He had walk for a hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty kine; he was able and did find the King a harness with himself and his horse while he came to the place that he should receive the King's wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness when he went to Blackheath Field. He kept me to school: he married my sisters with five pounds apiece, so that he brought them up in godliness and fear of God. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbours, and some alms he gave to the poor, and all this he did of the same farm, where he that now hath it payeth sixteen pounds by year or more, and is not able to do anything for his prince, for himself, nor for his children, or give a cup of drink to the poor." Increase of rent ended with such tenants in the relinquishment of their holdings, but the bitterness of ejection was increased by the iniquitous means which were often employed to bring it about. The farmers, if we believe More in 1515, were "got rid of cither by-fraud or force, or tired out with repeated wrongs into parting with their property." "In this way it comes to pass that these poor wretches, men, women, husbands, orphans, widows, parents with little children, households greater in number than in wealth (for arable farming requires many hands, while one shepherd and herdsman will suffice for a pasture farm), all these emigrate from their native fields without knowing where to go." The sale of their scanty household stuff drove them to wander homeless abroad, to be thrown into prison as vagabonds, to beg and to steal.
Yet in the face of such a spectacle as this we still find the old complaint of scarcity of labour, and the old legal remedy for it in a fixed scale of wages. The social disorder, in fact, baffled the sagacity of English statesmen, and they could find no better remedy for it than laws against the further extension of sheep-farms, and a terrible increase of public executions. Both were alike fruitless. Enclosures and evictions went on as before. "If you do not remedy the evils which produce thieves," More urged with bitter truth, " the rigorous execution of justice in punishing thieves will be vain." But even More could only suggest a remedy which, efficacious as it was subsequently to prove, had yet to wait a century for its realization. " Let the woollen manufacture be introduced, so that honest employment may be found for those whom want has made thieves or will make thieves ere long." The mass of social disorder grew steadily greater; while the break up of the great military households of the nobles which was still going on, and the return of wounded and disabled soldiers from the wars, introduced a dangerous leaven of outrage and crime.
This public discontent, as well as the exhaustion of the treasury, added bitterness to the miserable result of the war. To France, indeed, the struggle had been disastrous, for the loss of the Milanese and the capture of Francis the First in the defeat of Pavia laid her at the feet of the Emperor. But Charles had no purpose of carrying out the pledges by which he had lured England into war. Wolsey had seen two partizans of the Emperor successively raised to the Papal chair. The schemes of winning anew " our inheritance of France " had ended in utter failure; England, as before, gained nothing from two useless campaigns, and it was plain that Charles meant it to win nothing. He concluded an armistice with his prisoner; he set aside all projects of a joint invasion; he broke his pledge to wed Mary Tudor, and married a princess of Portugal; he pressed for peace with France which would give him Burgundy. It was time for Henry and his minister to change their course. They resolved to withdraw from all active part in the rivalry of the two powers, and a treaty was secretly concluded with France. But Henry remained on fair terms with the Emperor, and abstained from any part in the fresh war which broke out on the refusal of the French monarch to fulfil the terms by which he had purchased his release.
No longer spurred by the interest of great events, the King ceased to take a busy part in foreign politics, and gave himself to hunting and sport. Among the fairest and gayest ladies of his court stood Anne Boleyn. Her gaiety and wit soon won Henry's favour, and grants of honours to her father marked her influence. In 1524 a new colour was given to this intimacy by a resolve on the King's part to break his marriage with the Queen. The death of every child save Mary may have woke scruples as to the lawfulness of a marriage on which a curse seemed 'to rest; the need of a male heir may have deepened this impression. But, whatever were the grounds of his action, Henry from this moment pressed the Roman See to grant him a divorce. Clement's consent to his wish, however, would mean a break with the Emperor, Catharine's nephew; and the Pope was now at the Emperor's mercy. While the English envoy was mooting the question of divorce, the surprise of Rome by an Imperial force brought home to Clement his utter helplessness; the next year the Pope was in fact a prisoner in the Emperor's hands after the storm and sack of Rome. Meanwhile a secret suit which had been brought before Wolsey as legate was suddenly dropped; as Catharine denied the facts on which Henry rested his case her appeal would have carried the matter to the tribunal of the Pope, and Clement's decision could hardly have been a favourable one.
The difficulties of the divorce were indeed manifest. One of the most learned of the English bishops, Fisher of Rochester, declared openly against it. The English theologians, who were consulted on the validity of the Papal dispensation which had allowed Henry's marriage to take place, referred the King to the Pope for a decision of the question. The commercial classes shrank from a step which involved an irretrievable breach with the Emperor, who was master of their great market in Flanders. Above all, the iniquity of the proposal jarred against the public conscience. But neither danger nor shame availed against the King's wilfulness and passion. A great party too had gathered to Anne's support. Her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, her father, now Lord Rochford, afterwards Earl of Wiltshire, pushed the divorce resolutely on; the brilliant group of young courtiers to which her brother belonged saw in her success their own elevation; and the Duke of Suffolk with the bulk of the nobles hoped through her means to bring about the ruin of the statesman before whom they trembled.