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From my Arthur Tudor timeline

Posted November 5th, 2015 at 06:43 AM by Space Shark

Note: the site where I originally posted this timeline is being shut down in two months. I therefore am trying to archive it here. If you want the backstory to it, just ask. I'll be updating this for the next few days.

Pope Pius III and the Refomation in Western Europe

Pope Leo X's death in 1521 marks a change in the Papacy in the Early Modern Period. Never before had such an uprising of religious revolt threatened to break off a large part of Europe from the hold of the Roman Catholic Church, and many would argue there are no events afterwards that can rival it. All throughout the Holy Roman Empire, German dukes and princes were seeing that Lutherism meant freedom from the Pope and the Emperor, neither of whom was likable or friendly in the first place. Thus when the Pope died, every cardinal came with a successor in mind, one of their number who could reverse the growing tide of what was deemed heresy and blasphemy. But each knew that if the man failed, the so-called "reformation" taking place would spread further and further. And in France, it was already gaining supporters: although a Catholic, King Francis was relatively tolerant of the new movement. He even considered it politically useful, as it caused many German princes to turn against his enemy Philip. So whatever the cost, the princes of the Church knew the difficult choice they must make that fateful week in Rome.

However, the Papal conclave quickly divided itself along nationalistic lines. No candidate could get the necessary number of votes needed to become the Bishop of Rome. And thus the French cardinals looked to their English counterparts, had a closed door meeting, and agreed to some things. Thus the next day they had an English candidate prepared: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York and Arthur's Lord Chancellor. Wolsey had a good reputation as a skilled diplomat and fast negotiator - skills that would be badly needed in dealing with Luther and his heretic following. In order for him to win the Papacy, he had to deal with the French cardinals and the cardinals from their Italian puppets, all of whom would vote for him the next day. On the seventh day, there was a new Pope. Thomas Wolsey was the Bishop of Rome, and he chose the safe name of Pius III as his papal name. Two days after his coronation, he got quick to work: he started by reaffirming the excommunications of Luther, his followers, and the rulers that also backed him and his religious policies. Holy Roman Emperor Philip favored a more careful approach, for he did not want more rebellion in his domains in Germany. He proposed a council to sort these problems out. Today it seems obvious, especially in light of what happened later at the Council of Naples, and the Popes seem criminally uncaring or lazy not to heed the advice of the King of Spain and German Emperor. However, to be fair to the Pontiffs, history was always close at hand in Rome and throughout the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, when an Emperor started calling for a council of bishops it was usually intended to end in the forced removal of the Pope in favor of a more pliable candidate. After this happened several times, the Popes became rather reluctant to call councils together, especially when a German Emperor was the one pushing for it. It was certainly a mistake for the Catholic Church overall that the Emperor was not listened to but one can see why the Popes would have been inclined to put him off and wait for Lutheranism to fade away. The result was a temporary deterioration of relations between the Emperor and the Pope, which led Wolsey to turn towards his pre-Papacy friend - Francis.

In any case, Philip dealt with the Lutheran Heresy in his own brutal ways. He first put down a revolt of barons just outside of Vienna in 1523, hanging all of their leaders as a brutal example. This did nothing to stop the Peasant's War, which had grown so violent that even Luther was shocked. For now, both Lutheran and Catholic persecuted the peasant rebels, killing thousands and burning Muntzer at the stake. Philip could not afford to spend much time in Gemrany: a new threat, the Ottoman Empire, was moving in towards the south through the Balkans. While the island of Rhodes held out until the end of the decade[1] Hungary was not so lucky. The Turks smashed through Hungary and killed its king. Philip himself went down to save what was left of Hungary and won a counteroffensive, placing a puppet ruler with his son Ferdinand, but the front line was drawn, and it would not move for years to come. France, actively allying with the Protestants to counter the Imperial influence in Europe, took advantage of the situation to move on Siena and Trent, effectively ruling both of those city states by the end of 1524. Had Philip been in Italy at the time, it is said he could have won a victory against the French forces overstretched at Pavia[2]. Rather, France had claimed an even stronger position in Italy than before, the Pope was an ally with his alliance with England (Wolsey overlooked his flirting with Lutherans for now) and with both German and English attention elsewhere, Francis I could safely call himself the strongest man in Europe, even thought Philip had more land.

Francis I of France

While Francis became the closest thing a Catholic monarch got to being Lutheran, Spain and Portugal cracked down on the heresy big time. Philip's son and joint ruler of Spain, Charles, tried his best to use peaceful measures when possible to keep Lutherans away from Spain and the movement's influence to a minimum. When that failed, Charles resorted to the Inquisition. In Spain, Burgundy, Portugal and Naples, people accused of heresy were tortured and interrogated for their crimes and also of any others who may have engaged in such forbidden activities. The Jews and Muslims who openly expressed their beliefs were not spared either: Charles enacted an edict ordering them to convert to Catholicism or be burned at the stake with heretics. While there are doubtless many who chose death, others converted and were safe for the time being.[3]

In England, however, there were not straightforward lines drawn in regards to religion. Initially it seemed that Arthur II would keep his nation Catholic, since his influential wife was a Spanish princess and the replacement for Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, was if anything even more devout than Catherine of Aragon. The two of them, close friends and confidantes, were determined to set up an "English Inquisition", and heretics were being burned left and right. But a significant problem emerged: the ranks of the nobility began to read of Luther, and agreeing with his policies and religious ideals. They remained in secret for now, as Arthur was siding with the Catholics that had important posts in his government. But England's elite was splitting into three distinct religious groups that would rival each other. There were the Reformists, who advocated doing what France was doing across the Channel. There were those, like Charles Brandon and Anthony Knyvett, that had no real inclinations one way or another and simply sided with friends or family in one of the other camps. And then there were the Catholics, unofficially headed by Thomas More. They were devoted to suppressing heresy and keeping the alliance with Catholic Spain strong. Scotland was more or less the same thing: James V was Catholic but many of his advisors and ministers had "reformed". While national interests kept all groups together for the moment, the center could not hold for long and peace was finite.

Sir Thomas More

An example of how all this religious confusion played out was with Arthur's affair with Mary Boleyn, the beautiful daughter of the ambassador to France, in 1528, during the height of the Breton Uprising.[4] Catherine was used to her husband taking the occasional mistress here and there - it was always her Arthur would return to in the end. However, here the case was complicated by the fact that the Boleyns were among the most fervent Protestants in Arthur's court. Catherine angrily responded to this by taking her adolescent children - Isabella, Henry, Arthur, and Maria Anna - and demanded to know what she'd done so wrong that Arthur must ill treat her so. Arthur rather sheepishly replied that he'd done no such thing, and Mary was quietly sent away to France to find a husband. Curiously, both her father and her brother George got themselves some higher posts at court. It is believed that they were paid off by Arthur to "forget" the entire affair.

The Boleyn affair is exceptional in several ways. Firstly it brings to light the full nature of Catherine's Catholicism, a feature that would dominate her and several of her children, including crown prince Henry. Secondly, it revealed the fact that Protestantism was here to stay in England thanks to it's connections. Had Arthur's Catholicism been as great as his wife's, he may well have put the entire Boleyn family to the sword, but didn't and even rewarded the men for cooperating. Thomas Boleyn was an accomplished diplomat, and killing him and his children would lead to more derailed relations with France, and relations with France, deceptively happy as they appeared on the surface, were never good. This shows Arthur's willingness to accept Protestants in court, partly for pragmatic reasons, and partly out of Arthur's desire for everyone to just get along. Lastly, it marks the rise of George Boleyn, a man who will distinguish himself in the reigns of Arthur's sons.


[1] In OTL they fell rather quickly. Chalk this one up to butterflies.

[2] Yep, a reference to the Battle of Pavia.

[3] This was the main plan for Charles in OTL, except there was one branch of the Inquisition even worse than its Iberian counterparts: the Burundian Inquisition.

[4] To be detailed later.
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  1. Old Comment
    seneschal's Avatar
    I've always wondered what it would be like if France had become protestant (Lutheran or Calvinist) and England remained Catholic.

    Anyway Francis' support of protestants outside of France stems more from his attempt to destabalize the HRE.
    Posted December 26th, 2016 at 01:37 PM by seneschal seneschal is offline

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