The Act of Appeals and the English reformation  pp. 19-30

The Act of Appeals and the English reformation

By Graham Nicholson

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At mid-summer in 1530 there were distinct signs that the English government was in a panic. The king wanted the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, but he seemed further than ever from achieving his purpose. A year earlier his attempt to have his case decided quietly, indeed stealthily, in a legatine court at Blackfriars had misfired completely; Catherine appealed to Rome for judgment and in due course Henry was cited to appear there. The case was to open at the Rota in June 1530. The government can have had little confidence that the canon law case it had assembled would carry the day, and so William Benet and Edward Carne in Rome had instructions to use whatever means were necessary to prevent the case proceeding. Meanwhile English agents were harrying canonists and divines in Italy and in the universities to speak out for the king.

These tactics of prevarication and pressure could not delay the hearing for ever nor prevent a judgment being given in Rome, in the fullness of time, and almost certainly against Henry. In the ensuing months the king's men rapidly assembled evidence for the radical propositions that the king, not the pope, was the fountain-head of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and that England, not Rome, was the place of final appeal for an English case.