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Storms In English History: A Glance At The Reign Of Henry VIII
by [?]

No suppression of the religious houses had originally been designed; nothing more than a searching visitation. And at this moment, yes, at this present midsummer of 1856, waiting and looking forward to the self-same joyful renewal of leases that then was looked for in England, but not improbably, alas! summoned to the same ineffable disappointment as fell more than three centuries back upon our own England–lies, waiting for her doom, a great kingdom in central Europe. She, and under the same causes, may chance to be disappointed. What was it that caused the tragic convulsion in England? Simply this: regular and healthy visitation having ceased, infinite abuses had arisen; and these abuses, it was found at last, could not be healed by any measure less searching than absolute suppression. Austria, as regards some of her provinces, stands in the same circumstances at this very moment. Imperfect visitations, that cleansed nothing, should naturally have left her religious establishments languishing for the one sole remedy that was found applicable to the England of 1540. And what was that? It was a remedy that carried along with it revolution. England was found able in those days to stand that fierce medicine: a more profound revolution has not often been witnessed than that of our mighty Reformation. Can Austria, considering the awful contagions amongst which her political relations have entangled her, hope for the same happy solution of her case? Perhaps a revolution, that once unlocks the fountains of blood in central Germany, will be the bloodiest of all revolutions: whereas, in our own chapters of revolution even the stormiest, those of the Marian Persecution and of the Parliamentary War, both alike moved under restraints of law and legislative policy. The very bloodiest promises of English history have replied but feebly to the clamour and expectations of cruel or fiery partisans. Different is the prospect for Austria. From her, and from the auguries of evil which becloud her else smiling atmosphere, let us turn back to our own history in this sixteenth century, and for a moment make a brief inquest into the blood that really was shed–whether justly or not justly. Bloodshed, as an instinct–bloodshed, as an appetite–raged like a monsoon in the French Revolution, and many centuries before in the Rome of Sylla and Marius–in the Rome of the Triumvirate, and generally in the period of Proscriptions. Too fearfully it is evident that these fits of acharnement were underlaid and fed by paroxysms of personal cruelty. In England, on the other hand, foul and hateful as was the Marian butchery, nevertheless it cannot be denied that this butchery rested entirely upon principle. Homage offered to anti-Lutheran principles, in a moment disarmed the Popish executioner. Or if (will be the objection of the reflecting reader)–if there are exceptions to this rule, these must be looked for amongst the king’s enemies. And the term ‘enemies’ will fail to represent adequately those who, not content with ranking themselves wilfully amongst persons courting objects irreconcilable to the king’s interests, sought to exasperate the displeasure of Henry by special insults, by peculiar mortifications, and by complex ingratitude. Foremost amongst such cases stands forward the separate treason of Anne Boleyn, mysterious to this hour in some of its features, rank with pollutions such as European prejudice would class with Italian enormities, and by these very pollutions–literally by and through the very excess of the guilt–claiming to be incredible. Neither less nor more than this which follows is the logic put into the mouth of the Lady Anne Boleyn:–From the mere enormity of the guilt imputed to me, from that very abysmal stye of incestuous adultery in which now I wallow, I challenge as of right the presumption that I am innocent; for the very reason that I am loaded in my impeachment with crimes that are inhuman, I claim to be no criminal at all. Because my indictment is revolting and monstrous, therefore is it incredible. The case, taken apart from the person, would not (unless through its mysteriousness and imperfect circumstantiation) have attracted the interest which has given it, and will in all time coming continue to give it, a root in history amongst insoluble or doubtfully soluble historical problems. The case, being painful and shocking, would by readers generally have long since been dismissed to darkness. But the person, too critically connected with a vast and immortal revolution, will for ever call back the case before the tribunals of earth. The mother of Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Protestantism in England, cannot be suffered–never will be suffered–to benefit by that shelter of merciful darkness which, upon any humbler person, or even upon this person in any humbler case, might be suffered to settle quietly as regards the memory of her acts. Mr. Froude, a pure-minded man, is the last man to call back into the glare of a judicial inquest deeds of horror, over which eternal silence should have brooded, had such an issue been possible. But three centuries of discussion have made that more and more impossible. And now, therefore, with a view to the improvement of the dispute, and, perhaps, in one or two instances, with a chance for the rectification of the ‘issues‘ (speaking juridically) into which the question has been allowed to lapse, Mr. Froude has in some degree re-opened the discussion. ‘The guilt,’ he says, ‘must rest where it is due. But under any hypothesis guilt there was–dark, mysterious, and most miserable.’