XI. THE END OF AN AGE: 1528–34

Clement did not die until he had made one more reversal of policy, and had crowned his disasters by losing England for the Church (1531). The spread of the Lutheran revolt in Germany had created for Charles V difficulties and dangers that might, he hoped, be eased by a general council. He urged this upon the Pope, and was angered by repeated excuses and delays. Irritated in turn by the Emperor’s award of Reggio and Modena to Ferrara, Clement veered again toward France. He accepted a proposal of Francis that Caterina de’ Medici should marry the King’s second son Henry, and he signed secret articles binding himself to help Francis recover Milan and Genoa (1531).63 At a second conference in Bologna (1532) between Pope and Emperor, Charles again proposed a general council at which Catholics and Protestants might meet and find some formula of reconciliation; he was again rebuffed. He suggested a marriage of Catherine with Francesco Maria Sforza, imperial vicar in Milan; he found that the proposal came too late; Catherine was already sold. On October 12, 1533, Clement met Francis at Marseille, and there married his niece to Henry, Duke of Orléans. It was a prime defect of the Medici as popes that they thought of themselves as a royal dynasty, and sometimes rated the glory of their family above the fate of Italy or the Church. Clement tried to persuade Francis to make peace with Charles; Francis refused, and had the audacity to ask papal acquiescence to a temporary alliance of France with the Protestants and the Turks against the Emperor.64Clement thought that this was going a bit too far.

“Under these circumstances,” says Pastor, “it must be considered fortunate for the Church that the Pope’s days were numbered.”65 He had already lived too long. At his accession Henry VIII was still Defensor fidei, defender of the orthodox faith against Luther; and the Protestant revolt had as yet proposed no vital doctrinal changes, but only such ecclesiastical reforms as the Council of Trent would legislate for the Church in the next generation. At Clement’s death (September 25, 1534) England, Denmark, Sweden, half of Germany, part of Switzerland had definitely broken away from the Church, and Italy had submitted to a Spanish domination fatal to the free thought and life that had for good or evil marked the Renaissance. It was beyond doubt the most disastrous pontificate in the history of the Church. Everyone had rejoiced at Clement’s accession, everyone rejoiced at his death; and the rabble of Rome repeatedly defiled his tomb.66

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