Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

England's Reconciliation with Rome


[WHEN Mary came to the throne, her strongest desire was to bring her country back to the Church of Rome. St. Andrew's Day was the time appointed for the formal reconciliation.
The Editor. ]

AND now St. Andrew's Day was come; a day, as was then hoped, which would be remembered with awe and gratitude through all ages of English history. Being the festival of the institution of the Order of the Golden Fleece, high mass was sung in the morning in Westminster Abbey; Philip, Alva, and Ruy Gomez attended in their robes, with six hundred Spanish cavaliers. The Knights of the Garter were present in gorgeous costume, and nave and transept were thronged with the blended chivalry of England and Castile. It was two o'clock before the service was concluded. Philip returned to the palace to dinner, and the brief November afternoon was drawing in when the Parliament reassembled at the palace. At the upper end of the great hall a square platform had now been raised several steps above the floor, on which three chairs were placed as before; two under a canopy of cloth of gold, for the king and queen; a third on the right, removed a little distance from them, for the legate. Below the platform, benches were placed longitudinally towards either wall. The bishops sat on the side of the legate, the lay peers opposite them on the left. The Commons sat on rows of cross benches in front, and beyond them were the miscellaneous crowd of spectators, sitting or standing as they could find room. The cardinal, who had passed the morning at Lambeth, was conducted across the water in a state barge by Lord Arundel and six other peers. The king received him at the gate, and, leaving his suite in the care of the Duke of Alva, who was instructed to find them places, he accompanied Philip into the room adjoining the hall, where Mary, whose situation was supposed to prevent her from unnecessary exertion, was waiting for them. The royal procession was formed. Arundel and the Lords passed in to their places. The king and queen, with Pole in his legate's robes, ascended the steps of the platform, and took their seats.

When the stir which had been caused by their entrance was over, Gardiner mounted a tribune; and in the now fast-waning light he bowed to the king and queen, and declared the resolution at which the Houses had arrived. Then turning to the Lords and Commons, he asked if they continued in the same mind. Four hundred voices answered, "We do." "Will you, then," he said, "that I proceed in your names to supplicate for our absolution, that we may be received again into the body of the Holy Catholic Church, under the Pope, the supreme head thereof?" Again the voices assented. The chancellor drew a scroll from under his robe, ascended the platform, and presented it unfolded on his knee to the queen. The queen looked through it, gave it to Philip, who looked through it also, and returned it.

[The chancellor then read aloud the writing of the scroll. This expressed, in behalf of all England, repentance for the separation from the Roman Church and prayed for absolution.]

Having completed the reading, the chancellor again presented the petition. The king and queen went through the forms of intercession, and a secretary read aloud, first, the legate's original commission, and, next, the all-important extended form of it.

Pole's share of the ceremony was now to begin.

He first spoke a few words from his seat: "Much, indeed," he said, "the English nation had to thank the Almighty for recalling them to his fold. Once again God had given a token of his special favor to the realm; for as this nation, in the time of the Primitive Church, was the first to be called out of the darkness of heathenism, so now they were the first to whom God had given grace to repent of their schism; and if their repentance was sincere, how would the angels, who rejoice at the conversion of a single sinner, triumph at the recovery of a great and noble people."

He moved to rise; Mary and Philip, seeing that the crisis was approaching, fell on their knees, and the assembly dropped at their example; while, in dead silence, across the dimly-lighted hall, came the low, awful words of the absolution.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ, which with his most precious blood hath redeemed and washed us from all our sins and iniquities, that he might purchase unto himself a glorious spouse, without spot or wrinkle, whom the Father hath appointed head over all his Church—he by his mercy absolves you, and we, by apostolic authority given unto us by the Most Holy Lord Pope Julius the Third, his vicegerent on earth, do absolve and deliver you, and every of you, with this whole realm and the dominions thereof, from all heresy and schism, and from all and every judgment, censure, and pain for that cause incurred; and we do restore you again into the unity of our Mother the Holy Church, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Amidst the hushed breathing every tone was audible, and at the pauses were heard the smothered sobs of the queen. "Amen, amen," rose in answer from many voices. Some were really affected; some were caught for the moment with a contagion which it was hard to resist; some threw themselves weeping in each other's arms. King, Queen, and Parliament, rising from their knees, went immediately—the legate leading—into the chapel of the palace, where the choir, with the rolling organ, sang Te Deum;  and Pole closed the scene with a benediction from the altar.

by James Anthony Froude

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