Chapter 8 : Dangerous Times
Despite the tone of Cromwell’s letters, a full royal commission was instituted to try to remedy the series of problems at Calais that Lisle had agitated about, with the result that many of the reforms he had sought were instituted and his authority upheld. Even the back wages were paid.
Although matters improved for Lisle’s management of Calais, it is likely that he was worried about religious changes and rumours emanating from England – he did not want to be on the wrong side of the King. In February 1535, Lisle had heard a rumour that Dr Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, had preached in front of the King on the Pope’s supremacy. He wrote to Cromwell requesting to be informed of the truth of the matter, and what to do with his informant if it proved to be a fabrication. Nevertheless, Lisle and Honor were both suspected of being ‘papists’.
Archbishop Cranmer wrote in April 1535 that Lisle’s claims not to be a ‘papist’ rested on his criticism of the Pope. This, admonished Cranmer, was not the point at all. It was not the particular individual’s shortcomings as ‘Bishop of Rome’ that were the problem, but the whole concept of the office. Lisle and Honor were to make sure that they understood the matter properly and behave accordingly.
As 1536 unfolded, it became too dangerous for Hussee and the Lisles’ other correspondents to commit much information to paper, so we have often to infer what was going on by what they did not say. In the spring of the year, Queen Anne was arrested, tried and executed on charges of adultery, incest and treason. These events were so shocking that almost no comment could be committed to paper and Hussee tells the Lisles almost nothing - a word out of place could mean the death of both him and the Lisles.
Hussee did offer one interesting snippet: on 13th May, two days before the trial of Anne and her brother, Lord Rochford, Hussee was writing to Lisle that she would be executed, which suggests that there had never been any prospect of a fair trial for the Queen.
In July of 1536, with a new Queen, Jane Seymour in place, Cromwell had his reward with the grant of the Barony of Wimbledon whilst in Calais, the Lisles were surrounded by preparations for war between France and the Empire, which Henry was determined that England would not be drawn into.
It was fortunate for the King that he was not adventuring abroad, as in October of 1536, the most serious rebellion Henry ever faced, the Pilgrimage of Grace, broke out, first in Lincolnshire, then in Yorkshire. As with the downfall of Anne Boleyn, Hussee sends almost no news, and the Lisles must have been in a state of utter frustration.
In 1537, Cromwell wrote a stern letter to Lisle, about two priests who were to be dispatched to England forthwith as prisoners. Cromwell continues that the King ‘cannot a little marvel to hear of the papistical fashion that is maintained in that town, and by you chiefly….’
Honor tried to intervene over the priests, but received a firm dressing down from Cromwell. The Lisles were so worried by this that Hussee told Cromwell that Lisle might fall ill, as he was so upset at having offended Cromwell.
The Lord Privy Seal replied that he was Lisle’s sincere friend, but that he could not countenance ‘papistical’ fashions. Whether or there had ever been any sincerity in Cromwell’s friendship is debatable, but certainly from this point on, Lisle’s cards were marked.