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“By calling England an ‘Empire’, Cromwell designated it a sovereign state, with a King who owed no submission to any other human ruler and who was invested with plenary power to give his people justice in all causes.”26 And this is what the bill provided for. By this act the pope’s juridical power over the English lay-man was utterly abolished; for the act laid down that appeals in cases about wills, marriages, rights of tithes, oblations and obventions should not henceforward be made to Rome but be heard and finally decided within the realm.27 But the complete breach with Rome was still not achieved. This act “prohibited ap-peals on wills, tithes, and fees, questions which concerned the property rights of Mem-bers of Parliament, and on marriage [Henry's divorce]. It did not prohibit appeals in cases of heresy.”28Although Mr. Russel is correct in saying that the breach was not complete, (”not till the following year would Convocation declare that he [the pope] had no more authority in England than any other foreign bishop, and Parliament declare Henry head of the English Church”29 ) the point was merely technical. For this bill interpreted the praemunire statutes in the broadest possible meaning, a meaning that Pope Clement VII could no longer ignore for it was this bill which gave Thomas Cranmer the power to grant Henry’s divorce. The situation is best summarized by Philip Hughes when he says, “To limit the exercise of the pope’s jurisdiction, albeit unlawfully, is not necessar-ily to deny it; to abolish it altogether can hardly be anything else than utter denial”.30Therefore, on July 4, 1533 Clement VIIexcommunicated the primate for judging the case, and ex-communicated along with him the other bishops who had taken part in the trial, Lee of York, Longland of Lin-coln, and Stephen Gardiner. And on the same day, . . ., the pope ex-communicated Henry also, unless, by Sep-tember he had left Anne and taken back Catherine; also the nuncio was with-drawn from London.31 Henry’s reaction was swift and decisive. Henry started a propaganda campaign di-rected against the papacy and reconvened the Parliament. Henry orderedthat arrangements be made with the bishops for sermons everywhere showing how the pope is subject to the council, and that he is not, by God’s law, any more authority in England than any other foreign bishop; and that whatever authority the pope has ever exercised in England had its ori-gins in the king’s good pleasure only.32 Furthermore, it was ordered that “proclamations are to be made, printed and posted ‘on every church door in England’, of the whole statutes of appeals, . . ., so that none shall be ignorant of the statute, and all men will be prepared to disregard any sentence from Rome against the king”.33 In summary, “there should, then, be an assault on the pope at home; and simultaneously a protective league should be organized abroad against his riposte, a league–even–with the admittedly heretical, Lutheran princes of Germany”. 34It is revealing that Henry considered Lutheranism heretical. Further demon-stration that Henry was not a reformer in the usual sense of the word can be found in the Six Articles of 1539. This act said thatall, who henceforward, denied Transubstantiation were liable to be burnt as heretics and to lose all their property as trai-tors, those who taught that, in order to receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, communion under both species was necessary, or that private masses were con-trary to God’s law, or that actual confession of sins to a priest was not nec-essary to the sacrament of penance, priests who married, and men or women who violated their solemn vows of chastity–all these were to be hanged as felons. . . .35 Henry also placed before the Parliament in 1534 “five new bills that would work out to the full the implications of the surrender of Convocation in 1531, of the Submis-sion of 1532, of the act of that year about annates and episcopal appointments, and of the Statue of Appeals of 1533″.36As Hughes points out, the reason Henry could now be so decisive was that heknew that at home he was safe. He had parliament with him, lords and commons, the landed interest and the traders; and he had for his agent the one political genius of the day, Cromwell. The churchmen had collapsed before the mere thought of his displeasure, while as yet not a single new penalty had been enacted to punish their opposition [this would be rectified]. Henry now pro-posed to secure his gains by a system of new personal oaths for all subjects, and of new, even bloody, penalties for disobedi-ence, against which neither rank nor any prestige of honour and holy living would be protection. The ‘reign of terror’, as it has been called, that was about to begin was not the cause of the first fundamental as-sents to the change, but an effect of the ease with which these had been obtained, a means de-signed to safeguard the change already made and to trans-form it, where this was necessary, from something notational to reality.37 The five bills passed by the spring session of Parliament were:1) The Ecclesiastical Appointments Act: Determined how vacancies were to be filled. The king would choose his man who would then be consecrated by an arch-bishop with no references made to the pope. 2) Dispensations Act: Took care of cases which formerly found their solution in papal licenses and dispensations. The money which formerly went to Rome in these cases now went to the Archbishop of Canterbury who turned most of it over to the king. Also, all monasteries which, because of papal privilege, were not under the con-trol of the diocesan bishop [about 300 houses] were now under the king’s control. 3) The Submission of the Clergy was now made law. 4) First Act of Succession: First act ever passed to regulate the succession to the crown. Henry’s lawful heirs are to be the issue from Anne Boleyn. 5) This act said “no manner of speaking. . .against the said Bishop of Rome or his pretended power. . .nor. . .against any laws called spiritual laws made by his authority and repugnant to English laws or the king’s prerogative shall be deemed. . .heresy”.38The passage of these bills was followed on March 31, 1534, by a thirty-four to four negative vote by the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury to the ques-tion of “Whether the Roman pontiff has any greater jurisdiction bestowed on him by God in the Holy Scriptures in this realm of England than any other foreign bishop?” The schism was complete. Meanwhile, the pope was finally taking some action on Catherine’s dilemma. On March 23, 1534 (word reached London on April 11) twenty-two cardinals in Rome voted that Catherine’s marriage to Henry was just and Henry must take her back. Henry, therefore, must take back Catherine, and pay her costs as well as his own. His petition was answered, his doubts resolved, by the authority which, as the divinely guided interpreter of God’s law, he had, seven years be-fore, appealed.39 Henry’s reaction was to further increase his propaganda program. Therefore, Henry made all the preachers preach an official sermon which denounced the pope. Henry also published an anti-papal treatise entitled A Little Treatise Against the Muttering of Some Papists in Corners. It statedthe Royal Supremacy. . .had really nothing to do with re-lig-ion. It was not a change in religion, . . ., but a matter of poli-tics, the ending of a monstrous usurpation that had been very profitable to the usurper but never justi-fied–a usurpation always grudged in England and ruin-ous to the realm.40Also at this time Cromwell decided thatif parliament’s chief business was to be the demonstration to Europe that England could get on perfectly well with-out Rome, then a necessary preliminary was insurance against disaffection, and for this there was nothing more necessary and useful than ‘to cause indictments to be drawn for the of-fenses in treason and misprision con-cerning the Nun of Canterbury–to know what the king will have done with the Nun and her accomplices’.41In 1525 a woman named Elizabeth Barton became ill for several months. “The ill-ness was accompanied by trances, in which she foretold coming events and asserted that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to her and foretold her cure at the neighboring chapel of Court-at-Street.”42 She was “cured” as predicted and thus came to the atten-tion of the church. Archbishop Warham appointed Dr. Edward Bocking, who was the cellarer of the cathedral monastery of Christ Church, to look into the affair. The commission made a favorable report and in 1525, at the age of sixteen, Elizabeth Bar-ton entered the Benedictine convent of St. Sepulchre near Canterbury. Dr. Bocking was appointed her confessor and director. She remained at Canterbury for eight years but was allowed to travel “on visits of devotion, or in her role of spiritual counselor and comforter of those in distress”.43In 1527 the Nun of Kent, as she was now called, came out against the king’s pro-posed divorce from Catherine. Her fame was such at this time that in 1528 she met with Thomas Wolsey and rebuked him “for his general neglect of his responsibilities and in par-ticu-lar for his share in the divorce proceedings”.44 As her fame continued to spread even Henry had an audience with her. She warned him to stop the divorce or he would be over-taken by catastrophe. As to whether she was having visions or not, it is hard to say. In a judgment of character the concurrent testimony of Warham, Fisher, and More and their esteem for Elizabeth Barton over a series of years, must carry considerable weight, and it goes far towards eliminating the possibility of complete and long standing fraudulence.45 On the other hand it seems plausible to assume she was a sick girl who was eas-ily influenced by those around her. There can be little doubt that she was eventually ex-ploited by a group of clergy centered on Canterbury–es-pecially one Dr. Edward Bocking, her spiritual director and a monk at Christ Church–who were opposed to the divorce and saw in her a useful weapon with which to harass the king.46 Under Dr. Bocking’s influence, the Holy Maid prophesied that “if Catherine suffered any wrong Henry ’should no longer be king of this realm. . .and should die a villain’s death’”.47If it had been any other time, Elizabeth Barton would probably have been safe from persecution, but with the situation as it was in 1533 Henry could not afford to ig-nore a po-tential source of trouble. For “if Bocking and the others had their way, she might have been used to stir the commons and fire serious unrest. . .”.48Another possible reason for Henry’s decision to strike against the Nun was that hewas moved by news or forecasts of his impending ex-com-munication [for divorcing Catherine] which took place on 4 July in Rome. In the sequel the chief aim of the king and his minister was to deprive both excommu-nication and prophet-ess of their credit by representing the former as effected by the latter, and the latter as de-luded or criminal.49 Therefore, “in mid-July (1533) he [Henry] ordered Cromwell and Cranmer to strike”.50 Elizabeth was questioned briefly in July and released. But in November she was arrested again and “was examined several times by the Council and the Star Cham-ber”51 and was charged with “having spoken and influenced opinion against the king’s divorce and second marriage, . . .”.52 We can deduce that sometime during this trial she confessed that “her revelations were imaginary, and had been suggested and en-couraged by Bocking and others”.53 Now it remained to discredit her in the eyes of the public. Thereforeon Sunday, November 23, 1533, she and her compan-ions. . .were placed on a scaffold at St. Paul’s cross to do public penance.54During this public displaythe nun was required to hand a form of confession to Dr. Capon, who read it to the people. “I dame Elizabeth Barton. . .do confess that I, most miserable and wretched person, have been the original of all this mischief, and by my falsehood have deceived all these persons here and many more, whereby I have most grievously offended almighty God and my most noble sovereign, the king’s grace. Wherefore I humbly, and with heart most sorrow-ful, deserve you to pray to Almighty God for my miser-able sins, and ye that may do me good to make supplica-tion to my most sov-ereign for me for his gracious mercy and pardon.55But the prayers were unheard for on April 21, 1534, under an act of Attainder (for it was not yet treason to speak against the king), “Elizabeth Barton, the Benedictine Bocking. . .were executed as traitors at Tyburn”.56This whole affair is best summed up G. H. Cook who saidalthough it had no immediate bearing on the general sup-pression, the affair of the Holy Maid of Kent; in which sev-eral religious houses were implicated, had some in-fluence in bringing monks into disfavour with Henry VIII, and hastened Cromwell’s plans for the consfication of monastic prop-erty.57Furthermore, Cromwell made sure that the autumn Parliament of 1534 corrected some defi-ciencies in the king’s power. The most obvious deficiency was the lack of a defini-tion of treason broad enough to handle cases such as Elizabeth Barton’s. The First Act of Succession had given a definition of treason but it made no refer-ence to speaking against the king. And if any person or persons. . .by writing or by any ex-terior act or deed, maliciously procure or do. . .any thing or things to the prejudice, slander, disturbance, or dero-gation of the said lawful matrimony solemnized between your majesty and the said Queen Anne. . .then every such person and persons. . .shall be adjudged high traitors, and. .shall suffer pains of death, as in cases of high trea-son. . . .58Therefore, the Treasons Act was passed in November, 1534. This definition of treason made it a crime to speak against the king. Be it therefore enacted. . .that if any person. . .do mali-ciously wish, will, or desire, by words or writing. . .to deprive them [Royal Family]. . .of their dignity, title or name. . .[or] pronounce, by express writing or words, that the king our sovereign lord should be a heretic, schis-matic, tyrant, infidel or usurper of the crown. . .being thereof lawfully convicted. . .shall be adjudged traitor, and that every such offense. . .shall be reputed. . .and adjudged high trea-son. . .and suffer such pains of death and other penalties, as is limited and accustomed in cases of high treason (emphasis is mine).59Also, in this same session of Parliament, there was passed the Supremacy Act which gave legal status to the king’s new powers. Let it be enactedthat the king. . .shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia; and shall have. . .full power and author-ity from time to time to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain, and amend all such er-rors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts, and enormi-ties, whatsoever they be, by which any manner spiritual authority or jurisdic-tion ought or may lawfully be re-formed, repressed, ordered, redressed, corrected, re-strained, or amended, most to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue on Christ’s religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquillity of this realm; any usage, custom, foreign law, for-eign authority, prescription, or nay other thing or things to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.60The Second Act of Succession was also passed in this session. This act gave the form of the oath which was provided for in the First Act of Succession. Ye shall swear to bear faith, truth, and obedience alonely to the king’s majesty, and to his heirs of his body of his most dear and entirely beloved wife Queen Anne, begot-ten and to be begotten, and further to the heirs of our said sovereign lord according to the limitation in the statute made for surety of his succession in the crown of this realm, mentioned and contained, and not to any other within this realm, nor foreign authority or poten-tate: and in case any oath be made, or has been made, by you, to any person or persons, that then ye (are) to re-pute the same as vain and annihilate; and that, to your cun-ning, wit, and uttermost of your power, without guile, fraud, or other undue means, you shall observe, keep, maintain, and defend the said Act of Succession, and all the whole ef-fects, and contents thereof, and all other Acts and statutes made in confirmation, or for exe-cution of the same, or of anything therein contained; and this ye shall do against all manner of persons, of what estate, dignity, degree, or condi-tion soever they be, and in no wise do or attempt, nor to your power suffer to be done or attempted, directly or indi-rectly, any thing or things privily or apartly to the let, hin-drance, damage, or derogation thereof, or of any part of the same, by any manner of means, or for any manner of pre-tense; so help you God, all saints, and the holy Evangelists.61Finally, the Annates Tax formerly paid to the pope was now ordered to be paid to the king. This ended the important acts of the autumn session of Parliament and also ended the Reformation Parliament. The legal settlement was now complete. It only re-mained to realize it in a few important public submis-sions, and to en-force its sanctions against the small band of highly placed recusants.62Therefore, in April, 1535 “all supporters of the pope’s jurisdiction were now ordered to be arrested, and on April 20. . .the priors of the Charterhouse of London, Beauvale and Axholme, and Dr. Richard Reynolds of the Bridgettine monastery of Syon”63 were ar-rested. They were charged with “denying the king to be supreme head of the English Church”64 and were sentenced to death. On May 4 they were put to death as traitors at Tyburn, hanged in their religious dress, against all precedent for the execution of criminous clerks, priesthood and mona-chism being thereby punished and warned as well as priests and monks.65As pointed out by Professor Hughes, the fact that they were executed in their clerical garb demonstrated the government’s contempt for the clerical estate as did the method of execu-tion. He was then hanged with a thick rope, and almost im-medi-ately cut down. He was stripped of all his clothes, except for his hair shirt. He was disemboweled, his heart was torn out and rubbed in his face, he was dismembered and one arm sent to be nailed above the door of the Charterhouse.66On June 19 three more members of the London Charterhouse were similarly executed. Following these executions were the executions of Bishop Fisher on June 22, 1535 and Thomas More on July 6, 1535. They were both convicted of refusing to take the oath of supremacy. At this time Cromwell decided to use the king’s new powers of visitation to compile the “Valor Ecclesiastious, a detailed assessment of all clerical incomes from those of bishop-rics down to those of vicarages and chapels”67, in order to collect the newly reinstated an-nates tax. Cathedrals, collegiate churches, parish churches, monas-ter-ies, convents and hospitals, all were summoned to produce their estate books and accounts. Their officials were heard on oath, their stewards and bailiffs and ten-ants; and soon the king knew to a farthing exactly how much the Church owned. . . . All was done according to a well arranged plan, and set down in orderly form, so that the king would know just what his new ecclesiastical revenue ought to be, that an-nual tenth of the income of every benifice–clerical or monastic–and that the tax of a whole year’s income paid every time a benifice changed hands.68Naturally many of the houses tried to represent their holdings as being less then they were. Ironically, these lies would return to haunt them. Chapter 3DISSOLUTION OF THE LESSER MONASTERIESIn January, 1535 Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell “vicar-general with authority to undertake, by himself or his agents, a general visitation of churches, mon-asteries, and clergy”.1Therefore, in July, 1535 Cromwell appointed various men to the task of visiting monasteries once again. This time there stated purpose wasto enquire whether divine service was duly observed, how many inmates there were and how many there ought to be, particulars of foundation and endowment, what special rules there were and how far kept, how well the Benedictine rule was followed, whether woolen shirts were always worn, and so on.2After acquiring this information, it would be decided how to improve the religious life. But, the “real” purpose of the visitations seems to have been to gather enough incrimi-nating evi-dence to justify at least partial suppressions in order to help alleviate Henry’s fiscal problems. As was pointed out earlier in this paper, the importation of American bullion was causing international inflation at this time. Henry was also faced with the possibil-ity of inva-sion by Spain or France in retaliation for his anti-papal actions of the last six years. This ne-cessitated his allocating more money to the military. It is possible to understand why, with these pressing monetary needs, the king’s eye would fall on the church as a way to solve his problems. The monasteries “had a gross in-come of a hundred and sixty thousand pounds and a net income of a hundred and thirty five”.3 “The property of the Church represented between one-forth and one-third of all the land in England. . .”.4In July, 1535 Thomas Cromwell sent his agents to visit the monasteries. The four principal visitors were Richard Layton, Thomas Legh, John ap Rice and John London. The first two were doctors of the university of Cambridge, London an Oxford doctor. The first three were, at this time, men in the middle thirties, Dr. London was somewhere about fifty. He was a priest, and so was Layton; the other two were laymen.5They carried with themtwo documents, a list of instructions, which was in fact a long questionnaire to be administered to each of the re-ligious, and a set of injunctions to be issued at the end of the visitations.6The “instructions” consisted of seventy-four questions for the religious and twelve separate questions for the nuns. Among the questions were:the number of the religious; revenues and possessions and ti-tle deeds of the house; the rule; whether the nov-ices were taught the rule, how they were educated and whether money was demanded for their admission; ob-servance of the relig-ious obligations, e. g. use of a common dormitory, common refectory, and of the offi-cial costume or habit; observance of the discipline of fasts, of silence and the rule of enclosure. Had any of the community abandoned the religious life? How was the superior chosen? Were his relations with the other sex correct? Had he favourites in the community? Did he favour his relatives at the expense of the monastic reve-nues or sell presentations to livings? Did he submit his accounts to the community and care for the property? Was there an inventory and was the convent seal kept from misuse? Were sick religious treated well; the duties of hospitality practiced; the archives well preserved? Were the subordinate officials competent and faithful? The nuns were asked whether they had made their pro-fessions in real freedom; how they occu-pied their time when not in choir; whether their relations with clergy and laymen were correct, and how often they went to con-fession and received Holy Communion.7The injunctionsbegan by reminding the abbot and community of the two oaths they had recently taken in respect of the Acts of Succession and Supremacy, and the first injunction laid down that ‘the abbot. . .shall faithfully, truly and heartily keep and observe, and cause, teach and procure to be kept’ all the laws and instructions relating to these two great issues, and that superiors ’shall observe and fulfill by all the means that they best may, the statutes of the realm made or to be made for the suppression and taking away of the usurped and pretended jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome within this realm’.8The injunctions went on to reduce the number of clergy by dismissing children who had been dedicated to the cloister by their parents, dismissing those who had entered as boys and those who confessed they were in the wrong vocation. Furthermore, the monks were for-bidden to leave their precinct. “Also, that women, of what state or degree soever they be, be utterly excluded from entering into the limits or circuit of this monastery. . .unless they first obtain license of the king’s highness or his visitor.”9 It was ordered “that they shall not shew no reliques, or feigned miracles, for increase of lucre, but that they exhort pilgrims and strangers to give that to the poor that they thought to offer to their images or reliques”.10It must have been known that some of these rules were unenforceable. Henry and Cromwell must have planned to use the inevitable infractions as grounds for sup-pression. This is supported by Professor Knowles who says the injunctions were in-tended to “drive them [the monks] either to petition for release or to disobedience which could be punished by suppression”.11 But, whatever the intention of the visitations and injunctions, the result was suppres-sions. In March 1536 sufficient evidence had been collected to justify Henry appearing himself in Parliament to declare the iniquities of the monks in the lesser monasteries [income of L200 or less a year}, to suggest their dissolu-tion, and to claim that their wealth should be appropri-ated to his own use.12Parliament agreed and shortly afterwards passed the "Act for the dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries" (this bill is in the Appendix) which suppressed all monasteries "with a commu-nity of no more than twelve and a net income of less than L200 a year".13 The opening line of this bill says that "manifest sin, vicious, carnal, and abomi-nable living is daily used and committed among the little and small abbeys. . ."14 and this is why they must be closed. We have no record of what Henry said to Parliament. It was much later said that Parliament was presented with a report called The Black Book; but if so there is no evidence of what was in it, or of anyone who saw it. It can-not have contained the fragmentary Comperta [reports of the 1535 visitations] which have survived, for, in the ensuing Act, Parliament piously thanks God ‘for divers and great sol-emn monasteries where religion is right well kept’, but in the Comperta the greater mon-asteries are made out to be as bad, if not worse, than the lesser ones. We can only con-clude that Parliament ac-cepted the word of the King.15But, by studying the letters sent to Cromwell by his agents, we will get some idea of the conditions they reported they found. One of the common complaints of the visitors seems to have been the number of relics and the image worship prevalent in the monasteries. Richard Layton wrote Cromwell from Monk Farleign, Wiltshire:I send you the Vincula of S. Petrus [fetters or girdle of S. Peter] which women put about them at the time of their de-livery. Ye shall also receive a great comb called Mary Magdalen’s comb, S. Dorothy’s comb, S. Margarets’s comb the least, they [the monks] cannot tell how they came by them, nor have anything to show in writing [that] they be rel-ics.16Layton also wrote to Cromwell about the relics he found at Maiden Bradley priory, Wiltshire, and at Bruton abbey, Somerset. I send you reliquaries; first, two flowers wrapped in white and black sarcenet that on Christmas eve, in the hour in which Christ was born, will spring and burgeon and bear blossoms, which may be seen, saith the prior of Maiden Bradley; ye shall also receive a bag of relics, where in ye shall see strange things, as shall appear by the scripture, as God’s coat, Our Lady’s smock, part of God’s supper on the Lord’s table, part of the stone [of the manger] in which was born Jesus in Bethlehem. . . .I send you also Our Lady’s girdle of Bruton [abbey], red silk, which is a solemn relic sent to women traveling which shall not miscarry enroute. I send you also Mary Mag-dalen’s girdle. . . .17Other letters paint a sordid picture of the life style in some of the monasteries. Cromwell’s agent, John Bartelot “found the prior of the Crossed Friars in Lon-don at that time being in bed with his whore, both naked. . .”.18Layton wrote from the Syon abbey that he hadlearned many enormous things against Bishop in the ex-ami-nation of the lay breathen; first that Bishop. . .persuaded one of his lay breathen, a smith, to have made a key for the door, to have in the night-time received in wenches for him and his fellow and especially a wife of Uxbridge. . .he was desirous to have had her conveyed in to him. The said Bishop also persuaded a nun, to whom he was confessor, to submit her body to his pleasure, and thus he persuaded her in confes-sion, making her believe that whensoever and as oft as they should meddle to-gether, if she were immediately after con-fessed by him, and took of him absolution, she should be clear forgiven of God. . . .19One more example comes from Dr. Layton and Dr. Legh. They wrote thatthe abbot of Fountains hath so greatly dilapidated his house, wasted their woods, notoriously keeping six whores, de-famed here by all people. . . . Six days before our access to his monastery he committed theft and sacri-lege, confessing the same.20But, contrary to what some historians imply, not all of these letters were anti-monas-tic. John Tregonwell, writing about the nunnery at Godstow, said that hefound all things well and in good order as well in the monas-tery and the abbey there, as also in the convent of the same, except that one sister thirteen or fourteen years past, being then of another house brake her chastity, the which for cor-rection and punishment afterwards was sent to Godstow by the Bishop of Lincoln, where now and ever since then she hath lived virtuous.21At Bruern he saidthe abbot is (as it appears to me) not only virtuous and well learned in holy scripture, but also hath right well re-paired the ruin and decay of that house, left by his prede-cessor’s negli-gence, and the convent (which heretofore were insolent) be-ing now brought to order.22From these examples it is apparent that the findings of the visitors were not categori-cally damning, but it is also true that some of the visitors, Dr. Layton in par-ticular, were over-enthusiastic in their search for damning evidence. In one letter to Cromwell, Dr. Layton wrote thatthe abbey here [S. Mary de Pratis, Leicester] is confed-erate, we suppose, and nothing will confess. The abbot is an hon-est man and doth very well, but he hath here the most obsti-nate and factious canons that ever I knew. This morning I will object against divers of them sodomy and adultery, and thus descend to particulars which I have learned of others, but not of any of them; what I shall find I cannot tell.23Another interesting aspect of these suppressions is that, even though the letters con-demn both small and large monasteries, the “Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries” only suppressed the smaller ones. In fact, it goes so far as to praise the larger ones, saying “that divers and great solemn monasteries of this realm, wherein (thanks be to God) religion is right well kept and observed. . .”.24 Even more amazing is the fact that upon dissolution the religious were given the option of “going to another house of the order or ‘taking capacities’, that is, accepting dispensations from their vows of poverty and obed



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