It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. — James Madison

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The New Opinions

In those days all Europe was in a state of excitement.

The Reformation, begun so long before by Wyclif, had been steadily gaining ground; and although Wyclif's disciples, the Lollards, were sorely persecuted, their teachings had won converts in many parts of Europe.

Besides, the discovery of printing had brought into common use many books which had hitherto been in the hands of only a few learned men. The result was that people began to read more, and to form different opinions on all matters, especially on religion. These differences led sometimes to very serious disputes.

There was a man in Germany, Martin Luther, who had once been a monk, but who was now an ardent reformer; that is, he disagreed with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and wrote in defence of his opinions.

This bold preaching by Martin Luther made a great stir in Germany, and while some of his hearers agreed with him, others thought he ought to be burned as a heretic, or man with wrong opinions. Among those who did not approve of. Luther was Henry VIII. of England, who, after reading the reformer's book, wrote a treatise to show that he was wrong.

Priding himself upon his cleverness, Henry sent a copy of his work to the pope, who was so pleased with it that he bestowed upon the English monarch the name of "Defender of the Faith." This title is still borne by British sovereigns, and you can see it stamped on English coins to-day.

But although Henry thought it so very wicked of Luther not to obey the pope, you will soon see that he did not always do so himself. Henry had, as you remember, married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon. They had many children, but all died in infancy, except a sickly little girl named Mary.

As no woman had ever yet really reigned in England, Henry was afraid that if he died the crown would pass out of his family. He longed to have a son, was tired of Catherine, now that she was old, and wished he could marry one of her pretty waiting women, Anne Boleyn, with whom he had fallen in love.

To get rid of Catherine, Henry first said he was sure God was displeased with him, because all his baby boys had died. Next he said that God must be angry because he had married his brother's widow, a marriage which the Catholic Church seldom allows.

When he had thus paved the way, Henry bade Wolsey send to Rome and ask the pope for a divorce. Wolsey obeyed, but although he tried very hard, he could not get the divorce. The fact was that the pope did not know what to do. He knew that the reformers were growing in numbers, and feared that if he refused, Henry VIII. would join their ranks. But if he granted the divorce he knew it would offend Queen Catherine's nephew, the Emperor Charles, who was master of all Italy, and who kept the pope almost a prisoner in Rome.

Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn.

In spite of all Henry's urgings, therefore, the pope would not give a decided answer; but after a year of wavering, he sent his legate to talk over the matter with Wolsey. Now there was more delay, for the legate tried to make Henry give up the divorce, while Wolsey tried to persuade Queen Catherine to withdraw into a nunnery. Neither would consent, and the king, angry at these delays, began to hate his former friend Wolsey. One day he asked the chancellor for the state accounts. By mistake, Wolsey brought the king his own private account book. Henry opened it, and, finding that the chancellor was far richer than he had ever supposed, grew jealous of his subject's wealth, and made up his mind to take back his presents. Wolsey was therefore forced to give up his two palaces, which became the property of the king, and to go and live at York.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee