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1012 [1011]

K. Henry. 8. The supplication of Beggars.

seyng almost the vttermost peny that mought haue bene leuied, hath bene gathered before yearely, by this rauinous & insatiable generation? Neither the Danes nor the Saxones, in the tyme of the auncient Britons, should euer haue bene able to haue brought their armies from so farre, hether into your land, to haue cōquered it, if they had had at þt time such a sort of idle glottons to finde at home. MarginaliaHe meaneth all this onely of idle Fryers. The noble king Arthur had neuer bene able to haue caryed his armie to the foote of the mountaines, to resiste the commyng downe of Lucius the Emperour, 

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This refers to one of two possible sources. Either the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth or a fourteenth century poem known as Alliterative Morte Arthure. Both tell the same tale, that of the (fictional) emperor's attempt to regain Gaul from Arthur. Arthur and his army defeat the emperor, thereby adding Italy to his extensive continental holdings.

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if such yearely exactions had bene taken of his people. The Greekes had neuer bene able to haue so long continued at the siege of Troy, if they had had at home such an idle sort of cormorantes to finde. The auncient Romaines had neuer bene able to haue put all þe whole world vnder their obeysaunce, if their people had bene thus yearely oppressed. The Turke nowe in your tyme shoulde neuer bene able to get so much ground of Christendome, if he had in his Empire such a sort of Locustes, to deuoure his substaunce. Lay then these summes to the foresayde third part of the possessions of the realme, that ye may see whether it draw nigh vnto the halfe of the whole substaūce of þe Realme, or not: so shall ye finde that it draweth farre aboue.

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Now, let vs then compare the nomber of this vnkynde idle sort vnto the nomber of the lay people, and we shall see whether it be indifferently shifted or not, that they should haue halfe. MarginaliaAn vnequall diuision that the Friers shoulde haue halfe wyth the multitude, they being not the foure hundreth person of the number. Compare them to the number of mē, so are they not the hundreth person. Compare them to men, women & children, then are they not the foure hundreth person in nūber: One part therefore in foure hundreth partes diuided, were to much for them, except they did labour. What an vnequall burthē is it that they haue halfe with the multitude, and are not the foure hundreth person of their number? What toung is able to tell that euer there was any common wealth so sore oppressed, since the world first began?

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And what doth all this greedy sort of sturdy, idle, holy theeues, with these yearely exactions that they take of the people? Truly nothyng but exempt themselues from the obedience of your grace. Nothing but translate all rule, power, Lordshyp, authoritie, obedience and dignitie, from your grace, vnto thē. Nothyng but that all your subiectes should fall into disobedience and rebellion agaynst your grace, and be vnder thē, as they did vnto your noble predecessour kyng Iohn: 

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Fish relates here the essential details of the origins of the Magna Carta. John was in dispute with the king of France (Philip Augustus) over his succession to the English throne, and with the pope (Innocent III) over the election of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury. John refused to recognize the election and Innocent issued an interdict against England in 1208, an excommunication order against John in 1209, and encouraged Philip to invade in 1212. John backed down and went so far as to give England and Ireland over to the pope (renting them back as a fiefdom for a yearly tribute of 1000 marks). It is this to which Fish refers.

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MarginaliaThe rule of kinges empayred by the popes clergie. which for because that he would haue punished certaine traytours that had conspired with the French kyng, to haue deposed him from his crowne and dignitie (among the whiche a Clerke called Stephen, whom afterward agaynst the kynges will, the Pope made Byshop of Caunterbury, was one) interdited his land. For the which matter your most noble realme wrōgfully (alas for shame) hath stand tributary not vnto any kynde of temporal Prince, but vnto a cruell deuilish bloudsupper, dronken in the bloud of the Saintes and Martyrs of Christ, euer since.

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Here were an holy sort of Prelates, that thus cruelly could punish such a rightuous kyng, all his realme and succession for doyng right. Here were charitable sorte of holy men, that could thus interdite an whole Realme, and plucke away the obedience of the people from their naturall liege Lord, and kyng, for none other cause, but for his righteousnes. Here were a blessed sort, not of meeke heardes, but of bloudsuppers, that could set the French kyng vpon such a righteous Prince, to cause hym to lose his crowne and dignitie, to make effusion of the bloud of his people, MarginaliaK. Iohn submitted himselfe vnto the Pope, read before. pag 257. vnlesse this good and blessed kyng, of great compassiō, more fearyng and lamentyng the shedyng of the bloud of his people, then the losse of his crowne and dignitie, agaynst all right and conscience, had submitted himselfe vnto them.

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O case most horrible, that euer so noble a kyng, Realme and succession, should thus be made to stoupe to such a sorte of bloudsuppers. Where was his sword, power, crown, and dignitie become, whereby he might haue done iustice in this matter? Where was their obedience become that should haue bene subiect vnder his high power in this matter? Yea where was the obedience of all his subiectes become, that for maintenaunce of the common wealth should haue holpē him māfully to haue resisted these bloudsuppers, to the shedyng, of their bloud? Was not altogether by their policie, translated from this good kyng vnto them?

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Yea, and what do they more? MarginaliaIf this be not true in the whole, I woulde the greatest part were not such. Truly nothyng, but apply themselues by all the sleightes they may, to haue to do with euery mans wife, euery mans daughter, and euery mans mayde, that cuckoldry and baudry should reigne ouer all, among your subiectes, that no man should know hys owne child, that their bastardes might inherite the possessions of euery man, to put the right begotten children cleare beside their inheritaunce, in subuersion of all estates and godly order. These be they that by their absteinyng from Mariage, do let the generation of the people, whereby all the Realme at length, if it should bee continued, shalbe made de sert and inhabitable. 

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This is part and parcel of Fish's various anti-clerical arguments. Here, clerical celibacy and sexual incontinence are said to have created the appearance of no less than 100,000 whores.

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Marginalia100000. idle whores made in England by the Popes clergie. These be they that haue made an C. M. idle whores in your Realme, which would haue gotten their liuyng honestly, in the sweat of their faces, had not their superfluous riches illected them to vncleane lust and idelnes. These be they that corrupt the whole generatiō of mankynd in your Realme, that catche the pockes of one woman, and beare them to an other, that be burnt with one woman, and beare it to an other, that catche the lepry of one woman, and beare it to an other. Yea some one of them shall boast among his felowes, that he hath medled with an C. women. These be they, that when they haue ones drawen mēs wiues to such incontinencie, spend away their husbands goodes, make the women to runne away from their husbandes, yea, runne away themselues both with wife and goodes, bringyng both man, wife, and children, to idlenesse, theft, and beggery. Yea, who is able to number the great and broade bottomles Occeane Sea, ful of euils, that this mischieuous and sinfull generation may lawfully bryng vpon vs, vnpunished?

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Where is your sword, power, crowne, and dignitie, become, that should punishe by punishement of death, euen as other men are punished, the felonyes, rapes, murthers, and treasons committed by this sinnefull generation? Where is their obedience become that should be vnder your hyghe power in this matter? Is it not altogether translated and exempt from your grace vnto them?

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Yes truly. Marginalia* The realme of England is diminished and decayed by the number of 200000. persons at least, or els replenished with so many whores and whoremaisters, by restraining of mariage from priestes, Monkes, Friers, Nunnes, Colleges, Hospitalles, Beadmen, and such like orders within the realme of England. The increase of which number might be recouered, and the realme more peopled, and also Gods Commaundementes better kept, if these vowes of bōdage were broken, and matrimonie permitted free to all men. * What an infinitie number of people might haue bene increased to haue peopled the Realme, if this sort of folke had bene maryed lyke other men? What breach of matrimony is there brought in by them? such truely as was neuer since the world began, amōg the whole multitude of the Heathen. Who is she that will set her handes to worke, to get iij. d. a day, and may haue at least xx. d. a day to sleepe an houre with a Frier, a Monke, or a Priest? What is hee that would labour for a grote a day, and may haue at least xij. d. a day to be baude to a Priest, a Monke, or a Frier? What a sort are there of them that mary Priestes soueraigne Ladyes, MarginaliaPriestes and Doues make foule houses. but to cloke the Priestes incontinencie, and that they may haue a liuyng of the Priestes, themselues for their labour? How many M. doth such lubricitie bryng to beggery, theft & idlenes, which should haue kept their good name, & haue set themselues to worke, had not bene this excessiue treasure of the spiritualtie? What honest mā dare take any man or woman into his seruice, that hath bene at such a schole with a spirituall man?

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MarginaliaThe Popes clergie a shipwracke to all common wealthes. Oh the greuous shypwrake of the common wealth, which in auncient tyme before the commyng of these rauenous wolues, were so prosperous, that then there were but few theeues: yea theft was at that tyme so rare, that Cæsar was not compelled to make penaltie of death vpon felony, as your grace may well perceiue in his institutes, MarginaliaThe cause of so many beggars, theues, and idle people in England. There was also at that tyme, but fewe poore people, and yet they did not begge, but there was geuen thm inough vnasked, for there was at that tyme, none of these rauenous wolues to aske it from them, as it appeareth in the Actes of the Apostles. Is it any maruell though there be now so many beggers, theeues, and idle people? Nay truly.

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What remedy? 

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At this point in the treatise, Fish has basically claimed that the clergy are a separate state within the state, subject to their own rules and regulations, indeed, taking power away from the temporal authority all the time. His point here is that temporal law is ineffective.

make lawes agaynst them? I am in doubt whether ye be able. MarginaliaThe Popes clergie stronger in Parlamentes, then princes, as hath appeared by theyi cruell lawes agaynst the poore Gospellers. Are they not stronger in your owne Parliament house then your selfe? What a nomber of Byshops, Abbats, and Priours, are Lordes of your Parliamēt? Are not all the learned men of your realme in fee with them, to speake in your Parliament house for them agaynst your crowne, dignitie, and common wealth of your realme, a few of your own learned Counsaile onely excepted? MarginaliaNo lawe nor remedie agaynst the clergie. What law cā be made agaynst thē that may be auaylable? Who is he (though he be greued neuer so sore) that for þe murther of his auncester, rauishmēt of his wife, of his daughter, robbery, trespasse, mayme, dette, or any other offence, dare lay it to their charge, by any way of action: and if he do, then is he by and by, by their wylines, accused of heresie: yea they will so handle him ere he passe, that, except he will beare a Fagot for their pleasure, he shalbe excommunicate, and then be all his actions dashed.

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MarginaliaAll lawes & actions captiue to the clergie men. So captiue are your lawes vnto them, that no man whom they liste to excommunicate, may be admitted to sue any actiō in any of your Courtes. If any man in your Sessions dare be so hardy to endite a Priest of any such crime, he hath ere the yeare go out, such a yoke of heresie layde in his necke, that it maketh him wish that he had not done it. Your grace may see what a worke there is in London: how the Byshop rageth for endityng of certaine Curates of ex-

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