess, their vestments are done filled high with hearty indulgences. They will soon leave him for the likes of Gardiner. So why the pretense? Make it so, and just damn go.

Fumbling through my papers, a dear servant calls to me. “Master Cromwell, do come to dinner. His Eminence, well he needs you. He dines in his privy chamber.”

I gently nod at the man. That poor snog has not a farthing, no payment coming for his service done well. “Must I go?” I ask teasingly.

“Aye, best you do, good man. There be no escape for you,” he says knowingly with a broad smile.

I rise from my desk in surrender to attending the inevitable meal of penance. Before heading off, I offer mine thoughts, as that be all we have between us. “God be with you, James. May His Eminence, our beloved Cardinal, find you safe haven.”

He nods. “And to you and yours, Master Cromwell.”

“If God be good to us James, we shall meet again at Sunday morn’ Mass and not in line at Archdeacon Gardiner’s for a dole, eh?”

“Aye, if I be you Master Cromwell, I would stay clear of the Archdeacon’s doles. Me thinks the King’s Secretary likes you not.”

I laugh. “So you think the Archdeacon would poison me then, good man?”

“Aye… I do, aye yes,” he says with the smirk of the devil.

I will miss dear James. I will miss them all. Resigned to my fate, I brush the dust off my doublet, bow respectfully and set out on my way to the Cardinal’s last feast. O Lord help me. I be in foul humors.

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Cardinal Wolsey surrendering the Great Seal (1529) From Cavendish's Life of Wolsey Roll 214.5. The Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Cardinal Wolsey surrendering the Great Seal (1529) From Cavendish’s Life and Death of Wolsey Roll 214.5. The Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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Damn, I always hated this dank privy chamber. It smells worse than a piss pot with meats stirred in. God knows why.

The Last Supper — by the intercession of Saint Thomas Beckett’s relic toe nails, let this be the last damn supper I sit with this brooding lot. Holy Christ, I am fidgeting like Gregory at Christmas Mass, picking at the roast boar, likely the last boar this sorry brood will dine in plenty a fortnight. Where did His Eminence get this meal of plenty? Did Norfolk or Suffolk owe him one last favor before damning this great man to a life of embarrassment, depravity and house arrest? Mayhaps dear Ralph will tell me later, a bartered deal I paid for knowing not. And there be poor James again, serving this brood of clergy and gentlemen, his plight now tugging at what’s left of my conscience. Yes, this is no time for staying mute. I’ll speak my mind, and then again if I must.

“Your Eminence, in all conscience, I do beseech that you do repay your humble servants, both yeoman and gentlemen, for their truth and loyal service done to you, never forsaking you, even in these times of trial and tribulation.”

There, I have his attention. Though an annoyed glare, I’ll take it still. I venture on. What the hell? What can he do? Release me once more from my living? Mayhaps, but I am the last friend he has.

I take a deep breathe, as if I don’t speak truth, who will? Certainly not these chaplains present. “I do so beseech that your Eminence call these men all before you, let them know you rightly appreciate their patience, truth and faith to you. Give these yeoman and gentlemen, who stayed the course these dismal days, your heartiest commendation, and reassure them still that they will continue to serve your good until God calls you.”

The silence is deafening, all around the dining table waiting on his word, what response the Cardinal will give me. One of the priests looks to me and snickers. Oh, I will not forget that. Oh no, I will not. He best pray I mar, the pig. When His Eminence finally speaks, we all bolt upright, like from the first bolt of thunder in an unexpected storm.

“Thomas, you know my finances, my budget, best said lack thereof! Alas, I have nothing to give them. Words with no tender be hollow indeed.”

The defeated Thomas Cardinal Wolsey grows silent once more, seeking words that don’t come easy. His face grows sullen, poor man. I do think he is close to tears. With this, the clergymen surrounding me look chastising, like I am Satan himself, placing His Eminence in this predicament for my own jolly. For those who have much, they see no need of it. Pity these fools who professed to a life of poverty. Their coffers overflow, so they know no pain of the common man. They need to stymie themselves right now.

“Thomas, I am ashamed but to say I must no longer accept their faithful service to me. As much as they do honor me through their humble diligence now as in my glory, and I have cause to rejoice their truth and honor born on to me all these many years, I have nothing to give them. Nothing, Thomas… nothing at all. I want again to at very least give substance among them so they may leave, hence to return when His Majesty calms thus and restores me. I have not even that, man. You know this well enough, so why taunt me?”

A tad ashamed, but not much, I nod knowingly. I inventoried all his worldly goods, every piece of silver, every goblet, every rich vestment, every tapestry, every coin. I transferred them all, every last knife, every last lacework, to the Crown myself. The Cardinal was left with nothing. Again, the clergymen glare me down, like a heretic holding Lutheran tracts instead of the rosary. They fright me not. I rise, gesture towards them sitting around the table, and speak to His Eminence — and through him to them.  I pound my fist on the table with grand effect, jolting those seated to attention.

“Your Eminence, look to these men around this table! Aren’t they right among us your chaplains? Are these not holy men sworn to poverty that you treated with great liberty? By your preference are not some of these pious men dispensed 1000 marks each year, some even more, some a little less? None of these men chaplain here to you; yet they have all, and your servants nothing! And now in your time of need, they impart not a farthing to you in gratitude for all their riches and liberties. I do swear some day, each and all these chaplains will be viewed with indignation for their ingratitude to their master and lord, for their limitless indulgences and fortune, so help me God!”

The Cardinal holds up his hand in command that I quiet. Respectfully, I do. I’ve said enough. Mayhaps, I said too much. Humbly he speaks, more to me a father than my father. “Calm Thomas, calm down, good man. Though I have no crowns, no pounds, not a farthing, do bring my servants to the great hall. I can at least give them my hearty commendation as you suggest.”

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George Cavendish, servant of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, wrote the first biography written in the English language, the most important single contemporary source for Wolsey's life. he provides invaluable glimpses of Thomas Cromwell, as well.

George Cavendish, servant of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, wrote one of the first biographies written in the English language, the most important single contemporary source of Wolsey’s life. Cavendish provides invaluable glimpses of Thomas Cromwell, as well.

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George Cavendish, faithful to the end, he will stay with our lord and master to his death I am sure. As helpful as any a man can be on this most dreadful of All Saints Days, he scurries to collect all the servants of His Eminence, yeomen and gentleman alike. Under his watch, down one row of Esher’s Great Hall lines up the yeoman, cooks and cattlemen, chimney sweeps and ostlers, farmers and soldier guards. Along the row on the opposing side, lines the Cardinal’s honorable gentleman servants. The sight brings a smile to my face, many of these men showing me every gracious welcome through the years.

I walk up to Cavendish, and in all sincerity say, “You are most faithful and diligent of all, good man. Do watch guard for His Eminence, and I shall do same.” We nod to each other knowingly. Yes, we shall — always, to his death, the commitment given graciously and willingly to the greatest man in Christendom, our mentor, my friend.

As the room lay silent as a congregation of the dead, the great Thomas Cardinal Wolsey enters, followed by his chaplains, shamed into accompanying I am sure. Wearing modest vestments of lace surplice over a bishop’s purple cassock, he looks suddenly old and frail — not the powerful rotund man in crimson velvet who rode a donkey into Court, not the man who lead this nation while a young king played his games of Camelot, and certainly not the man who took a chance on me, the son of Putney’s town drunk. At the sight of him, Cavendish and I sigh deeply as one, both looking to the floor for a short spell, a tactic to compose ourselves quickly. May our strength now be his, as his was ours so long hence. I tug on Cavendish’s sleeve and motion. His Eminence, distressed to uncomfortable silence, turns away from us all, breaking into quiet sobs. I walk across the room and stand beside him. The Cardinal will not do this deed I so beseechingly implored alone. As I grab hold to his arm to steady him, I feel him breath deeply, straight from the gut. Finally, he wipes his tears, and speaks, his voice with a slight quiver.

“As you all know, His Majesty in his greatest of wisdom finds it his pleasure to take all I own into his possession, Master Cromwell here doing my stead to insure His Majesty’s commands were done in all diligence. So, all I own I wear now, certainly not so grand as you all are so accustomed. If my worldly goods be here, please know now I would divide them among you.”

In all graciousness and with kind regard, all the yeomen and gentlemen nod, acknowledging his words as if gospel. Though beaten to near death and standing no richer than a pauper, the Cardinal commands devotion still from all of us who know him.

“Fret not, good men. I doubt but His Majesty, in all his loving benevolence, knowing that the offenses so brought by mine enemies have no truth, will shortly restore me. And when this good day comes, I will be able then to divide among you deserved wages, the surpluses  of my wealth divided equally one and all. Until then, do take leave to your families, with my blessing and return in three months hence, by then my riches restored.”

All in the Great Hall now fall silent. These men, they have no means to go anywhere, do anything. They lack the resources to live yet a day without the Cardinal’s favor, though none he now has. This just won’t do, not at all. I release His Eminence’s arm, and speak frankly, again gesturing at the chaplains present.

“Your Eminence, I am certain your yeomen would feel blessed to see their families, as they so now do just once per year if best, but they have no money. But look a yonder. Here they are, your chaplains, great men with great benefices. Oh yes, in their high dignities, let them show themselves, as they are bound to do by their solemn vow of poverty. Their charity abounding, I am certain they can assist in this cause.”

I look to the clergymen, a wide grin on my face. Dig deep, you dirty dogs, dig deep. I look back at the great Cardinal, and he nods to me, a slight grin on his face. Yes, I learned well, dear man. I took careful notes, like Cavendish, but in my mind, not parchment. I layer it on once more to shame the bastards. They will do these men right or look like the fools they are.

“Now Your Eminence, though I have received not a penny towards my yearly living, I will happily donate to these men who have none.”

I dig deep into my purse, pull out five pounds gold and toss it upon the table before us. “There, Your Eminence. Now let us do see what these most benevolent chaplains will do. With all their indulgences and riches bestowed by your loving patronage, I am certain they can and will donate to you a pound for each of my pennies.”

The Cardinal turns from the sight of his chaplains, and rests his hand upon my shoulder. He bends into my ear and whispers, “Remember all I told you, Thomas. Remember it all or you shall perish. These tricks Thomas, this heavy handed tone, will work not at Court. The Dukes, those with royal blood, they will cut you down.”

I nod knowingly, and then point over to the table and smile. The chaplains, they are laying down crowns one and all. “Aye, but not this night.”

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“For Tyndale, Of Course” — Reformation Day Commemoration

October 31, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Tudor Y Writer's Group by Stephen Vaughan

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William Tyndale

William Tyndale

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“You kiss the arse of Luther, the shit-devil… Look, my fingers are smeared…”

~~~ Saint Thomas More ~~~

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In a field just outside Antwerp, Belgium — 1531

(POV: English Merchant and Cromwell agent, Stephen Vaughan)

Heavens, it’s damn cold, and here I be, standing in this field, waiting once again to meet with William Tyndale. King Henry offers safe passage home, and Tyndale, he trusts it not. I can’t say I fault the man. His Majesty can turn on a crown. If that comes to pass, the bastard More will burn him, just as Bishop Stokesley burned his Bible translations upon the steps of St. Paul’s, just as More did almost burn me. I’d be dead, all but for Cromwell. How we both live, just God knows. I pace to and fro to pass the time, thinking in my mind what dear Cromwell did send me, coded but clear. “Get Tyndale to England before he’s routed out. I’ll protect him. You know just how.”

Yes, I know the terms Tyndale laid clear. Either King Henry allows the Bible in English throughout the realm, or he will stay here. He is willing to die for that, but nothing short. I look out to the distance, and finally lay eyes on the man I seek. Who be that with him? Finally John Frith mayhaps? After six months of secret meetings, I’ve come to respect dear Tyndale. He has a gentle grace about him, but he be no fool. Trust has grown between us, and I know his heart — and he mine. Above all, we hold the same beliefs, the same values, the same God. O Lord, for that I thank thee abundantly. There is hope yet, hope that Your divine word will be known to all, stripped of the papal authority’s canon laws and false, self-serving interpretations. Make it so, I pray in Jesus’ name, my Lord and Savior.

I wave at Tyndale from across the field, and he smiles broadly. We rush to each other, the other man close behind. Winded he asks, “Did the king agree? Will he allow a Bible in English, Master Vaughan? Will he?”

Before answering I must be sure who stands among us. I pause and gesture to the stranger. “John Frith, he be my noble servant of God in translation endeavors. I trust him all,” assures dear Tyndale.

I bow respectfully. Both Thomas Cromwell and I know of Frith well. His translations of the great Scottish martyr Patrick Hamilton are now legend, spread across the realm like autumn leaves blowing hither and yon. God knows the risks we took to get them to England. I rest my hand on Tyndale’s shoulder and speak frankly with resignation. “No, His Majesty was livid at the demand. He offers safe haven, but nothing more. Mine master — he dares push him no further.”

I look over to John Frith with the message planned if granted our hoped for audience, “Alas, you are welcome, as well, good man. Master Cromwell offers you safe haven, as he does for Christopher Mont, in his own home. Mont is translating Lutheran writings as we now speak.” He looks back at me guardedly and tips a nod.

“Stephen, His Majesty is into trickery. His legal advisor — your master — Cromwell, though reformist in views as you say, does his bidding. I’d be a fool to go. I’d lay down my life for an English language Bible for our people, but I have no death wish. I am sorry for all your troubles to sway me, your risks taken. Alas, son, I’m not going,” says Tyndale, his mind set like Excalibur. Me, no King Arthur, can move him not.

“Nor I… not yet,” chimes Frith.

Do I speak frankly? I decide it be time. “In truth, Cromwell is not Reformist in views, dear man. He speaks out what he can safely say. The king’s new legal advisor, truth be told, follows Luther. He’s in now so tight with His Majesty, God knows how, even the bastard Lord Chancellor can’t touch him, though he tries at any opportunity.”

“The Lord Chancellor? My God man, More speaks filth. He refers to Luther as a shit-devil and says my mouth is full of dung, the pig,” Tyndale growls pointed.

Nodding his head, Frith adds, “That man may be Lord Chancellor of the realm, but he is of the devil, spewing Satan’s work. There be not shit on his hands, but dead men.”

I try to ease the tension with good humor. “Well, Dr. Tyndale… John Frith…  Master Cromwell shan’t say shit if he had a mouthful, albeit he steps in it from time to time.” We  laugh heartily. God, we did need it. Now I must speak seriously. I pray God he listens. “Dr. Tyndale… and you also John Frith… you swim in dangerous waters. I fear ye both will drown. There be no place safe in Christendom for you, not without protection.”

“We do have protection, Stephen,” reassures Tyndale naively.

William Tyndale needs know their protection is not a secret to all. “Thomas Poyntz, though resourceful he be, can’t keep you safe, good man.” I look over to John Frith, “And I know where you lay thy head too. Need I tell ye?”

Both men look at me stunned like I be Merlin the Wizard. That would be mine dearest friend Cromwell, but let them suppose. “I have no idea of whom you speak, Stephen,” offers Tyndale, his voice a’quiver.

“Aye, but yes you do. And if Master Cromwell knows where you rest your head, who may find you next, good man?” I swallow hard and venture on. Damn Cromwell, the things I do for him. “I grudge you not His Majesty’s offer. It’s backhanded at best, but do hear Master Cromwell’s. Let us smuggle you home, under his protection. It’s your best hope.”

“What? Are you daft, man? Is Cromwell insane? What does he suggest next? That I rest my head at Chelsea among More’s menagerie? My God man, I’m no fool,” chides Tyndale.

“If I go back to England, I will leave mine protection to God. I trust the king’s new man not,” Frith chides.

I state the obvious as it escapes them. “The best place to hide is in a crowd. Who would venture you to be sitting right under King Henry’s nose?” I pause, then plead. “Please, both of you… think, think hard, think now. It really is your best hope, I do swear. We have all planned. It’s arranged, carefully in all detail. Every resource is at your disposal.”

I add, “John Frith, go it alone and More will chase you down as the king does a stag. That not be God’s will I fear.” I pause and make the message clear. “If you go your own way, Dr. Frith, we can do nothing to protect you. Cromwell has the king’s ear, but so does More, the King’s Secretary Winchester and Lord Norfolk. My master swims with serpents. It be at your own peril. Know that now.”

“Cromwell, either he is a liar and a charlatan or he risks far too much. Stephen, I thank you most humbly, but I just can’t do it. I’ll stay here and carry on,” Tyndale says with full conviction.

I sigh, resigned to Dr. Tyndale’s decision, a foolish one, but his to make. “The offer stands, good man. Should you change your mind, send word to me.” I swallow hard, and offer what is only left to give. “Dr. Tyndale, stay where you are, and I will use our resources here in Antwerp, with Master Cromwell’s blessing, to insure that no one finds you, but you must know this. If Judas prays upon you, there is no hope. Choose your confidants wisely, or you shall perish.” I look to this man of God, a man who in truth risks far more than me, and rest my hands upon his arms. “God be with you, Dr. Tyndale.”

I look over to John Firth and advise, though I see he be stubborn in his ways… a man who will throw all caution to the wind, thus will die. There be no need for mystics to predict it. “You are safer here then there alone, good man. I beseech you reconsider the offer before you. We need cautious reformers, not martyrs.”

“If it be God’s will I be a martyr, that be that. I will do what my prayers do lead me.”

Resigned to their wills, I drop to my knees before the great reformer William Tyndale, both of us most willing to risk our lives to bring the word of God to all Englishmen. He gently rests his hands on my head. “May God bless and protect you, Stephen Vaughan, through our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. May He protect us all.”

~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~

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Video Credit: DU Rom (You Tube) 

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ThomasCromwell_SigTS (2)

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Cromwell’s home by Austin Friars Abbey — London 1537

(POV: English Merchant and Cromwell agent, Stephen Vaughan)

Exhausted from my travels from Antwerp, smuggled into England unknown to all but in this room, I am exhilarated. There, on the dining table in Lord Cromwell’s banquet hall at Austin Friars, sits before us all that we toiled for, took huge risks for, smuggled for, spied for, languished for, prayed for, nearly burned at the stake and like the foolish John Frith, martyred for — God’s word, the Holy Bible, in English. With my dearest Tyndale dead despite all of our best efforts to save him, strangled until unconscious, then burned as a heretic by the Spaniards, my dear Lord Cromwell looked to our friend, John Rogers to rush an English language Bible into publication while awaiting Myles Coverdale to complete the translations of the New and Old Testaments of a Great Bible still to come. My God, my prayers are with this brave soul, hopeful his alias “Thomas Matthew” shall keep him safe. A tad drunk from this Frescobaldi Chiati Lord Cromwell pays dearly to import from Italy, the enormity of the moment sinks through the core of me just the same, and I venture, “When do you dare present this to His Majesty?”

My lord Cromwell lays his work worn hand of the common man upon the Bible and gently feels the leather cover, embossed in gold, much of Tyndale’s own words beneath speaking truth. God willing this shall be my lord Cromwell’s crowning achievement, not his damnation. I look to my friend, many a year passed risked together. A smile slowly etches across his face. “Tomorrow, dear man — if I find the gonads. His Majesty sways like a summer rain. Tomorrow, I will be heralded a genius or arrested for heresy, which comes to pass, only time will tell.”

I look over across the table to Archbishop Cranmer and shrug my shoulders. My lord Cromwell, he is a quandary. His Grace smiles back at me knowingly, as when the Lord Privy Seal be jesting, sly or serious, no man can tell. His Grace clears his throat. “A Bible in English — my prayers these many years are finally answered! Don’t fret so, Thomas. His Majesty will be right pleased, my lord, his supremacy laid bare for all to read or hear, direct from God’s Holy Word in our mother tongue. Shall I go with you?”

Shall the Archbishop go with him? Is the man daft? No, as my master told me many a time, the blessed man is naive. Without my lord’s help, our beloved Archbishop would be thrown to the wolves long by now. “No, Your Grace. If His Majesty throws a rage, best at least one of us remain to carry forward, laying in wait for a better time.” Lord Cromwell gestures to God’s blessing laying before us. “Your Grace, for now, your hands are clean of this. Should His Majesty be pleased and command we move forward, I will be counting on you to write a preface of Coverdale’s work. Your words, they are of a poet, more beautiful than those of Sir Thomas Wyatt and Lord Surrey, exquisite in their gracious simplicity.”

Archbishop Cranmer, he swells with pride. Though most think him a humble man, I know better. So does our host. “Of course, my lord. I am truly humbled by your words and kind offer,” he says simply. Lord Cromwell glaces my way with a wink, and I nearly spew my Chianti. Damn, he knows better than to bait me so, the dog.

I raise my goblet in toast. “To Tyndale, may he look on joyously!”

“To Tyndale!” we all exclaim.

My lord Cromwell slams his goblet on the table and rises, looks to me and cocks his head to the side, arms crossed. Damn, I know what comes now, yet another assignment. Is he trying to send me to an early grave? “Stephen, chase the bastard across Christendom if you must, but before you slit his throat from ear to ear, do tell Tyndale’s Judas Harry Phillips the King’s Lord Privy Seal sends his regards.”

I raise my goblet his way, and state the obvious between us. “For Tyndale, of course.”

“By God, Thomas, sit down and be still. Repent now, dear man. I fear your damnation,” chides Archbishop Cranmer.

Lord Cromwell sits down with feigned sheepishness, tipping a nod in deference to our most blessed cleric. Who else but the king gets away with this? No one, I say… no one in this realm would so dare.

“Get ready then, Your Grace. I trust my last confession will wear you thin.”

“You say you were a ruffian as a child, my lord. I dare say you are a ruffian still,” teases the Archbishop. His Grace, his wit quick, waves his finger in jest. I laugh heartily, whilst Lord Cromwell merely snickers. As the merchant Jews of Antwerp say, “Man thinks. God laughs.” These two be an odd pair, and Our Savior enjoys the show.

Gently eased into submission by the Italians and their wine, we all grow silent, staring at the Bible before us, overcome with the enormity of the day, the enormity of what lies ahead. Lord Cromwell’s ink stained fingers begin strumming upon the table. “Kill the bastard, Vaughan! Kill the Judas Harry Phillips, I say. I pay ye well.”

~~~~~ Fade to Black ~~~~~

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Author’s Note: Stephen Vaughan, one of English Tudor History’s lesser known historical figures, was a London merchant. Close friends with Thomas Cromwell since 1520, he was a known Cromwell agent, primarily based in Antwerp, Belgium. Some historians suggest the two worked together to smuggle Lutheran writings into England while Thomas More was Lord Chancellor. To learn more about the remarkable life of Stephen Vaughan visit Wiki Source: Vaughan, Stephen.

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“Historia Richardi Tertii…” Saint Thomas More — 7 February, 1478 to 6 July 1535

July 6, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Tudor Y Writer's Group, Wars of the Roses by Saint Thomas More

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Richard III

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Men use, if they have an evil turn, to write it in marble; and who so doth us a good turn, we write it in dust.

— Saint Thomas More, History of King Richard III 

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Sir Thomas More

Here at Chelsea, I find my refuge. Now resigned from His Grace’s service, I find my peace. This evening I entertain my dear friend, Bishop John Fisher. I need to be near men of like mind, like conscience, and like values. The stench of court is overwhelming, the corruption raised to the very right and left of the King, the devilry all around him, like a thick, dense fog. I raise my goblet in toast and smile. “Fortune changes with character, dear friend. Fortune often changes with character.”

The Bishop nods back with a smile. I pause and reflect a moment. “So what do you think? I wrote that years ago, and yet only my dear Erasmus and now you have laid eyes upon it. My heart bleeds infinitely as although unfinished, it foretells our sorry state.”

Bishop John Fisher

Sir Thomas More, such a learned man, such a wise man, such a Godly man. I fear we will martyr together, along with my dearest Maid of Kent, yet I pray if God’s will, it be done to celebrate His glory, to celebrate our beloved Bishop of Rome, for in this realm Satan curses them both. Here at Chelsea, with this man’s gentle wisdom and his loving family, I feel our Virgin Mary close, so close my heart fills with love for her. I hold up the parchments along with my goblet of ale. “Thomas, Historia Richardi Tertii is magnificent, though damning… and aye, yes, much vision it provides. I trust the words on the parchment were written with divine intervention.”

Sir Thomas More:

I look to the fire, my mind full. Free finally to speak my conscience with a man I trust, I venture, “Your Grace, you are too kind.”

I decide to lighten the mood. God knows we both need it. “Did you hear Cardinal Pole’s latest missive?” The Bishop shakes his head no. “He declares Cromwell the ‘Emissary of Satan’. His Eminence speaks truth.”

We both laugh lightly, and I say in all seriousness as I point to the parchments, “Can you imagine what the King’s Secretary would do with that retelling of the sinfulness of the child killer, the monster King Richard the Third and the corrupt men around him? The man would crucify me, nail me straight to the cross. Cromwell is so full of himself, the man would think this all be an allegory of dear Harry, the sinful Archbishop and him.”

Bishop John Fisher

I snicker and nod in agreement. “Yes, I fear so. Best this be well hidden, good man. Your commentary on the failures of kingship, the corruption inherent in nobles and the clergy to gain advantage, your profession that the people need reign in truth by Parliament, is damning. Power corrupts, and absolute power especially so, I dare say.”

I point to the parchments. “You lay that bare here. ‘The lamb is given to the wolf’.”

I lay the parchments down on my lap and sigh deep. “I will never take the oaths, Thomas. A king supreme over God’s clergy as if God himself? Never. ‘Tis devilry personified.”

Sir Thomas More

I rise and stoke the fire, speaking as I do. “Me either, Your Grace, but it best we comment on our opinions not. Then by law we should be safe, but we will not I do fear. His Majesty and Cromwell make the laws or change the laws to suit their purpose. What be law today be treason tomorrow.”

I turn, look at Bishop Fisher, anxiety suddenly filling me whole. “Cromwell and the Archbishop, they are like King Richard’s secret second council, but spinning their evil web for all to see, His Majesty stuck within it, like an angry wasp. We will be stung, and stung deep, either by their attacks on the Holy Maid of Kent, God keep her — or their insistence all take an oath that the King is now God Himself.”

I take a deep breath, and rest back into my favorite chair, worn thin. “I am ready to martyr if need be, but my family suffers at the thought of it, my Alice wailing at every turn. Only my dear Margaret understands me, Lord God bless her. It is with she I will trust those parchments, no one else. If there ever be a day it is safe to promulgate, my Margaret knows to do so.”

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King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

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Bishop John Fisher

“I will pray for you all, dear friend. I have no family I need so worry, just my conscience.  Though God’s will is clear, you suffer more. May the Virgin Mary protect you all through these days of misery.”

I draw a deep breath and drink some ale, my throat parched. “Thomas do listen. The Archbishop, he knows how close I am with the Holy Maid of Kent, how I revere her and the priests that so take charge of her care, but you have been more cautious in your dealings. I suggest you keep quiet. What Lord God knows, they need not know.”

Sir Thomas More

I smile awkwardly, my full truth known but to me, the Maid and God. “Aye, the Archbishop is a two headed serpent, good man. As he burned the heretic Frith for denying the presence, a sin even obvious to him, so Canterbury will burn our beloved Maid. Anyone who oversteps his arbitrary mark, heretic or God’s messenger, is doomed.”

Bishop John Fisher

I drink some ale and ponder his words of Canterbury. “As I read of Queen Elizabeth on these parchments, may she rest with the angels, I wondered why she did so allow the Cardinal with the care of her sons? Was she too trusting? Did she lack judgment? Was she blinded somehow, leading to a poor twist of fate? A quandary, yes, a quandary.”

I pause, and then continue. “And, was His Eminence King Richard’s unwitting dupe? Or as Archbishop Cranmer is for King Henry, his knowing accomplice?” I sigh. “You leave many questions unanswered, dear friend, but this much of our current plight is clear. The Archbishop’s treatment of our rightful Queen Catherine and the Princess Mary is of Satan. May his heresy be laid bare and burnt out from him.”

I cross myself, and dearest Thomas does likewise. “God make it so.”

Sir Thomas More

I nod and rub my the crucifix around my neck, so long there ’tis worn thin. “Yes, God make it so. Burn the heresy out, I do pray.”

I say pointedly, “The Archbishop, the Lord Chancellor, Wiltshire, and Cromwell — they are fools, more so than the bonny Will Somers. As I wrote to you, ‘If the lion knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him.’ Your Grace, the lion now roars. So long as he keeps the love of the people, Harry will stomp his way across this blessed realm, killing all we know as dear. I blame the heretics for turning him, the pretend queen, the Archbishop and Cromwell most pointedly — a whorish concubine, a chaplain of Luther, and a low born rogue — all Satan’s clergy.”

Bishop John Fisher

“Your speak truth, dear man. Satan’s clergy indeed.”

I attempt to rise, my gout aching to my bones as I do. Thomas rushes to me, guiding me to my feet. I place my hand on his shoulder to steady myself and speak plain.”Thomas, I grow frail. Perhaps the Saints will intercede, God calling me home before the henchman, eh?”

He nods, and rests his head for a moment on my shoulder, as a son to his father. “I do need your help to find my courage. Pray for me, Thomas. I fear I will waver. I wish to die in my bed, truth be told.”

Sir Thomas More

I place my hands on the shoulders of this dear and holy man of God. “May we find the simple and innocent grace of children, the simple and innocent grace of the boy King and the blessed imp Duke — and with all humility, may we move forward, as God’s lesson in conscience, God’s lesson in His ultimate truth.”

—– Fade To Black —–

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This video focusing on the life and martyrdom of Saint Thomas More is part of a video series from Wordonfire.org. Father Robert Barron comments on subjects from modern day culture from a Roman Catholic perspective. For more information and videos visit http://www.wordonfire.org/

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NOTE:  The History of King Richard III, though unfinished, is widely considered to highlight Saint Thomas More’s veiled views of the perils of excessive power and political corruption. More “historical fiction” than “accurate history”, this work greatly influenced the writing of William Shakespeare. To read “Historia Richardi Tertii” click here: http://www.thomasmorestudies.org/docs/Richard.pdf

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St_Thomas_More__card_ (600x488)
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Abundant Blessings, Your Grace

March 20, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), News by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)

Who would have ever thought? All I did was try to run far from the sweat ravaging Cambridge, and with one major coincidence, one simple idea, one philosophical question answered, my life changed forever. What does His Majesty see in me? I am just a simple man, a humble man, a shy man. All I do is point out the obvious to Bishops Foxe and Gardiner over dinner that His Majesty’s marriage to Queen Catherine can be nullified by the ordinary ecclesiastical courts, and you would think I was Desiderius Erasmus himself. One idea, one concept, one simple thought so easily attained, and now I am commanded to devote my life, my knowledge, my research, my every being to securing the Defender of the Faith an annulment from his wife, mayhaps an annulment from the very papacy itself. And King Henry, long may he reign, does not make it easy. First, he sends me off to reside with the Boleyns at Durham Place, then appoints me one of His Royal Chaplains, and after yet ships me off to Rome with Lord Wiltshire to defend my treatise arguing the King’s valid cause, where the matter of the annulment was disputed and ventilated. Yes, I met the Bishop of Rome. Yes, the Roman Catholic Pope named me “Grand Penitentiary of England”, but no, we got no further. Still, His Majesty shows me favor anyway. I am not worthy. Listen, seriously, I am not worthy. Now, God save me I pray, His Majesty appointed me an ambassador. By a cruel twist of fate, the man believes me most appropriate to be ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor himself. I, Thomas Cranmer, largest proponent of His Majesty’s “Great Matter”, am ambassador of England to Queen Catherine’s nephew. I, Thomas Cranmer, the most timid man in Christendom, must face down politely the Holy Roman Emperor, him knowing my views. Is there not a single man in England and Wales besides me who speaks Spanish and Latin? What was His Majesty thinking?

King Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

King Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Well, His Majesty’s appointments in Europe turned out to be a blessing I do admit. Living among the like-minded in Nuremberg, I know in my every being now the evilness of the Roman Catholic Church, it’s pagan roots, the sinfulness of the papal authority. Andreas Osiander, noble reformer, cherished friend, I gained my knowledge from his wisdom, and now I endeavor my life’s work to following the truth of the scriptures. His niece, my beautiful wife, Margarete — yes, that is right, my wife — fills me soul. God blessed us abundantly. No longer shackled by the pagan customs governing imposed celibacy, we married with the support of God’s love within the freedom of her Lutheran community. Though now traveling with the Holy Roman Emperor as he battles the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, I know we shall be together again soon. Yes, once my mission is over, I shall resign His Majesty’s service and worship the Lord, work towards our long awaited reformation, and live with my beloved Margarete and the family we will raise here in Europe. Henry, Eighth of His Name, King of England, Wales and France, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England will have his annulment. Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke will be Queen of England. Through His Majesty’s new Secretary, Thomas Cromwell and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, I will see to it. God, I see your path for me now most vividly, and I thank Thee with all humility.

Tonight, like is usual each Tuesday, I have an audience with the King Charles. Given the stress of the battles he commands, I believe he enjoys the diversion of intelligent discourse. I walk towards his tent and breathe in the cool, crisp evening air, the smoke from nearby camp fires sweetening my senses. As I approach, I realize there is something wrong, and the hair goes up on the back of my neck. The Spanish Lords, they bend a knee — not to him, but to me. Is this his idea of a joke? As long as I live, I will never sort out the Spanish. They baffle me, pagans all of them. Once announced, I enter the royal tent and bend a knee, near caught up in my cape. The Emperor speaks and motions I rise. I join him as commanded at his dining table. The servants pour us wine, and I eye a parchment in his hand with King Henry’s Seal, a letter to me intercepted yet again.

King Charles looks at me, smiling broadly. His snicker unnerves me, but I compose quickly. After much practice, I am getting good at that. “Ambassador, do enjoy the claret… my best, long aged. The grapes date back to King Solomon.” Well this is unusual. The Emperor rarely speaks English, but the wine is quite good, I do admit. I force a laugh as he continues. “I have word from England, a missive here from Enrique himself,” he tells me. So what else is new?

I feign a surprised look. “Su Majestad, I would be most delighted to have word from home, especially from my most benevolent King. Though it is an honor to serve your court, I do pine for England. What say he then?”

King Charles bends over and places his hand gently on my arm. “Well, my friend, I am sorry to say Enrique is in deep grief. It seems your dear Archbishop, the leader of your diocese in Canterbury, passed on to purgatory. May his stay be brief.”

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury

His voice is gentle in tone, but did he just smirk? I swear, King Charles just wiped off a smirk from that ugly face. God forgive my evil thoughts of him. The Emperor thinks me daft, a fool unbeknownst. The man, he is chiding me, teasing me. I am sure of it. I drink down some wine and then some more, my nerves raw. What is he leading to?

“Archbishop Warham died? This is not unexpected, Su Majestad. The poor man was aged and suffered much from gout and lameness. I am certain His Majesty will appoint a worthy replacement, and the Papal Bulls sent to Rome soon.” Gardiner is Archbishop. There will be no living with Cromwell now. O Lord, thanks be to You I will be staying in Europe.

King Charles is snickering, laughing. What is so humorous about the Archbishop’s death? Yes, the man was stubborn, sworn to the papacy, unyielding to His Majesty’s supremacy, but he was still a child of God. The King slaps me on the back hard, but good-naturedly. “Oh, your great king made his choice, my friend. In fact, Enrique lays all bare right here in this missive.”

He laughs heartily now, enjoying himself at my torment. “Enrique commands you return to England immediately. Abundant blessings, Your Grace.”

Your Grace? Oh my God, no. He can’t be serious. Oh my God, no… not me, not NOW. What do I tell my wife? What do I do with her? Hide her in Lambeth’s wine cellars? In stunned disbelief, I offer, “Su Majestad, you must be mistaken. I am merely a Cambridge don, a scholar.”

I fumble on, my words like stones in my mouth. “I’ve yet to lead a church parish, let alone the realm’s congregation.” I pause awkwardly, trying to convince myself with mine words. “Bishop Gardiner is Archbishop now. He must be. All knew it to be coming. Yes, it is he.”

King Charles begins laughing heartily once more, that ugly chin wagging like a duck in flight. My face flushes red. “Here, Your Grace. Do read this, good man.” He then tosses the parchment into mine lap. My hands trembling, I pick up the missive and begin reading.

Thomas,

Warham is dead, and I command you return to England

in all haste. The Papal Bulls are on route to Rome for confirmation,

and upon your arrival to London, you shall be consecrated

Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Henry Rex

Oh my God, this is a blasted nightmare straight from Satan. No, not me. Lord, I just married, a Lutheran yet. If the heretic hungry Thomas More finds out, I will be burnt at the stake like the smugglers of dearest Tyndale’s scriptures. What a blasted mess this be.

I look up to the Holy Roman Emperor. In all sincerity, I say meekly,  “Su Majestad, God knows my heart. This is not His doing. Pray for me.”

~~~~~~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~~~~~~

The Lord’s Prayer, with King Henry VIII’s Doxology

God’s Kingdom Awaits (King Henry VIII, June 28,1491 to January 28,1547)

January 28, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Tudor Y Writer's Group by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

King Henry VIII (June 29, 1491 to January 28, 1547)

King Henry VIII (June 29, 1491 to January 28, 1547)

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It is time for the Lord to act; they have frustrated Your law.  ~~~ Psalm 119:126

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26 January 1547

“Denny broke the news to His Majesty today, Your Grace. The King’s suffering nears its end. We feared to wait for you, for even traveling from Lambeth may lead to His Majesty passing from this world unknowing, unable to make peace with his God.”

I look to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, his words said with gentle softness, and nod. Sir William Paget rests his hand on my shoulder as I speak. “Sir Anthony is a blessing to His Majesty, his task noble. O Lord do strengthen him in these dark days, I pray.”

Sir Anthony Denny

Sir Anthony Denny

Sir Anthony Denny, how can ever we thank his noble service? The loving care he provides His Majesty is saintly, though an evangelical he is in truth. Master of the Stool to a dying monarch, though an honored title, is thankless indeed, no earthly reward sufficient. This man’s services to the realm are as taxing as any warrior, as any a ghastly vocation in all Christendom. Not many would abide it if the truth was known. Who could blame? His Majesty’s wounds ooze pitifully I am told, the stench bending to spew many a man. Though riches and property are Denny’s earthly rewards, God will reward him further still. Yes, we are justified by the Lord by our faith alone, but there must be God’s cherished love for the likes of this. After a quiet moment of reflection for His Majesty’s  trusted servant, I startle slightly, Sir William Paget, my closest layman ally since dearest Cromwell, my Earl of Essex died, breaking the blaring silence.

“Your Grace, my Lord of Hertford and I know you pain more than any man. We see it plain. You look exhausted from prayer, obviously not taking time for nourishment or to direct your privy servant to shave your growing stubble. Even thus, we must speak plain and plan for dear Prince Edward’s ascendancy to kingship.”

His Majesty no longer able to chide me, I shall never shave again — a clean face the vestments of clergy governed by the Antichrist. Do I admit my stubble is of my choice? No, let the tongues wag later. I look up and swallow hard. “Though the task heartbreaking, yes we must. Do carry on, good man.”

My Lord of Hereford readies to speak, and I rise my hand to halt him. I desire first to hear from dearest Paget, a man with no blood between my beloved Godson and the crown. He begins to falter, stumbling on his words. “Master Secretary, speak what you must. You are among the trusted few you can.”

“Your Grace, the Council His Majesty has commanded… It is doomed to failure I fear. We must find a way around it.”

The poor man seems relieved to finally speak his peace. I’ll allay him further. “Yes, you state the obvious, dear man. Per His Majesty’s expressed commands, no man must ever resign the council, no man ever relieved of duty, no matter the travesty. This shall lead to chaos I fear, one man against another, turmoil and manipulations rather than good judgement ruling this very realm.”

I look to both men who are nodding in agreement. I venture on. “Here is our chance gentlemen, our chance we long awaited to rid this realm of idols, relics, the very Eucharist itself. This must not be delayed by the indecisiveness that ruling by council would bring. Souls are in the balance.”

Both men are stunned cold, Paget’s mouth hung open wide. My trusted secretary Ralph Morice instead smiles knowingly.

“Hear! Hear! You changed your stance on the Eucharist, Your Grace? Since when did you reach this revelation?” asks my Lord of Hertford.

I am determined these men finally know my mind, but the particulars need not be so clear. Bishop Ridley, my beloved personal chaplain and I decided finally upon it. That be that. “Dearest Cromwell, may he rest with the peace of what is to come, did teach me, and these be his very words. ‘There be no need for reformist martyrs, Your Grace. Wait for the opportunity, then seize it. Until then, keep your thoughts and ambitions close.’ He spoke truth, because here I still stand despite the great efforts of myne enemies, now much to accomplish for God’s glory, for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Sir William Paget

Sir William Paget

Both men smile broadly, my words most welcome indeed. My Lord of Hertford tries to speak once more. I again raise my hand to stifle him, then placing my finger before my lips to make my point. “Master Secretary what are your recommendations then?”

“Despite His Majesty’s expressed commands, this realm must have a Lord Protector. I know his mind. The king fears the power of one man may undermine the ascendancy of a child, lest we forget the poor sons of King Edward, fourth of that name.”

Both Hertford and I nod in agreement, as he speaks truth. I motion Paget continue.

“His Majesty is wise to think such, but I see no other way. The boy is but nine years old. Governance cannot be frozen nine long years by the inevitable debates and posturing of several men who lack like mind while we wait for Prince Edward to mature from child to king. I urge the realm be ruled by a Lord Protector, with a supporting Privy Council, the very men His Majesty trusts as he made known.”

Before Herford can speak, I cut him off. The idea put forth must not be viewed as his, as to do so may later unravel his very credibility. Does Hertford not know why I stifled him thus far? “His Majesty is wise, but I do agree with you, dear man.”

I look to Hertford once more and inquire with all earnestness. “My Lord of Hertford, of all the men in this realm, you are most suited to be Lord Protector. You share the very blood of our beloved Prince soon king. You adhere to the true religion, and you are wise of governance.”

He smiles broadly, but I am not done. “Before I thrust my wholehearted support, do tell me what your goals as Lord Protector would be?”

He squirms just a little, good. I am Archbishop of Canterbury, duty bound to His Majesty still. If I sway from the king’s intentions once God takes him home, I must be sure all be in the best interests of Prince Edward, who I then owe my full allegiance and submission, as is God’s Holy Word in the Book of Solomon.

“Your Grace, myne foremost goal and obligation is to raise Prince Edward to be our Empire’s first great Protestant King, of course. You may select his religious scholars, while I will attend to his worldly education. He is a bright child, with much potential to be the grandest king in all Europe, in all the world. I desire most to bring England to the true religion, while also growing our wealth and knowledge among the people. We must also prepare for any wars upon our shores. Alas, I believe we owe to the poorest in the realm, the wretched souls. They suffer much.”

Ah, the man speaks true, though I knew he would. “And what would you need from me and the clergy, my Lord?”

“The liturgy for the Church of England, stated common in all religious houses throughout this glorious realm, ever church, every abbey, all clergy sermonizing same. O Lord make it so.”, says Lord Hereford with all conviction.

Paget and I smile broadly. Dearest Cromwell held great hope for this young man, not without just cause I do see. I ask my dearest secretary, Ralph Morice, whose gracious silence holds my utmost trust, to pour us all some wine. With His Majesty on his death bed, this be no time for toasts. I merely sip upon the claret, and speak most humbly. “You have my support, dear man. My Lord, all you ask I will do most diligently. God is my witness.”

Hertford leans over, placing his hand gently upon my arm. “And what then do you need from me, Your Grace? If the council agrees, and I become Lord Protector of this realm as you suggest, what may I do to ease your way as head of the clergy?” he asks in devout sincerity.

I pause. This must not go unsaid. My promise is my solemn oath, our vows God’s truth. I try and speak casually, as if what I state next is as mundane as discussing abbey finance. I breathe in deep, blow the breath out and begin. “I do confess I already wrote to my wife Margarete in Nuremburg and stated my desire she prepare to come home to me, along with my daughter. Both I pine pitifully for since the Six Articles became His Majesty’s truth.”

I stunned Hertford and Paget again, catching both completely off their guard. Hertford’s eyes grow wide, while Paget nervously smiles. What skips through their minds is known but to them and God. I sigh, and dear Ralph Morice motions I be out with it. “All I ask for me and for the clergy of this realm is that my family finally be allowed to live our lives openly, as example to the world of God’s scriptural truth, and as the greatest desire of myne  heart.”

Ralph Morice smiles approvingly. My confidences he holds close, bless his soul. My Lord of Hertford shakes his head disbelievingly and clears his throat as we all await a response to my simple request of basic dignity.

“Of course, Your Grace. Celibacy is of pagan thought, not God’s. It has no place in England’s clergy. We shall build a truly evangelical realm, together.”

The weight lifts off my shoulders, carried these many years. “Thank you, my Lord,” I say with the sincerity of a small child who trusts all and knows no evil.

Hertford rubs his fingers through his beard and adds, “I had no idea Your Grace, none. You kept your secret close indeed. My spies had no word of it.”

Both Ralph Morice and I then smile broadly, releasing the tension thick in the midst of us. I motion to Morice. “Besides my trusted secretary, only dearest Cromwell knew, and he took the secret of my wife and daughter with him to the scaffold.”

I offer with a nervous laugh in all good humor and chide, “The Lord Privy Seal’s spies be much better than yours, my Lord.”

Sir Edward Seymour, then Earl of Hertford

Sir Edward Seymour, then Earl of Hertford

The King’s Secretary, always astute and thorough, chimes in to break the moment of my humble confessions. Mayhaps he desires the subject closed, awkward that it be. Paget, yes he is wise. Let’s do move on, O Lord I pray.

“Your Grace…. My Lord, we must not forget the dog in the Tower. What do we do with Norfolk if His Majesty is called home to the Lord before the execution? His Majesty is fading, and the deed is not set for two days hence,” states Paget.

I allow my Lord of Hertford to speak his peace. If he is going to be Lord Protector, let him start now. Norfolk, both he and Gardiner, along with Bonner and their lot did upend my dearest Cromwell, and nearly me but for the grace of His Majesty’s heart, his warnings and his signet ring gifted to save me. I wish the toad dead. God forgive me.

“I pray His Majesty lives so his commands unfold, but if God calls him home, I do think we move cautiously. Blood on the hands of new governance will not sit well with the people of this realm. Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, will languish in The Tower until he shrivels and rots on to death. To kill him outright may spurn insurgency. We need that not.”

My disappointment is obvious, but I say nothing.

“I am sorry, Your Grace. Revenge must not be our priority. The time is not right. With any luck, Norfolk will give us just cause later, once we secure the trust of Parliament and the people.”

I nod approvingly. “Yes, no decision best be made in anger. My resentment and desire for revenge I will atone. I shall seek God’s loving forgiveness this night in my prayers.”

I look to these three fine men, one the King’s trusted secretary, another mine, and God willing of council agreement, yet another my beloved Prince Edward’s, soon king, steadfast protector and say simply, “God’s will be done.”

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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In the midst of life, we are in death… Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy… Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body.  ~~~ Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer

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28 January 1547

“Your Grace, Praise the Lord you are here. His Majesty is fading quickly. Though he speaks not, he lives still.”

I place my hand gently on the arm of Sir Anthony Denny. The man looks racked, as if languishing in Tower many a year, tortured without end. “Go take rest, good man. God knows you need it.”

He drops his eyes to the floor. “His Majesty asked for you, Your Grace, near his last words. He desires your presence when he slips on to God.”

My beloved Sir Anthony, without his intercession along with mine trusted secretary, I would surely had been devoured by the wolves long by now. I tap his shoulder. “Look at me, good man.”

As he raises up his gaze, I say simply, “The King and I weathered many a trial and tribulation together. I need no words to know his heart.”

Denny attempts a faint smile, and I gaze through to his soul. “This be God’s will, aye God’s will, dear man. From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation, the good Lord will surely deliver him. Have faith, and His Majesty will too.”

I sigh as I pat his arm gently. “Now let me go do what must be done.” 

He nods and motions toward the door. I find my courage with God’s loving grace and quietly enter. The rank stench of His Majesty’s wounds hits me like the blunt end of a lance in a joust. I seek quickly a piss pot, spewing forth all within. My innards not satisfied, dry heaves overcome my every being.

“Your Grace… Your Grace…,” I hear through my misery.

Finally, I look up and one of His Majesty’s tormenting doctors begins helping me to my feet, whilst another washes my face and stubble with a wet cloth.

“Rub this pungent poultice under your nose, Your Grace. It will help what ails you by masking the odors.”

I gladly comply and trade one putrid scent for another, but it be bearable, thank the Lord. A tad weak at the knees still, I look around. Six men gaze upon me as if I am Jesus Himself. I venture, “Is there any more you can do to ease the king’s suffering?”

They sway their heads to and fro, looking down as if ashamed of their incompetence. I wave them off dismissively. “Then go, please. No more is needed for now. God be with you.”

One of the doctors offers, “I wish to stay and attend to you, Your Grace. This room sickens the strongest of men.”

Although this portrait depicts Henry VIII's deathbed, in actuality he died instead holding the hand of Archbishop Cranmer.

Although this portrait depicts Henry VIII’s deathbed, in actuality he died instead holding the hand of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

I say softly, thankful for his kindness, “His Majesty and I must be alone, but you may wait just outside, good man. I will gratefully call upon you if need be.”

I smile as he nods and the doctors retreat, and then turn to His Majesty. My heart fills with both love and mourning at the sight of the great man, God’s king on earth. Grotesquely swollen, liquid leaching from every pore, my stomach readies to spew once more, but the Lord lovingly intervenes and I settle.  A comfortable chair placed beside the king’s majestic bed for my benefit, I sit upon it and then rest my hand upon one of his, my fingers resting upon the very signet ring that once saved myne very life. “I am here, Majesty. It be mine honor  you beckoned I come.”

I feel him hold on to my hand, though weakly, with purpose. His Majesty, he knows I am with him. Praise be to God. If he knows I am here, surely he knows God is too. Surely he will trust in the Lord in his last moments. His Majesty’s soul will be saved with my help, and with a grateful heart my last service will be done onto him.

Though His Majesty did once make me promise in a small moment of weakness after Queen Jane passed over to the Lord, there will be no last rites, no extreme unction. We are brought to the Lord by our faith and faith alone.  For the last fortnight, I dwelt, worried, and prayed most earnestly. Do I follow His Majesty’s expressed wishes? Do I keep my promises to him? In the morning light of conscience last night, God gave me His answer. Yes, we are brought forth to the Lord by our faith and faith alone. This is God’s truth, and no man can overrule Him, not even my noble Majesty to whom all else I submitted, even at the expense of myne own values and conscience, his word always supreme.

Overcome with emotion, tears well. I am unashamed. His Majesty saw my tears before, the last time when first meeting after dear Cromwell breathed his last, brought forth to the Lord by his faith and the ax. Few words were spoken. The letter already written and sent, he knew my heart. “Your Grace, what is done I had to do. From this day forth, I rule the council. I trust no man but you, no man.” From that day on, I lived in fear I would lose that trust and tread with the caution of a man hunted, my faith and truth kept close to save my very skin to await what now lays ahead — a new day, a new dawn, a Protestant England.

I venture carefully, speaking softly as a church mouse. We are alone with God, but are we really? “Majesty, as scripture says in the Book of John, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Do you trust in our Lord God?”

Silence blares as loud as canon fire. No sign tells me. “Please Lord, let him hear me. Let His Majesty answer, Lord. I beseech you.”

I try once more. “Majesty, with all your heart and soul, do you trust in our Lord God, all faith in him?”

God and His Majesty answer my prayers. The King squeezes my hand, weakly yes, but his answer clear. Relief washes over me. His Majesty’s soul is saved through the strength of his faith by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God be praised.

“Do pray with me Majesty if you can. Thoughts be words, and whether old Greek, Latin, German or English, whether Tyndale, Erasmus, Luther or the Bishop of Rome, all say the same from God’s Holy Word. ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them’.”

Henry VIII Coat of Arms

Henry VIII Coat of Arms.

I find my courage once more. No papal prayers will come from my mouth. No Roman Catholic leanings will taint His Majesty in his journey to the Lord. I look to the holy oil, chalice, wine, bread and rosaries left on the night table for my use. No, there is no need for them. There will be no penance, no anointing, and O Lord I praise you, no final Eucharist. I stand, bending so I may still hold His Majesty’s hand and pray simply. That is all one needs, nothing more.

“Almighty God, look on this your servant, Henry, Eighth of this name, King of England, Wales, Ireland and France, Defender of the Faith, lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I look down upon His Majesty, emotions rising to the surface. Still weak at the knees and stomach churning from the stench of this dreadful place, I bend down further still and kiss his hand and then the signet ring that binds us. I whisper, “I will submit humbly to and serve with all earnestness and love my dear beloved Edward, Prince of Wales, your longed for and blessed begotten heir as I ever did you, Majesty. That is my solemn promise and vow.”

Swirling through my mind come memories of our kinship though both trying times and glory, submission to his will often at the expense of my own, sometimes even at the expense of God’s. Tears of both mourning and relief flow freely. My heart bleeds, yet finally rests with the knowledge that what comes next is God’s will. I wipe my eyes with the sleeve of my vestments and compose myself before saying what I must. Alas, there be no point to fighting death any longer. God waits patiently. His Majesty’s suffering long now many years, his faith is professed, his salvation assured. I say simply, as mayhaps he just needs a prod, “Now be the time to let go, Majesty. God’s kingdom awaits.”

~~~~~ Fade to Black ~~~~

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King Henry VIII Tudor Dynasty

King Henry VIII

Lusty Youth Should Us Ensue

Lusty Youth should us ensue,
His merry heart shall sure all rue.
For whatsoever they do him tell
It is not for him, we know it well.

For they would have him his liberty refrain,
And all merry company for to disdain.
But I will not do whatsoever they say,
But follow his mind in all that we may.

How should Youth himself best use
But all disdainers for to refuse?
Youth has as chief assurance
Honest mirth with virtue’s pastance.

For in them consists great honour,
Though that disdainers would therein put error.
For they do sue to get them grace,
All only riches to purchase.

With good order, counsel, and equity,
Good Lord grant us our mansion to be.
For without their good guidance
Youth should fall in great mischance.

For Youth is frail and prompt to do
As well vices as virtues to ensue.
Wherefore by these he must be guided,
And virtue’s pastance must be therein used.

Now unto God this prayer we make,
That this rude play may well betake
And that we may our faults amend
And bliss obtain at our last end.
Amen.

~~ King Henry VIII ~~

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This lasting gift to the world from King Henry VIII is Pastime with Good Company, also known as The King’s Ballad (The Kynges Balade). It is an English folk song written by King Henry VIII in the first years of the 16th century, shortly after being crowned. It is performed by Gryphon.

King Henry VIII’s lasting poetry gift to world above Lusty Youth Should Us Ensue was penned at some point between 1510 and 1515.

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