Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The New Queen Esther

King Henry grew increasingly horrified as he listened to the sermon by John Skipp, his wife Anne's Almoner, on Passion Sunday at Greenwich.  The man actually had the temerity to insult him! He had talked about King Solomon who was immoral in his last years and took 'wives and concubines'. There was no doubt that Skip was referring to Henry!

Thomas Cromwell was also extremely angry because the sermon was a thinly disguised attack on his bill for the dissolution of the smaller monasteries and it must have been approved by Anne herself. Skipp was obviously defending the clergy who he felt were treated as if they were all guilty. He compared them to the Jews in the Bible story who were persecuted by the evil and greedy councillor Haman.  This was certainly meant to be a reference to Cromwell.

The only one who may have been pleased was Anne who Skipp compared with the good Queen Esther who saved the Jews and hanged the mendacious Haman. Unfortunately, she had no way of knowing that her fight with Cromwell would be the beginning of her downfall.

Anne was angry about the dissolution of the monasteries because she had thought that that its purpose was reform and the bill referred to using the confiscated assets for the pleasure of Almighty God and to help maintain people of good learning and educational institutions. Instead, she discovered that Henry and Cromwell were selling the highly-valued assets to the Crown, selling off monastery land cheaply to nobles and merchants and using proceeds to shore up defences. Cromwell may also have siphoned some of the money for himself.

The Queen wanted the monasteries to be reformed or converted to educational foundations. She also wanted the money from any dissolutions to be committed to university bursaries and scholarships to train clergymen or given to the poor.  She may even  have personally requested the King to preserve Catesby Abbey but he refused because the nuns could not support themselves.  (However, Elizabeth Norton thinks that it was Jane Seymour who made the appeal).  She also gave English prayer books to the nuns at Syon Priory after giving them a lecture about using Latin primers.

According to Eric Ives, Chapuys wrote that Cromwell actually tried to conciliate Anne by moderating the dissolution, but Henry, seeing the coffers of gold, opposed this.  Cromwell's desire for an imperial alliance also boded badly for the poor Queen. The final straw was the King's liking for the quiet and sedate Jane Seymour.  Cromwell would have to choose...
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