Category Archives: 16th Century

Diet of Worms

The Diet of Worms from

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther

by Reserved Smith PH.D. 1911

Martin Luther etching 1521

The DIET OF WORMS. 1521 From Cologne Charles V proceeded to Mayence and thence to Worms, where he was about to open his first diet. The varied programme of the national assembly included the drafting of a constitution for the Empire and the formulation of grievances against the tyranny of the Roman hierarchy.  It could hardly hope to avoid the religious question then agitating the whole nation, but the unprecedented course of summoning the heretic to answer before the representatives of his nation was not decided on until after the estates had been sitting for a month.

Luther himself, in appealing to the Emperor, did not expect to be called before the Diet; he hoped to be allowed to defend his doctrines before a specially appointed tribunal of able and impartial theologians.  This plan was pressed quietly but vigorously by Erasmus, the foremost living man of letters.  Besides his action in urging Frederic to insist on such a trial for his subject, the great humanist had, at Cologne, handed to the counsellors of the Emperor a short memorial, Advice of One heartily wishing the Peace of the Church, proposing the appointment of such a commission.  He partly won over the Emperor’s confessor, Glapion, but Chievres and Gattinara, the real powers behind the imperial throne, remained in opposition.   A little later at Worms, John Faber, a Dominican friar, came forward with a similar plan, composed with the help of Erasmus.

Such a solution of the difficulty would have been most distasteful to the Curia.  Regarding the Wittenberg professor’s opinions as res adjudicates, the Romanists saw no reason for giving him a chance to defend them, and wished only to punish the man already condemned.  This course was urged by Aleander, an extremely able and unscrupulous diplomat.  His chief support was the young emperor, whose formal, backward mind failed to comprehend and even detested any variation from the faith in which he had been brought up.

Pilgrimage of Grace


The Pilgrimage of Grace from

The History of the Catholic Church Volume II- 1914

By Rev James MacCaffrey – Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

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Monasteries of England and Wales in the time of Henry VIIIThe Pilgrimage of Grace in the north was destined to prove a much more dangerous movement. Early in October 1536 the people of York, determined to resist, and by the middle of the month the whole country was up in arms under the leadership of Robert Aske, a country gentleman and a lawyer well-known in legal services in London. Soon the movement spread through most of the counties of the north. York was surrendered to the insurgents without a struggle. Pomfret Castle, where the Archbishop of York and many of the nobles had fled for refuge, was obliged to capitulate, and Lord Darcy, the most loyal supporter of the king in the north, agreed to join the party of Aske. Hull opened its gates to the rebels, and before the end of October a well trained army of close on 40,000 men led by the principal gentlemen of the north lay encamped four miles north of Doncaster, where the Duke of Norfolk at the head of 8,000 of the king’s troops awaited the attack. The Duke, fully conscious of the inferiority of his forces and well aware that he could not count on the loyalty of his own soldiers, many of whom favoured the demands of the rebels, determined to gain time by opening negotiations for a peaceful settlement (27th Oct.). Two messengers were dispatched to submit their grievances to the king, and it was agreed that until an answer should be received both parties should observe the truce. The king met the demands for the maintenance of the old faith, the restoration of the liberties of the Church, and the dismissal of ministers like Cromwell by a long explanation and defence of his political and religious policy, and the messengers returned to announce that the Duke of Norfolk was coming for another conference. Many of the leaders argued that the time for peaceful remonstrances had passed, and that the issue could be decided now only by the sword. Had their advice been acted upon the results might have been disastrous for the king, but the extreme loyalty of both the leaders and people, and the fear that civil war in England would lead to a new Scottish invasion, determined the majority to exhaust peaceful means before having recourse to violence.

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Debasement of the Coinage


Debasement of the Coinage from

The Labor Problem

by Richard Theodore Ely, James A. Waterworth, Fred Woodrow – 1866

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The Coining ProcessDebasement of the Coinage – The infamous act which destroyed resistance to the enforcement of the statutory wages was the debasement of the coinage, begun under  Henry VIII and continued under the Protectorate. 

Debasing the currency is the last and gravest political crime a government can commit against its people. It is especially a crime against the laborer, whose margin of income over expenditure is of the smallest.  Up to this time the penny in which his wages were paid contained 11.1 grains of pure silver. In 1543 Henry debased it to 8.3 grains; in 1545 to 5 grains; in 1546 to 3.3 grains; and under Somerset’s protectorate it was further debased in 1551 to 1.6 grains!  In those days of slow and imperfect communication it was some time before the fraud began to operate on prices, and the laborer was the last to perceive how he was being robbed.  Slowly but surely, however, the workman found that his wages were losing their purchasing power. One can imagine the terror of the ignorant laborer as he saw the value of his money disappearing, till at last the vile trash which represented his week’s wages would not purchase two days provisions. This was an enemy be could not fight. The lately prosperous and independent workman found himself a beggar, and his children starving. Wherever he turned for relief he met only disappointment. The desolate halls of the monastery mocked his misery. Its hospitable ambry was empty, its hearth-stone cold.  In his cottage, lately so joyous, he saw only starvation and despair. Men who had hitherto been industrious and honest now roamed the country either as open robbers or as “sturdy beggars.”

Savage laws were enacted to repress these crimes.  By the first Edward VI. it was enacted that the landless and destitute poor be reduced to slavery, branded, and made to work in chains. An act was passed prohibiting “all confederacies, and promises of workmen concerning their work or wages, or the hours of the day when they should work.”  Any violation of this statute was to be punished: for a first offence by a fine of £10, or twenty days imprisonment; for a second offence by a fine of £20, or the pillory; for a third offence by a fine of £40, the pillory, the loss of the left ear, and judicial infamy. This statute was not repealed till 1824.

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The Oath of Supremacy

The Oath of Supremacy from

The History of the Catholic Church Volume II- 1914

By Rev James MacCaffrey – Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth


The Great Seal of Henry VIII

The Oath of Supremacy – In October 1536 the men of Lincoln took up arms in defence of their religion. Many of the noblemen were forced to take part in the movement, with which they sympathised, but which they feared to join lest they should be exposed to the merciless vengeance of the king. The leaders proclaimed their loyalty to the crown, and announced their intention of sending agents to London to present their petitions. They demanded the restoration of the monasteries, the removal of heretical bishops such as Cranmer and Latimer, and the dismissal of evil advisers like Cromwell and Rich. Henry VIII. returned a determined refusal to their demands, and dispatched the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Suffolk to suppress the rebellion. The people were quite prepared to fight, but the noblemen opened negotiations with the king’s commanders, and advised the insurgents to disperse. The Duke of Suffolk entered the city of Lincoln amidst every sign of popular displeasure, although since the leaders had grown fainthearted no resistance was offered. Those who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion were arrested and put to death; the oath of supremacy was tendered to every adult; and by the beginning of April 1537, all traces of the rebellion had been removed.

The Biography of Elizabeth I (1533-1603)


The Biography of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England and Ireland
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 6, 1908

ELIZABETH I (1533-1603), queen of  England and  Ireland, was born at Greenwich on 7 Sept. 1533. She was the daughter of Henry VIII, by Anne Boleyn q. v., whose secret marriage had been celebrated in the previous January. Three days after her birth (10 Sept.) she was baptised at the church of the Grey Friars at Greenwich by Stokesley, bishop of London, Cranmer, who had been consecrated archbishop of Canterbury that same year, standing as her godfather. The ritual was that of the Roman church, and the ceremonial was conducted with great pomp and magnificence. Margaret, lady Bryan, mother of the dissolute but gifted Sir Francis Bryan q. v., was appointed governess to the young princess, as she had previously been to her sister, the Princess Mary. Lady Bryan proved herself to be a careful and affectionate guardian, who, under circumstances of extraordinary difficulty, consistently kept in view the interests of her ward. During the first two or three years of her infancy the princess was moved about from house to house. Sometimes she was at Greenwich, sometimes at Hatfield, sometimes at the Bishop of Winchester’s palace at Chelsea. On Friday, 7 Jan. 1536, Queen Catherine died at Kimbolton. On Friday, 19 May, Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Next day the king married Jane Seymour. On 1 July the parliament declared that the Lady Mary, daughter of the first queen, and the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the second, were equally illegitimate, and that ‘the succession to the throne be now therefore determined to the issue of the marriage with Queen Jane. Less than six months before (Sunday, 9 Jan.), Henry, in the glee of his heart at Queen Catherine’s death, ‘clad all over in yellow, from top to toe, except the white feather he had in his bonnet,’ had sent for the little princess, who was ‘conducted to mass with trumpets and other great triumphs,’ and after dinner, ‘carrying her in his arms, he showed her first to one and then to another.’


The Biography of Mary I (1516-1558)

Mary I


The Biography of Mary I (1516-1558)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 12, 1909

MARY I (1516-1558), queen of  England and Ireland, third but only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was born at four o’clock in the morning of Monday, 18 Feb. 1515-16 at Greenwich Palace. She was baptised with great solemnity on Wednesday, 20 Feb., in the monastery of Grey Friars, which adjoined Greenwich Palace. Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury q. v., carried her to the font, assisted by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Princess Catherine Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, and the Duchess of Norfolk were her godmothers. Cardinal Wolsey stood godfather. The infant was named Mary, after her father’s favourite sister see Mary, 1496-1533, After baptism, the girl received the rite of confirmation, the Countess of Salisbury acting as sponsor. To the countess, a very pious catholic, the queen confided the general care of the child, while Catherine, wife of Leonard Pole (a kinsman of the countess’s husband, Sir Richard Pole), was appointed her nurse, and before she was a year old, Henry Rowte, a priest, became her chaplain and clerk of the closet. For her first year Mary chiefly lived under the same roof as her parents. The autumn of 1517 she spent at the royal residence of Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire, within easy reach of Windsor. In February 1518, when she was just two, Henry VIII, carrying her in his arms, introduced her to a crowd of courtiers, including Wolsey and Sebastian Giustinian, the Venetian ambassador. All kissed the child’s hand, but Mary suddenly cast her eyes on a Venetian friar, Dionisius Meno, the king’s organist, and calling out, ‘Priest, priest,’ summoned him to play with her (Giustinian, ii. 161; BREWER, i 232).  The childish cry – Mary’s first reported words – almost seems of prophetic import. About the same time Margaret, wife of Sir Thomas Bryan, was made governess to the princess, and there were added to her household a chamberlain (Sir Weston Browne) and a treasurer (Richard Sydnour).

The Biography of Edward VI (1537-1558)

The Biography of Edward VI (1537-1558)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 6, 1908

Edward VI
Edward VI

EDWARD VI (1537-1553), king of  England, was son of Henry VIII by his third wife, Jane Seymour, daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire. His father married 19 May 1536, and the son was born at Hampton Court 12 Oct 1537. A letter under the queen’s signet announced the event to ‘the lord privy seal’ on the same day. The christening took place in the chapel at Hampton Court on 15 Oct Princess Mary was godmother, and Archbishop Cranmer and the Duke of Norfolk godfathers. The Marchioness of Exeter carried the infant in her arms during the ceremony. On 19 Oct. Hugh Latimer sent the minister Cromwell a characteristic letter, entreating that the child should be brought up in the protestant faith. Queen Jane Seymour died on 24 Oct., and the despatch sent to foreign courts to announce her death dwelt on the nourishing health of the prince. In his first year Holbein painted his portrait and that of his wet nurse,’ Mother lak.’ As early as March 1539 a separate household was established for the boy. Sir William Sidney became chamberlain, and Sir John Cornwallis steward. There were also appointed a comptroller, vice-chamberlain, almoner dean, lady-mistress, nurse, and rockers. Lady Bryan, who had brought up both the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, received the office of lady-mistress, and Sybil Penne, sister of Sir William Sidneys wife, was nominated chief nurse in October 1538. George Owen was the prince’s physician from the first.

The Biography of Francis Bacon (1561-1628) in 1909

The Biography of Francis Bacon (1561-1628)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 1, 1909
Written by Dr. S Rawson Gardiner & Rev. Dr. Fowler

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

BACON, FRANCIS (1561-1628), lord chancellor, born at York House on 29 Jan. 1561, was the son of Lord Keeper Bacon, by his second wife, Ann, second daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, and sister of the wife of Sir William Cecil, better known by his later title as Lord Treasurer Burghley. In April 1573, at the age of twelve years and three months, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, leaving it in March 1576. On 27 June 1576 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn.

Bacon was thus destined to the profession of the law. Few youths of his age, however, are content to look forward to a life of merely professional success; and in Bacon’s case, partly by reason of his own mental qualities, and partly by reason of the influence of the exciting events of the great national straggle in the heart of which he lived, the visions of youth were peculiarly far-reaching. The boy already longed not merely to do something for the defence of protestantism against its enemies, and something for the improvement of the government of his native country, both which thoughts were likely to arise in the mind of Elizabeth’s ‘ young lord keeper,’ as she playfully called him, but also to achieve which was peculiarly his own, to create s new system of philosophy to replace that of Aristotle, not merely for the satisfaction of the cravings of his own speculative reason, but for the practical benefit of humanity at large.

In 1578 young Bacon was attached to the embassy of Sir Amias Paulet to France. He was still abroad when, on 20 Feb. 1679, his father died, leaving him with but a small fortune. On his return to England, which followed soon after he received the bad news, be devoted himself to the study of the law, though he was not without nope of more suitable work. In 1680, at least, he was looking to his uncle, Lord Burghley, to support suit for some kind of preferment, the exact nature of which is unknown. As, however, he did not receive a favourable answer, he continued his legal studies, and on 27 June 1682 was admitted utter barrister.

Bacon’s rise in life was brought about by bis election to the parliament which met on 23 Nov. 1584, in which, no doubt through Burghley’s interest, he sat for the borough of Melcombe Regis. The time was one m which the greatest questions were at issue. The danger arising from the activity of of Mary Stuart was coming to a bead, and at the same time, though the queen and the House of Commons were completely atone in their desire to establish the national independence by keeping the catholics in ebea, there was a envision of opinion between them on the form of religion to be maintained in the country, the commons wishing to see the established religion modified in the direction of Calvinistic puritanism, and the queen wishing to preserve the worship of the Prayer-book intact.

The Biography of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in 1909

The Biography of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) from
The Dictionary of National Biography Volume 17
published in 1909 by written by Mr Sidney Lee

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1616), dramatist and poet, came of a family whose surname was borne through the middle ages by residents in very many parts of England at Penrith in Cumberland, at Kirkland and Doncaster in Yorkshire, as well as in nearly all the midland counties. The surname had originally a martial significance, implying capacity in the wielding of the spear (Camden, Remains, ed. 1605, p. Ill; Restitution, 1605). Its first recorded holder is John Shakespeare, who in 1279 was living at ‘Freyndon,’ perhaps Frittenden, Kent (Cor. 7 Edw. I, Kane.; cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xL 122). The great mediaeval guild of St. Anne at Knowle, whose members included the leading inhabitants of Warwickshire, was joined by many Shakespeares in the fifteenth century (cf. Reg. ed Bickley, 1894). In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the surname is found far more frequently in Warwickshire than elsewhere. The archives of no less than twenty-four towns and villages there contain notices of Shakespeare families in the sixteenth century, and as many as thirty-four Warwickshire towns or villages were inhabited by Shakespeare families in the seventeenth century. Among them all William a common christian name.

At Rowington, twelve miles to the north of Stratford, and in the same hundred of Barliehway, one of the most prolific Shakespeare families of Warwickshire raided in the sixteenth century, and no less than three Richard Shakespeares of Rowington, whose extant wills were proved respectively in 1660,1591, and 1614, were fathers of sons called William. At least one other William Shakespeare was during the period a resident in Rowington. As a consequence, the poet has been mote than once credited with achievements which rightly belong to one or other of his numerous contemporaries who were identically named.

The Early Explorers – Coronado 1539

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Coronado, Lewis & Clark, The Verendryes and Zebulon Pike are considered the four main Early Explorers.  

This is the second excerpt – a short peice about Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, seeker of the “Seven Cities of Cibola” – in a series about the early explorers of the western United States of America; or the lands west of the Mississippi River.

Excerpts from the Book: The Pathbreakers from River to Ocean by Grace Raymond Hebard – published 1913.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, seeker of the “Seven Cities of Cibola.”

Coronados CanonIn 1539, Coronado was made provisional governor of Nueva Galicia (New Gaul), by Antonio de Mendoza, viceroy of Mexico.  This Viceroy Mendoza, who had been filled with enthusiasm over the accounts that Cabeza de Vaca had brought home, urged Coronado to take charge of his province at once and to explore the unknown country to the north immediately.  Coronado, with the spirit of adventure in his blood, was equal to the task and was eager to be off.

The army was financed from the personal wealth of Coronado and what he could borrow, though the command of the soldiers was granted to him by the viceroy.  The expense of equipping the expedition was about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or sixty thousand ducats. If Coronado did not succeed in his high ambition – the loss was his.  If he won – he was dizzy with the vision of the empires he was to conquer and own. He would have wealth greater than that of Cortez, and lands unlimited.

Early in 1540, piloted by a monk, Fray Marcos, who had previously penetrated to the Zuni Villages, he started with three hundred horsemen, foot soldiers, crossbow men, arquebusiers, eight hundred Indians, and a thousand extra horses for ammunition and baggage.

Northward through tribes more or less hostile they marched, near the present site of Tombstone, Arizona, on to Salt River, north across the Mogollon Mountains, then northeast to the Little Colorado. Here the first station of their travels wàs reached, the Zuni Pueblos.  We are told that the city of Zuni is the home of a people who lived there centuries before the coming of Columbus. “There they still live, with very little change.  The march of progress that has swept away other Indian tribes has spared the lonely little pueblo communities in their adobe terraced houses, surrounded by the arid deserts.”

Pueblo HomesThese adobe terraces made excellent forts.  Rising tier on tier to the height of three or sometimes four stories, with no doors, they covered with unbroken walls many acres, and presented a formidable front to the little army destitute of cannon with which to batter a breach.  Ingress to these houses is had through the roof by aid of ladders.  Upon the approach of the intruders, the Zuni had drawn up ail their ladders and ranged themselves on the terraces intent on defending their homes.  Wood for the construction of new ladders was hard to obtain, and when the means of assault were finally provided it was no child’s play to storm that fortress through the hail of arrows and stones from the warriors in the terraces.  Coronado’s shining armor and his foremost place in the assault made him an especial target.  After the place was won he had gaping wounds on his face, an arrow in one of his feet, and many stone bruises on his legs and arms, and tells us that if it had not been for the strength of his armor “it would have gone hard with me.”   But more bitter than the perils of the assault was the disappointment of the victors upon finding that here was no gold or precious stones,— none of the wealth they had marched and starved, fought and bled, to win.  Evidently these were not the famed “Seven Cities of Cibola.”  They must be still farther on.

So the conquerors passed on; scouts were sent in various directions, all bringing back similar reports of “noEarly Buffalo Picture cities of gold.”  In August of this year, 1540, the famous Grand Canon of the Colorado was discovered by a division of the expedition under the command of Garcia Lopez de Cardenas.  One often wonders if this Canon were the real “city of gold,” for the discovery and possession of which more than one continent wasted its blood and treasure.  It would take no great stretch of the imagination to fancy that the glittering and sparkling mica-bearing formations responding to the sun’s rays were houses built of gold.  The tradition of this city was not a dream.  Some one had observed something.  For want of better description the vision was called a “city of gold.”  Was this the end of the rainbow with its proverbial “pot of gold”?


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