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also aware that in the reign of Edward, Cranmer and Coverdale sat in council, and sentenced to the stake manyAnabaptists, and others who dissented from the "newlyformed doctrines " of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Here is a specimen of the cruelty of those times. A special statute was passed in Henry's reign (Feb. 1530-1) declaring that deliberate poisoning should be "considered as great a crime as high treason." But the penalty awarded was far more horrible—namely, "to be boiled alive in the presence of the populace and " without the benefit of clergy." Richard Rouse, the Bishop of Rochester's cook, who poisoned six persons, suffered under this barbarous law. "He roared mighty loud," says an old chronicle, " and divers women who were big with child did feel sick at the sight of what they saw, and were carried away half dead; and other men and women did not seem frightened by the boiling alive, but would prefer to see the headsman at his work."
In estimating the character of a man in those troublous times, it would be unjust to apply the estimate of modern notions. In that age toleration was in as little favour with the advocates of the Reformation as with the professing supporters of the Pope's supremacy; and although we may condemn the extremes to which Wriothesley was driven by his fervid zeal, we cannot help respecting the sincerity and fidelity which distinguished him from the vast majority of King Henry's courtiers and counsellors, as well as the chiefs of faction in the reign of Edward VI., who were ever ready to make faith, virtue, honour, all subservient to personal ambition, to power, and to avarice.
Sir Richard Rich, who succeeded Wriothesley as Chancellor, also sustained persecutions in Henry and Edward's reigns. Like Dr. London, he had a natural bent tor the strongest side, and " betrayed uo weakness in supporting self" in the vital wrestle of interests which in his time occurred. He was the chief witness against his patron and generous friend, Sir Thomas More, on which occasion he was guilty of the characteristic crime of wilful and deliberate perjury. Even Foxe portrays Rich as "cruel and unprincipled." Acting as the King's advocate, he laid aside his robes to aid, as the reader is aware, in the torture of* Anne Askew; at another time Piers Dutton charged him with purloining some of the golden chalices intended for the "royal crucible." Rich, of course, denied the accusation. Piers Dutton was an arrant liar, and so was Rich. This is the only truth that Henry found out: the gold was never elicited. When Rich was Chancellor to King Edward in 1551, he persecuted the Princess Mary for the practice of her religion, and for doing so received the rebuke of Cranmer. Amongst the death-warrants signed by Chancellor Rich in this reign was that of his personal friend, Thomas Seymour. Oldmixon describes the Chancellor as a man who was "neither Papist nor Protestant;" and again he avers his belief that he was "more Papist than Protestant."
"Maister Rich" was just the man to suit, in every respect, the members of the Protector Somerset's Cabinet. In early life Rich was "esteemed very light of his tongue, a great dicer and gamester, and not of any commendable fame'." In 1537 an insult was put on the House of Commons which shows most strikingly the degraded state to which Parliament was reduced in the reign of
• Speech of Sir T. More on his trial.
Henry VIII. On the recommendation of the Court, Maister Rich, who was hardly free from any vice except hypocrisy, was elected Speaker. While in that office he rendered effective service in "reconciling" the Commons to the suppression of the greater monasteries, and the grant of their possessions to the King. The monastic estates were put under the management of a royal commission, and Rich was placed at the head of it with the title of "Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations." His% first care, however, was to "augment" his own fortune, and he got a grant of the dissolved priory of Leighes, in Essex, and of other abbey lands of immense value, which were found to be a sufficient endowment for two earldoms enjoyed by his sons. He had been a spendthrift in his youth; but cupidity grew with wealth, and he became with advance of years penurious. In 1544 he was made Treasurer of the King's Wars in Prance and Scotland —an office by virtue of which the whole of the expenditure for the pay and provisioning of the army passed through his hands, which afforded ample scope for his propensity to accumulate. Soon after the capture of Boulogne he was one of the commissioners who negotiated the peace between France and England. Maister Rich was now in high personal favour with King Henry, conforming himself to all his sovereign's caprices, and assisting at the Council Board examining and punishing Lutherans for a violation of the Six Acts, and Catholics for refusing to acknowledge the King's spiritual supremacy. When Henry'8 will was made, Rich was appointed one of the sixteen executors who were to carry on the government during the minority of Edward. At this time both parties (of the old and new belief)
were suspicious of him, yet each expected his support —at least, so far as his professions could go. He had been included amongst the new peers created. Most of the commoners promoted by Somerset took new and high-sounding titles; and it might have been expected that the man who had been a witness against Fisher and More would have become "Lord Leighes" (lies); but whether he was afraid that some unpleasant jests might have been passed upon this title, as personal rather than territorial, he preferred to enter the House of Lords as Baron Rich.
Such was Maister Rich in the reign of Henry VIII. Under Somerset's Government he became Lord Chancellor, the legal duties of which position he discharged with considerable ability. At the suggestion of Cranmer he introduced a bill in the Lords to legalize the marriage of the clergy, to which he added a clause to the effect that priests would, nevertheless, do better to "remain true to their vows of celibacy." This enactment was for some time most unpopular in the provinces, especially amongst the women, who averred that "they regarded a priest's wife as a harlot." Rich's colleagues mistrusted and feared him. He acted with Somerset because it suited his interest, and with Cranmer signed the death warrant of his friend, the Lord Admiral. When Somerset's fall was at hand, he acted with his usual systematic treachery. He would not judicially pronounce against him, but he gave Warwick the benefit of his legal opinion as to how the Protector was to be sent to the scaffold. He zealously promoted the measures in favour of the Reformation, yet his motives for doing so were wholly personal. He "feared," says Lord Campbell, "a counter-revolution in religion, by which his share of the Church plunder might be wrested from him10." The times becoming troublesome, and one faction destroying another, the Chancellor began to fear for the security of his own position. "Perceiving," observes his biographer, "that, with an open and captivating manner, Lord Warwick (Northumberland) was dark, designing, immoderately ambitious, wholly unscrupulous, and remorseless, he could not speculate upon how soon his own turn might come to be committed to the Tower." Lord Rich accordingly suddenly feigned a dangerous illness, and resigned his office of Chancellor. In a few weeks, however, he marvellously recovered his health, and retired to his estates in the country, where he lived for sixteen years longer. "He was," writes Lord Campbell, "one of the most sordid as well as most unprincipled men that ever held the office of Lord Chancellor in England." So entire was Rich's seclusion that his existence was almost forgotten; and thus as ho was rejoicing over the amount of his gains from the religious tempest which had swept the land, and enjoying the delights of his luxurious retreat, he was suddenly smitten with a mortal illness. When he ascertained that a prolongation of life was impossible, he eagerly besought those about him to bring to him a "Papal clergyman.'' A messenger was despatched for an ecclesiastic; but before the arrival of the confessor, the soul of the ex-Chancellor was before its God1. Thomas Godrich, Bishop of Ely, became the suc
10 Lord Campbell's "Lives of the English Chancellors," vol. ii. p. 11, 12.
1 "The .Death-bed of Chancellor Rich; A Disconrse of John Hales, Preacher, * On the Wickedness of Wealthy People,' 1565."