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Title: Henry VIII Author: Helen Simpson * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0801191h.html Language: English Date first posted: October 2008 Date most recently updated: October 2008 Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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(From a miniature by an unknown artist in the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch)
CONTENTS: FOREWORD I. YOUNG MEN AT WAR II. YOUNG MEN AT PLAY III. THE DYNASTY: DIVORCE AND DISILLUSION IV. THE CARDINAL'S TRAGEDY VI. LAST BATTLES; TRIUMPH; DEATH V. ROME'S JURISDICTION GONE VII. A SUMMARY BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX
In a book of this length the writer must choose; he may record events or interpret them. Either method has its pitfalls. For example, if the reign of Henry VIII is told as a story, the central figure easily becomes an ogre, moving through a succession of cruel caprices to an unregretted end. This is to do a great King poor justice.
It is more interesting, I think, to try his character and rule by a touchstone, which comes irresistibly to hand when we remember that Machiavelli's Prince reached European statesmen somewhere about the year 1515. It is not my contention that Henry consciously took any part of his policy from this book; but its brutally clear exposition of the art of contemporary government allows a reader to understand by comparison where, and why, he succeeded or failed.
Only the chief incidents of this life and reign, therefore, are given, viewed from the political perspective of the Florentine Secretary. Quotations from him are given in italics throughout.
I am glad to acknowledge here the kindness of the Duke of Buccleuch in permitting the miniature of Henry VIII to be reproduced; and of Mr. Francis Edwards, who lent me many necessary books.
Henry VIII, when he came to the throne of England, was a beautiful young man, eighteen years old; tall, strong, the only morning star in this Western orb.' The accounts of him given by the Venetians on their arrival in England are well known, but bear retelling for the reason that they were, so far as the King's person was concerned, disinterested. They could, and did, speak sharply of the appearance and manners of other rulers. The King of Hungary 'resembles a statue, and becomes incoherent when he discusses state affairs'; the King of France is idle, and under petticoat government'; and though they found Lucrezia Borgia 'bland and gracious,' they were shrewd members of a merchant nobility, rarely deceived to enthusiasm by any personal flattery. Pasqualigo's description may come first:
'His majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion very fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful that it would become a pretty woman, his throat being rather long and thick. He speaks French, English and Latin, and a little Italian, plays well on the lute and harpsichord, sings from book at sight, draws the bow with greater strength than any man in England, and jousts marvellously.'
Here is Giustiniani's picture:
'Nature could not have done more for him. He is much handsomer than any other sovereign in Christendom, a great deal handsomer than the King of France; very fair, and his whole frame admirably proportioned. On hearing that Francis I wore a beard, he let his own grow, and as it is reddish, his chin now looks like gold. He is very accomplished; a good musician; composes well; is a most capital horseman; a fine jouster; speaks good French, Latin, and Spanish; is very religious; hears three masses daily when he hunts and sometimes five on other days...He is very fond of hunting, and never takes this diversion without tiring eight or ten horses...He is extremely fond of tennis, and it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture.'
Sagudino saw him at the jousts of Tournai, and noted how he looked like St. George in person on a horse caparisoned with cloth of gold, and excelled all the other knights there for horsemanship and strength. In his own country he showed himself to the same observer most affable, courageous, and learned for his age and station; besides displaying an innocent pleasure in splendour.
The English nation, of which he was the unquestioned and absolute master, finds its characteristics displayed in an Italian relation of the King's father's day:
'The English are, for the most part, both men and women of all ages, handsome and well-proportioned...great lovers of themselves and of everything belonging to them; they think there are no other men than themselves, and no other world but England. Whenever they see a handsome foreigner they say, "He looks like an Englishman," and "It is a great pity he should not be an Englishman." They take great pleasure in having a quantity of excellent victuals, and also in remaining a long time at table, but they are very sparing of wine when they drink it at their own expense.'
They had been well and strictly ruled during the twenty-three years of Henry VII's reign; they had enjoyed peace, and been diligent in trade, and kept their riches together. No money, nor gold nor silver plate was allowed to go out of England under a very heavy penalty. 'So there is no innkeeper, however humble, that doth not serve his table with silver dishes and drinking cups.' The Italian writer makes one more statement which is not without relevance in any relation of the reign of Henry VIII: 'But above all are their riches displayed in their church treasures; for there is not a parish church in the kingdom so mean that it has not crucifixes, candlesticks, censers, patens and cups of silver.' As for the shrines, those of St. Thomas and the Confessor particularly, 'nothing I have ever seen can be put into any sort of comparison.' Gold plates covered them, but were scarcely visible, being set so thickly and curiously with precious stones, some 'of such a size that I do not dare to mention it.'
A young and splendid King; a rich Church; a thriving people, respectful of the law and conscious of nationality, so that over their exiles 'women and children lamented, asking, How can they live out of England? adding, moreover, that they had better have died than go out of the world, as if England were the whole world!' This, at the opening of Henry VIII's reign, was the state of his country.
Across the Channel a rival King had succeeded an elderly man without children; he was, says Hall, who saw him close in 1520, a goodly Prince, stately of countenance, merry of cheer, brown coloured, great eyes, high nosed, big lipped, fair breasted and shoulders, small legs,[*] 'and long feet.' Francis I was in effect that which tradition supposes Henry to have been, a man who did none of his own governing, but left all political matters to be settled by his ministers and women. His mother, Louise of Savoy, had brought him up carefully and in poverty with an eye on the throne; when Louis XII's third marriage had failed of its purpose, and the King died childless, she continued to make her son's decisions for him. Francis was glad enough to leave them on her shoulders. It is she who rules all,' Suffolk wrote to Henry from France, 'and so may she well; for I never saw a woman like to her, both for wit, honour, and dignity.' Of her son, nevertheless, Guicciardini wrote that the world had such a hope in his virtues, such an opinion of his magnanimity, and such a conceit of his judgment and wit, that every one confessed that for a very long time there was none raised up to the Crown with a greater expectation; he was made the more agreeable to the fancies of men by the consideration of his age, being then but 22 years, his excellent feature and proportion of body, his great liberality and general humanity; but specially he pleased greatly the nobility, to whom he transferred many singular and great favours.'
[* Giustiniani gives this instance of Henry's curiosity concerning his rival: 'His Majesty came into our arbour and addressing me in French said, Talk with me awhile! The King of France, is he as tall as I am? I told him there was but little difference. He continued, Is he as stout? I said he was not; and he then enquired, What sort of legs has he? I answered, Sparc. Whereupon he opened the front of his doublet, and placing his hand on his thigh said, Look here! and I have also a good calf to my leg.']
France was less prosperous than her neighbour. Though there had been no civil wars, as in England, to impoverish and weaken the great feudal lordships, and Louis XI's economics had not been wholly dissipated by his successors, still there had been a great outpouring of money, and no long period of peace. Charles VII had taken Florence, Louis XII had sacked Milan and Naples. Francis I, when he succeeded to the throne of France in 1515, took upon him also the title of Duke of Milan. That Duchy was not yet his; but 'there lived in him the same desire to recover it that died with his predecessor; whereunto not only the working of his own inclination, but the persuasion of all the noble young gentlemen of France did induce him.' As soon as he could gather the money and the mercenaries together--no nation save the English and Spaniards fought with native troops--he was over the Alps into Italy, on a brilliant silly raid. His title to the Duchy was indifferent, his friendship with the Venetians not close enough to warrant him engaging in war for the restoration of their stolen cities. The expedition's sole purpose and sole result was to fix the eyes of Europe upon France's young King, who in this manner sought to dazzle his contemporaries and outdo his predecessors. Caesar,' his mother called him, writing fondly in her diary; 'glorious and triumphant, my Caesar.'
It might be thought that a war of conquest pure and simple was a dangerous opening gambit for any new ruler; but the French have always valued highly the prestige which comes from victory, and forgive much to any individual who affords them the luxury of triumph. Francis, brave enough and with fighters at his back, Bayard among them, gained a complete and unexpected success at Marignano, where for the first time was seen the full power of artillery at work. 'The French,' Erasmus wrote, 'would not politely allow themselves to be beaten on this occasion, but sent many Swiss to the right about with their great guns.' These were dragged with incredible labour over the Alps, their way prepared by a force of pioneers to whom most of the credit for the subsequent victory must be given. 'There were many of those labourers that marched before whose service was ready, sometimes to break clown and enlarge the straits, and sometimes to dig up the hillocks and lumps of earth that gave impediment to the passage of the artilleries; from the tops of those mountains they descended by broken cliffs whose only aspect gave fear to the beholders, into most deep valleys...and fastening them (the guns) to great cables they found a way to make them descend by the hands of the footmen.' Foot-soldiers and artillery against spearmen; it was an original and completely successful conception of war, one in which may be found displayed the elasticity of a young commander, and the persuasions of the noble young gentlemen of France. And though, as Guicciardini points out, the number of killed in any battle must be uncertain, 'men speaking diversely, some by passion and some by error,' the lowest estimate allows that three thousand Swiss were left on the field, most of them killed by gunfire. The French King returned to his own country with Milan and Cremona for spoil, and the knowledge that he had scotched for one generation at least the deadly sneer that Frenchmen in the field were no better than hares in armour.'
The effect of this news upon the King of England may be judged from the recital of the French envoy, de Bapaumc, who in October arrived in England with a herald to present letters, proofs of victory.
'He took no great pleasure in reading them; for to look at him it seemed as if tears would have burst from his eyes, so red were they from the pain he suffered, hearing and understanding the good news and prosperity of my master.'
The words that follow picture the King of England striding here and there in rage, flinging out contradictions:
'He asked me about the arrangements with the Pope. I told him they were made and concluded. He answered, It was not so, and the Pope had yet to ratify, and he knew better than I...Then he asked me about the Emperor, where he was, and what he did. I told him I had no news of him, only I had learnt from certain private persons that he was seeking the friendship of my master. His Majesty said he knew well where the Emperor was, and what he was about, and as for seeking the friendship of the King my master, the contrary was the truth. And there he stopped.'
It was bitter news. Henry, older, far richer, with a nation at his back proud of his personal courage and eager to be led, had, to set against this sounding exploit, only the capture two years before of a couple of humdrum Flanders towns, and one complete victory over the Scots at Flodden, in which he had had no part. Not only was Francis successful, but his enterprise took on the appearance of a challenge. For months rumours of his levies and his provisions of money had travelled about Europe, giving rise to very uneasy reflections. His youth was suspect, 'and the facility he had (more than other Kings) to command all the forces of the Kingdom of France, the love of his people opening a way and readiness to all he could desire.' The King of Spain feared for his dominions in Italy, the Pope for the safety of Rome. Only Henry had refused to be alarmed by the rumours. Such an expedition, he pronounced to dubious ambassadors, was out of the question; the French King would not dare go out of his country for fear of an attack by England. 'If I choose,' he told the Venetians, allies of Francis, who hoped to benefit by such a raid, he will not cross the Alps; and again if I choose, he will.' There had been flashes at the beginning of the interview--'What this youth may be I know not, but he is a Frenchman, and it is not for me to say how far you may trust him'--and one characteristic clap of rage: 'By God, he gives his people poor reason to love him, running thus at the beginning of his reign into the toils and charges of war!' But Henry was confident; France would not be left undefended. True, there was, as the Venetians gently reminded him, a treaty of peace in existence whereby he was bound not to attack his neighbour without cause; but as for that, the King answered that any such arrangement was conditional, and that it was the wish of his people to engage their national enemy once again. Venice had chosen her ally too soon, and unwisely; France would not help her to regain her lost towns; and the King was sorry, he said, that the Signory should have put their trust in one who would certainly betray it. The ambassadors answered smoothly, 'in the most bland and loving form of exhortation,' that their chief trust was in God, and on this withdrew. But the final paragraph of their despatch carried a warning:
'We became immediately aware of so great a rivalry of glory between these two young Kings, that it would be a very easy matter for this metal'--the official friendship--'to become rusted.'
That Francis had won the first count in this duel for glory appears by the act of the Signory in sending an embassy to congratulate the French King. It was composed of four patricians, with all appropriate servitors and pomp, 'the like never having before been heard of or witnessed,' and Queen Louise laid stress on the circumstance in her letters to England, so that Giustiniani was put to some pains to make it appear nothing out of the way. An even stronger proof that France now held the balance in Europe came from the Emperor Maximilian and the Pope. The former, always short of money, was willing for a consideration to join a league which should include England, Spain, and the angry and humiliated Swiss; the latter, in a personal interview, had granted Francis power to levy a tenth of the Church revenues within his kingdom for the upkeep of an army, and allowed him and his successors the right to dispose of French sees and benefices without reference to Rome. To Henry was left what at first sight might seem the poor satisfaction of purchasing allies, and handing out money on the security of jewels. Charles the Bold's daughter came to him to pledge her father's armour, the Venetians were considering pawning the treasure of St. Mark, and Ferdinand of Aragon sent a jewelled collar, ostensibly for Henry's personal acceptance, but 'there are not wanting those who say that his aforesaid Catholic Majesty sent to pawn the collar and obtain money thereon from this most serene King.' From all this, one certainty emerged--only Henry had money to spend; and since to the intellects of the time a rich Prince meant one who would sooner or later trouble his neighbours, the question was: Would he go to war, and if so, with whom?
The ambassadors of all countries, forgetting intrigue for once, became alive to the fluctuations of bills of exchange as before they had reckoned the goings and comings of tax-collectors and press-gangs. Ships were most certainly building, and to the launching of one, the Virgin Mary, which the King himself captained, wearing 'a sailor's trousers and coat made of cloth of gold,' neither the French nor Spanish envoys were bidden. But no umbrage was taken; movements of ships had diminished in significance compared with the explorings and forays of gold. Monies were pouring into Flanders, to Bruges and Antwerp, and it was the opinion of English merchants, secretly consulted, that this boded a loan to the Emperor, and was nothing in the ordinary way of trade. The Venetians, alarmed, were driven to ask an open question. It was to them a question of life and death, since the Emperor could have only one use for money, to prosecute the war against the Signory; and if the loan had indeed been made, 'it would be tantamount to putting a sword in his hand to destroy us.' Mere rumour, interpreted, would no longer serve. They earnestly required the truth from Wolsey.
That minister, who, while the French successes were not yet known, had brandished the threat of sixty thousand men under arms ready for a raid into France, now gave downright assurance that no such mischief was in contemplation. The monies had not been sent, 'and those who gave me the intelligence lied.' Or, if they had been sent, it was to no such amount as Giustiniani supposed. The King, he said, was busy with the purchase of rich inlaid armour for his own use, of which the best artificers were the Germans, and the bills in question had been accepted for transmission to tradesmen and merchants.
The Venetians did not believe him. They went to the Treasurer and the Archbishop of Canterbury in turn, trying to discover how matters stood, and found these lords' assurances of innocence contradicted by 'a variation in the exchanges so great as to amount to 7 and 8 per cent.; and in like manner, as the exchange has risen here, so has it fallen in Flanders, in such wise that those who want bills thence for other places obtain 12 and 14 per cent more than they would have done a month ago; because all ready money has been withdrawn thence to be sent to the Emperor.' The King was hunting, at 'an unusual residence a long way off, and does not choose to endure further disturbance of any sort, a proceeding out of the way extraordinary.'
But this mere uncertainty checked extravagance of political conduct all over Europe, kept Francis at home, the Pope and Emperor quiescent. It was an achievement less sounding, infinitely more subtle than Marignano. There, Francis had perfected a new method of warfare, substituting cannon for lances and nationals for mercenaries, to win a temporary ascendancy. Henry used not cannons but gold, and not gold itself, but the mere chink and legend of it, to gain his ends, perfectly understanding that money withheld may be as effectual for power as money expended. And Wolsey, if he was not the first to deceive by truth-telling, was that method's most successful practitioner. When he denied, 'on the honour of the Cardinalate,' that any harm was meant to Francis, 'for had His Majesty chosen to act thus he would have done so at the moment when he could more easily have injured him'; when he protested he did not intend to league with the Emperor for the overthrow of Venice, upon whom, astounding as it may seem, England wholly relied at that time to provide the yew-wood for her foot-soldiers' long-bows; when, in short, he told the exact truth on Henry's behalf he was not, and knew that he would not be, believed. His new policy, and the King's, might seem inglorious as the Plantagenets counted glory, but it was a more flexible, a more far-reaching instrument even than the army of Agincourt. 'Men are so simple, and governed so absolutely by their present needs, that he who wishes to deceive will never fail in finding willing dupes.'
In this manner the peace of Europe was kept precariously for the next three years. Marriage arrangements, wherein infants in arms or not yet born were pledged to each other with all ceremony, began to focus intrigue. France and England, those sworn brothers, betrothed a daughter to a son, an unpopular move deplored by the older lords of the English Council in that it allowed some voice in their affairs to 'these gentlemen of France (who) are very fresh.' The Archduke Charles, Ferdinand of Aragon's successor, was betrothed twice, once to King Henry's sister, once to the baby daughter of the King of France, and once more to an English princess, King Henry's daughter, before at last he married Isabella of Portugal. Other ceremonious linkings were sought; every princely baby had godparents among foreign royalties whose future goodwill and protection were thus bid for. There were gestures of amity. King Henry swore not to shave his beard till he spoke with the King of France and took his hand, but six months later was discovered, by the gossip of a returned prisoner, to have shaved, a fact of which the Queen Mother required explanation from the English ambassador in person. Sir Thomas Boleyn answered, that 'it hath been by the Queen (Katherine) her desire; for I told my lady, what here afore-time I have known, that when the King's grace hath worn long his heard the Queen hath daily made great instance, and desired him to put it off for her sake.' The Queen Mother answered that after all the love between them dwelt not in their beards, but in their hearts, and appeared satisfied. But such trifles, reported solemnly by the embassies, swelled into portents by rumour, shifted this way and that relationships between the powers. At a time when one man might speak and stand for a people, kings' gestures were sensitive indicators of national feeling, guides to probable action.
But marriages, money, and friendly oaths could only keep Europe in order while no great prize or occasion of rivalry presented itself. In the year 1519 the Emperor Maximilian died; of whom it was said by Machiavelli that what he did one day he undid the next, so that his wishes and designs were never fully understood by those to whom they were entrusted, and therefore never came to fruition. His secrecy and lies had no motive; they were the result of natural shiftiness and an unwillingness to share counsel. One aim, however, he had pursued with some consistency of purpose, the aggrandisement of his family and in particular of his grandson the Archduke Charles. The Empire was not an hereditary title, but lay in the gift of seven Electors, whose goodwill it was not wholly out of the power of money to procure. True, each one of these princes was obliged to swear on the Gospels that his voice, vote, and suffrage should be given unbiased by any pact, pledge, or engagement, on any pretence whatsoever; but it appeared to Maximilian that money spent to acquire their friendship need not be wholly unprofitable. He borrowed heavily from German and Genoese bankers on his grandson's credit, meeting remonstrance with the axiom: 'If you wish to gain mankind, you must play high'; and within a year, by judicious promises, annuities, gifts of tapestry and plate, had secured the support of four Electors for Charles of Castile. The remaining three held out, and death, 'from a flux and fever continual,' came upon Maximilian before he could persuade them. At once the lists were open, the prize displayed to all corners, and the three young Kings of England, France, and Castile, the former secretly, the two latter with a fanfare of trumpets, put forward their claim to the crown of the Romans.
It is a proof of the growing importance of England that such a plan should ever have entered Henry's head. He was too shrewd, and too well aware of the value of money, to venture his name had there been no chance at all of success. Maximilian had indeed at an earlier date hinted that Henry might very well become the imperial crown, and had suggested abdicating in his favour; and though Wolsey and the ambassador who treated of the matter had seen through the whole manoeuvre, whose purpose was simply to borrow money on indifferent security, still the glamour of the project lingered before Henry's eyes. 'It is but a castle made in the air, and a vain thing, and peradventure an invention for to pluck money from the King craftily,' wrote Richard Pace to the Cardinal, when this proposition was first made in 1516; and it was to Pace's common sense that Wolsey, ambitious for his master as for himself, entrusted these negotiations.
He came late to his task. Maximilian died in January, and by May, when Pace arrived in Germany, Francis and Charles had been pleading their respective causes for a month. The French King made no secret of his intentions; as early as February, taking the English ambassador aside, and leaning out of a window with him not to be overheard, he had declared himself a candidate, and summed up how much he would be willing to pay for success; 'he would spend three millions of gold'--half the year's revenue of France--'but he would be Emperor.' As for Charles, his way had been made straight by the gifts and promises of his grandfather; but not trusting wholly to the gratitude or memory of the Electors, he had assembled a considerable force of Swabians, some 46,000 in all, sufficiently near Frankfort, where the Diet sat, to ensure that his claim should have due attention. Still, the very evenness of their rivalry was something in Henry's favour, together with the discretion of the Pope, who had been heard to say that the accession of either of these princes would be disastrous for Christendom, and who would have supported the King of Poland, 'an extremely able man, and one violently opposed to the infidels,' had that ruler been put forward. Leo X had a good opinion of the civil and pious King of England; and being himself a Medici, a descendant of merchants, he had a very honest respect for the King's money. Wolsey wrote to the English ambassador at Rome: 'When you have clearly discovered the intentions of his Holiness, it might not come amiss to remark that you think it would be highly conducive to the interests of Christianity and the Holy See if his Majesty could be prevailed on to undertake so responsible a dignity; for all the King's endeavours would be concentrated upon universal tranquillity and the good of mankind.' Whatever the Pope may have thought of this last protestation, he could not but see that the weight of the crown of the Romans would make Francis or Charles top-heavy, so that there would be a temptation to fall upon and crush that small, intransigent and independent power, the Papacy itself. Leo, servant of the servants of God, had no wish to take orders from either of these princes; neither had he the inclination to draw down wrath upon himself by meddling. He returned no answer to Wolsey's hint, but he withheld from Henry's rivals approval and blessing. The King's secretary went to Frankfort with nothing but his country's treasury at his back, and very definite instructions how to draw upon it. He was not to pay out money on chance, for nothing, 'but only conditionally, that is to say, should the King's highness be elected to that dignity, and really attain thereto, then to pay such a sum as shall be agreed betwixt them': a sane and mercantile manner of bribing.
But Pace, when he came to treat with the Electors, was astonished to see how wildly and shamelessly the bidding went forward. Francis and Charles made no conditional promises. They gave money with both hands; they offered annuities, places, as well as gold. 'Here,' Pace wrote, 'is the most dearest merchandise that ever was sold; and after mine opinion it shall be the worst that ever was bought, to him that shall obtain it.' The Electors were not to be bullied. Charles' Swabians had no terrors for them, their princedoms were so rich in soldiers that these were exported, and might be looked for all over Europe in any province where there was trouble. No potentate, aspirant to the imperial crown, had ever attempted seriously to gain it by arms; it was not a territorial prize but a decoration, a sanction with the prestige of ten centuries behind it, conferred by ceremonies, and without these worthless; as mystical a splendour as the Papacy itself; towards which their chivalrous ambitions, rather than any desire of enrichment, led the three princes. But there was no mysticism in their representatives' manner of proceeding, nor in the attitude of the Electors. These latter took from all parties what money they could get; when the bids, though they still mounted in quantity, declined in quality from cash to promissory notes, they assembled in Diet to vote to the throne that candidate whose grandfather had so royally prepared the way; thus Charles of Castile, aged nineteen, became titular master of half the world, thereby succeeding to a heritage anciently glorious, now encumbered with mortgages and wars.
Once more it might seem that Henry had suffered defeat; but Pace knew better, and made the matter clear to Wolsey and the King on his return. A later despairing cry of Francis, turned about, may sum up the situation, for except honour, everything was gained. Charles was lay head of Christendom, but to win the title he had antagonized his own sure kingdom of Castile and stripped himself of money, putting into the hands of his own vassals the very means of defiance should they choose not to obey. 'They render obedience to the Emperor,' Machiavelli noted, 'only when so disposed, fearing neither him nor any other neighbouring power.'
The King of France was in still worse case. Charles, a dour, slow, unwieldy Fleming, had little popularity with his subjects to lose. To his scattered dominions he was no more than a name, unidentified as yet even by his profile on their coins. Francis was known to all his compact kingdom, and had been loved; but extravagance had led to extortions, and though his mother, Louise of Savoy, took upon herself all the necessary onus of taxation and economics, the Venetian embassy found the King at this time 'more unpopular all over France than words can express.' There were forced loans, mortgages, open thievings of Church plate; and when resistance offered, hangings. Thousands of Swiss soldiers were kept and paid against some hypothetical time when their help might be needed; the towns of Tournai and Terouenne, of no great strategic or mercantile importance, were bought back from England for a great yearly price of gold. Money was squandered, dignity forsaken; the court of France, at the very moment when its master was bidding for Empire, was loud with follies. 'During this time remained in the French court...divers of the young gentlemen of England, and they with the French King rode daily disguised through Paris throwing eggs, stones, and other foolish trifles at the people, which light demeanour of a King was much discommended and gested at.'[*]
[* Henry too at this time was accused of having about him young men of light and unbecoming behaviour. His Council's mild remonstrance he answered by dismissing all those to whom exception had been taken, though their pensions were not chargeable upon the State. (The King farmed out to them his debts in Italy and elsewhere abroad, allowing them a commission on such money as they collected.) It is a good example of his early ability to avail himself of sound advice.]
But Henry was, in the year 1519, more popular and more powerful than ever. The bid for Empire had been a gamble, kept secret from foreign ambassadors, unsuspected by his Council. Pace went to the Diet officially charged to press the cause of the King of Castile, by reason of his relationship to Queen Katherine, and Charles' success was, to the English people, only one more proof of the sagacity and power of their own King. Henry had taken a chance, and lost by it nothing, neither money, reputation, nor men. While the new Emperor gathered troops to enforce a precarious obedience in Austria, Flanders, and Spain, while Francis squandered in pleasure his treasure and health, Henry kept his usual state, receiving and entertaining distinguished visitors, making music and rich masques, hunting, shooting, and playing tennis, all as an English gentleman should;[*] having become arbiter of Europe's fortune without striking a blow, only by keeping his head and his money, and leaving his rivals to exchange 'shrewd and terrible blows of their purses, such as not Fortunatus' self might healthfully sustain.'
[* A letter from one Yorkshire gentleman, Sir Henry Savile, to his cousin gives some notion of Henry's sports when he was at one of his country houses. After a description of a cock-fight in which three counties match their birds he goes on to beg William Plumpton's visit:
'And whensoever ye come, I require you take time to hunt with me for one week; bring bows and greyhounds, and at the time of year, hounds. A polard (stag which has lost its horns) is sweet now, and I love it best now at this season; and by Whitsunday this year I shall have fat bucks. And or (before) any red deer be fat, it will be July, as far as my experience serves. Come when ye will, and such as I have ye shall see; and bring good stuff, for I warn you they are wild about Tankerlay and ill to catch; I make all these brags to cause you to come, for I never yet did see you in these parts, and ye shall come no time wrong, fence-time than other. I have tame plenty lieth out; I can make you game at red and fallow, and stir no rascal. I beseech Jesus send us merry meeting.'
Add to this such circumstances of dress and music as may make a pageant, and the picture of King Henry's diversions is lively.]
These were the years and emergencies which showed the English King as a statesman at his best. His actions were not always so well adapted to circumstance, and indeed with the years his judgment of situations weakened, though he never lost his eye for a man. His luck, too, changed, and he lacked patience to wait, as Sancho Panza recommends, and shuffle the cards till it turned. 'For if to one who conducts himself with caution and patience time and circumstance are propitious, so that his method of acting is good, he goes on prospering; but if these change he is ruined, because he does not change his method of acting.'
But no ship is timbered to withstand all stresses.
Henry, having resisted wisely the temptations of power, and kept his money in his pouch against such slight probability of any return for it, was now to squander, for the childish and dangerous gratification of outshining a rival in display, a great part of his subjects' wealth and his own. The Field of the Cloth of Gold is of importance only in so far as it shows the tilting over of the English King's character, his natural magnificence turning to prodigality.
Reasons for this meeting there were none; or none valid. The two young men were too near in age and physical powers to meet without danger to the concord between them. The peoples they governed were still antagonistic, as might be expected after centuries of war. Personal relationships had existed hitherto, safely, at second hand. The Dauphin and the Princess of Wales were still betrothed; hostages, young men of good family, amused the King of England and extolled to him the King of France. The treaty of alliance was in itself a delicate defence, but with these links strengthening it, and put to no such strain as the clash of personalities might bring, it could be trusted to hold for a while. In distance lay discretion. A departing ambassador, visiting the French court on his way home to Venice, asked whether the King of England would keep the peace, answered slyly that not only did his Majesty mean to keep it, but would wage war with all his might on whoever should first violate it. Upon the tempers and predilections of two men the balance hung, and all wise statecraft worked to keep them apart.
But against the statesmen other forces, not inconsiderable for seeming frivolous, were working. The four young Frenchmen, hostages held by England until the ransom for Tournai and Terouenne was paid in full, were instant in demanding that their host and their master should meet. They enjoyed themselves very well in the English palaces, gambling with Henry to the tune, some said, of six thousand ducats a day, but the alternative English diversions of hunting and shooting were, after the splendours of Francis' tournaments, not so much to their taste. 'Every time they moved, (they) stirred and required the King's Grace to pass the sea, and to meet with the French King their master, whom they praised highly, affirming that if the King and he might once familiarly common together, that there should be such a constant love rise and increase between them, which afterward should never fail.'
'This request,' the chronicler goes on, 'was oft times heard, little regarded.' Henry's common sense and his love of show were at odds with one another; he was unwilling to trouble the present well-being by an interview fruitful in problems of etiquette. Francis' was the elder throne. But England had been France's overlord only a century before. To cross the Channel would for Francis have been an act of faith quite idiotic in his country's eyes; for Henry to put himself in Francis' power on the faith of a parchment friendship was unthinkable. The plan of a chivalrous meeting was put away out of practical consideration, and lived only in the wishes of the younger courtiers and the secret calculations of both Kings.
Their friendship, however, continued to be blazoned; others took it for granted, and feared it, Charles of Castile in particular. Of his disjunct possessions perhaps the most important, and at the moment the most troubled, was Spain. Any union of the two Channel powers meant a closure of the narrow seas, transport of soldiers, money and goods made difficult or impossible. Charles considered uncomfortably the naked marches of Flanders, defended by lords who for a handful of gold would turn coats and make their charge their prey. His patrimony was mortgaged, his title brought with it as yet no revenue. Sober and astute, he perceived that superb gestures were not for him, the crown of the Romans allowed its wearer no such luxury as false pride. Hitherto he had kept little communication with the English court, but the bridge was there, Queen Katherine's relationship to his mad mother, and the necessary advances might be made as a matter not of politics but of family feeling. However, he would not move until he was sure that the French-English alliance rested upon some foundation less shifting than words. France was not unsuspected of a renewal of machinations in Scotland. Legal authorities of both countries bickered still concerning the late Queen's jewels. (Henry's sister, left a widow soon after her wedding to Louis XII, had taken home with her part of the French crown treasure, including that great diamond known as the Mirror of Naples, the most famous stone in Europe.) But at last it became known that all difficulties of etiquette had been put aside, orders were going out for armour and tapestry to Charles' own artificers of Flanders and Germany; the meeting was to take place in France, but upon English soil, and 'the King wrote letters to all such lords, ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen as should give their attendance on him and the Queen, which incontinent put themselves in readiness after the most costliest fashion.'
One man, Wolsey, had the drafting of the agreement. He achieved it to perfection, being in the confidence and knowing the suspicions of both Kings. The place of meeting was appointed near Calais, between two castles of the English pale; the manner of the first encounter was to be informal, Francis and Henry riding to their meeting, to 'speak familiarly, and common in that sort and manner, so long as shall seem to them good.' Their Queens were to accompany them, and preside over the jousts, wherein the rivals were not to challenge each other, but side by side to hold the field against all other corners. The Kings were to visit each other's castles on the same day at the same hour, so that Claude received Henry, and Katherine Francis; each thus acting as hostage for the other. The number of gentlemen and men-at-arms was on both sides to be restricted, 'for so much as the castle and places where the said interview shall be, be so little and narrow, that if entry and license be given to all them that would go thither divers annoyances, troubles, and impeachments should follow.' A mixed force of English and French was to keep order, sending 'explorators and spies in the valleys, forests, woods, towns, boroughs, villages, castles, passages, and ways; and if any be found suspect, them to repulse and take away.' No men-at-arms of either nation, except those of the retinues, were to approach the place of meeting nearer than two days' journey. Against the main risk, that of intensifying antipathy between two young and powerful men, there was no safeguarding. The covenant was signed, and Henry made a move towards the coast, halting at Canterbury to keep Pentecost on the twenty-fifth day of May. 'Soon after which coming to Canterbury tidings were brought that Charles Ernperor-elect was on the sea, in sight of the coast of England.'
It was a visit for which Henry and Wolsey had hardly dared to hope, though their policy had been contrived to bring it about. Since Constantine no Emperor of the West had set foot in England, that troubled island of traders and seamen; now this tremendous prince, by the tribute of his presence, acknowledged England's weight in the Council of Europe, and gave the people hope. 'They to a man detest the French interview,' wrote his ambassador, 'they say they arc leaving their old friends for their old enemies.' Queen Katherine, that meekest of women, cried down the French publicly, 'as one would not have supposed she dared to do'; she, pious and frugal, knowledgeable in her husband's character, foresaw him pricked to new extravagances (already a weakness) by this rival of whom she had heard little that a woman reckons good. The messenger bringing news of the Emperor's ships lying off Dover received kind welcome from her.
Charles landed in the evening, to a tempest of cheering, and a great show of flags, banners, and streamers, while every ship loosed off ordnance till the harbour seemed on fire, and 'marvellous was the noise of the guns.' Wolsey welcomed him, going out in a barge to meet his galley as it rowed in to Dover, and Henry travelled fast from Canterbury to greet his nephew early in the morning. The Emperor stood upon no ceremony, unlike his ambassadors, whose grave and stately pacing for position had allowed the entente between France and England to crystallize. Hearing that the King of England was upon the stairs of Dover Castle he came out and down, and was embracing Henry 'or he could come up.' They talked, then took horse together for Canterbury, where the Queen was waiting.
If there were commitments, they were secret; if there was manoeuvring, it left no trace upon Henry's determination. 'Although this Emperor was but young and newly established yet was he wise, and well foresaw the hurt that this amity with France would bring him, and therefore came in person of purpose to dissuade the King's mind, and to stay his entrance with the French if he could; but finding Henry so forward in those proceeds, he baited his hooks with golden gifts to the Cardinal.'
The last part of the sentence may be disregarded. It is unlikely that Charles at this state of his fortunes should have been able to pay a price big enough to tempt Wolsey from his position--astonishing for any single man, Church or lay--of arbiter between the crowned powers. Giustiniani wrote of him during this year that his silver plate was estimated at 150,000 ducats; from his bishoprics of Bath and York he drew woo ducats yearly, with 5000 more from fees derived from the Great Seal, and 15,000 in New Year gifts; besides the pension from his bishopric of Tournai, once more in French hands, but for whose loss he received a substantial yearly compensation. The Venetians were debating whether a gift of a hundred Damascene carpets would induce the Cardinal merely to accord them a hearing in some matter concerning Candy wine. He was as rich as he needed to be, as rich as it was safe to be. The straight way was for him also the safe and pleasant one; he could allow himself the luxury of saying No to kings.
He therefore echoed Henry's No to Charles, but took note, as a statesman, of the young man's popularity. An Emperor on his knee to their Queen pleased the people for their own sake and hers; they had a great respect for her, in which this gesture confirmed them. It was known that the Princess Mary was destined for France, but among the commons other hopes were born of this visit.
Arrived on Saturday, the Emperor departed on Thursday following, having discovered for himself how the land lay with regard to the French alliance; discouraged, but not entirely without hope. On the same day that he set off for Flanders, Henry, with a good wind in his sails, made for France. Calais was ready to salute him; he received homage there and passed on to the new palace by Guisnes, on which workmen had been busy since February.
The preposterous glories, the intertwined allegories of this palace, afford the chroniclers much fine confused feeding. It was a castle such as Amadis might have won from an enchanter, at whose gates and windows stood sham men-at-arms, 'images of sore and terrible countenances.' Among these Hercules and Alexander were portrayed, and a great fountain from which flowed 'red, white, and claret wine' had Bacchus for its patron, over whose head was written in gold, 'Faictes bonne chere qui vouldra'--Good cheer for whoso wills. The ordinary hangings were of silk, gilded and worked into the shape of roses, the state hangings of cloth of gold; there were cushions, 'of the Turkey making,' chairs with pommels of fine gold, windows curiously glassed. The chapel had for guardians twelve images, 'the height of a child of four years,' once more in gold; the copes and vestments all had been woven each in one piece by Florentine craftsmen, of gold cloth powdered with the Tudors' crimson rose; the commonest vessels of the altar were of gold, the Queen's missal was jewelled and embroidered. The palace itself not being large enough--its area, by Hall's assessment, was something like a hundred thousand square feet--twenty-eight hundred tents were set up round about it, in which lodged such noblemen as were not immediately about the King's person.
The French King's preparations were as elaborate, but not so well contrived; since there was less money to ensure the workmen's skill and expedition, his lodging when he came to the town of Ardres was unfinished, so that he had to be content with a pavilion, magnificent in itself, 'a house of solace and sport which was chiefly sustained by a great mighty mast, all the roof of the said house hung on the same mast, the colour of the same was all blue, set with stars of gold foil.' Under this roof he received Wolsey, whose silver crosses and pillars, the hat and mantle borne before him, and great following of grooms in scarlet livery coming after, astonished the court, so that the French 'made books, showing the triumphant doings of the Cardinal's royalty.' He came with authority from Henry to approve and confirm, to bind and unbind, a lay power as great as that which his archbishop's consecration allowed over souls. Francis, astonished at this greatness, still was aware that the negotiations could not be in better hands. His subsequent generosity need not be seen as mere truckling, but as that recognition of rare qualities which a personal encounter with Wolsey seems always to have imposed. He gave into the Cardinal's hand letters patent by which Wolsey might speak and sign for the crown of France as for the crown of England; plenary and absolute power. Wolsey could not accept, without reference to his master, so enormous a responsibility, but Henry, seeing in the compliment to his servant goodwill to himself, gave full assent. The Cardinal plenipotentiary held the destinies of two States in his hands when he came to the castle of Guisnes.
The Kings kept to their programme and their bargain. In state they visited to exchange protestations of regard. 'Sir,' said the King of England, 'I never saw Prince with my eyen that might of my heart be more loved. And for your love I have passed the seas, into the fardest frontier of my realm to see you presently, which doing now gladdeth me.' They set up trees of honour on a mountain made of green damask; the trees were artificially wrought, the leaves of green damask like the mount, the branches, boughs and withered leaves of cloth of gold. On these hung the two royal shields, and by them stood the heralds, to receive challenges from those who were to venture. Each day had its device and its colour for the contestants to wear. Some notion of the astounding richness of the clothing may be taken from a description of one of Henry's coats; it was cut in cloth of silver damask, bordered with a motto in cloth of gold letters--'Break not these sweet herbs of the rich mount.' Here and there on the cloth were embroidered 'little mountains, and springing branches of Basil wrought all of fine gold, and every branch leaf and stalk was loose and wavering, that underneath was the cloth of silver seen.' Marvellous fresh and fair this apparel looked, says Hall, yet in fact it was one of the simplest of Henry's uniforms. (The gentlemen of each King's party wore replicas of his dress.) The whole meeting went by without unhappy incident, to the sound of trumpets; perfectly occupied with sport and spectacle, the hotheads on both sides were left no opportunity to quarrel.
Only three informalities marred the smooth course of events. Francis, wrestling, gave Henry's superior strength a nasty fall; the incident was private, but none the less dangerous for that. Again, the King of France, eager as ever, paid the King of England a surprise visit at eight in the morning as he sat at breakfast, and caused some little consternation by greeting him affectionately as 'my prisoner.' The next is a pretty story of indecorum at Mass. The Gospel was presented first to one King, then to the other, each refusing, in the other's favour, the honour of being the first to kiss. The missal swayed this way and that until at last it was placed on the altar again, unsaluted; the pyx went to and fro in the same manner at the Agnus Dei. The two Queens for some time solemnly repeated after their husbands the figures in this dance of religious civility, but at last, having duly waved aside the pyx some two or three times, broke out laughing and kissed each other instead.
On Midsummer Day, June 24th, the Kings took friendly leave of each other and departed, having been sixteen days in each other's company. 'With contempt on the one side and distrust on the other, it is impossible that men should work well together'; but given these qualities they still may good-temperedly play. There was an exchange of jewels by way of remembrance, a collar and bracelet of the finest work changed hands. Henry made his way through troops of sight-seeing drunkards, victims of the conduit at his gate that ran wine night and day, to Calais, where more preparations for expenditure at once were set on foot.
Charles the Emperor was waiting at Grave-lines, anxious for news. He had, as ever, a good excuse to be where he was; another aunt, Margaret, his regent in Flanders, was this time his hostess. Once more Charles, with the whole security of his dominions at stake, gave etiquette the go-by, and rather than wait for Henry to come to him, as his high condition upon his own territory warranted, set out in person to encounter his uncle halfway. At the court, when at last they came to it, both nobles and commons of the King's train were more comfortable than among the civilities and suspicions of the Field; 'the Emperor made such semblant of love to all the court of England...and all sorts of Englishmen from the highest to the lowest were so cheered and feasted, with so loving manner, that much they praised the Emperor's court.'
Their praise, coming to the ears of Francis in a characteristic fashion (by way of certain young Frenchmen who took part, disguised, in the masques, 'through which means they saw and much more heard than they should have done'), unsettled his too eager mind once more. True, the Emperor was his ally; the meeting had no other ostensible object than to ratify the agreement to which he was a party; but he was troubled, and his messenger, sent with letters of credence to the Emperor, allowed himself so many hints and threats that there was some alarm for Charles' personal safety. Francis was aware of the young Emperor's quality, a kind of humdrum capacity for the accumulation of power; it dismayed and enraged him. He distrusted Henry; Charles he feared, and if bluster could prevent the two going hand in glove he had no scruple against using it.
The manoeuvre succeeded, to all appearance. Henry, after a three days' visit, 'departed, and in goodly haste shipped' from Calais, having spent uncounted money, and gained only the esteem, which he might have had more cheaply in his own country, of being an excellent dancer, horseman, and breaker of spears. Five thousand eight hundred and four persons accompanied him, most of whom, having obeyed his injunction to fit themselves out in the costliest possible fashion, returned to bankruptcy and selling of lands. 'The marvellous treasure of gold that was now in chains and baldricks was so great, so weighty, that the gold was innumerable, to my deeming, to be summed; Gentlemen, Squires, Knights, and every honest officer of the King was richly apparelled and had chains of gold, great and marvellous weighty; what should be said?' Only that Henry, now twenty-eight years old and absolute, had allowed his natural taste for splendour to make a fool of him, and thus laid himself open to those dangers which beset any prince who has wasted his substance in display: 'He must burden his subjects with taxes to recoup himself, and so incur unpopularity; having by his liberaliy offended many and obliged, few.'
The treaty thus sealed amid jealousy, treachery, and folly, suffered the same fate as previous pacts ratified in circumstances more auspicious. Within two years the Duke of Albany, with Francis' connivance, was troubling Scotland on pretence of assisting Henry's sister to rule; French sailors pursued English merchant ships and sacked them off Margate, 'even in the King's streams.' Henry wrote in anger to the Estates of Scotland, to the effect that Albany was an adventurer, without credit or backing; 'in order to accomplish his damnable purposes in covert manner, he has come out of France without the cognizance, assurance, or even knowledge of the said French King.' And he added a significant paragraph reminding the lords, and the King of France through them, that there had been an oath, sworn upon the four Evangelists, which precluded all such French cognizanoe or assurance. Francis' answer was a plea of ignorance, and an offer to make restitution for such damage as his subjects had done. Neither money nor goods was forthcoming. The yearly payments for redeeming Tournai were delayed, promised, abandoned. Lawyers still were busy in dispute over the jewels and dowry of Henry's sister.[*] The bad faith of France was evident. There was every excuse for war, and preparations were made for it; ships were put in readiness, and 'a general muster by commission was taken of all able men from sixteen years and upward, of every hamlet, village, borough, city, hundred, and shire throughout England, which seemed to many another Domesday book; and yet was there neither peace nor war against France.'
[* She was married by this time to the Duke of Suffolk. Henry was angry, for she had taken this step without consulting him, being completely in love, and afraid that he would refuse consent. Suffolk wrote to Wolsey: 'The Queen would never let me be in rest till I had granted her to be married; and so, to be plain with you, I have married her heartily and have lain with her, insomuch as (I fear) that she be with child.' It is from this hasty but never repented marriage that Lady Jane Grey descended.]
Many reasons for this hesitation may be found; only one satisfies. That Henry considered himself bound by his word is unlikely: 'a prudent Prince neither can nor ought to keep his word when to keep it is hurtful to him, and the causes which led him to pledge it are removed': and he was at this time feeing the Constable of Bourbon to rebel against his master. Despite the extravagantly sworn friendship of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, there was no lack of wealth or of enthusiasm for a French war in England. Nor was Henry in two minds which side to take; his predilection is put out of doubt by his throwing over the marriage with the Dauphin. Charles was betrothed to the English heiress Mary in 1522, and amid the pageants and feasts was one showing an allegory in the shape of a 'proud horse that would not be tamed nor bridled, but amity sent prudence and policy, which tamed him, and force and puissance bridled him. This horse was meant by the French King, and amity by the King of England and the Emperor.' Neither hesitancy, nor indolence, nor his word on the Gospels kept Henry at this juncture out of war, but that matter which was beginning to absorb his thoughts and shape his policy--the business of the succession to the crown.
His only lawful living child was a daughter; it was unlikely that Queen Katherine, after a series of miscarriages and children horn dead, would be more fortunately fruitful. His throne, secure though it seemed in the English devotion to his person, was new established. His father's right to reign had been questioned by impostors such as rise up after any mysterious death of a rightful claimant; and though these had been shadowy figures, puppets, they had not been put down so easily; one, even, was crowned King of Ireland before he failed. From these memories and examples it was easy to see how on his death, or even before it, some sprig of the red or white rose might find supporters. Henry VII had done what he could to ensure that not many of these should remain. Still, there were de la Poles in hiding abroad, and at home, magnificent and defiant, Edward, Duke of Buckingham. This relative of the reigning house had publicly deplored the new friendship with Francis, and the extravagance of the Field. He 'sore repined that he should be at so great charges for his furniture forth at this time, saying he knew not for what cause so much money should be spent about the sight of a vain talk to be had, and communication to be ministered, of things of no importance.' So saying he voiced the feelings of the English people. Henry marked this reluctance, and punished it only by refusing to allow the Duke, the second nobleman in England and a noted horseman, to run with his team at the jousts. But when England was reached, and the fantastic display which was to bring about an undesired peace brought neither that nor war, but only taxation, the Duke's protests and claims were remembered. Buckingham was aware of danger. He had returned from France into a life wholly retired and private, to make gardens; contriving, not political tangles, but 'curious knots and summer bowers' of roses and sweet herbs at Penshurst, where the King himself came to stay the following summer, and won at tennis £14 of his host; a visit which, combined with the Duke's withdrawal from public life, might seem to show him once more in favour. But his offence was not in his behaviour, but his blood. The King watched, and collected evidence; the Duke had been promised by an astrologer that the King should have no male issue; he had attempted to bribe the guard by presents of cloth of gold; he had been heard to say that God punished usurpers, and so would not allow the King's issue to prosper; and 'he hath said all that the King's father did was wrong and naught.' Henry himself sat in judgment on his kinsman, whose descent from Edward III, though it appeared nowhere in the indictment, was a sufficient assurance that he would be found guilty. He returned from Guildhall to the Tower with the blade of the axe turned towards him, and the sole entry which Wriothesley sets down for this, the thirteenth year of Henry's reign, runs as follows:
'This year, on Friday before White Sunday, being the 17 day of May, Edward Duke of Buckingham was beheaded at Tower Hill.'
It was the signal for others with some tinge of the blood royal to be off out of England; Reginald Pole, grandson of the Duke of Clarence, went into exile, that hardest fate for any Englishman, and his mother, the Countess of Salisbury, found herself in danger. The Earl of Devon, Edward IV's grandson, was in no better case. But the King held his hand, having in mind another solution to the problem.
The marriage of his daughter presented difficulties such as no one but a prophet might surmount. A French alliance was unpopular, and by the year 1525 had ceased even to be profitable. Francis I, tempting his luok once too often, fell into the hands of the Emperor's troops and went sadly to imprisonment in Spain, while in London a Te Deum was sung for his overthrow and bonfires were lit in all parts of the city, 'with vessels of wine at every fire for the people to drink.' The Emperor, made by this victory contemptuous of the English friendship, took no pains to conciliate Henry; 'and never after that victory gotten subscribed his letters to King Henry according to his accustomed manner, Your Son and Cousin; but to the draft of his Secretaries infixed his hand with the word Charles, and no more.'
But the King of England was at this time a strong and healthy man of thirty-four. He could still have children, though not in conjunction with the disordered blood of Spain. A disputed succession meant civil war, and England sinking again in the west like some northern winter sun after a glorious and too brief day. Accordingly there began to go about among the canon lawyers an opinion that the King's marriage was unlawful, being within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity.
It is customary to suppose that this convenient doubt came to birth following upon the King's sudden infatuation for Anne Boleyn, one of the Queen's own ladies; the matter was deeper rooted than this. Henry possessed to a remarkable degree that power of self-deception native to the English, against which the conscious deceits of foreign diplomacy do battle in vain. For many months he considered, weighing objection against advantage; the chance of a present foreign war--the Emperor was his wife's nephew--against the certainty of a civil war after his death. He plagued his confessor for advice, stirred to activity a conscience hitherto tranquil, and by 1527 had securely established in his own mind a genuine doubt of the lawfulness of his marriage. Thus a speech to the nobles and councillors, given by Hall, need not be read with distaste as an example of hypocrisy.
'If it be judged by the law of God that she is my lawful wife, there was never thing more acceptable unto me in my life, both for the discharge and clearing of my conscience, and also for the good qualities and conditions the which I know to be in her...But if it be determined by judgment that our marriage was against God's law and clearly void, then I shall not only sorrow for the parting with so good a lady and loving companion, but much more lament and bewail my unfortunate chance, that I have so long lived in adultery to God's great displeasure, and have no true heir of my body to inherit the realm.' From this Council men went pitying the King to see him so perplexed.'
The Spanish author of the Chronicle of King Henry VIII, a partisan, despite his nationality, of the King, puts the onus of first proposing a divorce on Wolsey's shoulders; so does Roper, Sir Thomas More's son-in-law; so does Charles the Emperor, in a letter to his envoy in Portugal--'by the sinister persuasion of the Cardinal of York, who bath prevailed upon the King, our good brother, in order that he may marry with France, and thus avenge him, because we did not marry with his daughter.' Always Wolsey is accused. But he denied responsibility publicly before the Council; and it is strange to see Henry forgetting statecraft for a moment in the conviction which by this time he had imposed upon himself. 'Sir,' said the Cardinal, 'I must humbly beseech your highness to declare to me, before all this audience, whether I have been the chief inventor or first mover of this matter unto your majesty, for I am greatly suspected of all men therein.' 'Marry,' the King answered, 'ye have been rather against me in attempting or setting forth thereof.'
Henry was responsible for the whole policy, and accepted that responsibility fully. Politically it was a mistake to do so, and contrary to his usual custom. He had insisted that his minister should answer to the nobles for the distasteful friendship with France, and to the commons for the subsequent and equally unpopular levy for prosecuting war against that country, made in 1523. And though the Cardinal accepted at last the task of negotiating with the Pope, the King it was who directed all moves in the game, relying upon the excellence of his dynastic reasons, together with the great desire of his people for a prince. The marriage with Anne Boleyn was not his first or only compelling motive; indeed when the question of another queen was first put forward, Francis I's sister, Duchess of Alençon, was suggested as the most suitable match, and Anne's own brother, Lord Rochford,[*] 'brought with him (out of France) a picture of the said lady,' for the King's appraising. Anne's sister, Mary Boleyn, had been the King's mistress, her mother was reputed the daughter's predecessor; and it is not to be supposed that Henry would, even at the height of a lover's folly, have risked a quarrel with the powerful Emperor for the sake of one further link with so easy a family. He was determined to marry; and it may well be that, having observed in the course of his daughter's many betrothals how uncertain were foreign fortunes and promises, he was determined to marry an Englishwoman, as his father before him had done.
[* He was afterwards executed, on a charge of incest with his sister, the King's wife. This charge was never proved, and Rochford denied it on the scaffold, as did Anne herself.]
A brief of Pope Julius II stood between him and his wish. The degree of consanguinity had been recognized when, after Prince Arthur's death, England had the choice of providing his widow with another husband, or letting her dowry return to Spain. But it was the opinion, even of such dispassionate theologians as the Bishop of Rochester, that this bull of dispensation was inadequate; Fisher found it 'slenderly couched,' and agreed that 'many things might be objected against it.' But the authorisation of one Pope could only be set aside by his successor; and in 1527 the Pope was a Medici, Clement VII, with something of his father's skill in bargaining, as his election in the teeth of stronger candidates proved. He was in Henry's debt, however, for a defence of the sacraments against Luther, and something might reasonably be hoped from a pontiff who wrote thus civilly: 'We, therefore, which are ready always (under God) to entertain and favourably grant the honest petitions of all Kings, at least minding the safety of souls, but more especially your Majesty's, for its manifold immeasurable benefits towards us and this holy Seat.' But the armies of the Emperor were all about Rome, and Clement did not dare commit himself in the matter of the Emperor's aunt. He refused to pronounce one way or another upon Pope Julius' instrument.
Within whose jurisdiction, then, did the matter come? Evidently it was a case for an ecclesiastical court, being one of canon law and conscience. Various courses were suggested; none found favour, though it was agreed that some kind of commission from Rome would be most acceptable. But how to compose it? 'They praised the present flavour of the meat, but blamed the cooking,' wrote Stephen Gardiner, after a bout of argument with the Pope's lawyers. Wolsey, as Legate, was capable of trying the cause, but was disliked and distrusted by the Queen; it was necessary to add some other authority to his, a point at which the Pope and his advisers baulked; they would take no responsibility for suggesting an arbitrator. There was wrangling, and at last, on the Englishmen's part, something like blackmail. Their King, they said, though staunch in doctrine, was beginning to have doubts as to the validity of Papal authority; and (which was true) the new ways of thinking were not without supporters in their country. 'At these words the Pope's Holiness, casting his arm abroad, in great agitation bade them put in the words contended for; and therewith walked up and down the chamber, casting now and then his arms abroad.' He was left with no choice but to name Wolsey's co-judge, and, with some idea of still further delaying the issue, chose a Cardinal crippled by gout; a man known to the English already from his coming with the hat for Wolsey in 1518, renowned for sagacity and learning. Campeggio was in fact in no condition to travel, and it was some months before he landed in England, though Wolsey sent relays of horses and mules to accommodate him through France, and even offered money. The Legate refused it, and made his way painfully to London, whence he wrote to Clement that the threat of secession was immediately shaken over him. 'He (Wolsey) often impresses upon me that if this divorce be not granted the authority of the See Apostolic in this Kingdom will be at an end.'
Wolsey, it may be supposed, took his tone from the King; for the Legate immediately afterwards speaks of the Chancellor's great services to the Church, shrewdly conjecturing that he would do nothing to undermine an authority from which he derived his own. But the Cardinal's power came from a dual source, and though he valued the red hat, the silver pillars, the ceremony to which his ecclesiastical rank entitled him and of which his temporal master could not deprive him, yet there was danger that, if Henry so willed, he might not live to enjoy them.
The Legate therefore went carefully, despite his fellow Cardinal's urging. His instructions from the Pope were, not immediately to make enquiry, but to work upon the King, and bring him to change his mind. In any case, even if a reconciliation were to prove impossible, he was on no account to give sentence without further application to Rome.
He found on his arrival that the omens were not good. The King's impatience was already beginning to show itself. Anne Boleyn was installed in the palace of Greenwich, and the French ambassador wrote that already greater court was paid to her than to the Queen--by the nobles, that is; to whom 'the King hath made his intention clearly known, so that they speak more soberly than otherwise they might have done.' The Legate had not long to wait before he heard from the King of England's own mouth more about these same intentions. Henry came to Blackfriars, and visited Campeggio privately; there was no long discussion. 'He told me plainly he wanted nothing more than a declaration whether this marriage were valid or not--he himself always assuming that it was not so; and I believe if an angel came down from Heaven he would not be able to persuade his Majesty to the contrary.'
So fixed, by this time, was the idea. The Legate gave up all hope of persuading the plaintiff, and turned to discover the wishes of the defendant. The King had suggested that the Queen might retire to a religious house, and it was not wholly out of possibility that she should consent; she was a pious woman. Campeggio, therefore, bearing this suggestion in mind, visited Queen Katherine and gently proposed it; she would satisfy God, her conscience and the King's, and retain her temporal goods; besides, by not allowing the marriage to be called in question, seouring her daughter in the succession. The Queen, who presently from among her maids came forth unto them, having a skein of white thread about her neck,' made no direct answer. She was alone, she said, 'a poor woman lacking wit,' and a stranger among these laws. 'What think ye, my Lords, that any English subjects will be for me against the King? Forsooth, I know they will not.' She would ask for counsellors; the Legate should have his answer when they had been consulted.
Whatever these counsellors advised--four English bishops, and three advocates from Flanders--the Queen had made up her mind by the time Campeggio next saw her. She had never been Prince Arthur's wife in fact; 'intact and incorrupt he left me, as I came from my mother's very womb.' Her marriage was lawful, an honourable estate in which she chose to remain. 'The King my father I am sure was not so ignorant but he asked counsel of clerks and well-learned men before he married me the second time; for'--a nice understanding of Ferdinand's character--'if he had any doubt in my marriage he would not have disbursed so great a treasure as he did.' She begged the Legate to reason with the King, and she for her part would use such influence as she had to quiet the Emperor's anger; for Charles was writing, insisting that she should be allowed good Spanish counsellors, not suspect Englishmen, and that she should be treated with all reverence; 'for if it were not so we should take such conduct to be an affront to ourselves, in which our own honour was concerned, and as such avenge it.'
Campeggio had reason to dread the Emperor's anger; he had been obliged to ransom himself, at great cost, from the marauding Imperial soldiers who sacked Rome. Henry, however, assessed the Emperor more truly, and understood very well that a strong island and an undefended city were two different matters. He insisted, and Wolsey was obliged to repeat his insistence at the risk of alienating the Pope altogether. His letter to Rome shows a man torn by two loyalties, trying hopelessly to reconcile them; begging the Pope for the sake of the Church to deny the Church's own authority, careless of precedent, seeing only ruin ahead whichever way he turns.
'The King feels his honour touched by this (the refusal of Campeggio to make any pronouncement), especially considering what a benefactor he has been to the Church. I cannot reflect upon it and olose my eyes, for I see ruin, infamy, and subversion of the whole dignity and honour of the See Apostolic...without the Pope's compliance I cannot hear up against the storm.'
A second mission therefore was sent to the Pope, to enquire, among other things, 'whether he will dispense the King to have two wives, whereof some great reasons and precedents appear, especially in the Old Testament'; which astonishing solution to the problem appeared to shock none of the ecclesiastics concerned. But in case there should be found no lawful means whereby the King of England might practise polygamy, there was a subtler snare prepared. The Pope, who could not at this critical moment of his See's history be expected to disavow his predecessors, on whom, as the links from St. Peter, his whole power depended, was to be invited to save his face in an ingenious manner. The original bull of Pope Julius reposed in the archives of Spain; Queen Katherine, commanded by her husband to produce it, had very prudently refused to do so, and her nephew, though he threatened to send it to Clement direct, would naturally be cautious in exposing such a document to the risks of that long road between Toledo and Rome. The Pope therefore, in the absence of the original, was to be invited to consider its non-production a proof that it would not bear examination; in fact, that it was a forgery, and as such might be set aside by Julius' successor without detriment to that pontiff's authority, or to his own which derived from it.
Even this inducement failed to make up either of Clement's two minds. He hesitated, raged, argued--'If heresies arise, is it my fault? My conscience acquits me. Let them, if they please, send the Legate back again, and then do as they please, so long as they do not make me responsible for their injustices.' And in the end he refused.
The English envoys had known it all along. 'I think his Holiness will do nothing,' one of them wrote, and you may tell Wolsey so, in the event of his desiring my opinion.' Troubled, harassed, in uncertain health, still the Pope would not yield on either of the two main points, though he had been heard in his distress to say that he could wish the poor Queen were 'in her grave, for the health of Christendom; saying also that he thought, like as the Emperor has destroyed the temporalities of the Church, so shall she be the cause of the destruction of the spiritualities.' Nothing was to be hoped from Clement.
The King therefore resolved to force his hand. He called a court together at Blackfriars, the lawyers were busy with precedents, the people agog, Anne Boleyn waiting for news which should set the crown of England on her head; a whole kingdom was arrayed in expectation against the old and weary Campeggio, with a vacillating Pope at his back. The King having taken his seat and the court being set, silence cried, and the counsel at the bar called, 'Campeggio upon his stiff gouty legs stood up, all men expecting the sentence of divorce, but the Cardinal said flatly, "I will not give judgment in this matter too high for us."'
Silence met this, broken by the Duke of Suffolk, Henry's brother-in-law; who gave 'a great clap on the table with his hand, and said, "By the Mass, now I see the old saw is true, it was never merry in England since we had Cardinals among us."'
The King rose in anger. The Legates broke up their court, and Campeggio set off, back to Rome, ostensibly to carry the cause back to the Pope, actually to bring first news of the breaking away of England from Catholic Christendom. Wolsey, his partner in failure, was dismissed by Henry from favour. Hearing lawyers 'fall in discourse of the case, by terms and strength of the civil law, Well, said Doctor Cranmer, if I might be heard, I think much better it might be tried by God's law.' The King sent for him, and giving him 'great provision of books' set the Doctor to prove his words in writing; the result of which was a treatise proving from the Fathers and the Scriptures that the Bishop of Rome had no authority to dispense with the word of God.
It was enough. Like a man starting to run downhill, Henry launched himself from foothold to foothold, each leap wider and more perilous than the last, unable either to stop his course or to change its direction. From lack of an heir to trouble of conscience; from trouble of conscience to lawful means of relief; from these to means unlawful; from means unlawful to the rejection of the whole code that condemned him--such was the King's headlong progress during the years of delay. 'For no man is found prudent enough to adapt himself to these changes,' comments the Florentine Secretary on the shifts of Fortune, 'both because he cannot deviate from the course to which nature impels him, and because, having always prospered while pursuing one path, he cannot be persuaded that it would be well for him to leave it.'
But, much as he had sacrificed, alliance, good faith, his name in Christendom as a defender of the Church and the Holy See, Henry, in 1533, was in a fair way to obtain his desire, the chance of a legitimate son to succeed him. 'A new Prince cannot observe all those rules of conduct in respect whereof men are accounted good, being often forced, in order to preserve his Princedom, to act in opposition to good faith.' Henry, forced to act thus in defence of his dynasty, preserved so far as was possible all the decencies; did at first so conduct himself that, in the words of the Secretary, 'to see and hear him one would think him the embodiment of mercy, good faith, integrity, kindliness, and religion.' And, he adds, 'there is no quality more necessary to seem to possess than this last.' 'To see them together,' wrote the French ambassador, speaking of Katherine and her husband, 'none could have told anything was the matter.' Henry, though he abstained from her bed, had continued to eat with the Queen, and showed her all courtesy, besides speaking of her in publio assemblies with respect. He had very fairly assessed the danger of intervention by the Emperor.[*] He had, besides, chosen an excellent moment to approach the Pope, who, friendless and in flight, was unlikely to stand against the strongly expressed wish of one of the few friends left to his See. The meek character of Queen Katherine was to be relied upon. And though theologians were divided in their opinions--Luther and Melanchthon, among others, wrote against the divorce--the King had judgment from many of the European universities in his favour. 'Wherefore, if a Prince succeeds in establishing and maintaining his authority the means will always be judged honourable and be approved by everyone. For the vulgar are always taken by appearances and by results, and the world is made up of the vulgar.'
[* Two of his sisters had been turned out of their kingdoms without protest from Charles. He was not likely to take up arms in the cause of an aunt.]
His plan came to grief because the King had left out of reckoning three matters, one by no means to be foreseen, the others calculable by a man not wholly blinded by impatience and desire. The first and most important may be expressed in the words of one of his own bishops, Tunstall; of whom Erasmus said that he was too learned to be mistaken in judgment, and too honest to be tempted to flatter. 'The King's Grace, ye say, shall have another wife, and she shall bear him a prince...Who hath promised him a prince?' It is not to be more forcefully or more briefly put. A second marriage was no more certain than the first to provide an heir.
Next, the King's patience failed, and that failure undid any good that his temperate first statement of the case had done. He was absolute master; twenty years of power had offered few opportunities to practise kicking his heels in waiting on the judgment of a superior. Six years is a long time to keep up any deception, even one of self, and at last Henry's growing infatuation for Anne Boleyn spurred him to force an issue. He was mad for her, she for the crown. They wrote to each other lamenting the passage of time, promising future delights. Both urged Wolsey; and there is an interesting joint letter from them to the Chancellor, asking for news. 'I do know,' Anne wrote, 'the great pains and troubles you have taken for me, both day and night, is never like to be recompensed on my part, but only in loving you, next to the King's grace, above all creatures living.' She begged for news, and hoped it might be good, 'for I am sure you desire it as much as I.' Henry wrote the postscript with his own hand: 'The writer of this letter would not cease, till she had caused me likewise to set my hand. I assure you there is neither of us but that greatly desireth to see you...The not hearing of the legate's arrival in France causeth us somewhat to muse; notwithstanding we trust by your diligence and vigilancy (with the assistance of Almighty God) shortly to be eased out of that trouble.' But no such ease was forthcoming, and the discipline which Henry had imposed upon himself, in the hope that a decision might be reached in a very few months, began with the passing of years to lose its hold. He forgot his respectful attitude to the Queen; was publicly seen with Anne, whom the people hated; and, having submitted his cause to an impartial judge, refused to accept the findings of the Pope's commissioner.
Last, and perhaps most dangerous to the whole project, comes a factor which Machiavelli seems to disallow, since nowhere in his book does he make mention of it as having a political bearing; the sheer goodness of the woman against whom the opinions of bishops and universities, and her husband's powerful will, were in turn arrayed.
Katherine of Aragon was greatly loved--'as though she had been herself English,' Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, wrote to his master; supreme tribute from a people so jealous of its nationality and so suspicious of foreigners. She was pious, humble, as her husband witnessed, despite her great parentage; a woman content to sit among her ladies at work, to say her prayers, and bring up her daughter in all good accomplishments. She was not handsome, and made no very great figure in the masques and pageants to which Henry as a young man was devoted; but she kept a brave heart during the menace of a Scottish invasion, made speeches as well as stitched banners, and stood out against the French friendship like an Englishwoman born. 'The good Queen Katherine,' 'the blessed Queen,' 'that good lady'; even chroniclers whose inclination and whose profit tilted the King's way could find no worse words for her. Hall, grumbling, bears witness to her popularity: 'Of the coming of this Legate (Campeggio) the common people, being ignorant of the truth, and in especial women and other that favoured the Queen, talked largely, and said that the King would for his own pleasure have another wife...with many foolish words, insomuch that whosoever spake against the marriage was of the common people abhorred and reproved.' An address intended for the use of her advocates, but bearing signs of its opposing origin, speaks in one sentence of her light-heartedness, when she exhorted the young persons of the King's court to dancing and pastimes, 'though it would be better for her to exhort them to pray God to send some good end to this matter.' Elsewhere the document complains that she showed herself too much to the people, 'rejoicing greatly in their exclamations and ill obloquy, and by beckoning with her head and smiling...rather encouraging them in their so doing, than rebuking them as she should have done.'
One interpretation fits both behaviours. Katherine, a proud woman, would not show her hurt; a dutiful daughter of her father and of the Church, she would not suppose that these objections of consanguinity, which were in fact raised at the time of her marriage, had not finally been met by her parents' acquiescence and the Pope's Bull. She displayed, throughout the difficult years of disputed status, no acrimony, no disobedience, and let fall no word that might not become a subject and a true wife. If she showed herself smiling to the crowd, as her opponent jealously noted, it seems evident that her dignity would not admit an appeal to the people's pity; and if she obliged her ladies to dance, it was in order that they, and she, might not seem to deplore in advance the issue of her cause--that issue which, so far as lawyers, Church and lay, could ensure it, was hound to go against her.
Man proposes. When after six years of delay the divorce was pronounced; when Anne had been married and crowned with such ceremony as that which greeted the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella twenty years before; when she was known to be with child, and the gunners at Greenwich stood ready with their matches to touch off the salute for a son, a daughter was born to her and the King. 'Who hath promised him a prince?' One daughter had been bastardized to make way for another. Anne had failed and knew it, but she took her destiny lightly, as ever. Eighteen months later, having given birth to a second (still-born) child, she gave sufficient cause to her enemies, was found guilty of an intrigue against the King's honour, and went to her death smiling. 'Mr. Kingston,' she said to the Constable of the Tower, 'I hear I shall not die before noon, and I am very sorry therefor, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.' He told her that there would be no pain, or very little. 'And then she said, "I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck," and put her hands about it laughing heartily.' 'She would not confess, but showed a devilish spirit, and was as gay as if she were not going to die,' the Spanish chronicler noted. She had been Queen in fact a little over three years, but powerful for something nearer ten. The motto upon her great-grandfather's tomb would have been fitting for her own, where 'upon a border of brass in many places these words are written, Now thus, now thus, now thus.'
Anne gambled with life, and lost what she had, but Henry had more to lose; he played for stakes higher than he knew, and the luck of the game went against him from the beginning. A healthy young Englishwoman, a commoner, might have been reckoned upon to bear him sons, and preserve his dignity; Queen Katherine, a Spaniard and a recluse, seemed to lack all dangerous charm for his people. Yet gay Anne made him a laughingstock, the withdrawn Queen was loved. 'Its attainment (the security of a Princedom) depends not wholly on merit, nor wholly on good fortune, but rather on a fortunate astuteness.' Sir Thomas More's laughing quatrain on the student who quitted his books to marry fits the royal plaintiff neatly, and may serve as a pendant to Machiavelli's dictum:
'Now who hath played a feater cast Since juggling first begun? In knitting of himself so fast, Himself he bath undone.'
The divorce, inevitably, brought about Wolsey's ruin; he had been thrust into a situation which offered, at best, only a choice of evils, when Henry, looking to the continuance of his dynasty, forswore the diplomacy of fifteen years, and cut England off from the rest of Europe. Wolsey, whose chief usefulness to his master and nation was thus denied, could no longer stand against the pressure brought to bear upon him; the King's will was, in effect, the will of a majority. It is one of the secrets of Henry's constant hold upon English loyalty and affection that he was an interpreter of the people. His dismissal of Wolsey came at a time when public opinion was swaying against him, and it did much to set him right in the eyes of men who deplored his behaviour to the rightful Queen.
The English people recognized that the Cardinal must go; hut, with their eternal genius for arriving at the right conclusion by the wrong road, they attributed the fall to his machinations in Anne's favour. The Spanish chronicler, whose pages repeat the gossip of streets and taverns, has a story which must have found wide belief. 'As he (Wolsey) rose from base beginnings he rejoiced to have wise people in his train, and one of them, an astrologer, said to him one day, My Lord, you will be destroyed by a woman. At the time he had so much power the sainted Queen Katherine was living, and she, sad that so low a man should have so great control, showed but little love to him, and rather tried that the King should look to his own business. The Cardinal, knowing this and remembering what the astrologer had said, invented a diabolical thing'--(sowed doubts in the King's mind concerning his marriage)--'thus fulfilling the prophecy that he should be destroyed by a woman. The ill-fated man thought it would be the blessed Queen Katherine, but instead it was the cursed Anne Boleyn.'
To look for a moment at Wolsey's career is not time wasted; it illumines the oharacter of the King to whose greatness the supreme capacity of this, his chosen minister, is witness. Such conjunctions do not come about by chance. 'It is an unerring rule, and one of universal application, that a Prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised by others.' Wolsey, the son of a butcher, was wholly without recommendation other than his capacity. He entered the English scene on the heels of a pair of lawyers [*] who had made justice a stench and taxation a burden; one a paltry kind of gentleman, one the son of a sieve-maker. 'These night-sprung Mushrumps that sucked the earth's fatness from far better plants than themselves...left their riches to be spent by others, and their names to remain on record for the Caterpillars of those times.' The people, despite their hammering by lords during the previous century, did profoundly distrust and detest upstarts. Henry knew it. He executed his father's instruments for allowing a little of the money they had collected to stick to their fingers, and at once set up in their place a minister more magnificent, lavish, and spectacular than any before or since; a commoner and a priest, distasteful alike to the Council and the City. The King, a man of parts, and not afraid of parts in other men, discerned greatness in the poor scholar, tutor to the Marquess of Dorset's sons. He preferred him to the Deanery of Lincoln, and at once set him to work upon the victualling of a war. In 1513 English ships, equipped by Wolsey's activity with all needful provision, gained a victory over the French at sea which prepared the way for an invasion, a casual war which soon ended, after the capture of two towns, later to figure in the bargaining between Francis I and his neighbour over the Channel. Wolsey accompanied Henry as his almoner, thereby losing the chance of displaying further organizing energy in the repulse of a Scottish invasion, but that he was already marked for favour shows in the letters of Queen Katherine; already the butcher's son was advising and warning--strange forecast of their future relation--Spain's daughter. By next year he was Archbishop, and the King's sister, despatched into France to marry an old man, wrote to Henry mourning the weakness of her attendant Norfolk, who had permitted the dismissal of all her English servants: 'Would God my Lord of York had come with me in his room, for then I am sure I should have been much more at my heart's ease than I am now.' By September 1515 the Venetian ambassador was writing in haste, to inform his Signory of the arrival of a courier from Rome, bringing 'news that the Right Reverend of York has been oreated Cardinal at the suit of this most serene King, who is bent on aggrandizing him, with might and main; perceiving which, we do our utmost to keep him on the most friendly terms, both by reason of his extreme influence with the King, and also because he is of a very active and assiduous mind in matters of business.' In 1517 he was Lord Chancellor, Archbishop of York, Bishop of Lincoln and Tournai, Cardinal, and Legate de latere, and Giustiniani wrote: 'I perceive that the Right Reverend the Cardinal of York leads the dance.'
[* Henry VII's tax collectors, Empson and Dudley.]
The best description of his person and standing comes from this same source. 'He is about forty-six years old (this report was read in 1519), very handsome, learned, extremely eloquent, of vast ability, and indefatigable. He alone transacts the same business which occupies all the magistracies, offices and councils of Venice, both civil and criminal; and all state affairs likewise arc managed by him, be their nature what they may. He is pensive, and has the reputation of being extremely just; he favours the people exceedingly, and especially the poor.' This is worth noting. Most of the opposition to him, and the triumphant clamour at his downfall, came from better-horn men who resented his power with the King, and his integrity in taxing their order as well as his own. 'He hears their suits, and seeks to despatch them instantly; he makes the lawyers plead gratis for all paupers. He is in very great repute--seven times more so than if he were Pope.'
Against this, to get a true picture, must he set the rattling mockery of Skelton; himself, like the Cardinal, a man of the people and a priest. Malicious, witty, and completely unafraid, his libellous rhymes present a more lively view than the ambassador's discretion permits, of the strong man in council:
'In the Chamber of Stars All matters there he mars. Clapping his rod on the Board, No man dare speak a word; For he hath all the saying Without any renaying.'
And he goes on to a description of the Cardinal tossing down papers which his colleagues have, presumably, had no opportunity to read, with the curt question:
'How say you, my lords? Is not my reason good?'
To which they, civil as a man must be to a robber, answer either Yes, or nothing.
His office of Chancellor was discharged with just such contempt of lesser men, and impatience of argument. It is not to be supposed that the lawyers whom he obliged to plead gratis on occasion should have much stomach for him, nor that the Cardinal who sought to despatch suits instantly should not chafe at their hair-splittings and delays:
'At the King's Bench He wringeth them such a wrench That all our learned men Dare not set their pen To plead a true trial Within Westminster Hall. In the Chancery where he sits But such as he admits None so hardy as to speak. He saith, "Thou huddypeke, Thy learning is too lewd--"'
This last may be an actual echo of the great Cardinal's voice in rage. His own method of dealing with a problem was to let the words be plain, the thought that directed them subtle; a clear case obfuscated with legal phraseology may very well have brought him to such a mode of address. Hall, his bitter antagonist, reports that he 'was not pityfull, and stood affectionate in his own opinion.' For shrewd sense and political acumen it was the best opinion, not excluding the King's, to be had at that time in England. Chancellor, cardinal, legate, archbishop, the richest man in England and the best equipped to hold power, the tangle of the divorce proceedings held him impotent, and permitted the King, with his customary right choice of moment, to strike.
It was Henry's practice to avoid all appearance of governing. (The Spanish chronicler shows that the gossips had observed but did not understand the reason for this apparent inaction.) He had other things to do: to maintain his proficiency in the traditional royal sports, to patronize scholars, to compose and read treatises on theological matters. The mental energy of his first youth, when he would attend to documents in person, and take pains with ambassadors, was gone. At no time of his life did he deserve the sneer which Giustiniani, in his interview with Francis I, gave by implication: 'When King Francis asked what kind of statesman King Henry made, the ambassador avoided giving any answer, for to bestow praise was impossible, and it was unbecoming that he should seem to blame; but after a while, his Majesty questioning him repeatedly on the subject, being unable to keep silence any longer, he at length said that King Henry devoted himself to pleasure and solace, and left the cares of state to the Cardinal; whereupon King Francis rejoined, By my faith, the Cardinal must bear his King slight goodwill, for it is not the office of a servant to filch his master's honour.'
This was not the case. Henry was master of England; the Cardinal knew it, and obeyed even when obedience brought him to ruin and disgrace. He maintained great state, but was sufficiently astute to keep it upon an ecclesiastical footing, and to assume no honour which could seem even a shadow of the kingly honour; his ceremonial was that of a prince of the Church. 'At his mass he was served by Dukes and Earls...and indeed so much overtopped the pomp of a spiritual function, as he seemed to the humble to be mad for joy, and him doth Campian judge rather to be the bastard of some Prince than the son of a butcher, so moulded for the one, and so far mounting from the other.' But the splendours and humilities of the Mass were a lawful privilege, considering his estate in Christendom; ostensibly the dukes and earls knelt, not to Thomas Wolsey, but to the King of Kings.
Henry's movement, therefore, in coming forward to make his conscience-troubled speech at Blackfriars, was an astonishment to the Cardinal; for, with bluffness, the King possessed the Tudor reticenoe and love of secrecy. He was, knowing his Chancellor, perfectly aware that there would be opposition to his plan; and yet he hoped, and indeed ensured, by holding out a bribe to the Cardinal's mind, that the opposition might be short-lived. The question itself was raised with a skilful apparent spontaneity all Henry's own.
Princess Mary, whose matrimonial fortunes varied with those of her suitors in their wars, was, at the age of eleven, finally betrothed to a son of France, Henry, Duke of Orleans; one of the French bishops charged with the negotiations, probably for the sake of obtaining a better bargain, raised a doubt of the legitimacy of Mary's birth, and thence of her right to the succession. Henry, who even five years before would certainly have executed the man who made any such suggestion, privileged or no, was stricken with such a convenient doubt 'in his melting conscience as never after could be made solid; whereof Dr. Langland, his confessor, is said to be the first man which told the King his marriage was unlawful.' Wolsey, and this is as certain as any historical matter, undocumented, can be, knew nothing of the King's mind, though he had afterwards to bear the blame for it.
How could this be, when Henry himself had refuted those who would have made the Cardinal responsible? The King's next move makes it clear. He allowed Wolsey to suppose that the divorce was desirable as much for political as for dynastic reasons; friendship with France was high at the moment, Charles' incivilities and triumphs at arms the reason; and the French King's sister, the Duchess of Alençon, was free to marry. 'These rumours,' says Stow, 'King Henry himself forbad.' For all that, 'at this time a bill was set up in London much contrary to the honour of the Cardinal, in the which the Cardinal was warned that he should not counsel the King to marry his daughter into France,' or have any other friendships and alliances with France, 'for if he did he should show himself enemy to the King and the realm, with many threatening words.' The author of this bill was never found; but it made talk in the City, and in fact spread all those rumours which Henry himself refused to allow currency. There were murmurings against the Cardinal, and it becomes clear that by this time the whole responsibility for the divorce and its subsequent troubles was irrevocably his in the opinion of the English people, by reason of this French alliance which he had so much at heart.
If further proof were needed in their eyes, it was the immediate setting out of a great embassy, with Wolsey at its head, to treat with the French King. Nine hundred lords and gentlemen accompanied him. The train halted at Canterbury, where the Cardinal solemnly declared to the people the sack of Rome and captivity of the Pope: 'and he exhorted the people to fast and pray for his deliverance, which few did.' The fall of Rome had seized the imagination of Europe; it appeared likely that soon a new pontiff would be needed, and who but Wolsey had power to raise Peter's chair from humiliation? That the French had some such notion is displayed in the pageant set up in Wolsey's honour at the gate of Boulogne, where the Pope was shown 'lying under, and the Emperor sitting in his majesty, and a cardinal pulled down the Emperor, and set up the Pope. When wise men heard this pageant, they smiled and said, Well can the French King flatter.' (Wolsey, writing to the King, apologized for omitting descriptions: 'I beseeoh you not to impart it to my negligence, but only to the obstinacy of my mule, which by that terrible noise of the gunshot was drawn to such a melancholy that I had enough ado to keep myself upon her back.') The Cardinal's wishes may have been flatterers too. Election to the Papacy would have meant for him surcease from the wearying labour of playing two parts, dispensed him from that personal loyalty which the King imperiously claimed. And though his responsibilities would have been infinitely greater, and the danger of splitting Christendom no less, still to escape from particular considerations to general is at times for statesmen not unwelcome. The Spanish ambassador, coveting Wolsey's influence to be used in Charles' favour, hinted that the Emperor had power to raise him as high as he would. 'God forbid that such a motive should influence me. It is enough if the Emperor does really intend to restore the Pope to his rightful place,' was the Cardinal's answer. If he did aspire to be the second English Pope, that ambition had powerful support.
But for the moment his preoccupations were with other questions. Cavendish, his biographer and servant, was of opinion that he had been sent out of England not for his honour, but that his enemies might 'get him out of the King's daily presence, and deprave him so unto the King in his absence that he should be in less estimation with his majesty.'
Once more the Cardinal was in a cleft stick; for the negotiations with France were of a delicate nature, not to be undertaken by any other man, since no other man so well knew the minds of both Kings. He had to betroth the Princess Mary; but whether to Francis' son, or Francis' self, was matter for tactful discussion. The Duke of Orleans was in captivity, hostage for his father; the Princess was only eleven years old, and neither she nor the Duke, her junior, could be considered fit for marriage. Yet she was, in Francis' words, the lapis angularis of the new alliance; he was a widower; and if the King of England would entrust the Princess to him, 'your Grace should have of him as humble and obeisant a servant and son as any man should have in earth.' Wolsey, with respect, pointed out to the King ('who received him informally and with friendliness, lying upon a little couch, for staying of his leg ') that such a measure was hardly possible. The King was betrothed to the Emperor's sister; his two sons lay in the Emperor's prison--'Vous dictiz vray, Monsieur Cardinal,' Francis answered, 'I pray you, therefore, show me your advice.' Wolsey gave his opinion that matters should stand as at first, to which the King and his mother agreed. It was a satisfactory discussion.
The more difficult of the two negotiations was now to be handled, a proposal for the hand of the French King's sister. The divorce proceedings had not yet begun; there was no assurance that they would come to any successful issue, though from France Wolsey sent money and messengers to men about the Pope's person, 'to the which, if they or any of them may attain, there shall be all possible ways and practices set forth for the obtaining of the Pope's consent.' He feared lest any premature disclosure of Henry's intentions should spur the Emperor to immediate and drastic action; and it was no easy matter to offer as husband a man whose blameless wife was still living. He delayed, therefore, to make any definite statement until the peace and the betrothal had been signed; after which he proposed to make known his master's wish, 'in such a cloudy and dark sort that he shall not know your Grace's utter determination and intent in that behalf, till your Highness shall see to what effect the same will be brought.'
There is a picture of Wolsey, during this difficult period, at work upon despatches. About four in the morning he rose to write letters to the King, 'commanding one of his chaplains to prepare him to mass; insomuch that his said chaplain stood revested until four of the clock at afternoon, all which season my Lord never rose once...to eat any meat, but continually wrote his letters with his own hand, having all that time his nightcap and koverchief on his head.'
While he laboured, the King, advised by Anne Boleyn's family and supporters, sent off to the Pope a messenger of his own. The Cardinal, ever well-informed, learned of this embassy without satisfaction. It was an ominous move, showing how his influence was failing; it was, besides, unintelligent. How should an Englishman have admission to the Pope? He had 'no colour or acquaintance there.' The Bishop of Worcester, an Italian, was the obvious man; 'he shall find more feasible entrance to his Holiness' presence than your secretary.' There is perfect hope, if your Grace will take a little patience, suffering such things to be experimented and done which be, and shall be, devised for that purpose, by one way and another your intent shall honourably and lawfully take the desired effect,' wrote Wolsey to his master.
The King thanked his Chancellor for his advice and service, 'which cannot be by a kind master forgotten, of which fault I trust I shall never be accused, especially to you-ward, which so laboriously do serve me.' This written, he went his own way. Twenty years of absolute power had turned strength of will to obstinacy, and prudence to something resembling cunning. 'There are three scales of intelligence,' wrote Machiavelli, 'one which understands by itself, a second which understands what is shown by others, and a third which understands neither by itself nor on the showing of others.' Henry, who when he came to the throne had seemed to be possessed of the first of these intelligences, was declining towards the third. He possessed still all the technique of the statesman; but they were pitiful ends to which his considerable energy and foresight were directed. His great minister and he were in the year 1527 running upon political suicide, the one despairingly, the other with hope. This embassy to France represented the last flaring-up of Wolsey's power and of Henry's prestige abroad. Within six years the Cardinal was dead in disgrace, his policy shattered, and Henry's daughter, once sought in marriage by an Emperor and a King, was a bastard, unacceptable to the shabbiest princeling.
Wolsey came home to find discontent brewing in the City, a bad harvest threatening, and the old cry rising, that the French alliance had cut England off from her old friends, and got her no good from her enemies. The merchants of the German and Dutch ports, upon news of the famine, immediately sent wheat; Francis, the new ally, protested that 'if he had but three bushels of corn in all France England should have twain'; but no corn ship came. The King, finding supplies from France delayed, mused not a little,' and lent to the City of London a thousand quarters from his own granaries. He was civil to the Cardinal, as was Anne, who sent messages, and asked favours--'she was afraid you had forgotten her, as you sent no token...she wished she had some meat from you (Wolsey had fisheries at Norham), as carps, shrimps, or others.' But about the court there began to grow an atmosphere of malignant anticipation such as had been common among the people; the French ambassador translated it shrewdly in a letter: 'What gives the Cardinal most anxiety is that those who desire to catch him tripping are glad for the people to cry out Murder! And some would be very glad if all went wrong that they might say, See, these are the fruits of my Lord Legate's doings.' And he ends, with some measure of sympathy: 'It is no small cost to have to support a measure against the opposition of others, and yet suffer misrepresentation.'
The people did, in fact and in number, cry out Murder! Kent, always yeasty, sent a petition that the King should pity the poverty of that county, and repay the loan made to him two years before. The Archbishop of Canterbury appeased them, but was not satisfied that they would remain quiet: 'I hear that some spake unfitting words after they had drunk their fill.' Norfolk begged Wolsey to use his influence with the King not to press hardly upon these people. But the Cardinal's influence could not bring about a good harvest, nor dissuade the King from a measure even more unpopular than the loan, since it touched at once the sentiment of the English people and their pockets--war with the Emperor. The cloth-makers, who dealt exclusively with Flanders, lost their whole market; the merchants, unable to export, would not buy. 'What manner of men be you?' the Cardinal asked these latter. 'I tell you, the King commandeth you to buy their cloths...upon pain of his high displeasure.' And he threatened that the King himself would buy, if they would not, and so put the merchants out of business.'
The weaver counties were angry. 'We will rise for the Cardinal's life,' said one Kentish-man. 'When we have the Cardinal,' said another, 'we may not slay him, for if we do the land shall be interdicted; therefore we...will put him into a boat, in the which shall be bored four great holes, and the holes shall be stopped with pins, and so that boat and he shall be conveyed into the sea, and when it is there the pins shall be pulled out and so sink him.'
In addition to want, or perhaps because of it, there was a visitation of plague; the King kept moving from place to place to avoid it; Princess Mary and Anne Boleyn took it lightly; Wolsey twice over. In London alone two thousand people died of it. If the thing goes on,' wrote the French ambassador grimly, 'corn will soon be cheap enough.' The King made his will, and like a gracious prince, received his Maker at the Friars'; so that he was 'armed against God and the world.' He prescribed for Wolsey; 'he should use only a small and clean company, use small suppers, drink little wine'; himself, for fear of infection, Henry remained shut up in a room or two with his physician Tuke to serve him, and ate alone. England was dismayed and starving. There was no section of the community which did not lay the blame for one or both calamities on the Cardinal's shoulders. 'Princes should devolve on others those matters which entail responsibility, and reserve to themselves those that relate to grace and favour.'
Henry yielded to the popular outcry and his own secret wish. The Cardinal, sick, harassed by business, deprived of access to the King by his constant shifting from the plague, was required by Anne Boleyn, and promised, to recommend a relative of hers, Elinor Carey, as Abbess of Wilton. This woman, it was discovered, had lived lightly, and the King, when the fact was reported to him, wrote very firmly to Anne: 'I would not for the world clog your conscience nor mine to make her ruler of a house, which is of so ungodly a demeanour.' Her rival, the Prioress, favoured by all the nuns, was 'ancient, wise, and discreet.' But in order that Anne should not be humiliated by seeing her candidate defeated on her own ground, the King wrote: 'I have done that neither of them shall have it, but some other good and well disposed woman'--presumably from another convent. Wolsey had promised Anne; he had received notice of the King's wish. For reasons unknown he disregarded both promise and command, and appointed the Prioress superior of Wilton.
The King had a right to be angry. Anne's wishes and his own both had been slighted, and investigation proved that the newly named Abbess had, as a young woman, deserved no better reputation than Madam Elinor. He wrote to Wolsey a letter which shows him at his best, affectionate and rational. The Cardinal's excuses arc brushed aside as unworthy. 'Ah, my Lord, it is a double offence, both to do ill, and colour it too; but with men that have wit it cannot be accepted so. Wherefore, good my Lord, use no more that way with me, for there is no man living that more hateth it.' And he goes on to say that he must keep his displeasure to himself, which breeds unkindness, or else speak out, of which two courses he chooses the latter: 'for in so doing the (servant) shall be more circumspect in his doing, the (master) shall declare and show the lothness that is in him to have any occasion to be displeased.' 'I dare be bolder with you than a great many that mumble it abroad,' says the King, speaking frankly of the Cardinal's unpopularity and its reasons: his suppression of small monasteries, his extravagant projects for building, especially at Oxford. The letter is frank, by no means ominous; a chastening of a loved servant and friend 'for my discharge before God, being in the room that I am in.'
This was the Cardinal's first reproof. It was deserved, and it terrified him. His letter in return was humble to abasement; 'your poor Cardinal,' 'your grace's most humble chaplain,' are the titles he chooses, above the great 'T. Cardinalis Ebor' of the signature. He knew, however, that humility would not save him. He had failed in the matter of the divorce, as it seemed deliberately; he had offended by his riches; he was ill. When the Great Seal was required of him his powers of body and mind were, as he knew, none better, not able to hold it. The King's supreme ability to judge character and command good service was once more displayed; Sir Thomas More, that shrewd saint, stepped into Wolsey's shoes, amid the applause of the court and the people; and the Cardinal, having given up to the King his great houses, his plate, his tapestries, set off with no great train to illustrious exile at York. He was arrested before he reached it, and returned under guard to Leicester, in whose abbey he died, with a last word of warning to his warder, Sir William Kingston. 'Be well advised and assured, what matter ye put in the King's head, ye shall never get it out again.' He was in his sixtieth year, and had served the King as minister since he was forty.
The words of an enemy show him as he appeared to the people of England:
'This Cardinal as you perceive in this story was of a great stomach, for he counted himself equal with princes, and by crafty suggestion got into his hands innumerable treasure. In open presence he would lie and say untruth, and was double both in speech and meaning. He would promise much and perform little. He was vicious of his body and gave the clergy evil example.'
Now for the testimony of a dispassionate man, the ambassador du Bellay:
'Sometimes, walking with me, speaking of affairs and of the course of his life up to that time, he has said to me that if God permitted him to see the hatred of the two nations (France and England) extinguished, and firm friendship established, as he hopes shortly it may be, with a reform of the laws and customs of this country such as he would effect if peace were made and the succession of the Kingdom assured (especially if this marriage took place, and an heir male were born of it), he would at once retire, and serve God for the rest of his life.'
Lastly, Wolsey's contemporary, Sir Thomas Wyat, lover of Wolsey's enemy, Anne Boleyn, may put into words the despair of the Cardinal's last days:
'The longer life the more offence, The more offence the greater pain, The greater pain the less defence, The less defence the lesser gain; The loss of gain long ill doth try, Wherefore come death, and let me die.'
'The authority of this cardinal set the clergy in such a pride that they disdained all men, wherefore when he was fallen they followed after as you shall hear.' But Hall for once overestimates the Cardinal's influence, or rather misinterprets it. Among the clergy were to be found some of Wolsey's most pitiless enemies; he had taxed his own order, a disloyalty they never forgave; he had disbanded certain small and ill-managed monasteries in a manner which, though perfectly justified, was harsh; finally, he had taken no steps to stop the spread of heresy. His splendour, too, went against him; in the hard times upon which England had now fallen his great foundations for scholars seemed a mockery of the people's poverty. 'Man doth not live by bread alone, but he dies lacking it wholly.' His rituals, his embassies, his buildings, all witnessed against him in the eyes of priests and laymen alike.
The pride of the clergy had always been a grievance. Hear Langland, himself a monk, orying out upon Church abuses in the fourteenth century:
'And now is Religion a rider, a roamer about, A leader of love-days and a land-buyer, A pricker on palfrey from manor to manor, A heap of hounds behind him as he a lord were... Of the poor have they no pity; and that is their charity.'
And he goes on to prophecy:
'There shall come a King and confess you, religious, And heat you as the Bible telleth, for breaking of your rule, And amend monials, monks and canons, And put them to their penance... And then shall the Abbot of Abingdon and all his issue for ever Have a knock of a King; and incurable the wound.'
Dunbar, a Franciscan friar, a century later writes whimsically but with bitterness:
'I know not how the kirk is guided, But benefices are not well divided, Some men have seven, and I not ane, Which to consider is a pain.'
Lastly, Skelton, himself well beneficed, once the King's tutor, later the King's Laureate and Orator, called by Erasmus the sole light and ornament of English letters, scourges the priesthood, high and low; the bishops for haughtiness:
'They look so high As they would fly Above the starry sky.'
and the lesser clergy for ignorance and money-grubbing:
'Yet take they cure of souls And woteth never what they read, Paternoster, Ave, nor Creed; Construe not worth a whistle Neither Gospel nor 'Pistle; Their matins madly said, Nothing devoutly prayed; Their learning is so small Their primes and hours fall And leap out of their lips Like sawdust or dry chips.'
England had always been a fair soil for heretics. Skelton, an orthodox honest Churchman, saw the danger and set down for a warning to his superiors the sort of chatter he heard among the people; Luther's heresy--this is thrice stressed--the teachings of Wiclif and Huss, all were spread among the commons and voiced
'When the good ale-sop Doth dance in their fore-top.'
One more characteristic he notes among the dissatisfied, common in every age and where every privileged class is concerned; a suggestion for the redistribution of riches, on the ground that
'The Church hath too mickle And they have too little.'
Skelton's warning went unheard, and he died in sanctuary in Westminster; the Cardinal, lampooned in most of his poems, was not a man to forgive. But other voices, less loud, more acceptable, had been lifted, and the entries in Wriothesley's Chronicle for two years following the Cardinal's death are concerned solely with burnings for heresy.
For years the New Testament had been coming into England, 'which books the common people read and used privily.' Henry himself in the Star Chamber eondemned Tyndale's translation, in that it had 'prologues and prefaces which sounded to heresy,' and prohibited its sale. The Bishop of London caused copies to be burned publicly in Paul's churchyard. Nevertheless, smuggled from Flanders, the books eontinued to be bought and eagerly read.
The King, knowledgeable in theology, had always been one of the Church's champions. His book on the Sacraments, against Luther, had earned him the title of Defender of the Faith. A few years later he received from Pope Clement, for a token that he was regarded with friendship and gratitude by the Holy See, 'a tree forged of fine gold, and wrought with branches, leaves, and flowers, resembling Roses.' He was, besides, a man of pious practices, hearing his three Masses a day even on hunting mornings. His jealousy for the good name and fame of convents may be seen in his refusal to put the abbey of Wilton in the hands of an unworthy woman, though she were of Anne's own family.
But once more care for his dynasty brought him conflict. It is interesting (and quite useless) to speculate upon the fate of England had the little boy lived who was born to Henry and Katherine and died in June 1511, and who was mourned at Westminster with 432 pounds' weight of wax candles; or that other son, born prematurely three years later. The whole coil has for origin the King's fear lest, his issue failing and the pretenders loosed, England should go back to barbarism and eivil war. Once more, implacably, each succeeding step follows the first. The divorce was necessary that he might have another chance of a child. To obtain the divorce it was necessary to set aside the Pope's brief; defiance of Rome's authority led to an assumption that such authority was not valid; if the Pope were not Christendom's overlord, then he need be paid no tribute; with Peter's Pence and Peter's thunder equally out of the way, what need had the Church of any head other than Henry himself?
His bishops in Convocation arrived at the same opinion without much persuasion. They all of them perceived the dangers of a double loyalty, such as had destroyed the Cardinal of York; were in fact to some extent involved in his treason, and had been summoned to answer for it. Without delay they sent to the King their humble submission, offering £100,000 as a kind of ransom; and in their submission styled him, for the first time, supreme head of the Church in England. A year later they took an oath, swearing to regard him as the source from which their spiritual authority was derived: 'Knowledging myself,' ran the words of it, 'to hold my bishopric of you only...faith and truth I shall bear to you my sovereign lord, and to your heirs, and diligently I shall be attendant to all your needs and business after my wit and power.'
This was abject enough; too much for the stomach of Sir Thomas More, who gave up the Great Seal, 'and was with the King's favour discharged.' 'This Act,' said he, 'is like a sword with two edges, for if a man answer one way it will destroy the soul, and if he answer another it will destroy the body.'
Sir Thomas was no lover of Churchmen. 'They have,' he wrote of his Utopians, 'priests of exceeding holiness, and therefore very few.' His friends were most of them of the same mind. Erasmus in his 'Praise of Folly,' dedicated to More, had spoken of the monks: 'These curious fellows, who by reason of their dirt, their ignorance, their boldness and lewdness, set themselves up to be made in the likeness of the apostles.' Educated and unbiased men recognized the need for some sort of reform of the clergy throughout Europe. But nobody cared that it should begin in this way, with bishops on their knees, purchasing life by denial of their apostolic succession; that conversions should be coercions, and fear bring inevitable dishonesty into the business of reforming. There is a sad story of Queen Katherine, still living, under the style of Princess Dowager, in strictest retirement, to whom commissioners came to demand this same acknowledgment of the King's headship, and, more cruel still, of Anne as Queen. 'The blessed lady, knowing that they would make all who were with her that night take the oath, said to them, Dear children, you can never swear that the King is head of the church; and to excuse them she sent for one of her gentlemen, called Francisco Felipe, and said to him, Tomorrow you must speak for all the rest, and you must say, El rey se ha hecho cabeza de Iglesia.' To this he and all her servants swore, thus deceiving the reverend commissioners by a play on words; 'se ha hecho' sounds in pronouneing the same as 'sea hecho'; 'should be made' becomes has made himself.' Katherine, though she was convinced that her execution would follow, refused the oath; two English priests of her household, who could not shelter behind the ambiguities of the Spanish tongue, were at once thrown into prison, where one died; the other survived to be hanged at Smithfield. The Princess Mary, too, would not swear, and was banished to a remote country manor.
Next Kent, that uneasy county, brought forth a poor semblance of a miracle, as who should try to check the tide by a net thrown into it. A woman, Elizabeth Barton, in her trances before the rood at Court-at-Street, rebuked the new doctrines 'in the ecstasy of her sickness'; she prophesied in the presence of two thousand people, who thus, by her apparent sanctity, were induced 'to murmur, grudge, and be of evil opinion against the majesty of our sovereign lord.' She was apprehended and executed; and on a charge of treasonable connivance and contumacy the Bishop of Rochester went to the Tower, soon to be joined by More; this latter for contempt of the oath. Both died piously, the ex-Chancellor gaily as one of his own imaginary people, who lamented only the death of such as were afraid to die; 'they think he shall not be welcome to God, that when he is called runneth not to him gladly.'
The King would not look back for loss of a pair of good servants. Their example had been pernicious, however, and he corrected it as far as might be by a personal letter to the judges of England, urging that they should 'delate' to the people the King's reason for-this severity, 'as they may be the better fixed, established, and satisfied in the truth.' They were to give warning to all ecclesiastical persons within their assize that the name of the Bishop of Rome must be instantly razed from 'all manner of prayers, orisons, rubrics and canons'; and his memory 'for evermore (except to his contumely and reproach) he extinct, suppressed, and obscured.' Latin, in whose every sound echoed the memory of Rome, was expelled from the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Commandments.
But those who ran too fast after the new German doctrines, and would have put away all ceremony, found that this was by no means to the mind of the Church's new head. Abuse of the Mass served no other purpose than to raise contention; the people were accustomed to Mass, the crown had nothing to gain by denying it. Henry wrote again to his bishops forbidding all 'contemptuous manner of speaking against honest, laudable and tolerable usages, ceremonies and customs,' which were 'motions to virtue and allurements to devotion'; by which talk 'can people lie much more offended than they were before.' 'Chose who supported the Lutheran practice of admitting the clergy to marriage found themselves as much deceived; any priest who did so was to be apprehended and sent direct to die King. Discipline must be maintained, under pain of deprivation, for the King's own honour; and the bishops themselves should see to it, going about their dioceses and preaching against intolerance 'as often as may serve with your health.'
Of the rest of the year's activities Wriothesley gives such account as may be necessary:
'This year Mr. Thomas Cromwell and Dr. Lees visited all the religious places in England, being ordained by the King's grace for his high visitors, and they took out of every religious house all religious persons from the age of 24. years and under, and showed them how they should use wilful poverty, and also he closed up all the residue of the religious persons both men and women that would remain still, so that they should not come out of their places...and also they took out of divers churches of England certain relics that the people were wont to worship, as Our Lady's milk, which was broken and found but a piece of chalk, with other relics in divers places which they used for covetousness in deceiving the people.'
These innovations were not introduced without trouble. In York there was a riot, following upon an interlude that dealt with the life of St. Thomas the Apostle, and the word 'papist' finds its way for the first time into the King's own writings. In Lincolnshire there was discontent; the people, 'noseled in sedition and Popery,' came together for defence of the old faith to the number of about twenty thousand men, and made so threatening a show that Henry himself moved in person against them, not trusting to his judges or the spoken word. The nobles, hearing this, fell away, so that the mob was left without leaders, and at last, instead of giving battle, as had at first been so loudly preached, they presented a petition to the King, lamenting the suppression of the religious houses; the taxation recently imposed, 'whereby your Grace's subjects should be constrained to pay 4d. for a beast and 12d. for a sheep, and that would be an importunate charge to them'; lastly, the King's choice of bishops and advisers, who served him, it seemed, 'only for their own singular lucre and advantage.'
The King made such answer as might have been expected of a Tudor whose choice of ministers had been criticized and whose call for money had been refused. 'How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm, and of the least experience, to find fault with your Prince for the electing of his counsellors and prelates, and to take upon ye, contrary to God's law and man's law, to rule your Prince.' Religion, he told them, was better served by the suppression of the monasteries, taxation was necessary for purposes of defence. They were to give up to him instantly a hundred of their ringleaders, and submit themselves utterly; otherwise justice would be done upon them with fire and sword. The rebels yielded to the enormous prestige of the King in person, and the weight of his hand. 'Even very suddenly they began to shrink, and out of hand they were all divided, and every man went at home in his own house in peace.'
It was a brief breathing space. The northerners, a very few weeks afterwards, made proclamation for the Church and assembled themselves under the banner of the Five Wounds of Christ. The Spanish chronicler, once more playing upon a similarity of sound, gives as their device the Five Plagues of Egypt (llagas, plagas); and in fact these northern counties, never so rich as the Midlands and south, were suffering very greatly by reason of the King's tax of a fifteenth, and the drying up of all monastic charity. Nevertheless, the rebels set up as their aims the maintenance of the Church, the preservation of the King's person, and the expelling of bad counsellors; their oath obliged them not to regard their own profit or safety, 'nor slay nor murder for no envy, but in your hearts put away all fear and dread, and take upon you the cross of Christ, and in your hearts his faith and the restitution of the Church.' The King sent forces northwards. A battle, by the chance flooding of the River Dun, was avoided, and a compromise reached between Norfolk, the King's general, and Aske, the leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace. He was to come to court with his petition; his followers were to be pardoned provisionally, and to disperse. Henry wrote, with a kind of good-humoured impatience, that their terms concerning the maintenance of the Faith were too general to be answered thus. He would not believe that their insurrection was 'done of malice, but rather by a lightness, and a wondrous sudden surreption of gentlemen,' and therefore pardoned all the undertakers of it. He would continue to manage the affairs of England for their good and his own; and they might rely on his clemency if they showed sorrow for their offence, and ceased to 'believe so lewd and naughty tales of your most kind and loving Prince and his Council.'
Aske came to London, where the King was gracious to him, giving him money and a gold chain, that he might report well of his reception. Yorkshire, confident now of redress, remained calm through a hard winter. In May of next year Aske, who had remained within reach of the King, daily expecting answer to the petition, was arraigned, with the lords who had been his captains, and taken north to be executed, with all necessary circumstances of terror, in his own country. 'A Prince should disregard the reproach of cruelty when it enables him to keep his subjects united and faithful. For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in the end be more merciful than he who suffers things to take their course.'
These were the chief protestants against the new ways; their risings served only to confirm the King in his supremacy. He had come by now to consider himself as called to that eminence by God, an iconoclast licensed, a prophet pulling down, to the glory of his Creator, idols of Baal. 'For in that day shall every man cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.' The monasteries, from which only young religious, or those who chose to return to the world, had previously been sent away, now, as 'the nest and very receptacle of all traitorous attempts,' were completely broken and dismissed. The most loved shrines were not spared. Walsingham, to which Queen Katherine went in thanksgiving after Flodden; St. Thomas' tomb at Canterbury, as rich in history as in jewels; these, with such lesser marvels as the Boxley Rood, were publicly stripped. The gold and jewels from Canterbury alone filled two great chests, and were of inestimable value; they included the huge ruby, gift of King Louis of France, who had prayed at this shrine that no French traveller between Dover and Whitesand might perish by shipwreck. Henry caused the ruby to be set in a ring, and henceforth wore it constantly on his thumb.
In all, according to Camden, 645 monasteries, 90 colleges (Oxford and Cambridge not included), 110 hospitals, and over 2000 chantries were dispossessed. Such houses as were not pulled down were given to courtiers or persons to whom the King had obligation; the revenues by Act of Parliament became the King's own. Some of these foundations had their roots in Saxon times. The Abbot of Abingdon, threatened by Langland, held his title from King Ethelred; in Windsor Forest was a charity of black nuns founded by the Blaok Prince; the nuns of Armathwaite, in Cumberland, had been given their land by William the Conqueror in the second year of his reign; King Canute had founded the house of White Canons at St. Edmunds, in Cambridgeshire. 'Whose wickedness being now full, the maul of God's justice beat down the walls of their shelters, and the sword of his wrath so cut the cords of their strength asunder as that Idol of Rome bath had his crown crushed, and his authority lessened in all the Christian world ever since.'
In May 1537 there was a great service at St. Paul's, at which a Te Deum was sung for the quickening of Queen Jane, whom the King had married as soon as Anne was dead. She was a quiet woman, kindly to the orphan princesses, and especially to Mary, who, by reason of her defiance of the King, and her persistence in the old faith, now tumbling, had been denied access to her father's presence. Henry loved Jane Seymour while Anne was alive; a last frantic letter from the Tower accuses him of murdering her, his wife, 'so that your Grace is at liberty to follow your affections settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed to, your Grace not being ignorant of my suspicions.' One chronicler says that her miscarriage (the child was a boy) was brought about by the sudden realization that Henry was tired of her. There is another phrase in the letter--'I always looked for such an attraction as I now find'--which, together with that sentence about her voiced suspicions, makes Anne's wretchedness suddenly poignant. The King's predilection for her successor was as marked and public as his passion for her had been; in a letter to Jane before their marriage he speaks of 'a ballad made lately of great derision against us, which if it go much abroad and is seen by you, I pray you pay no manner of regard to it.' And he adds ominously: 'I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing, but if he is found out he shall be straitly punished for it.' But the people, Queen Katherine being dead, had no resentment for Queen Jane. They wished her well, and there were many to echo Wriothesley, who after his account of Latimer's preaching at Paul's, ends with the heartfelt wish, 'I pray Jesus, an it be his will, send us a prince!'
On the eleventh clay of October there was a procession, priests in copes, and the City companies in their liveries, to pray for the safe delivery of the Queen, then in labour. At two o'clock next morning, St. Edward's Day, the child was born, a boy, who was named for the Saint. By eight all the bells in London were sounding, all the clergy of London were standing about St. Paul's with the 'best crosses and candlesticks out of every parish church'; a Te Deum was sung. 'Then the King's waits and the waits of London played with shawms,' and a peal of 2000 guns was shot off at the Tower. The streets were alive with fires and people sitting by them with fruit and wine; hogsheads of wine and beer were set about for poor people to drink at as long as the liquor lasted; the mayor and aldermen rode about thanking God, and the folk for their joy; the bells of every parish sounded until ten at night.
Henry and England had their wish at last: a prince to ensure the succession, the Pope's power no more than a memory, rebellion quieted, the Church's 'mickle' in their pockets. All these desirable things had come about as the result of carefully regarding a scruple of conscience, and keeping one end in mind, the perpetuation of the dynasty. 'Fortune is the mistress of half our actions, yet leaves the control of the other half, or a little less, to ourselves.' The King had consistently aided Fortune where he could, and it seemed as though now, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, he had overcome all his enemies and lost only such friends as he could well do without. The whole policy was, by the birth of this boy, justified. He foresaw a quiet kingdom and a rich crown descending to his posterity. He was forty-six years old, and there was hope of more princes yet, his wife being young and healthy.
Twelve days after the birth, however, Queen Jane died. She had taken cold, and a letter to Cromwell shows something of the anxiety at Hampton Court. 'Sir, the King was determined this day to have removed to Esher, and because the Queen was very sick this night and this day he tarried...For I assure you she hath been in great danger yesternight and this day, but thanked be God she is somewhat mended, and if she scape this night the physicians be in good hope she is past all danger.'
She was dead a few hours after Sir John Russell wrote. Henry took her body for burial to Windsor, lying in a chariot covered with black velvet, with 'a picture of the said Queen, richly apparelled with a rich crown of gold on her head, lying above on the eoffin of the said corpse.' The Princess Mary was chief mourner for her father's wife, who had showed her much kindness; and in the City twelve hundred masses were said for the repose of Queen Jane's soul. The King had his son, his link with the future, frail as yet. As though to ensure that popery should give Edward no trouble when he succeeded, the King set about his religious duties with astonishing energy; the next two years record only destruction, and--a strange turn considering that proclamations against it were only ten years old--the licensing of the Bible in English.
Cromwell was not the man to succeed to the Great Seal. Henry, who found him a useful fellow enough, would not prefer him to that office which the humanity of More had graced and the strength of Wolsey dignified. He allowed him, as Lord Privy Seal, just so much power as might serve for the thankless and sometimes dangerous task of putting out of mind those superstitions which might hold danger in their example. St. Thomas Becket was cited by proclamation to appear before the King to answer charges of rebellion and treason; he not appearing, counsel pleaded for him, without any avail; the saint was stripped of his title, became plain Bishop Becket, and the court made order that 'his pietures and images throughout the whole realm should be put down and avoided out of all churches, chapels, and other places, and that from henceforth the days used to be festival in his name should not be observed, nor the service, office, antiphons and prayers in his name read, but razed and put out of all books.' Why this fury against a saint whose shrine had already been plundered, and who stood first of all martyrs in the people's affection? 'Because he died like a traitor and a rebel to his Prince.' His bones accordingly were burnt, 'so that there shall no more mention be made of him never.'
Cromwell was in charge of this business, and pursued it with all possible energy; 'for indeed he was a man that in all his doings seemed not to favour any kind of Popery nor could not abide the snuffing pride of prelates.' He was on sure ground; the King's views concerning images and the riches of shrines were unlikely to change. But those pious Lutherans who came into England to behold with edification the ending of all Romish ceremony must have been astonished at the promulgation of the Six Articles, in which, together with the Supremacy of the King, belief was needful for salvation in this world and the next. The Defender of Faith had not forgotten nor lessened his interest in the sacraments, and here they were set forth, with no change beyond that implied in the use of English rather than Latin by the priest: the bread and wine were indeed Christ's body and blood; priests might not marry, nuns must keep their vows of chastity, private masses were necessary and agreeable to the law of God, confession was expedient to be retained. There was much burning of heretics, Anabaptists, conspirators, and papists indifferently; treason and heresy being now one thing. A very solemn Requiem was sung for the soul of the Emperor's dead wife, with knells, and censing of the pall by bishops in pontificalibus; nothing lacked in all this funeral splendour that the most devout Catholic of ten years before might miss; even, the officiating clergy made use of Latin, and the King's own deputy, Audley the Chancellor, joined in the responses of Libera me Domine.
Ten days afterwards, however, as though to disabuse the Emperor's people of any notion that Rome might creep back, a great triumph was held on the Thames, when two barges fought symbolically, one for the Pope and his minions, one for the King's Grace. They coursed four times, rowing to and fro in front of the Palace at Westminster, until at last the Pope's crew yielded and leapt overboard; 'howbeit there were none drowned, for they were persons chosen that could swim.' Henry watched from a dais raised upon the water-stairs, adorned with green boughs and sweet with roses; the month was June. Rose-water was sprinkled upon him and the courtiers who lay in boats below; golden barges flying the pennant of St. George drove up and down with music playing of 'sackbuts and waits.' It is the first great display in which the King appears as a spectator. He was forty-nine years of age, and his athlete's muscles were turning to fat from lack of their customary violent exercise; an ulcer in his leg prevented him from taking his usual pleasure in hunting, and is the answer to his own gay question in that song called 'Pastime':
'For my pastance Hunt, sing and dance My mind is set. All goodly sport For my comfort Who shall me let?'
He was, howeyer, still marriageable; and Cromwell, with some notion of playing arbiter in Europe as his master Wolsey had clone for so long, set about finding a princess for him. The limits of choice were narrow, lying within the circle of those who no longer acknowledged the power of Rome; but the Reformation had now been some twenty years in progress, families of Lutheran princes were growing up who had never known the Mass. The Duchess of Milan was proposed by the Emperor, with whom Henry was on such terms as might be expected between two princes, one of whom had expelled the Pope from his realm in the name of reform, and the other had sacked the Pope's own city in the cause of unity. Henry, however, was willing to be friendly: 'we have not only much suppressed all remembrance of such old things as have interrupted of late days our amity, but also the same hath revived in us such a love again towards him that we should be right glad to embrace an occasion to declare and express the same.' To oblige Charles, therefore, he was prepared to 'honour the said Duchess by marriage, her virtues, qualities and behaviour being reported to be such as is worthy to be much advanced.' But the suggestion was to come from the ambassador, 'as it proceeded of your own head.' Henry was only at the beginning of his Blue-beard legend, but the execution of a Queen was not so common a thing in Europe; there had been comment, not friendly, among the courts, of which the King of England was perfectly aware. He would not risk the insult of a direct No. The little Duchess was reluctant, and had, besides, a tang of popery about her which the zealous Cromwell would not admit into England, now, after so many difficulties and rebellions, purged of the old ways. The sister of the Duke of Cleves, a Lutheran, and another of the Emperor's vassals, was more acceptable. She was well endowed, and her portraits showed her not uncomely; it was arranged that she should come without delay into England.
At Shooter's Hill Henry met her, wearing 'a coat of purple velvet, somewhat made like a frock, all over embroidered with flat gold of damask with small lace mixed between of the same gold, and laces of the same going traverse-wise that the ground little appeared; about which garment was a rich guard very curiously embroidered, the sleeves and breast were cut, lined with cloth of gold, and tied together with great buttons of diamonds, rubies and orient pearl.' This must be imagined together with his huge size--'such a man has never been seen. Three of the biggest men ever found could get inside his doublet'--and set beside the picture of him playing Robin Hood on this same Shooter's Hill, on May morning 1515: 'he was dressed entirely in green velvet, cap, shoes, doublet, everything...' the Venetian wrote, 'and performed such feats I fancied myself looking at Mars.' 'A goodly sight to see,' says Hall of him then; and of this meeting: 'His princely countenance, his goodly personage and royal gesture so far exceeded all other creatures being present, that in comparison of his person all his rich apparel was little esteemed.' Grace and lissomness had gone; dignity stayed by him till his death.
Anne of Cleves was divorced by Henry within six months of their marriage, despite the motto on her wedding ring: God send me well to keep. She was distasteful to the King; there were rumours that she had been betrothed before, and the failure of this match served as pretext to make an end of Cromwell. He was not of the stuff for high politics; he had given such seryice as he could; there were no more roods to pull down, and his pockets were full. The charges were those of heresy, treason, felony and extortion, but no details were made known. 'A stranger,' says Fuller, 'standing by did wonder, as well he might, of what religion the King was, his sword cutting on both sides, Protestants being burnt for heretics, and Papists hanged for traitors.' Henry was by now of the religion of his dynasty and his own will, and Cromwell had gambled against both. He was, like Wolsey, a commoner, son of a blacksmith, but he had not the Cardinal's high-heartedness, which beat the lords of England at their own game, and checked even the impetuousness of the King. Henry had no friendship for him; there are no stories of him going arm-in-arm through the gardens, laughing, as once he did with More; no intimate letters, as to the Cardinal. He was a tool and a clerk, to whom was paid not even the compliment of a public judgment.
Comparing this man with Wolsey, it is possible to see, as in a glass, the lessening of Henry's own powers. 'When they (ministers) are at once capable and faithful, we may always account the Prince wise, since he has known how to recognize their merit and to retain their fidelity. But if they be otherwise, we must pronounce unfavourably of the Prince, since he has already erred in making this selection.'
Once more, as at the time of Wolsey's fall, there was much sickness in England, and a great drought; salt water flowed above London Bridge, and so dwindled was the stream that it could not repel the tide. But now there were scapegoats in plenty; Cromwell himself; Lord Hungerford, and half a dozen priests; lastly, after a poor small rebellion, once more in the north, the old Countess of Salisbury, the King's daughter's friend and governess, 'last of the right line and name of Plantagenet,' died for a warning to conspirators. Her son, Reginald Pole, had been troubling the chanceries; he was a Pope's man, a Cardinal, and for the moment safe abroad. But the arrest of his mother, his brother, and all of his name upon whom hands could be laid was a clear warranty of danger should he ever choose to recall himself to the people of England, or bid for the throne.
The throne was strong. Acceptance of the King's policy had been general in the south, and though the north questioned it from time to time, resistance was rather to a change of custom than a shifting of loyalty. A later King boasted that he was the state; Henry was State and Church, dispenser of the bread of bodily and spiritual life; his commons--the Wars of the Roses had conyeniently thinned the nobles--discovered in him their sole hope. In England a man might and did rise from the smithy or the slaughter-yard to be the State's chief servant, an office of equal danger and honour, invested with the irresistible glamour of nearness to the King's person. Henry had at his command a regiment of great scholars, soldiers, and poets such as England until his time had never known, whom he handled like a true Renaissance prince, for his own glory. They brought Ireland to heel for him, so that The O'Neil and Desmond came as subjects to Greenwich, and 'King of Ireland' was added to his styles and dignities. They upheld even such of his challenges as went against their own inclination; the quarrel with the Emperor, for example. And they were at his back when he threw out his final defiance to the Pope in a long letter afterwards printed with the triumphant heading: 'Ride forth, O Christian Reader, Truth is coming home, step forth and meet her by the Way.'
In 1538 the Pope had summoned him, with the Emperor, to attend a general council of the Church to be held in Mantua, there to justify his proceedings in matters of religion. Theological combat was a certain lure to the King whose book Pope Leo X had received with delight and praise: 'We do receive this book with all alacrity; it is indeed such as there could not be anything sent us, and our reverend brethren, more acceptable than it is.' Henry, however, refused utterly to attend, in a document whose plain speaking must have made his Englishmen slap their thighs. 'What other princes will do at such a time we cannot tell, but we will neither leave our realm at this time, neither will we trust any proctor with the handling of our cause.' In so many words he said that he could not trust himself to the Emperor and the Pope; 'we be afraid to be at such a host's table; we say--Better to rise a-hungered than to go thence with our bellies full.' This was not the language of diplomacy; it was not the language of religious controversy; but it was exactly how the major part of his England felt that interfering foreigners should be answered. The letter quibbles, wanders, is full of irrelevances and quotations from St. Paul, then coming into his own as the hammer of theologians; it is a perfect example of that maxim which from the first had ruled Henry's foreign dealings, Beg the question and tell the truth: and it is final. From this time until his daughter Mary began her reign there was no more question of the papal authority in England; 'incurable the wound.'
With Ireland quiescent, England bewildered but loyal,[*] and the Emperor busy with his own tangled affairs, France found means to make hidden trouble for Henry. Scotland was never a comfortable neighbour; 'jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,' the Scots, pricked by hunger or pride, were for ever slipping over the border. While the memory of Flodden Field persisted and Henry's own sister shared their King's throne, there was less raiding; but James V had married a Frenchwoman, Mary of Guise, and he chose to regard Henry's assumption of the crown of Ireland as an insult, by reason of the great number of Scots liying there in the north. Henry had answered many of his complaints with the restraint due to a boy ill-advised, and a sister's son, but the murder of his herald he could not let pass, and the letter concerning it is a brief one and peremptory: 'Nephew, this slaughter is so cruel, so abominable, and so barbarous, as howsoever other things stand between us we cannot choose but most heartily wish and desire that it may appear both to us that it hath been committed against your will, and that you do no less detest and abhor it than the importance of the case requireth.' He invited James to come into England; they were to meet at York and arrive at some friendly understanding. It was no more than Henry himself had done, when he put himself into Francis' power for the furthering of alliance at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. But the King of Scots was no politician. He refused, suspecting in this invitation some attempt on the part of Henry to proselytize; 'his councillors moving the dangers, and his clergy the fears, lest their religion be changed, to the offence of his confederates, the Pope, the Emperor, and the French King.'
[* The King had married a fifth wife in 1540, who was executed, with every justification for such severity, little more than a year later. It is as well to remember that Katherine Howard, like Anne Boleyn, was his own subject by birth; and to consider with what penalties the English law at this time punished adultery.]
Henry, patient for once, sent a commission which, joined to a similar commission from James, should settle the border-line between the two countries; thereby depriving the Scots of their most favoured and most artless excuse for pillage, that they had supposed the victims to be their own people. The commissioners could not agree; there were uncomfortable incidents. Henry, his patience at an end, made public declaration of his wrongs, with one of his admirable bluff beginnings: 'It hath been very rarely and seldom seen before that a King of Scots bath had in marriage a daughter of England: we cannot, we will not reprehend the King our father's act therein, but lament and be sorry it took no better effect.' Proof from history followed, showing how Scotland had always stood to England in the relation of a younger kingdom, which from time to time the elder was obliged to chastise; and, an insult which it was certain that James would not swallow, the form of homage used by James Stewart to Henry VI was set down and stated for an example.
This proclamation made, Henry sent an army north, 20,000 men under that lucky general, the Duke of Norfolk, which paid the Scots in their own coin, and went ravaging over the disputed borders. His display succeeding, Norfolk returned, having lain in Scotland for so long as an army might 'for hunger and cold, without any countenance of harm'; a peaceful occupation of conquered territory, from which the invaders at the coming of winter voluntarily retreated. James, young and angry, gathered an equal power and came after the English over the Tweed 'boasting to tarry as long in England as the Duke did in Scotland,' and strong in the promise of his clergy that he should haye heaven in exchange for the destruction of the English.
But the pride which lost the Scots as many battles as it won them here brought disgrace. The great lords, Maxwell, Fleming, Cassilis, Oliphant, Erskine, would not take their orders from a man whom they despised, 'the King's minion, and no servant of Mars,' Oliyer Sinclair. They fought, but incoherently, without direction, at Solway Moss, and were beaten hopelessly, so that common soldiers of the English army, 'yes, and women,' had each three or four prisoners.
James fled, when his lords gave themselves up and went south as prisoners and hostages; on December 22nd, 1542, news came to London that he was dead--of grief, some said, for this defeat; 'he took such a thought and sickness that he died thereof. And the Queen of Scots being with child, for sorrow travailed, and was brought to bed of a maiden child'; Mary, born seven days before her father's death. James, whose two sons had died as infants the year before, could take no comfort from this girl, and the tradition says that he prophesied of his crown: 'It came with a lass, it will go with a lass'; as though he had had some vision of the future of his daughter, a queen foiled and fooled by her womanhood. His poem of the Gaberlunzie Man was written with no thought for her, but it presages her courage and folly, and bad taste in men:
'And O, quo' he, an ye were as black As e'er the crown of my daddy's hat, 'Tis I wad lay thee by my back And awa wi' me tha should gang. And O, quo' she, an I were as white As e'er the snaw lay on the dike, I'd cleed me braw and ladylike And awa' wi' thee I would gang.'
The taken Scottish lords, going through London to the Tower, and meditating upon the expected fate of prisoners, found themselves released after two days, and kindly received (after a characteristic rating) by the King of England at Hampton Court; where 'they were so well entertained, both of the King and his nobles, that they said, they never saw King but him.'
Henry had given up hope of amity with France. Her King was too shifty, her people too much hated by his own. But the policy which had failed with one ancient enemy had not yet been tried with the other; and as his own daughter Mary, with her dowry of the succession, had been used in the one case as a bribe, so now her cousin, the month-old Queen of Scots, came to take her place in the pattern of politics. Edward, the baby Prince of Wales, and Mary in her cradle, were to be the new hostages for peace, 'their years suiting a consent for marriage, the whole Island offering both jointure and dowry; and that which most moved, their chief nobility in his own hands to be moulded for this design, as if Heaven itself had bid the banns.'
Henry's generosity here is worth noting; compared with the Emperor's treatment of his French prisoners after Pavia, it appears unpolitic and imprudent. At a time when he was taxing his own people mercilessly to pay for this northern war, and when he had in his hands, as the chronicler notes, all the nobles of the enemy country, he let them go north without ransom. It must have seemed to him that such a marriage, with the consequent union of two countries long at war, was a conception worth much immediate sacrifice.
The lords went home, and did their best, so that the Estates of Scotland confirmed the marriage, and peace was agreed. It was not an arrangement to the liking of Francis, and intrigues were soon beginning, with the Queen Mother for centre. French money poured into Scotland; the Pope's sanction was not lacking when it came to a question of breaking faith with English infidels. French ships roved as pirates through the Channel, stopping merchants and ambassadors alike. Provocation of the most unbearable kind was offered constantly. Henry held his hand, and would not fight; would not endanger negotiations with Scotland. He wrote, however, in the name of England, to Lord Arran, Governor of Scotland, charging him with treachery, in that he, though bound by a solemn promise, had not publicly spoken for the marriage when Cardinal Beaton began to cry it down. 'If you could then, without contradiction in a public audience keep silence...you must much more be content to hear from us your blame on the other part, and so much the rather that we speak to you the truth, which you ought to consider, and the Cardinal powdered his talk with lies which you ought to have therein repelled, if truth, if honour, if nobleness had been regarded of you.' He suggested that the young Queen should be delivered into England, where she should be cared for and brought up in the manner of the country where she was to rule. (It is strange to find Henry making this demand, which some twenty years before, when the Emperor Charles claimed Princess Mary, his betrothed, 'to be brought up after the manner of Spain,' he had so angrily and bluntly refused.) The Scots would have none of this dictation, eyen though it ran with their own interest. They stood by Arran and crowned their little Queen; and though the released lords honourably did what they could, against French threats and Church angers they were powerless. Henry would not take no in a matter so near his heart, but he amended his offer. Mary should be guarded, if she came to England, by noblemen of her own country, until she came to years of consent. Francis capped this by sending into Scotland fifty thousand crowns and two generals, and a brawl began between English and French partisans. It was hopeless to canvass the cause of union longer. Henry assembled two armies, and struck simultaneously north and east, by land and sea.
Shrewsbury crossed the border, burned Edinburgh with Holyroodhouse, and retreated on Berwick. The King himself, Norfolk, Suffolk, and the best soldiers of England, at last answered the French challenge, and laid siege to Boulogne. That city had fought well in the past; its great walls had resisted English batterings for centuries; but the new warfare which could toss great weights of stone into the town itself was powerful to meet just such defiance. Henry wrote to his new Queen Katherine [*] at the beginning of the siege:--
'At the closing up of our letters this day, the castle aforenamed with the dyke is at our commandment, and not like to be recovered by the Frenchmen again; as we trust, not doubting with God's grace but that the castle and town shall shortly follow the same trade, for as this day, which is the 8th day of September, we began 3 batteries, and have three mines doing, besides one which hath done his execution in shaking and tearing off one of their greatest bulwarks. No more to you at this time, sweetheart, for lack of time and great occupation of business, saving we pray you to give in our name our hearty blessings to all our children.'
[* Katherine Parr, widow of Lord Latimer: 'This lady,' says the Spanish chronicler, 'was quieter than any of the young wives the King had had, and as she knew more of the world, she always got on pleasantly with the King, and had no caprices, and paid much honour to Madam Mary (the Princess). But she kept her ladies very strictly.']
Boulogne yielded, after a short siege, and Henry rode through the gate with his sword borne before him to receive the keys. He was in no mind to part with or lose a conquest which brought with it such prestige: Boulogne was a fortress, very different from the market towns he had taken in his first foray into France, thirty years ago. The Church of St. Marie was razed, and on its ruins artillery planted to repel any attempt at recapture; the means of offence were quickly adapted to defend. Then, leaving Lord Lisle as Governor, Henry went home by way of Dover.
Francis, after a determined effort to wrest back Boulogne, took up the King of England's own tactics, and sent raiders out by sea, to land, burn, and depart. 'From the 18th day of July till the 23rd day of August the French King's navy and galleys rowed up and clown the narrow seas, so that no passage came from Boulogne and Calais but by stealth in the night.' 'The Isle of Wight and certain more exposed' parts of the Sussex coast suffered. But these were no more than gadfly attacks, swept off as soon as made, while Boulogne was the key to the Channel, and, like a robber baron's castle, meant riches to whosoever could hold it. There were great losses on both sides; the Emperor made an individual peace; and at last was ended the scandal of three Christian Kings at war while the Turk advanced into Europe. Terms were arrived at. Boulogne was to remain in English hands for eight years until a ransom of eight hundred thousand crowns was paid for it; the King of England should stand godfather to the Dauphin's new-horn daughter; all the old methods of buying off defeat with money, and securing peace by relationships and protestations, neither authentic, were put into practice. On Bartholomew's Day the King welcomed the Admiral of France, and swore to a peace; the Lord Mayor dined the French envoy magnificently; to welcome him there sounded from the Tower 'such terrible shot as heaven and earth should have gone together'; and Prince Edward, making his first public appearance, rode out three miles from Hampton Court to meet him with a thousand yeomen all in new liveries, so that 'the bystanders,' says Hall, 'much marvelled at his wit and audacity.'
In July the Lord High Admiral of England repaid this compliment, going into France, where Francis received him 'very richly.' The jealousy of two Kings ended as it had begun, in splendour, with ill-will cancelling out fine promises. This is almost the last burst of pageantry, and it ends the reign. Henry was sick, but he still had spirit to resent and punish breaches of privilege or the peace. The French, coveting Boulogne--'that the eye seeth, the heart rueth'--built a great fort in their own territory, menacing to the new English possession, as was their right, though it bore an unfriendly significance. Henry at the Council table admitted that no exception could legally be taken, and a message to this effect was sent in writing to Lord Grey, then in command of the garrison, who had asked for instructions. Henry, however, privately conveyed quite opposite orders, which were obeyed; the fort, which had been three months in building, was in as many hours cast down. The Council, when the King came to them with the news, looked grave, and one of them opined that such a breach of faith was treasonable; 'the doer thereof was worthy to lose his head. I had rather (said the King) lose a dozen such heads as thine is, than his that had done the deed.' The answer and the proceeding both are in character. 'In the actions of all men, and most of all of Princes, where there is no tribunal to which we can appeal, we look to results.' But the last considerable action of his reign shows the sick Henry savagely resenting an encroachment no more than half proven upon the privilege of his now established family. The Earl of Surrey, son to the Duke of Norfolk, as braye a soldier as his father, though less successful, a poet and scholar, was arraigned at the Guildhall for high treason. His temper had led him on one preyious occasion to the Fleet prison, [*] but this new charge was quite other. Surrey was accused of having borne the royal arms, and of causing to be written on his Garter, in place of the usual motto, words of ominous significance: Till then thus; as who should say, Until the right to use the royal motto shall be mine. The true crime lay in the power of his family, and in its shadowy nearness to the throne. His sister had married the King's bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and the Duke was long since dead, but pretenders had set up their standards on lesser claims before now: the King, dying, would leave his boy no such legacy of trouble. Surrey was popular, and 'it was fearful to see the number of people in the streets about Guildhall.' The crown prosecutor accused treason; Surrey answered violently: 'I never sought to usurp the King's arms. Go to the church in Norfolk, you will see them there, they have been ours five hundred years.' Asked why he had put the inscription on his Garter: 'I did not put the King's motto, and you have no cause to blame me for using the words, Till then thus, for you all know the great services my father has rendered, and I had hoped, in recognition, that the King would return the arms to me.' (The Howards had been attainted, and their right to bear arms withdrawn.) Paget then put the true accusation: 'As the King is old, you thought to become King.' 'Ah, Catchpole, what dost thou know of it? The Kingdom was never well since the King put low fellows like thee into goyernment.'
[* The offence was breaking citizens' windows with a crossbow, the defence that in this manner he hoped to awaken dissolute persons to repentance by reminding them how sudden were God's judgments.]
He was found guilty, and died by the axe. His father, that great soldier, went to the Tower, whence Queen Mary released him ten years later to make him her general against Thomas Wyat, son to his son's friend. The King had given a last example of determination; he was aware of death approaching, and of dangers that might come to the dynasty from ambitions which his son was not old enough to check. He made a will leaving the crown to Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, in that order, should each fail in issue, and appointed sixteen executors to see it brought to effect. Cranmer headed the list; the rest were grave persons, bishops, and lords of the household. He restored--a flash of penitence? an attempt to buy pardon?--the church of the Grey Friars in London, giving its former revenues towards the relief of the poor of that parish. He directed that none of his servants were to be discharged from their offices, gave his daughters [*] his blessing, and left orders for the making of his tomb at Windsor, which his own effigy on horseback should crown, 'lively in armour like a King, after the antique manner.' On the 28th day of January 1547, in the fifty-sixth year of his age, Henry Tudor died, leaving his succession assured, and his country at peace with Europe. On the same day Edward his son was proclaimed, no voice disputing his right, 'King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Churches of England and Ireland on earth the supreme head, he being then but ix years of age.'
[* The Spanish chronicler makes a touching story of his parting with Mary. '"Oh daughter, fortune has been hard against thee, and I grieve I did not have thee married as I wished. Try to be a mother to thy brother, for look, he is very little yet." The good lady at first could not answer for weeping, but then made an effort, and said, "I hope to God your Majesty will live many days yet, and will not do me so much harm as to leave me an orphan so soon." And as the King could not bear to see the good lady weeping, he made signs with his hand that she should go away, for he could not say it in words.']
Machiavelli counts that Prince successful, or at any rate adequate to his task, who is able to use the methods of his time, but also to look forward and adapt himself to changes; 'for Time, driving all things before it, may bring with it evil as well as good.'
The two great innovations of Henry's period were so important that something more than the fate of kingdoms turned upon them; whole systems were their prey; and it is of interest to consider how Henry's policy allowed for them, used them, and profited by them.
Gunpowder killed the sport of war. From the moment when a cretin with a match in his hand became the equal of a six-foot man, horsed and in armour, war as the ploy of kings was ended. Not all of them perceived this. Francis I tried to combine chivalry with artillery, and came to grief; James V of Scotland, another glamorous fool, was no more successful. Henry, apart from that first raid into France at the age of twenty, did what he could to keep out of war, perceiving that it had ceased to pay; he made his muster, 'like another Domesday book,' and was dependent on no goodwill other than his own to bring all the able-bodied ploughmen and weavers in England into the field. But while these were opposing other ploughmen and weavers in foreign lands the product of their labour ceased, by which the King lived; the spoils he and they might take as conquerors could not equal the pennies they and he gathered by minding their own business. This policy of peace was his own, for the people themselves were bellicose. 'We are content with our dominion,' he told the Venetian, 'and have no wish to disturb other potentates in theirs.' The foremost jouster in Europe was aware that the battlefield had become no place for spears.
As gunpowder changed war from a King's gamble to a nation's effort, so printing brought knowledge down like rain out of the chill high theological airs. While texts of the Bible echoed only in a few scholar's heads, the weight of heretical opinion was never cumbersome, and could be controlled from Rome. Latin preserved the Word of God unchanging, and restrained all general discussion of it. But when from the presses translations began to pour, the Bible was split into as many different books as there were living tongues to receive and spread it. Religion was, by the labour of translators, nationalized, and from that moment began a dwindling of the Pope's authority, for which the story of Babel may serve as symbol. 'Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language, and now nothing will be restrained from them that they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' The people thus sundered, 'left off to build the city'; Christendom abandoned, amid the new confusion of shades of meanings, all effort to be one.
Henry, a wayward thinker, yet kept a certain rational consistency in action. While he held to the Pope he burned Tyndale's Bible; when he had done with the Pope he chained an English Bible in every parish church and obliged the clergy by statute to read from it. His quarrel with Rome was over sharply and soon, each step forced upon him by the logic of circumstance. Aware that the two could not co-exist in power, he cast off the Pope, and made England free to the printing press.
The Renaissance may be seen, in brief, as a parting of ways, its rulers as persons balancing, obliged to look forward and to choose. 'Never let it be supposed that a State can forecast for itself a perfectly safe line of conduct. On the contrary, it must reckon on every course it may take being doubtful; for it happens in all human a airs that we never seek to escape one mischief without falling into another. Prudence therefore consists in knowing how to distinguish degrees of disadvantage, and in accepting a less evil as a good.'
That the circumstances of Henry's choosing were unhappy is not to be denied; that he made a choice which the general will of his people endorsed is proved by that affection which, until his dynasty and his century ended together, hung about his memory. In this, as in all his doings except the divorce, he brought to a statement the uncertain wishes and stirrings of the English, and translated these into action. It is difficult, despite the portraits and the legends, to see Henry Tudor as a man; he is the quintessence of his country and period; he stands like a vast shadow thrown on the screen of history by England's self--easy to recognize, hard to know. As a King, Speed's lament for him may stand:
'This magnificent Monarch was of presence Majesticall, and of personage more than ordinary tall, fair of complexion and corpulent of body, very wise and very well learned, of a sudden and ready speech, in youth very prodigal, in his age very liberal, pleasant and affable but not to be dallied with, bold in attempting, and ever thirsty of potent glory; an active soldier, favouring such as were active or serviceable, according to the then usual saying--King Henry loves a man. And indeed loving somewhat too well the delights of women.'
But the man remains inscrutable, and Sir Thomas Wyat's words are as near to him as we may come:
'I am as I am, and so will I be, But how that I am, none knoweth truly, Be it evil, be it well, be I bond, be I free, I am as I am, and so will I be.'
Brewer. Reign of Henry VIII. Camden. Britaine. Chronicles: Grafton. Hall. King Henry VIII. (Spanish, anonymous.) Wriothesley. Erasmus: Letters. Praise of Folly. Fox. Acts and Monuments. Giustiniani. Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII. Guicciardini. History of Florence. King Henry VIII. Letters. Machiavelli. The Prince. More. Utopia. Oxford Book of 16th Century Verse. Plumpton Letters. Roper. Life of Sir Thomas More. Rutland Papers. Skelton. Poems. Speed. Succession of England's Monarchs. Trevisan. Relation of the Island of England.
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