The country was indeed very deeply stirred by the events that were taking place; but for the present, partly from terror and partly from the great forces that were brought to bear upon English convictions, it gave no expression to its emotion. The methods that Cromwell had employed with such skill in the past were still active. On the worldly side there was held out to the people the hope of relieved taxation, of the distribution of monastic wealth and lands; on the spiritual side the bishops under Cranmer were zealous in controverting the old principles and throwing doubt upon the authority of the Pope. It was impossible for the unlearned to know what to believe; new manifestoes were issued continually by the King and clergy, full of learned arguments and persuasive appeals; and the professors of the old religion were continually discredited by accusations of fraud, avarice, immorality, hypocrisy and the like. They were silenced, too; while active and eloquent preachers like Latimer raged from pulpit to pulpit, denouncing, expounding, convincing.
Meanwhile the work went on rapidly. The summer and autumn of ’38 saw again destruction after destruction of Religious Houses and objects of veneration; and the intimidation of the most influential personages on the Catholic side.
In February, for example, the rood of Boxley was brought up to London with every indignity, and after being exhibited with shouts of laughter at Whitehall, and preached against at Paul’s Cross, it was tossed down among the zealous citizens and smashed to pieces. In the summer, among others, the shrine of St. Swithun at Winchester was defaced and robbed; and in the autumn that followed the friaries which had stood out so long began to fall right and left. In October the Holy Blood of Hayles, a relic brought from the East in the thirteenth century and preserved with great love and honour ever since, was taken from its resting place and exposed to ridicule in London. Finally in the same month, after St. Thomas of Canterbury had been solemnly declared a traitor to his prince, his name, images and pictures ordered to be erased and destroyed out of every book, window and wall, and he himself summoned with grotesque solemnity to answer the charges brought against him, his relics were seized and burned, and—which was more to the point in the King’s view, his shrine was stripped of its gold and jewels and vestments, which were conveyed in a string of twenty-six carts to the King’s treasury. The following year events were yet more terrible. The few great houses that survived were one by one brought within reach of the King’s hand; and those that did not voluntarily surrender fell under the heavier penalties of attainder. Abbot Whiting of Glastonbury was sent up to London in September, and two months later suffered on Tor hill within sight of the monastery he had ruled so long and so justly; and on the same day the Abbot of Reading suffered too outside his own gateway. Six weeks afterwards Abbot Marshall, of Colchester, was also put to death.