chapter  6
16 Pages

THE POLITICS OF EARLY TUDOR PARLIAMENTS

It was unfortunate for Thomas Cromwell that, whilst many men looked to him as the King's chief minister for favours, he did not create a faction around him. In 1539, Henry VIII, after several years of mild flirtation with the reformed religion which Cromwell patronised, reverted to a hard-line Catholic position with the Act of six articles. This laid down a corpus of Catholic dogma, together with harsh penalties for nonconformity. When the measure was introduced, Cromwell was taken by surprise and his arch-enemy, Norfolk, steered it through the Lords. This exposed the minister's dangerously isolated position. He had guided his royal master into a distasteful marriage with Anne of Cleves. Norfolk and Gardiner seized their opportunity and convinced a susceptible king that Cromwell had heretical leanings. In 1539 Parliament was used to defeat the detested upstart minister, and in 1540 to destroy him by Act of attainder, without a trial. In other words, factions resorted to parliaments to achieve their ends, but they did so in a discreet manner, embodying their victories in statutes which were couched in formal and legal language, with the occasional obsequious touch. To all appearances parliamentary harmony remained.