From the accession of Henry VII. to the death of Henry VIII.
The battle at Bosworth finally decided the disputes between the houses
of York and Lancaster, in which so much English blood had been shed.
Henry VII. was the victorious representative of the house of Lancaster, and
the male heirs of Edward IV. being now dead, he united the claims of both
houses by a marriage with the princess Elizabeth.
As the cultivation of trade and arts had enabled the common people to
acquire property, the encrease and circulation of money by a general industry,
produced a relaxation of the feudal tyranny which tied the villain to the
land, and gave rise to personal freedom. The mode of subordination altered
accordingly; rents were given in lieu of services, and the husbandman tilling
land for his own profit, agriculture was proportionably improved, to the
greater profit of the lord as well as the tenant. In this slight review, the art of
printing must not be overlooked: letters released from their long confinement
in the cloister, began now to spread abroad; men became thinking beings,
and civilization thus powerfully assisted, made a greater progress during the
century following the importation of that useful art, than it had done in all the
centuries from the Norman invasion down to that time.
Shortly after Henry came to London, a new and till then unknown distemper
attacked the city, called the sweating sickness. It began the 21st of September,
and continued to the end of October: it is said to have first appeared among the
troops he brought with him from France. In that short time it destroyed
many thousands of persons, and, among the rest, three lord mayors, and three
sheriffs. It proved mortal in twenty four hours; but those who survived that
time generally recovered. It returned four times in sixty-six years, and being
supposed peculiar to England and Englishmen was termed Sudor Anglicanus;
but Dr. Mead has controverted that opinion.
Henry had recourse to the city of London for a loan of 6000 marks, to
discharge the debts incurred in France to equip himself for his late expedition.
The citizens were rather backward in parting with their money to a king to
whose disposition they were as yet strangers: however they raised half the sum,
and his majesty established his credit by punctual payment at the stipulated
The cross in West Cheap or Cheapside, which had been magnificently restored,
was finished at the private expence of particular citizens; among which the
name of John Fisher a mercer, is recorded, for having given 600 marks.
Among other regulations an act of common council passed this year to prevent
improper persons obtaining the freedom of the corporation; and it is probable
from this circumstance, that the country people, seeing the great chance of rising
in circumstances by trade, were generally desirous to make their children citizens
of London. This city law imported, that no apprentice should be taken, or
the freedom given, excepting they were gentlemen born; agreeable to that
clause in the freeman's oath, which says "Ye shall take none apprentice but
if he be free born; that is to say, no bondsman's son, nor the son of an
Another act of common council was passed in 1487 calculated to draw a resort
to the city, by prohibiting the citizens from carrying goods to any market or fair
within the kingdom for seven years; but this was deemed so oppressive, that it
was set aside by parliament. (fn. 1) The king rebuilt Baynard's castle this
year, not as before, with towers and battlements, but fit for a princely habitation.
The king's marriage with Elizabeth of the house of York, was such a favourite point with the nation, who hoped thereby to consolidate both pretensions,
that it was with great disgust the people saw the king so far retain his early
party-prepossessions and political jealousy as not only to treat her harshly, but
to shew a reluctance to conferring on her the ceremony of coronation. Edward
Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, son of the duke of Clarence, had been kept
imprisoned in Yorkshire, by Richard III. Henry no less suspicious, removed
him to the Tower, where he still retained him in confinement. A report
had spread of his escape from thence; and this report was made use of by one
Richard Simon an Oxford priest, as the foundation of a plan to disturb Henry's
government, countenanced as was thought, by the queen dowager, in resentment for her daughter's ill usage. Lambert Simnel, a baker's son, was instructed to personate Warwick in Ireland, where his father had been much respected.
Here the people crouded under his standard, and proclaimed him king by the
name of Edward VI. Henry confined the queen dowager in a nunnery, and
seized her lands and revenue: and, to convince the people of the imposture,
caused the unhappy young earl to be conducted publickly through the city to
St. Paul's church; and thence back to his prison. Lambert landed in England, was defeated by the king at the battle of Stoke; was pardoned, employed as a scullion in the king's kitchen, and afterward made one of his
In 1488 the king applied to the city for 4000l. on the plea of assisting the
duke of Brittany then oppressed by the French king, which he readily obtained,
with 2000l. more: yet he suffered him to be reduced, and the dutchy to be
annexed to France. The parliament this year taking into consideration the
stench and filth occasioned by the slaughter-houses in London, passed an act to
prevent the killing of beasts within the walls of London, or any other walled
town. (fn. 2) The same parliament confirmed the city's right to the conservation
of breaches in the Thames, so far as the tide ebbed and flowed. (fn. 3)
Henry's ruling vice was avarice; and in 1492 he levied a benevolence on his
subjects on the pretence of a French war, the most popular plea he could
make use of; and this imposition was so highly rated by the assessors, that
the city of London alone, including the contributions of the aldermen, produced
nearly 15,000l. Archbishop Morton the chancellor, on this occasion made
use of a dilemma that no one could evade; if the parties applied to, lived
frugally, they were told their parsimony must undoubtedly have made
them wealthy; if they lived generously, they were assessed accordingly, as
opulent persons. (fn. 4)
The countenance shewn by the dutchess of Burgundy in Flanders to Perkin
Warbec, who personated the duke of York, murdered by Richard in the Tower;
induced Henry to banish all Flemings from London, to recal his own subjects
from Flanders, and to cut off all commerce with the Low Countries. While the
English Merchant-adventurers were great sufferers by this prohibition, the
Hanseatic merchants availed themselves much of a circumstance which
threw the trade with Flanders into their hands. A riot ensued; their warehouses at the Still-yard were plundered; but assistance being procured by water
from Southwark, and the lord mayor bringing a body of armed men to protect
them, the rioters were dispersed, and those of them that were taken were brought
In the year 1494 was published a Chronicle of England and France collected by Robert Fabian alderman and sheriff of London; from whose
work many particulars respecting English affairs, have been taken by later
Henry in the ninth year of his reign gave an entertainment to the magistrates
and principal citizens of London on Twelfth day at Westminster. After dinner
he knighted Ralph Austrey the mayor, and detained him and his brethren to
see the pastimes in Westminster-hall at night, when it was richly hung with
tapestry and staged on both sides. After the sports, the king, queen, and
courtiers, being seated at a table of stone, sixty knights with their esquires served
sixty dishes to the king's mess, as many to the queen's, with twenty four
to the mayor, neither of fish or flesh; with plenty of wine. At break
of day the king and queen retired, and the citizens returned home in their
As there is no character more respectable than an upright lawyer, so there is
no character more infamous and terrible than one who employs the forms of
justice to the oppression of mankind. The king's passion for money was notorious; and he found two fit instruments to gratify his insatiable covetousness, in
Empson and Dudley, two prostitute lawyers, who, by the most arbitrary proceedings upon the penal statutes, fines, forfeitures, and compositions, preyed
upon the people to fill their master's coffers. Sir William Capel, an alderman
of London was fined 2700l. but by great intercession it was compounded for
1600l. and this, which was the first remarkable instance of their oppression, soon
became a precedent for extending the practice of legal extortion. "That extream
"justice is extream injustice, is an adage well known, and this shews the happiness of trials by juries," to interpose between the subject and the rigour of law. But
proud as we may well be of this privilege, it proves of little security in iniquitous times. Those causes which came to a hearing were tried by packed juries,
who were either bribed or intimidated: and these practices became so flagrant
as to call for the interposition of parliament; which limited the qualifications
of London jurymen, and laid penalties on default of appearance, unjust verdicts,
and on the receiving and giving bribes. (fn. 5)
The system of rapacity pursued by Henry excited general murmurs and discontent; an insurrection of Cornishmen was headed by the Lord Audley, who
marched them up, hoping to meet with a reinforcement as they passed, especially
from Kent. The mayor and sheriffs took proper precautions for the security
of the city, until the king brought southward an army levied to oppose the
Scots; and with this force he routed the insurgents on Blackheath.
Certain grounds on the north side of Chiswell-street, and in the manor of
Finsbury, were, in the year 1498, converted into a spacious field, inclosed for
the use of the London archers, or trained bands, and denominated the Artilleryground, where they are still mustered and exercised at stated times. Other parts
northward of the Artillery-ground were used during the great plague in 1665,
as a common cemetery; and the Diffenters of London now have a burial-ground
on the same spot.
The Flemish merchants, who severely felt their prohibition from all commerce with England, prevailed on the archduke Philip to send commissioners to
London to treat of an accommodation: the Flemish court agreed that all English
rebels should be excluded the Low Countries; with other articles, for the mutual
security of their commercial interests: this treaty was so agreeable to the
Flemings, that it was dignified with the name of Intercursus Magnus, the Great
Treaty; and the intercourse was resumed with much joy on both sides (fn. 6) . Perkin
Warbec thus deprived of a retreat in Flanders, and also in Scotland, hid himself
for a while in Ireland; till at last, willing to try his fortune among the still discontented Cornishmen, he landed in the west of England under the title of
Richard IV. Numbers flocking to his standard, he besieged Exeter; but the
king marching against him, he despaired of success, and took sanctuary at
Beaulieu, in the New Forest. He surrendered himself at length, under
promise of pardon, was conducted through the streets of London in a kind of
mock triumph, and imprisoned. Mr. Walpole's supposition, that he might
have been the true duke of York, is discredited by a confession which was now
obtained from him, and published for the satisfaction of the nation. He made
his escape; but, being retaken, was, for greater contempt, set in the stocks,
and obliged to read his confession aloud to the people, and was then confined
in the Tower. Here he entered into a correspondence with the unhappy earl of
Warwick, whose long imprisonment had impaired his faculties, and a scheme
was concerted for the recovery of their liberty, for which they were both
executed (fn. 7) .
The plague made such ravages in the kingdom in 1500, and particularly in
London, that the king, after shifting from place to place, removed with the
queen over to Calais for greater security. Here he had an interview with Philip
archduke of Austria, whose whole behaviour shewed an earnest desire to cultivate
a friendship with England. The king so far honoured the city of London, as
to send an account of this meeting to the lord-mayor and aldermen. A marriage was concluded in 1501 between Arthur prince of Wales, and Catharine
the Infanta of Spain: she made her public entry October 4, and was received
by the magistrates of London in their formalities with great pomp. But the
young prince died a few months afterward, leaving the succession to the kingdom, and to his widow, open to his brother Henry; for the king, unwilling
to lose her dowry, forced his second son to marry her, and procured a papal
dispensation for that purpose. This event, without any thanks being due to
any of the parties, prepared the way for one of the most happy revolutions this
kingdom ever experienced, as will appear in due time.
Sir John Shaw, the lord-mayor for this year, first introduced the custom of
his brethren the aldermen attending their mayor on horseback to the river, when
he took barge for Westminster: he also, by a contribution from the city companies, built proper offices at Guildhall for public entertainments, which, for
want of these conveniences, had been hitherto given at Grocers-hall.
In this year was also celebrated the marriage of the princess Margaret, by
proxy, with James IV. of Scotland; which laid the first foundation of the
future union of two kingdoms, that had hitherto been at continual variance,
though their situation so naturally dictated an union of interests. It was objected
to Henry in council, that by this marriage England might fall under the
dominion of Scotland; but the king acutely replied, "that in such case Scotland
would only become an accession to England; for that the greater would
draw the less (fn. 8) ." He this year took down a chapel of the Virgin Mary,
and a tavern, at the eastern end of Westminster abbey, and at the expence of
14,000l. erected that noble chapel which still bears his name.
Fleet dyke or ditch, part of the antient river Wells, was this year well cleansed
and rendered navigable for barges up to Old born, or Holborn bridge; and
that noxious place called Houndsditch, part of the city ditch under the eastern
wall, so called from the filth, carrion, and dead dogs usually cast there, was
arched over and paved. The company of Taylors, first incorporated by Edward IV. were now re-incorporated by the name of Merchant Taylors.
The city obtained a charter of confirmation in 1505, dated July 23d, in the
20th of Henry VII. but the greedy king exacted 5000 marks for the purchase of
it. The principal objects of this charter were to restrain the encroachments of
foreign merchants on the franchises and customs of the citizens; and to regulate
the qualifications of brokers: what relates to these two points will be found in
the Appendix No. XXXVI.
King Henry this year also confirmed to the merchants trading with woollen
cloths to the Netherlands, all their former privileges, by the name now first given
to them, of—"the fellowship of Merchants Adventurers of England." At the
same time the Stillyard merchants were prohibited from carrying English cloths
to the place of residence of the Merchants Adventurers in the Low Countries:
and the aldermen of the Stillyard were obliged to enter into a recognizance of
2000 marks for the observance of this restriction (fn. 9)
When bad men draw toward their latter end, they are often seen to attempt
redeeming their characters rather than atoning for their faults, by acts of piety
and ostentatious charity. Thus it fared with Henry; who having amassed
prodigious wealth by private oppression, now thought it high time to apply
some part of it to efface the odium of the means by which he acquired the
whole. While his extortions were carrying on with one hand by the means of
Empson and Dudley, he employed the other in endowing religious foundations,
in giving liberal alms; and in 1507, he discharged, at his own cost, all those
prisoners in London whose debts did not exceed forty shillings. How little real
expence he put himself to on these hypocritical occasions, may be easily conceived,
when we find that Thomas Knesworth, who had been mayor two years before,
and Richard Shoare and Roger Grove his sheriffs, were dragged to the Marshalsea on the plea of abuses in the exercises of their respective offices; and,
without any legal process, were obliged to purchase their freedom, by the
payment of 1400 l. Christopher Haws, alderman, being seized in like manner, and dreading the hands he fell into, died of grief. Sir William Capel,
who served lord-mayor in 1503, was seized in 1508, on an accusation of neglect in prosecuting some coiners, and fined 2000 l. but not submitting to such
arbitrary proceedings, he was detained in prison; until the death of the king
delivered him and many others from their apprehensions of this species of violence.
St. Paul's school was about this time founded by Dr. Collet, dean of St.
Paul's, who appointed salaries for the masters, &c. under the regulation of the
company of mercers.
By the operation of commerce, and the many deaths and confiscations during
the late civil wars, the feudal establishment was now nearly destroyed; Henry's
suspicious temper co-operated to reduce the power of the nobles, as he found
his security and the regal power much strengthened by these means; thus
serving his people without being influenced by their welfare as an object. The
commercial system was also favoured in this reign, by the memorable discovery
of America, by Christopher Columbus, which opened a field for traffic, manufactures and colonization, the limits of which remain yet unknown. Though
Henry missed the honour of being the patron of this discovery, he neglected
not the improvement of it: he fitted out Sebastian Cabot, who discovered the
main land of North America in 1498, where our colonies now flourish to that
degree, as almost to rival the mother country that gave them being.
Brick and stone were, as yet, very seldom employed, except in public buildings; the rest were either cottages with mud walls in the country, or timber
and lath houses in towns: gentlemens houses indeed came to be strongly framed
with oak, and the intervals filled with brick and mortar (fn. 10) .
By the death of prince Arthur, already mentioned, the crown came to
Henry VIII. whose accession, April 22, 1509, was celebrated with great joy,
by a people wearied with oppression. He immediately cleared the streets of
London of foreign vagrants; and endeared himself to his new subjects, by committing Sir Richard Empson, knt. and Edward Dudley, esq. serjeant at law,
to the Tower. To screen his father's character, by whose secret orders they
had acted, they were not charged with the abuse of their profession, but with
a conspiracy against the government (fn. 11) ; a charge which, whether just or not,
their jurors were in no humour to acquit them of: their condemnation was confirmed by an attainder in parliament, and they were beheaded on Tower-Hill;
while their inferior agents were pilloried and exposed to public disgrace.
Henry proved himself a prodigal young heir; and his taste for gaiety speedily
dissipated the great treasure his father had so carefully collected, in tilts, tournaments, and other magnificent amusements suited to that age.
The care of watching the city was then properly executed by the citizens, of
every ward, themselves, under due regulations; and they had stately processions
or marches yearly, on the vigil of St. John the baptist, and on that of St.
Peter and St. Paul. Henry, on the eve of St. John, 1510, disguised in the
habit of one of his yeomen of the guard, came into the city to see this
nocturnal pomp; and was so well pleased with it, that on the eve of St. Peter
following, he brought his queen, attended by the principal nobility, into
Cheapside to see it also.
The next year Roger Achily lord-mayor caused Leadenhall to be stored
with grain, to guard against a scarcity. In this mayoralty Moorfields were
levelled, with proper causeways and bridges carried over them, for the conveniency of passengers.
Learning now began to assume some form, and the art of healing to engage
the attention of legislature, who restrained the practice to licensed professors,
to guard the subject from quacks and empirics. In the 3d of Henry VIII.
it was provided, that no one should practise physic and surgery within the city
of London, or seven miles round, without being first examined and approved
by the bishop of London, or dean of St. Paul's, they calling to their assistance
four of the faculty (fn. 12) .
The sheriffs of London and Middlesex were, in 1512, first impowered by
parliament to impannel jurors for the city courts, under certain qualifications
mentioned in the statute (fn. 13) .
The growing attention to agriculture had caused the landholders of the
villages of Islington, Hoxton, and Shoreditch, in the neighbourhood of the
city, to inclose their grounds: the citizens were hereby restrained in their
field exercises and sports, which, if they pursued, they were indicted for trespasses. The populace were enraged, and excited to a riot, by a fellow disguised in a merry Andrew's coat, who ran up and down the streets calling for
spades and shovels: with which implements they soon levelled the new banks
and ditches. A commission was granted by the king to inquire into this disorder, and the city magistrates were reprimanded for their inattention in suffering it. But it is observable, that the populace at all times, in all places,
preserve an obstinate attachment to old customs, and shew a corresponding inveteracy against every innovation, even for the most obvious improvements;
which frequently require force to carry them into execution.
Every thing in this world is continually fluctuating; corporations had now
answered the first end of their creation: their exclusive privileges had sheltered and protected artisans against the feudal claims; but that tyranny was now
no more; and the limitations of these seminaries of traders began, under the
increase of traffic, to operate to their disadvantage. Strangers shut out of corporations, settled round the walls; hence the trade without, being clear from
municipal restrictions and burdens, grew formidable to the trade carried on within.
This now began to be the case with London; foreigners to their jurisdiction,
whether natives or not, were always regarded with a jealous antipathy, and
were frequently sufferers by tumultuous violence. A remarkable instance of
this nature happened in 1517, when the usual pastimes on May-day were converted, by the London servants and apprentices, watermen, and other working
people, into an outrageous insurrection against foreigners. Preparatory to this
commotion, one John Lincoln, a broker, engaged Dr. Bell, who was to preach
a Spital sermon in Easter week, to inflame the people by a representation of the
grievances the London artificers suffered from the strangers who settled round
the city, and from the commerce carried on by foreign merchants (fn. 14) . The
heart-burnings thus excited discovering many indications of an approaching
tumult, some riotous persons were committed to prison, and instructions given
to the citizens to take care of their servants. Whether they were unwilling
or unable to restrain their dependants, is uncertain; but on May eve the tumult
began: the croud gathered from all parts; their companions were forcibly taken
from prison, and then running to the out parts, they plundered and destroyed
the houses and warehouses of strangers and foreigners until the dawn of day.
About three o'clock the mob began to disperse; and then the magistrates seized
and committed about 300 of them to several prisons. Cardinal Wolsey, who
was then minister, sent some forces into the city; but the disorder being over,
nothing remained but to punish those who had been secured for the parts they
had acted in it.
A commission was directed to the duke of Norfolk and other noblemen to
try the rioters; some of whom were executed on moveable gibbets, which
were drawn from street to street for that purpose, to extend the terror of the
punishment. But the numbers now in custody were so great, that they were
brought before the king in Westminster-hall, to the number of 400, among
which were eleven women; they appeared in their shirts, bound with ropes,
and with halters about their necks, imploring the king for mercy: after a very
severe reproof he pronounced their pardon, and upon being thus favourably
dismissed, they tossed up their halters with great shouts of God save the king!
The day on which this riot happened, was long known by the name of Evil
May day, and in great measure checked the future May games which used to
be exhibited on setting up the great shaft or May-pole in Leadenhall-street,
before the church thence termed the church of St. Andrew Undershaft.
The magistrates of London were not restored to the king's favour, but
through the means of cardinal Wolsey, who had an entire ascendancy over
Henry, and was thought to have been well paid by them, for his good offices
on the occasion.
On the 1st of February this year, an act of common-council erected the first
court of Requests, otherwise termed a court of Conscience, in the city of London. It was ordered by this act, "That the lord-mayor and aldermen for the
time being, should monthly assign and appoint, two aldermen and four discreet commoners, to sit at Guildhall in a judicial manner twice a week,
viz. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, there to hear and determine all matters
brought before them, between party and party, being citizens and freemen
of London, in all cases where the due debt or damage did not exceed forty
shillings." This act was to continue in force for two years, but being
found very salutary in preventing trivial litigations in higher and more expensive courts, it was continued by the same authority until it was made perpetual
by king James I.
This year the sweating sickness again made its appearance, and destroyed
great numbers of citizens. As did the plague soon after in 1521.
The sessions for the peace of London, had hitherto been kept at the monastery of St. Martin le Grand, which being out of the liberty of the city,
was found inconvenient and thought dishonourable; the king was therefore petitioned in 1519, for a repeal of that part of the charter of Edward III. by
which they were so held. He granted a charter, Appendix No. XXXVII.
which removed the sessions to Guildhall. The physicians also this year obtained a charter of incorporation, which gave them authority to examine and
license all practitioners of physic within seven miles round the city. See p.
The commercial treaty termed Intercursus Magnus, see p. 110. was in the
year 1520, renewed between Henry VIII. and the emperor Charles V. for five
years certain (fn. 15) .
An interview having been projected between Henry VIII. and Francis I. of
France, at Calais, the emperor Charles V. was resolved to be beforehand with
Francis, and on his way from Spain to the Low Countries landed unexpectedly
at Dover (fn. 16) . His chief view was to gain over Wolsey to his interest, to whom
both these princes paid their court. Charles was magnificently entertained,
though he staid but four days in England.
In 1521, Henry entered the lists of controversy against Martin Luther, the
reformer; he wrote against his tenets, and sent a copy of his work to pope
Leo, who, in honour of his zeal, conferred on him the title of "Defender of
the Faith;" a title still retained by the kings of England, though the first
possessor of it so soon forfeited it, by disowning the authority that gave it. Luther replied with some acrimony, and was generally thought to have gained
The emperor paid Henry another visit in 1522, and was entertained at
Greenwich, London, and Windsor; he staid six weeks in England, and was
installed a knight of the Garter (fn. 17) . London had also the honour of receiving
Christian king of Denmark, with his queen, the same year. The result of
this visit from Charles was a French war; to carry on which, he had recourse,
in 1525, to the levy of a benevolence : but this arbitrary exaction, being first
opposed in London, was withstood by the whole kingdom (fn. 18) . The plague this
year occasioned the city to be so deserted, that the Michaelmas term was adjourned, and the ensuing Christmas was denominated the still Christmas.
By a statute restraining aliens with regard to the number of apprentices and
journeymen, and granting powers to the corporations of handicrafts for the
examining and stamping their works; (fn. 19) we have the extent of the suburbs
of London, at that time expressed, over which the jurisdiction of the wardens
of these companies were by that act extended. Their limits of examination
reached "two miles from the city; viz. within the town of Westminster, the
parishes of St. Martin in the fields, our lady of the Strand, St. Clements
Danes without Temple Bar, St. Giles in the fields, St. Andrew Holborn,
the town and borough of Southwark, Shoreditch, Whitechapel parish, St.
John's Street, (in Clerkenwell) Clerkenwell parish, St. Botolph without
Aldgate, St. Katharine's near the Tower of London, and Bermondsey street."
This is esteemed an accurate view of the several suburbs of London in the
year 1524. But all these suburbs were not yet united to each other by a contiguity of dwellings, as appears by a map of London published about 1560,
which is still extant: for St. Giles was then stiled the town of St. Giles, great
part of St. Martin's parish was literally in the fields, as was the upper part of
St. Andrew's Holborn, with Westminster, Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and
Whitechapel; and the street called the Strand, was chiefly taken up by the
houses of nobility with large adjoining gardens.
The sweating sickness returned in 1528, and again carried off great numbers
of the Londoners; and thereby prevented the annual grand march of the city
watch; which, on account of its great expence, was discontinued for the remainder of this reign.
The legality of the king's marriage with Catharine of Arragon, his brother
Arthur's widow, now became an object of serious discussion. It had been
concluded on by his father on mercenary motives; but, on his death-bed, he
had directed his son not to finish an alliance exposed to so many objections.
Henry's youth and dissipation had however made him overlook his scruples,
until they were revived by those of the rest of the world. The states of Castille opposed the emperor's marriage with the princess Mary, Henry's daughter,
on the plea of her illegitimacy; which was again urged by the French ambassador, when a negociation was opened for betrothing her to Francis, or to the
duke of Orleans (fn. 20) : but what probably weighed most with Henry, in attempting a divorce, were that the queen was older than himself by six years, he was
impatient of having male issue, and her growing infirmities rendered her person less acceptable. Being also a great casuist, the early death of all their
children, but this daughter, armed him farther with the curse in the Mosaical
law against those who espouse their brother's widow. (fn. 21) Nor were the people
totally indifferent in this matter; they had wofully felt the evils resulting
from disputed successions to the crown, and were desirous of any event which
might secure the national tranquillity in future.
When Henry applied to pope Clement for a divorce, that pontiff was so
unfortunately circumstanced, that the emperor Charles, who was then in fact
his master, withheld him from granting the full powers required; his conduct
was therefore ambiguous, but he sent over cardinal Campeggio with a commission to him and Wolsey to try the validity of the kings marriage. The
court sat in Blackfriars London May 31. 1529: the queen was cited before it:
she appeared; and, after a pathetic speech, refused submission to the court, but
appealed to Rome: and the emperor, who as her nephew was unwilling to see
her repudiated, prevailed on the pope to revoke his commission. This event
was followed by the disgrace of cardinal Wolsey; and Sir Thomas More was
appointed chancellor in his room.
Henry, disappointed in his application to the pope, referred the case of his
marriage to the most eminent universities abroad and at home, who pronounced
it invalid; as did the convocations of York and Canterbury. Thus fortified,
he again applied to the pope, who cited him to appear at Rome, either personally or by proxy; Henry refused the condition, and his quarrel with the
pope, gave strength to the national disgusts against the arbitrary exercise of the
papal authority over the English church and people. The king married the
lady Anne Boleyn, who was brought from Greenwich to London with great
magnificence: several laws were passed to loosen the connexions of the nation
with the see of Rome; but what chiefly contributed to prepare the people for
an alteration of religion, while the king continued attached to the papal doctrines, was, that Tindal and other English reformers, then refugees at Antwerp,
not only wrote and circulated books against the corruptions of the church of
Rome, but actually made a translation of the scriptures into the vulgar tongue.
This great work was at first inaccurately executed; and Tindal was too poor
to sacrifice the first impression: he was however enabled to print a more correct
edition by the zeal of Tonstal bishop of London, who hoping to discourage these
innovations, bought up all the copies he could procure, and burnt them publickly at Paul's Cross (fn. 22) .
A patent having been granted by the king in the 13th year of his reign to
Sir William Sidney, constituting him keeper of the great beam, or common
balance of weight in the city of London; he in the 22d of his reign revoked
this grant by a charter (See Appendix No. XXXVIII.) which restored that office
in full right to the corporation.
By an act of parliament passed about this time, all butchers meat was first
directed to be sold by weight; and no person was to take above one half-penny
per pound for beef or pork, nor above three farthings for mutton or veal (fn. 23) .
But such fixed prices not accommodating themselves to the fluctuations of seasonable or unseasonable years, this limitation was afterward justly repealed, and
the regulation of prices referred to a committee of the privy council. At this time
the number of butchers in London and its suburbs did not exceed eighty, each
of whom killed nine oxen a week, which in forty-six weeks, none being then
killed in Lent, amount to 33,120 oxen yearly (fn. 24) .
The same parliament (fn. 25) directed the Strand to be paved by the owners of the
adjoining lands; and by another act (fn. 26) all Holborn, between the bridge
and the bars, and the streets of Southwark, were also ordered to be paved.
The king's marriage and the measures pursued by parliament derogatory to
the papal authority, had so irritated the conclave at Rome, that the king's
marriage with Catharine of Arragon was pronounced valid, and he was declared
excommunicated if he refused to adhere to it. Henry was no way disconcerted
by this denunciation; for, supported by his parliament and the English clergy,
he totally deprived it of all force by a bold stroke; and, to compleat his title as
Defender of the Faith, took the supremacy of the church into his own hands:
so strenuously did he assert his character as head of the church, that Fisher
bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More lord chancellor, were both beheaded
on Tower hill for refusing their assent to it.
The common council of London in the year 1535 granted two fifteenths for
bringing water from Hackney to Aldgate, where a conduit was erected for the
use of the eastern part of the city.
In virtue of his newly assumed ecclesiastical character, Henry determined on
the suppression of religious houses, whose revenues were applied to the support
of idleness and superstition, both of them equally destructive to the true interests
of society. Cromwel, then secretary of state, was constituted vicar general to
carry this reform into execution. By the suppression of 376 of the lesser
monasteries, the king became possessed of their revenues to the amount of
32,000 l. a year; beside their plate and goods, which were estimated at
100,000 l. more (fn. 27) . Among these were the convents of St. Thomas a Becket,
the Blackfriars, Whitefriars, Greyfriars, and the Carthusian monks of the
Charter house, in London.
Queen Anne Boleyn, who had brought the king a daughter, afterward our
famous queen Elizabeth, had by an indiscreet levity of behaviour, excited the
king's jealousy; and his love at the same time being tranferred to another object,
she had the formality of a trial previous to her execution, and he married the
lady Jane Seymour, the very next day. This indecent precipitation has been
justly remarked as a strong evidence of the innocence of this unfortunate
lady. Queen Jane gratified the king's ardent desire of having a son, by the
birth of prince Edward, who succeeded him; but she died in child-bed.
An act of parliament (fn. 28) had passed for the preservation of the banks of the
Thames; and ordering all ships that took in ballast in the river, to take for
parcel thereof, the gravel and sand of the shelfs, between Greenwich and
Richmond. In pursuance of this statute for the conservation of the navigation
of the river, the court of common council passed an act to enforce the observance of it, which still remains not only unrepealed, but by the present complaints of the state of this river also unexecuted. That such bye law may be
the more publickly known to be in being, and to shew the care our forefathers took of the river, it is inserted in the Appendix No XXXIX.
We are told that the court of common council had so high an opinion of
the sagacity of one Paul Wythyn Pool, that they made an order dated October
22d. 1539, which gave him the privilege of being present at all their meetings and debates; an irregularity, which had he been a natural born subject,
might have been avoided by taking him into the corporation, and procuring his
election as a member. But this circumstance does not appear.
England had long been famous for archery; several laws had been made
from time to time for the promotion of this art, and for the importation and
manufacture of bows and arrows. Henry was himself fond of the exercise:
he used to go to Mile End to see the London archers at their sports; and in
the 29th year of his reign he granted them a charter of incorporation, by the
name of the fraternity of St. George. On this occasion the following anecdote
is perserved. Henry having appointed a shooting match at Windsor, one
Barlow a citizen of London, and inhabitant of Shoreditch, out-shot all the
rest; which pleased the king so much, that he told Barlow, he should be
called the duke of Shoreditch: this nominal dignity was long preserved by the
captain of the London archers, who used to summon the officers of his several
divisions, by the stile of the marquisses of Barlow, Clerkenwell, Islington, Hoxton,
and Shacklewell; the earl of Pancras, &c. The use of fire arms has however
long since supplanted that of bows and arrows all over Europe, and even
among those nations elsewhere that carry on any intercourse with Europeans.
A translation of the scriptures had been agreed to by the convocation, which
was finished and printed at Paris in the year 1538; by which we learn that
the French were as yet better printers than the English: but Henry was very
cautious in publishing it. A copy was only allowed to some parish churches,
where it was fixed to a chain, and by proclamation the people were exhorted
to use it moderately, for the increase of virtue and not of strife (fn. 29) . Several
points of reformation had been agreed too, and the king entered into a negociation for an union with the German protestants; (fn. 30) but he was so much a
theologian himself, that no agreement could take place between them. A
new visitation was appointed of all the remaining monasteries ; the consequences
of which being foreseen, most of the abbots were induced to surrender their
houses into the king's hands: such also of the monks as had adopted the
reformed doctrines and wished to be released from their vows, chearfully concurred; so that in less than two years Henry got possession of all their revenues. To reconcile the people to this measure, their relics, and miraculous
tricks, with the immoral lives of the friars, were exposed to public derision.
Among the rest, a great wooden idol called Darvel Gatherin, was brought
From Wales to London, where it was cut up and employed to burn friar
Forest, (fn. 31) who was thus wantonly executed for denying the supremacy of our
English pope, Henry. The whole revenue of the religious foundations that
had been destroyed, amounted to the enormous sum of 161,100l. (fn. 32) and the
king took effectual care to interest his subjects in the support of these alterations, by granting, selling, and exchanging the lands, to his favourites and
But though these alterations were advantageous to the nation in general, by
shutting out the pope, and by dispersing the wealth accumulated by the clergy;
Henry, who was bigotted to the doctrine of the real presence, was found as
intolerant as the infallible pontiff at Rome, and was so much the more terrible
by being nearer at hand. He engaged in a public disputation in Westminster
hall, with one Lambert a school-master in London; who though not convinced,
could not fail of being silenced by so formidable an opponent, armed with all
the powers of magistracy. It was not to be imagined that Henry the supream
head of the church, had any other view in this disputation, than to shew how
well he was qualified by his learning, to sustain that high character. To
compleat his mean triumph, Lambert was burnt at a slow fire: and about the
same time six Dutch anabaptists were treated in the same unchristian like
manner; three men and a woman being burnt at Paul's cross, and a man and
woman in Smithfield. (fn. 33)
Neither consistency nor constancy made any part of Henry's character: while
he denied the papal authority, he supported with bigotted superstition many
tenets which flowed from that source; he destroyed monastic institutions,
while he maintained the obligation of vows of chastity; and while he punished
heretics against his new model of popery with unrelenting fury, he seemed to
give a latitude to private judgement by extending the free use of the bible to all
families: a cruel indulgence, as it only prepared those who profited by it, to be
brought to the stake.
The death of his queen Jane Seymour was succeeded by Henry's marriage with
the princess Anne of Cleves; who was sent over and received with great pomp.
He was scrupulous in his choice, and loved women who were largely made like
himself; but when she arrived, he thought her too large and coarse, swore
she was a great Flanders mare; and, to increase his mortification, she could
speak nothing but Dutch, of which he did not understand a word. He compleated his marriage however; but when Cromwel asked him next morning how
he liked his spouse, he replied that he hated her worse than ever. She
was therefore divorced, and he married the lady Catharine Howard.
Three catholics and three protestants this year suffered for heresy; and as if
it was intended to manifest the absurdity of this indiscriminate cruelty, they
were drawn to the place of execution on three hurdles, a catholic and a
protestant on each: the catholic sufferers exclaimed bitterly on this disgrace. (fn. 34)
Notwithstanding Henry took so much irregular trouble to fix himself comfortably in the matrimonial state, he was destined to be unfortunate in his wives:
Catharine Howard was discovered to be a woman of dissolute manners, who
had criminal attachments both before and since her marriage; and being brought
to trial, she was beheaded on Tower-Hill, and her paramours were also executed. He now married a widow, Catharine Parr, the relict of lord Latimer,
who had the good fortune to survive so fickle and dangerous a husband.
A great mortality happening among the cattle in 1543, a sumptuary law
was made by the common council of London to restrain luxurious feasting:
it was ordained, that the lord-mayor should not have more than seven dishes
at dinner or supper; aldermen and sheriffs were limited to six, the swordbearer to four, and the mayor's and sheriffs' officers to three; upon penalty of
40 s. for every supernumerary dish. Beside this restriction, they were prohibited after the ensuing Easter, from buying either swan, crane, or bustard,
under a penalty of 20 s. for every such bird.
The plague rendered London so dangerous this year, that the term was adjourned to St. Alban's; as appears by an inscription still remaining in the abbey
The conveniences of trade now called for an attention to the bad state of the
streets; and the parliament ordered, that the street from Aldgate to Whitechapel church, Chancery-lane, High Holborn, Gray's-Inn-lane, Fetter-lane,
and Shoe-lane, should be paved with stone (fn. 35) . This was followed by an act
for paving the streets called Whitecross-street, Chiswell-street, Grub-street,
Shoreditch, Goswell-street, St. John's-street, Cowcross-street, Wych-street,
Holywell-street near St. Clement's Danes, the Strand from Temple-Bar to
Strand-bridge, Petty-France in Westminster, Water-lane in Fleet-street,
Long-lane in Smithfield, and the Butcher-Row without Temple-Bar. The
mayor and aldermen were impowered to punish defaulters in paving the streets;
as also to make and repair the city conduits (fn. 36) .
The twelve city companies in 1545 advanced the king 21,263 l. 6 s. 8d.
upon a mortgage of crown lands, toward the charges of his war with Scotland.
After that, he determined to raise a farther sum by a benevolence, and sent
commissioners into the city to assess the Londoners. Alderman Richard Read
not only objected to this arbitrary measure, but positively refused to pay the
sum demanded of him; for which, Henry, whose tyrannical spirit would endure no opposition, enrolled him as a foot soldier, and sent him to Scotland
with the army, where, after great hardships, he was taken prisoner, and obliged
to pay a considerable ransom for his liberty.
Henry's brutal zeal was, the next year, exercised against Anne Ascue, a young
lady of the queen's court; who was accused of denying his favourite position of
the real presence in the sacrament. She was most inhumanly put to the rack
in the Tower, to make her discover her patrons at court, among whom the
queen herself was not entirely clear from suspicion of being the chief; but her
inflexible constancy and fidelity reflected no less honour on the unhappy sufferer, than shame on her tyrannical persecutor. She was condemned to be
burned alive, and was so dislocated by the torture she had been put to, that
she was obliged to be carried to the stake in a chair. She suffered with three
other heretics who had all offended in the same delicate point (fn. 37) .
Though the citizens had displeased the king by their opposition to the
benevolence, they recovered his good opinion by raising and fitting out a
regiment of foot, consisting of 1000 men, which they sent to reinforce his
army then in France. A conduit was this year erected in Lothbury, for water
brought from the spring of Dame Annis the Clear, at Hoxton. Henry died
January 28, 1547.
A military spirit was kept up among the people during this reign; every
man was ordered to have a bow (fn. 38) ; butts were erected in every parish; and frequent musters and arrays were made of the people even in time of peace. They
were thus kept ready for defence in time of danger, and the city of London
was alone able to muster 15,000 men (fn. 39) .
The first legal rate of interest for money was fixed in 1546, and limited to ten
per cent. (fn. 40) ; and the first law respecting bankrupts occurs in this reign (fn. 41) . Which
two circumstances were sure indications of the great increase of mercantile
So little were vegetables cultivated, or gardening understood as yet, that in
the year 1509, queen Catharine could not procure a sallad, till Henry sent to
the Netherlands, and engaged a gardener to come over to raise the proper articles here (fn. 42) .