“We hear sad tales, dear son,” wrote Sir James, “on all sides are fears, and no man knows what the end will be. Some even say that the Orders will be reduced in number. And who knows what may be toward now that the Bishop and Mr. More are in trouble. I know not what is all this that Parliament has been doing about the Holy Father his authority; but I am sure that it cannot be more than what other reigns have brought about in declaring that the Prince is temporal lord of his land. But, however that may be, what do you advise that your brother should do? He is to be professed in August, unless it is prevented, and I dare not put out my hand to hinder it, until I know more. I do not ask you, dear son, to tell me what you should not; I know my duty and yours too well for that. But I entreat you to tell me what you can, that I may not consent to your brother’s profession if it is better that it should not take place until affairs are quieter. Your mother would send you her dear love, I know, if she knew I were writing, but she is in her chamber, and the messenger must go with this. Jesu have you in His blessed keeping!”
Ralph wrote back that he knew no reason against Christopher’s profession, except what might arise from the exposure of the Holy Maid on whose advice he had gone to Lewes, and that if his father and brother were satisfied on that score, he hoped that Christopher would follow God’s leading.
At the same time that he wrote this he was engaged, under Cromwell’s directions, in sifting the evidence offered by the grand visitors to show that the friars refused to accept the new enactments on the subject of the papal jurisdiction.
* * * * *
On the other hand, the Carthusians in London had proved more submissive. There had been a struggle at first when the oath of the succession had been tendered to them, and Prior Houghton, with the Procurator, Humphrey Middlemore, had been committed to the Tower. The oath affirmed the nullity of Queen Katharine’s marriage with the King on the alleged ground of her consummated marriage with Henry’s elder brother, and involved, though the Carthusians did not clearly understand it so at the time, a rejection of the Pope’s authority as connected with the dispensation for Katharine’s union with Henry. In May their scruples were removed by the efforts of some who had influence with them, and the whole community took the oath as required of them, though with the pathetic addition of a clause that they only submitted “so far as it was lawful for them so to do.” This actual submission, to Cromwell’s mind and therefore to Ralph’s, was at first of more significance than was the uneasy temper of the community, as reported to them, which followed their compliance; but as the autumn drew on this opinion was modified.
It was in connection with this that Ralph became aware for the first time of what was finally impending with regard to the King’s supremacy over the Church.