It Is Not My Hand or Seal

Detail of portrait of St. John Fisher by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Detail of portrait of St. John Fisher by Hans Holbein the Younger.

“I thought it good therefore in relief of the weighty burden of scrupulous conscience, and the quiet estate of this noble realm, to attempt the law therein, and whether I might take another wife in case that my first copulation with this gentlewoman were not lawful; which I intend not for any carnal concupiscence, ne for any displeasure or mislike of the queen’s person or age, with whom I could be as well content to continue during my life, if our marriage may stand with God’s laws, as with any woman alive; in which point consisteth all this doubt that we go now about to try by the learned wisdom and judgment of you our prelates and pastors of this realm here assembled for that purpose; to whose conscience and judgment I have committed the charge according to the which (God willing), we will be right well contented to submit ourself, to obey the same for our part. Wherein after I once perceived my conscience wounded with the doubtful case herein, I moved first this matter in confession to you, my Lord of Lincoln, my ghostly father. And for as much as then yourself were in some doubt to give me counsel, moved me to ask farther counsel of all you my lords; wherein I moved you first my Lord of Canterbury, axing your license, (for as much [as] you were our metropolitan) to put this matter in question; and so I did of all you my lords, to the which ye have all granted by writing under all your seals, the which I have here to be showed.” “That is truth if it please your highness,” quoth the Bishop of Canterbury, “I doubt not but all my brethren here present will affirm the same.” “No, Sir, not I,” quoth the Bishop of Rochester, “ye have not my consent thereto.” “No! ha’ the!” quoth the king, “look here upon this, is not this your hand and seal?” and showed him the instrument with seals. “No forsooth, Sire,” quoth the Bishop of Rochester, “it is not my hand nor seal.” To that quoth the king to my Lord of Canterbury, “Sir, how say ye, is it not his hand and seal?” “Yes, Sir,” quoth my Lord of Canterbury. “That is not so,” quoth the Bishop of Rochester, “for indeed you were in hand with me to have both my hand and seal, as other of my lords had already done; but then I said to you, that I would never consent to no such act, for it were much against my conscience; nor my hand and seal should never be seen at any such instrument, God willing, with much more matter touching the same communication between us.” “You say truth,” quoth the Bishop of Canterbury, “such words ye said unto me; but at the last ye were fully persuaded that I should for you subscribe your name, and put to a seal myself, and ye would allow the same.” “All which words and matter,” quoth the Bishop of Rochester, “under your correction my lord, and supportation of this noble audience, there is no thing more untrue.” “Well, well,” quoth the king, “it shall make no matter; we will not stand with you in argument herein, for you are but one man.” And with that the court was adjourned until the next day of this session.

— George Cavendish, Thomas Wolsey, Late Cardinall, his Lyffe and Deathe.


Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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