King Henry VIII's Speech in Parliament,
towards the latter end of his Reign.
[24 December 1545]
Although my chancellor, for the time being, hath, before this time, been used, very eloquently and substantially, to make answer to such orations as have been set forth in this high court of parliament; yet he is not so able to open and set forth my mind and meaning, and the secrets of my heart, in so plain and ample manner, as I myself am, and can do. Wherefore, I taking it upon me to answer your eloquent oration, Master Speaker, say, that where you, in the name of our well beloved commons, have both praised and extolled me for the notable qualities that you have conceived to be in me, I most heartily thank you all, that you have put me in remembrance of my duty, which is, to endeavour myself to obtain, and get such excellent qualities, and necessary virtues, as a prince or governor should or ought to have; of which gifts I recognize myself both bare and barren. But for such small qualities as God hath endowed me withal, I render to his goodness my most humble thanks, intending, with all my wit and diligence, to get and acquire me such notable virtues, and princely qualities, as you have alleged to be incorporate in my person.
These thanks for your loving admonition, and good counsel, first remembered, I eftsoons1 thank you again, because that you, considering our great charges (not for our pleasure, but for your defence, not for our gain, but to our great cost), which we have lately sustained, as well in defence against our and your enemies, as for the conquest of that fortress, which was to this realm most displeasant and noisome, and shall be, by God's grace, hereafter to our nation most profitable and pleasant, have freely, of your own mind, granted to us a certain subsidy, here in an act specified, which verily we take in good part, regarding more your kindness than the profit thereof, as he that setteth more by your loving hearts, than by your substance. Besides this hearty kindness, I cannot a little rejoice, when I consider the perfect trust and sure confidence which you have put in me, as men having undoubted hope and unfeigned belief in my good doings, and just proceedings; for that you, without my desire, or request, have committed to mine order and disposition all chantries, colleges, hospitals, and other places specified in a certain act; firmly trusting, that I will order them to the glory of God, and the profit of our commonwealth. Surely, if I, contrary to your expectations, should suffer the ministers2 of the church to decay, or learning (which is so great a jewel) to be minished,3 or poor and miserable people to be unrelieved, you might say, that I, being put in so special a trust as I am in this case, were no trusty friend to you, nor charitable man to mine even christian,4 neither a lover of the public wealth, nor yet one that feared God, to whom account must be rendered of all our doings. Doubt not, I pray you, that you expectation shall be served, more godly and goodly than you will wish or desire, as hereafter you shall plainly perceive.
Now sithence5 I find such kindness on your part, towards me, I cannot choose but love and favour you, affirming, that no prince in the world more favureth his subjects, than I do you; nor any subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord, than I perceive you do me, for whose defence my treasure shall not be hidden, nor, if necessity require, shall my person be unadventured.6 Yet, although I with you, and you with me, be in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue, except7 you, my lords temporal, and you my lords spiritual, and you my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing, which is surely amiss, and far out of order, to the which I most heartily require you; which is, that charity and concord is not among you, but discord and dissension beareth rule, in every place. St. Paul saith to the Corinthians, in the thirteenth chapter, charity8 is gentle, charity is not envious, charity is not proud, and so forth, in the said chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you, when the one calleth the other heretic and anabaptist, and he calleth him again,9 papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Be these tokens of charity amongst you? Are these the signs of fraternal love between you? No, no. I assure you, that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging10 of the fervent love between us, as I said before, except this wound be salved, and clearly made whole. I must needs judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly by the negligence of you, the fathers, and preachers of the spirituality. For, if I know a man which liveth in adultery, I must judge him a lecherous and carnal person; if I see a man boast, and brag himself, I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily, that you of the clergy preach one against another, teach, one contrary to another, inveigh11 one against another, without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, other be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus. Thus, all men almost be in variety and discord, and few or none do preach, truly and sincerely, the word of God, according as they ought to do. Shall I now judge you charitable persons doing this? No, no; I cannot so do. Alas! how can the poor souls live in concord, when you, preachers, sow amongst them, in your sermons, debate and discord? Of you they look12 for light, and you bring them to darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God's word, both by true preaching, and good example-giving, or else I, whom God hath appointed his vicar, and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my very duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant, and an untrue officer.
Although (as I say) the spiritual men be in some fault that charity is not kept amongst you, yet you of the temporality be not clean and unspotted of malice and envy; for you rail on bishops, speak slanderously of priests, and rebuke and taunt preachers; both contrary to good order and christian fraternity. If you know surely that a bishop or preacher erreth, or teacheth perverse doctrine, come and declare it to some of our counsel, or to us, to whom is committed, by God, the authority to reform and order such causes and behaviours, and be not judges yourselves of your own fantastical opinions, and vain expositions; for in such high causes you may lightly err. And, although you be permitted to read holy scripture, and to have the word of God in your mother tongue, you must understand, that it is licensed you so to do, only to inform your own conscience, and to instruct your children and family, and not to dispute, and make scripture a railing and a taunting stock against priests and preachers, as many light persons do. I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same; and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst christians, never less reverenced, honoured, or served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother; love, dread, and serve God (to the which I, as your supreme head, and sovereign lord, exhort and require you); and then I doubt not, but that love and league,13 which I spoke of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And, as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them into execution, as you were in making and furthering the same, or else your labour shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved.
Notes (by A. Jokinen):
1 eftsoons] Soon after.
2 ministers] Minsters, i.e., churches.
3 minished] Diminished.
4 even christian] Fellow christians.
5 sithence] Since.
6 unadventured] unrisked, not "laid on the line."
7 except] unless.
8 charity] caritas, brotherly love; love of God in others.
9 and he calleth him again] who in turn calls him.
10 assuaging] lessening
11 inveigh] verbally attack.
12 Of you they look for light] They look for light from you.
13 league] union; covenant.
Dodd's Church History of England. Vol I.
M. A. Tierney, ed.
London: Charles Dolman, 1839. 451-4.
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The Parents of Henry VIII
King Henry VII
Elizabeth of York
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Queen Catherine of Aragon
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Jane Seymour
Queen Anne of Cleves
Queen Catherine Howard
Queen Katherine Parr
The Children of Henry VIII
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond
King Edward VI
Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I
The King's Advisors
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Sir Thomas More
Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
James IV, King of Scotland
James V, King of Scotland
Mary of Guise, Queen of Scotland
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Louis XII, King of France
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Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Edward Stafford, D. of Buckingham
Thomas Howard, 3rd D. of Norfolk
John Dudley, D. of Northumberland
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
John Russell, Earl of Bedford
Thomas, Lord Audley
Richard de la Pole
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
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Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
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John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Archbishop William Warham
Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Dissolution of the Monasteries, 1536-40
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
The Siege of Boulogne, 1544
The Sweating Sickness
Tudor Legal System
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The Act of Succession, 1534
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
16th-century Renaissance English Literature
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