The contest took the form of boyish frays, in which the young partizans and opponents of the New Learning took sides as Greeks and Trojans. The King himself had to summon one of its fiercest enemies to Woodstock, and to impose silence on the tirades which were delivered from the University pulpit. The preacher alleged that he was carried away by the Spirit. " Yes," retorted the King, " by the spirit, not of wisdom, but of folly." But even at Oxford the contest was soon at an end. Fox, Bishop of Winchester, established the first Greek lecture there in his new college of Corpus Christi, and a Professorship of Greek was at a later time established by the Crown. " The students," wrote an eyewitness,"rush to Greek letters, they endure watching, fasting, toil, and hunger in the pursuit of them." The work was crowned at last by the munificent foundation of Cardinal College, to share in whose teaching Wolsey invited the most eminent of the living scholars of Europe, and for whose library he promised to obtain copies of all the manuscripts in the Vatican.
From the reform of education the New Learning pressed on to the reform of the Church. Warham still flung around the movement his steady protection, and it was by his commission that Colet was enabled to address the Convocation of the Clergy in words which set before them with unsparing severity the religious ideal of the New Learning. " Would that for once," burst forth the fiery preacher, "you would remember your name and profession and take thought for the reformation of the Church! Never was it more necessary, and never did the state of the Church need more vigorous endeavours." "We are troubled with heretics," he went on, "but no heresy of theirs is so fatal to us and to the people at large as the vicious and depraved lives of the clergy. That is the worst heresy of all." It was the reform of the bishops that must precede that of the clergy, the reform of the clergy that would lead to a general revival of religion in the people at large. The accumulation of benefices, the luxury and worldliness of the priesthood, must be abandoned. The prelates ought to be busy preachers, to forsake the Court and labour in their own dioceses.
Care should be taken for the ordination and promotion of worthier ministers, residence should be enforced, the low standard of clerical morality should be raised. It is plain that the men of the New Learning looked forward, not to a reform of doctrine, but to a reform of life, not to a revolution which should sweep away the older superstitions which they despised, but to a regeneration of spiritual feeling before which they would inevitably vanish. Colet was soon charged with heresy by the Bishop of London. Warham however protected him, and Henry, to whom the Dean was denounced, bade him go boldly on. "Let every man have his own doctor," said the young King, after a long interview, "and let every man favour his own, but this man is the doctor for me".
But for the success of the new reform, a reform which could only be wrought out by the tranquil spread of knowledge and the gradual enlightenment of the human conscience, the one thing needful was peace; and the young King to whom the scholar-group looked was already longing for war. Long as peace had been established between the two countries, the designs of England upon the French crown had never been really waived, and Henry's pride dwelt on the older claims of England to Normandy and Guienne. Edward the Fourth and Henry the Seventh had each clung to a system of peace, only broken by the vain efforts to save Britanny from French invasion. But the growth of the French monarchy in extent and power through the policy of Lewis the Eleventh, his extinction of the great feudatories, and the administrative centralization he introduced, raised his kingdom to a height far above that of its European rivals. The power of France, in fact, was only counterbalanced by that of Spain, which had become a great state through the union of Castile and Aragon, and where the cool and wary Ferdinand of Aragon was building up a vast power by the marriage of his daughter and heiress to the Archduke Philip, son of the Emperor Maximilian. Too weak to meet France single-handed, Henry the Seventh saw in an alliance with Spain a security against his " hereditary enemy," and this alliance had been cemented by the marriage of his eldest son, Arthur, with Ferdinand's daughter, Catharine of Aragon. This match was broken by the death of the young bridegroom; but by the efforts of Spain a Papal dispensation was procured which enabled Catharine to wed the brother of her late husband.
Henry, however, anxious to preserve a balanced position between the battling powers of France and Spain, opposed the union; but Henry the Eighth had no sooner succeeded his father on the throne than the marriage was carried out. Throughout the first years of his reign, amidst the tournaments and revelry which seemed to absorb his whole energies, Henry was in fact keenly watching the opening which the ambition of France began to afford for a renewal of the old struggle. Under the successors of Lewis the Eleventh the efforts of the French monarchy had been directed to the conquest of Italy. The passage of the Alps by Charles the Eighth and the mastery which he won over Italy at a single blow lifted France at once above the states around her. Twice repulsed from Naples, she remained under the successor of Charles, Lewis the Twelfth, mistress of Milan and of the bulk of Northern Italy; and the ruin of Venice in the league of Cambray crushed the last Italian state which could oppose her designs on the whole peninsula.
A Holy League, as it was called from the accession to it of the Pope, to drive France from the Milanese was formed by, the efforts of Ferdinand, aided as he was by the kinship of the Emperor, the support of Venice and Julius the Second, and the warlike temper of Henry the Eighth. "The barbarians," to use the phrase of Julius, "were chased beyond the Alps; " but Ferdinand's unscrupulous adroitness only used the English force, which had landed at Fontarabia with the view of attacking Guienne, to cover his own conquest of Navarre. The troops mutinied and sailed home; men scoffed at the English as useless for war. Henry's spirit, however, rose with the need. He landed in person in the north of France, and a sudden rout of the French cavalry in an engagement near Guinegate, which rsceived from its bloodless character the name of the Battle of the Spurs, gave him the fortresses of Terouanne and Tournay. The young conqueror was eagerly pressing on to the recovery of his "heritage of France," when he found himself suddenly left alone by the desertion of Ferdinand and the dissolution of the league. Henry had indeed gained much. The might of France was broken. The Papacy was restored to freedom.