History of England (Froude)/Chapter 2
THE LAST YEARS OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF WOLSEY.
TIMES were changed in England since the second Henry walked barefoot through the streets of Canterbury, and knelt while the monks flogged him on the pavement in the crypt, doing penance for Becket's murder. The clergy had won the battle in the twelfth century because they deserved to win it. They were not free from fault and weakness, but they felt the meaning of their profession. Their hearts were in their vows, their authority was exercised more justly, more nobly, than the authority of the Crown; and therefore, with inevitable justice, the Crown was compelled to stoop before them. The victory was great; but, like many victories, it was fatal to the conquerors. It filled them full with the vanity of power; they forgot their duties in their privileges; and when, a century later, the conflict recommenced, the altering issue proved the altering nature of the conditions under which it was fought. The laity were sustained in vigour by the practical obligations of life; the clergy sunk under the influence of a waning religion, the administration of the forms of which had become their sole occupation; and as character forsook them, the Mortmain Act, the Acts of Premunire, and the repeatedly recurring Statutes of Provisors, mark the successive defeats that drove them back from the high post of command which character alone had earned for them. If the Black Prince had lived, or if Richard II. had inherited the temper of the Plantagenets, the ecclesiastical system would have been spared the misfortune of a longer reprieve. Its worst abuses would have then terminated, and the reformation of doctrine in the sixteenth century would have been left to fight its independent way unsupported by the moral corruption of the Church from which it received its most powerful impetus. The nation was ready for sweeping remedies. The people felt little loyalty to the Pope, as the language of the Statutes of Provisors conclusively proves, and they were prepared to risk the sacrilege of confiscating the estates of the religious houses—a complete measure of secularization being then, as I have already said, the expressed desire of the House of Commons. With an Edward III. on the throne such a measure would very likely have been executed, and the course of English history would have been changed. It was ordered otherwise, and doubtless wisely. The Church was allowed a hundred and fifty more years to fill full the measure of her offences, that she might fall only when time had laid bare the root of her degeneracy, and that faith and manners might be changed together.
The history of the time is too imperfect to justify a positive conclusion. It is possible, however, that the success of the revolution effected by Henry I Y. was due in part to a reaction in the Church's favour; and it is certain that this prince, if he did not owe his crown to the support of the Church, determined to conciliate it. He confirmed the Statutes of Provisors, but he allowed them to sink into disuse. He forbade the further mooting of the confiscation project; and to him is due the first permission of the bishops to send heretics to the stake. If English tradition is to be trusted, the clergy still felt insecure; and the French wars of Henry V. are said to have been undertaken, as we all know from Shakspeare, at the persuasion of Archbishop Chichele, who desired to distract his attention from reverting to dangerous subjects. Whether this be true or not, no prince of the house of Lancaster betrayed a wish to renew the quarrel with the Church. The battle of Agincourt, the conquest and re-conquest of France, called off the attention of the people; while the rise of the Lollards, and the intrusion of speculative questions, the agitation of which has ever been the chief aversion of English statesmen, contributed to change the current; and the reforming spirit must have lulled before the outbreak of the wars of the Roses, or one of the two parties in so desperate a struggle would have scarcely failed to have availed themselves of it. Edward IV. is said to have been lenient towards heresy; but his toleration, if it was more than imaginary, was tacit only, he never ventured to avow it. It is more likely that in the inveterate frenzy of those years men had no leisure to remember that heresy existed.
The clergy were thus left undisturbed to go their own course to its natural end. The storm had passed over them without breaking; and they did not dream that it would again gather. The immunity which they enjoyed from the general sufferings of the civil war contributed to deceive them; and without anxiety for the consequences, and forgetting the significant warning which they had received, they sank steadily into that condition which is inevitable from the constitution of human nature, among men without faith, wealthy, powerful, and luxuriously fed, yet condemned to celibacy, and cut off from the common duties and common pleasures of ordinary life. On the return of a settled government, they were startled for a moment in their security; the conduct of some among them had become so unbearable, that even Henry VII., who inherited the Lancastrian sympathies, was compelled to notice it; and the following brief Act was passed by his first Parliament, proving by the very terms in which it is couched the existing nature of Church discipline. 'For the more sure and likely reformation,' it runs, 'of priests, clerks, and religious men, culpable, or by their demerits openly noised of incontinent living in their bodies, contrary to their order, be it enacted, ordained, and established, that it be lawful to all archbishops and bishops, and other ordinaries having episcopal jurisdiction, to punish and chastise such religious men, being within the bounds of their jurisdiction, as shall be convict before them, by lawful proof, of adultery, fornication, incest, or other fleshly incontinency, by committing them to ward and prison, there to remain for such time as shall be thought convenient for the quality of their trespasses.'
Previous to the passing of this Act, therefore, the bishops, who had power to arrest laymen on suspicion of heresy, and detain them in prison untried, had no power to imprison priests, even though convicted of adultery or incest. The legislature were supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cardinal Morton procured authority from the Pope to visit the religious houses, the abominations of which had become notorious; and in a provincial synod held on the 24th of February, 1486, he laid the condition of the secular clergy before the assembled prelates. Many priests, it was stated, spent their time in hawking or hunting, in lounging at taverns, in the dissolute enjoyment of the world. They wore their hair long like laymen; they were to be seen lounging in the streets with cloak and doublet, sword and dagger. By the scandal of their lives they imperilled the stability of their order. A number of the worst offenders, in London especially, were summoned before the synod and admonished; certain of the more zealous among the learned (complures docti) who had preached against clerical abuses were advised to be more cautious, for the avoiding of scandal; but the Archbishop, taking the duty upon himself, sent round a circular among the clergy of his province, exhorting them to general amendment. Yet this little cloud again disappeared. Henry VII. sat too insecurely on his throne to venture on a resolute reform, even if his feelings had inclined him towards it, which they did not. Morton durst not resolutely grapple with the evil. He rebuked and remonstrated; but punishment would have caused a public scandal. He would not invite the inspection of the laity into a disease which, without their assistance, he had not the strength to encounter; and his incipient reformation died away ineffectually in words. The Church, to outward appearance, stood more securely than ever. The obnoxious statutes of the Plantagenets were in abeyance, their very existence, as it seemed, was forgotten; and Thomas à Becket never desired more absolute independence for the ecclesiastical order than Archbishop Warham found established when he succeeded to the primacy. He, too, ventured to repeat the experiment of his predecessor. In 1511 he attempted a second visitation of the monasteries, and again exhorted a reform; but his efforts were even slighter than Morton's, and in their results equally without fruit. The maintenance of his order in its political supremacy was of greater moment to him than its moral purity: a decent veil was cast over the clerical infirmities, and their vices were forgotten as soon as they ceased to be proclaimed. Henry VIII., a mere boy on his accession, was borne away with the prevailing stream; and trained from his childhood by theologians, he entered upon his reign saturated with theological prepossessions. The intensity of his nature recognizing no half measures, he was prepared to make them the law of his life; and so zealous was he, that it seemed as if the Church had found in him a new Alfred or a Charlemagne. Unfortunately for the Church, institutions may be restored in theory; but theory, be it never so perfect, will not give them back their life; and Henry discovered, at length, that the Church of the sixteenth century as little resembled the Church of the eleventh, as Leo X. resembled Hildebrand, or Warham resembled St Anselm.
If, however, there were no longer saints among the clergy, there could still arise among them a remarkable man; and in Cardinal Wolsey the King found an adviser who was able to retain him longer than would otherwise have been possible in the course which he had entered upon; who, holding a middle place between an English statesman and a Catholic of the old order, was essentially a transition minister; and who was qualified, above all men then living, by a combination of talent, honesty, and arrogance, to open questions which could not again be closed when they had escaped the grasp of their originator. Under Wolsey's influence Henry made war with Louis of France in the Pope's quarrel, entered the polemic lists with Luther, and persecuted the English Protestants. But Wolsey could not blind himself to the true condition of the Church. He was too wise to be deceived with outward prosperity; he knew well that there lay before it, in Europe and at home, the alternative of ruin or amendment; and therefore he familiarized Henry with the sense that a reformation was inevitable, and dreaming that it could be effected from within, by the Church itself inspired with a wiser spirit, he himself fell the first victim of a convulsion which he had assisted to create, and which he attempted too late to stay.
May 7th.His intended measures were approaching maturity, when all Europe was startled by the news that Rome had been stormed by the Imperial army, that the Pope was imprisoned, the churches pillaged, the cardinals insulted, and all holiest things polluted and profaned. A spectator, judging only by outward symptoms, would have seen at that strange crisis in Charles V. the worst patron of heresy, and the most dangerous enemy of the Holy See; while the indignation with which the news of these outrages was received at the English Court, would have taught him to look on Henry as the one sovereign in Europe on whom that See might calculate most surely for support in its hour of danger. If he could have pierced below the surface, he would have found that the Pope's best friend was the prince who held him prisoner; that Henry was but doubtfully acquiescing in the policy of an unpopular minister; and that the English nation would have looked on with stoical resignation if pope and papacy had been wrecked together. They were not inclined to heresy; but the ecclesiastical system was not the Catholic faith; and this system, ruined by prosperity, was fast pressing its excesses to the extreme limit, beyond which it could not be endured. Wolsey talked of reformation, but delayed its coming; and in the mean time, the persons to be reformed showed no fear that it would come at all. The monasteries grew worse and worse. The people were taught only what they could teach themselves. The consistory courts became more oppressive. Pluralities multiplied, and non-residence and profligacy. Favoured parish clergy held as many as eight benefices. Bishops accumulated sees, and, unable to attend to all, attended to none. Wolsey himself, the Church reformer (so little did he really know what a reformation meant), was at once Archbishop of York, Bishop of Winchester, and of Durham, and Abbot of St Alban's. In Latimer's opinion, even twenty years later, and after no little reform in such matters, there was but one bishop in all England who was ever at his work and ever in his diocese. 'I would ask a strange question,' he said, in an audacious sermon at Paul's Cross, 'Who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing of his office? I can tell, for I know him who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the others, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you. It is the devil. Among all the pack of them that have cure, the devil shall go for my money, for he applieth his business. Therefore, ye unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil to be diligent in your office. If ye will not learn of God, for shame learn of the devil.'
Under such circumstances, we need not be surprised to find the clergy sunk low in the respect of the English people. Sternly intolerant of each other's faults, the laity were not likely to be indulgent to the vices of men who ought to have set an example of purity; and from time to time, during the first quarter of the century, there were explosions of temper which might have served as a warning if any sense or judgment had been left to profit by it.
In 1514 a London merchant was committed to the Lollards' Tower for refusing to submit to an unjust exaction of mortuary; and a few days after was found dead in his cell. An inquest was held upon the body when a verdict of wilful murder was returned against the chancellor of the Bishop of London; and so intense was the feeling of the city, that the Bishop applied to Wolsey for a special jury to be chosen on the trial. 'For assured I am,' he said, 'that if my chancellor be tried by any twelve men in London, they be so maliciously set in favorem hæreticæ pravitatis, that they will cast and condemn any clerk, though he were as innocent as Abel.' Fish's famous pamphlet also shows the spirit which was seething; and though we may make some allowance for angry rhetoric, his words have the clear ring of honesty in them; and he spoke of what he had seen and knew. The monks, he tells the King, 'be they that have made a hundred thousand idle dissolute women in your realm, who would have gotten their living honestly in the sweat of their faces had not their superfluous riches allured them to lust and idleness. These be they that when they have drawn men's wives to such incontinency, spend away their husbands' goods, make the women to run away from their husbands, bringing both man, wife, and children to idleness, theft, and beggary. Yea, who is able to number the great broad bottomless ocean sea full of evils that this mischievous generation may bring upon us if unpunished?'
1528.Copies of this book were strewed about the London streets; Wolsey issued a prohibition against it, with the effect which such prohibitions usually have. Means were found to bring it under the eyes of Henry himself; and the manner in which it was received by him is full of significance, and betrays that the facts of the age were already telling on his understanding. He was always easy of access and easy of manner; and the story, although it rests on Foxe's authority, has internal marks of authenticity.
'One Master Edmund Moddis, being with the King in talk of religion, and of the new books that were come from beyond the seas, said that if it might please his Highness to pardon him, and such as he would bring to his Grace, he should see such a book as it was a marvel to hear of. The King demanded who they were? He said 'Two of your merchants—George Elliot and George Robinson.' The King appointed a time to speak with them. When they came before his presence in a privy closet, he demanded what they had to say or to show him. One of them said that there was a book come to their hands which they had there to show his Grace. When he saw it he demanded if any of them could read it. 'Yea,' said George Elliot, 'if it please your Grace to hear it.' 'I thought so,' said the King; 'if need were, thou couldst say it without book.'
'The whole book being read out, the King made a long pause, and then said, 'If a man should pull down an old stone wall, and should begin at the lower part, the upper part thereof might chance to fall upon his head.' Then he took the book, and put it in his desk, and commanded them, on their allegiance, that they should not tell any man that he had seen it.'
Symptoms such as these boded ill for a self-reform of the Church, and it was further imperilled by the difficulty which it is not easy to believe that Wolsey had forgotten. No measures would be of efficacy which spared the religious houses, and they would be equally useless unless the bishops, as well as the inferior clergy, were comprehended in the scheme of amendment. But neither with monks nor bishops could Wolsey interfere except by a commission from the Pope, and the laws were unrepealed which forbade English subjects, under the severest penalties, to accept or exercise within the realm an authority which they had received from the Holy See. Morton had gone beyond the limits of the Statute of Provisors in receiving powers from Pope Innocent to visit the monasteries. But Morton had stopped short with inquiry and admonition. Wolsey, who was in earnest with the work, had desired and obtained a full commission as legate, but he could only make use of it at his peril. The statute slumbered, but it still existed. He was exposing not himself only, but all persons, lay and clerical, who might recognize his legacy, to a Premunire; and he knew well that Henry's connivance, or even expressed permission, could not avail him if his conduct was challenged. He could not venture to appeal to Parliament. Parliament was the last authority whose jurisdiction a churchman would acknowledge in the concerns of the clergy; and his project must sooner or later have sunk, like those of his two predecessors, under its own internal difficulties, even if the accident had not arisen which brought the dispute to a special issue in its most vital point, and which, fostered by Wolsey for his own purposes, precipitated his ruin.
It is never more difficult to judge equitably the actions of public men than when private as well as general motives have been allowed to influence them, or when their actions may admit of being represented as resulting from personal inclination, as well as from national policy. In life, as we actually experience it, motives slide one into the other, and the most careful analysis will fail adequately to sift them. In history, from the effort to make our conceptions distinct, we pronounce upon these intricate matters with unhesitating certainty, and we lose sight of truth in the desire to make it truer than itself. The difficulty is further complicated by the different points of view which are chosen by contemporaries and by posterity. Where motives are mixed, men all naturally dwell most on those which approach nearest to themselves: contemporaries whose interests are at stake overlook what is personal in consideration of what is to them of broader moment; posterity, unable to realize political embarrassments which have ceased to concern them, concentrate their attention on such features of the story as touch their own sympathies, and attend exclusively to the private and personal passions of the men and women whose character they are considering.
These natural, and to some extent inevitable tendencies, explain the difference with which the divorce between Henry VIII. and Catherine of Arragon has been regarded by the English nation in the sixteenth and in the nineteenth centuries. In the former, not only did the Parliament profess to desire it, urge it, and further it, but we are told by a contemporary that 'all indifferent and discreet persons' judged that it was right and necessary. In the latter, perhaps, there is not one of ourselves who has not been taught to look upon it as an act of enormous wickedness. In the sixteenth century, Queen Catherine was an obstacle to the establishment of the kingdom, an incentive to treasonable hopes. In the nineteenth, she is an outraged and injured wife, the victim of a false husband's fickle appetite. The story is a long and painful one, and on its personal side need not concern us here further than as it illustrates the private character of Henry. Into the public bearing of it I must enter at some length, in order to explain the interest with which the nation threw itself into the question, and to remove the scar,dal with which, had nothing been at stake beyond the inclinations of a profligate monarch, weary of his queen, the complaisance on such a subject of the Lords and Commons of England would have coloured the entire complexion of the Reformation.
The succession to the throne, although determined in theory by the ordinary law of primogeniture, was nevertheless subject to repeated arbitrary changes. The uncertainty of the rule was acknowledged and deplored by the Parliament, and there was no order of which the nation, with any unity of sentiment, compelled the observance. An opinion prevailed—not, I believe, traceable to statute, but admitted by custom, and having the force of statute in the prejudices of the nation—that no stranger born out of the realm could inherit. Although the descent in the female line was not formally denied, no Queen Regnant had ever, in fact, sat upon the throne. Even Henry VII. refused to strengthen his title by advancing the claims of his wife: and the uncertainty of the laws of marriage, and the innumerable refinements of the Romish canon law, which affected the legitimacy of children, furnished, in connection with the further ambiguities of clerical dispensations, perpetual pretexts, whenever pretexts were needed, for a breach of allegiance. So long, indeed, as the character of the nation remained essentially military, it could as little tolerate an incapable king as an army in a dangerous campaign can bear with an inefficient commander; and whatever might be the theory of the title, when the sceptre was held by the infirm hand of an Edward II., a Richard II., or a Henry VI., the difficulty resolved itself by force, and it was wrenched by a stronger arm from a grasp too feeble to retain it. The consent of the nation was avowed, even in the authoritative language of a statute, as essential to the legitimacy of a sovereign's title; and Sir Thomas More, on examination by the Solicitor- General, declared as his opinion that Parliament had power to depose kings if it so pleased. So many uncertainties on a point so vital had occasioned fearful episodes in English history; the most fearful of them, which had traced its character in blood in the private records of every English family, having been the long struggle of the preceding century, from which the nation was still suffering, and had but recovered sufficiently to be conscious of what it had endured. It had decimated itself for a question which involved no principle and led to no result, and perhaps the history of the world may be searched in vain for any parallel to a quarrel at once so desperate and so unmeaning.
This very unmeaning character of the dispute increased the difficulty of ending it. In wars of conquest or of principle, when something definite is at stake, the victory is either won, or it is lost; the conduct of individual men, at all events, is overruled by considerations external to themselves which admit of being weighed and calculated. In a war of succession, where the great families were divided in their allegiance, and supported the rival claimants in evenly balanced numbers, the inveteracy of the conflict increased with its duration, and propagated itself from generation to generation. Every family was in blood feud with its neighbour; and children, as they grew to manhood, inherited the duty of revenging their fathers' deaths.
No effort of imagination can reproduce to us the state of this country in the fatal years which intervened between the first rising of the Duke of York and the battle of Bosworth; and experience too truly convinced Henry VII. that the war had ceased only from general exhaustion, and not because there was no will to continue it. The first Tudor breathed an atmosphere of suspended insurrection, and only when we remember the probable effect upon his mind of the constant dread of an explosion, can we excuse or understand, in a prince not generally cruel, the execution of the Earl of Warwick. The danger of a bloody revolution may present an act of arbitrary or cowardly tyranny in the light of a public duty.
Fifty years of settled government, however, had not been without their effects. The country had collected itself; the feuds of the families had been chastened, if they had not been subdued; while the increase of wealth and material prosperity had brought out into obvious prominence those advantages of peace which a hot-spirited people, antecedent to experience, had not anticipated, and had not been able to appreciate. They were better fed, better cared for, more justly governed than they had ever been before; and though abundance of unruly tempers remained, yet the wiser portion of the nation, looking back from their new vantage-ground, were able to recognize the past in its true hatefulness. Thenceforward a war of succession was the predominating terror with English statesmen, and the safe establishment of the reigning family bore a degree of importance which it is possible that their fears exaggerated, yet which in fact was the determining principle of their action.
It was therefore with no little anxiety that the council of Henry VIII. perceived his male children, on whom their hopes were centered, either born dead, or dying one after another within a few days of their birth, as if his family were under a blight. When the Queen had advanced to an age which precluded hope of further offspring, and the heir presumptive was an infirm girl, the unpromising prospect became yet more alarming. The life of the Princess Mary was precarious, for her health was weak from her childhood. If she lived, her accession would be a temptation to insurrection; if she did not live, and the King had no other children, a civil war was inevitable. At present such a difficulty would be disposed of by an immediate and simple reference to the collateral branches of the royal family; the crown would descend with even more facility than the property of an intestate to the next of kin. At that time, if the rule had been recognized, it would only have increased the difficulty, for the next heir in blood was James of Scotland; and, gravely as statesmen desired the union of the two countries, in the existing mood of the people, the very stones in London streets, it was said, would rise up against a King of Scotland who claimed to enter England as sovereign. Even the Parliament itself declared in formal language that they would resist any attempt on the part of the Scottish King 'to the uttermost of their power.'
As little, however, as the English would have admitted James's claims, would James himself have acknowledged their right to reject them. He would have pleaded the sacred right of inheritance, refusing utterly the imaginary law which disentitled him: he would have pressed his title with all Scotland to back him, and probably with the open support of France. Centuries of humiliation remained unrevenged, which both France and Scotland had endured at English hands. It was not likely that they would waste an opportunity thrust upon them by Providence. The country might, it is true, have encountered this danger, serious as it would have been, if there had been hope that it would itself have agreed to any other choice. England had many times fought successfully against the same odds, and would have cared little for a renewal of the struggle, if united in itself: but the prospect on this side, also, was fatally discouraging. The elements of the old factions were dormant but still smouldering. Throughout Henry's reign a White Rose agitation had been secretly fermenting; without open success, and without chance of success so long as Henry lived, but formidable in a high degree if opportunity to strike should offer itself. Richard de la Pole, the representative of this party, had been killed at Pavia, but his loss had rather strengthened their cause than weakened it, for by his long exile he was unknown in England; his personal character was without energy; while he made place for the leadership of a far more powerful spirit in the sister of the murdered Earl of Warwick, the Countess of Salisbury, mother of Reginald Pole. This lady had inherited, in no common degree, the fierce nature of the Plantagenets; born to command, she had rallied round her the Courtenays, the Nevilles, and all the powerful kindred of Richard the King Maker, her grandfather. Her Plantagenet descent was purer than the King's; and if Mary died and Henry left no other issue, half England was likely to declare either for one of her sons, or for the Marquis of Exeter, the grandson of Edward IV.
In 1515, when Giustiniani, the Venetian ambassador, was at the Court, the Dukes of Buckingham, of Suffolk, and of Norfolk, were also mentioned to him as having each of them hopes of the crown. Buckingham, meddling prematurely in the dangerous game, had lost his life for it; but in his death he had strengthened the chance of Norfolk, who had married his daughter. Suffolk was Henry's brother-in-law; chivalrous, popular, and the ablest soldier of his day; and Lady Margaret Lennox, also, daughter of the Queen of Scotland by her second marriage, would not have wanted supporters, and early became an object of intrigue. Indeed, as she had been born in England, it was held in Parliament that she stood next in order to the Princess Mary.
Many of these claims were likely to be advanced if Henry died leaving a daughter to succeed him. They would all inevitably be advanced if he died childless; and no great political sagacity was required to foresee the probable fate of the country if such a moment was chosen for a French and Scottish invasion. The very worst disasters might be too surely looked for, and the hope of escape, precarious at the best, hung upon the frail thread of a single life. We may therefore imagine the dismay with which the nation saw this last hope failing them—1527.and failing them even in a manner more dangerous than if it had failed by death; for it did but add another doubt when already there were too many. In order to detach France from Scotland, and secure, if possible, its support for the claims of the princess, it had been proposed to marry the Princess Mary to a son of the French king. The negotiations were conducted through the Bishop of Tarbes, and at the first conference the Bishop raised a question in the name of his Government, on the validity of the Papal dispensation granted by Julius the Second, to legalize the marriage from which she was sprung. The abortive marriage scheme perished in its birth, but the doubt which had been raised could not perish with it. Doubt on such a subject once mooted might not be left unresolved, even if the raising it thus publicly had not itself destroyed the frail chance of an undisputed succession. If the relations of Henry with Queen Catherine had been of a cordial kind, it is possible that he would have been contented with resentment; that he would have refused to reconsider a question which touched his honour and his conscience; and, united with Parliament, would have endeavoured to bear down all difficulties with a high hand. This at least he might have himself attempted. Whether the Parliament, with so precarious a future before them, would have consented, is less easy to say. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the interests of the nation pointed out another road, which Henry had no unwillingness to enter.
On the death of Prince Arthur, five months after his marriage, Henry VII. and the father of the princess alike desired that the bond between their families thus broken should be re-united; and, as soon as it became clear that Catherine had not been left pregnant (a point which, tacitly at least, she allowed to be considered uncertain at the time of her husband's decease), it was proposed that she should be transferred, with the inheritance of the crown, to the new heir. A dispensation was reluctantly granted by the Pope, and reluctantly accepted by the English ministry. The Prince of Wales, who was no more than twelve years old at the time, was under the age at which he could legally sue for such an object; and a portion of the English council, the Archbishop of Canterbury among them, were unsatisfied, both with the marriage itself, and with the adequacy of the forms observed in a matter of so dubious an import. The betrothal took place at the urgency of Ferdinand. In the year following Henry VII. became suddenly ill; Queen Elizabeth died; and, superstition working on the previous hesitation, misfortune was construed into an indication of the displeasure of Heaven. The intention was renounced, and the prince, as soon as he had completed his fourteenth year, was invited and required to disown, by a formal act, the obligations contracted in his name. Again there was a change. The King lived on, the alarm yielded to the temptations of covetousness. Had he restored Catherine to her father he must have restored with her the portion of her dowry which had been already received; he must have relinquished the prospect of the moiety which had yet to be received. The negotiation was renewed. Henry VII. lived to sign the receipts for the first instalment of the second payment; and on his death, notwithstanding much general murmuring, the young Henry, then a boy of eighteen, proceeded to carry out his father's ultimate intentions. The princess-dowager, notwithstanding what had passed, was still on her side willing; and the difference of age (she was six years older than Henry) seeming of little moment when both were comparatively young, they were married. For many years all went well; opposition was silenced by the success which seemed to have followed, and the original scruples were forgotten. Though the marriage was dictated by political convenience, Henry was faithful, so far as we know, with but one exception, to his wife's bed—no slight honour to him, if he is measured by the average royal standard in such matters; and, if his sons had lived to grow up around his throne, there is no reason to believe that the peace of his married life would have been interrupted, or that, whatever might have been his private feelings, he would have appeared in the world's eye other than acquiescent in his condition.
But his sons had not lived; years passed on, bringing with them premature births, children born dead, or dying after a few days or hours, and the disappointment was intense in proportion to the interests which were at issue. The especial penalty denounced against the marriage with a brother's wife had been all but literally enforced; and the King found himself growing to middle life and his Queen passing beyond it with his prayers unheard, and no hope any longer that they might be heard. The disparity of age also was more perceptible as time went by, while Catherine's constitution was affected by her misfortunes, and differences arose on which there is no occasion to dwell in these pages—differences which in themselves reflected no discredit either on the husband or the wife, but which were sufficient to extinguish between two infirm human beings an affection that had rested only upon mutual esteem, but had not assumed the character of love.
The circumstances in which Catherine was placed were of a kind which no sensitive woman could have endured without impatience and mortification; but her conduct, however natural, only widened the breach which personal repugnance and radical opposition of character had already made too wide. So far Henry and she were alike that both had imperious tempers, and both were indomitably obstinate; but Henry was hot and impetuous, Catherine was cold and self-contained—Henry saw his duty through his wishes; Catherine, in her strong Castilian austerity, measured her steps by the letter of the law; the more her husband withdrew from her, the more she insisted upon her relation to him as his wife; and continued with fixed purpose and immovable countenance to share his table and his bed long after she was aware of his dislike for her.
If the validity of so unfortunate a connection had never been questioned, or if no national interests had been dependent on the continuance or the abolition of it, these discomforts were not too great to have been endured in silence. They may or they may not have been stimulated by any latent inclination on the part of the King for another woman. The name of Anne Boleyn appears early in connection with the King's restiveness; and even if the King was largely influenced by personal feeling, when we remember the tenor of his early life we need not think that he would have been unequal to the restraint which ordinary persons in similar circumstances are able to impose on their caprices. The legates spoke no more than the truth when they wrote to the Pope, saying that 'it was mere madness to suppose that the King would act as he was doing merely out of dislike of the Queen, or out of inclination for another person; he was not a man whom harsh manners and an unpleasant disposition (duri mores et injucunda comuetudo) could so far provoke; nor could any sane man believe him to be so infirm of character that sensual allurements would have led him to dissolve a connection in which he had passed the flower of youth without stain or blemish, and in which he had borne himself in his trial so reverently and honourably.' I consider this entirely true in a sense which no great knowledge of human nature is required to understand. The King's private dissatisfaction was great: if this had been all, however, it would have been extinguished or endured; but the interests of the nation, imperilled as they were by the maintenance of the marriage, entitled him to regard his position under another aspect. Even if the marriage in itself had never been questioned, he might justly have desired the dissolution of it; and when he recalled the circumstances under which it was contracted, the hesitation of the council, the reluctance of the Pope, the alarms and vacillation of his father, we may readily perceive how scruples of conscience must have arisen in a soil well prepared to receive them—how the loss of his children must have appeared as a judicial sentence on a violation of the Divine law. The divorce presented itself to him as a moral obligation, when national advantage combined with superstition to encourage what he secretly desired; and if he persuaded himself that those public reasons, without which, in truth and fact, he would not have stirred, were those that alone were influencing him, the self-deceit was of a kind with which the experience of most men will probably have made them too familiar. In those rare cases where inclination coincides with right, we cannot be surprised if mankind should mislead themselves with the belief that the disinterested motives weigh more with them than the personal.
A remarkable and very candid account of Henry's feelings is furnished by himself in one of the many papers of instructions which he forwarded to his secretary at Rome. Hypocrisy was not among his faults, and in detailing the arguments which were to be laid before the Pope he has exhibited a more complete revelation of what was passing in himself—and indirectly of his own nature in its strength and weakness—than he perhaps imagined while he wrote. The despatch is long and perplexed; the style that of a man who saw his end clearly, and was vexed with the intricate and dishonest trifling with which his way was impeded, and which nevertheless he was struggling to tolerate. The secretary was to say, 'that the King's Highness having above all other things his intent and mind ever founded upon such respect unto Almighty God as to a Christian and Catholic prince doth appertain, knowing the fragility and uncertainty of all earthly things, and how displeasant unto God, how much dangerous to the soul, how dishonourable and damageable to the world it were to prefer vain and transitory things unto those that be perfect and certain, hath in this cause, doubt, and matter of matrimony, whereupon depend so high and manifold consequences of greatest importance, always cast from his conceit the darkness and blundering confusion of falsity, and specially hath had and put before his eyes the light and shining brightness of truth; upon which foundation as a most sure base for perpetual tranquillity of his conscience his Highness hath expressly resolved and determined with himself to build and establish all his acts, deeds, and cogitations touching this matter; without God did build the house, in vain they laboured that went about to build it; and all actions grounded upon that immovable fundament of truth must needs therein be firm, sound, whole, perfect, and worthy of a Christian man; which if truth were put apart, they could not for the same reason be but evil, vain, slippery, uncertain, and in nowise permanent or endurable.' He then laboured to urge on the Pope the duty of straightforward dealing; and dwelt in words which have a sad interest for us (when we consider the manner in which the subject of them has been dealt with) on the judgment bar, not of God only, but of human posterity, at which his conduct would be ultimately tried.
'The causes of private persons dark and doubtful be sometimes,' the King said, 'pretermitted and passed over as things more meet at some seasons to be dissimuled than by continual strife and plea to nourish controversies. Yet since all people have their eyes conject upon princes, whose acts and doings not only be observed in the mouths of them that now do live, but also remain in such perpetual memory to our posterity [so that] the evil, if any there be, cannot but appear and come to light, there is no reason for toleration, no place for dissimulation; but [there is reason] more deeply, highly, and profoundly to penetrate and search for the truth, so that the same may vanquish and overcome, and all guilt, craft, and falsehood clearly be extirpate and reject.'
I am anticipating the progress of the story in making these quotations; for the main burden of the despatch concerns a forged document which had been introduced by the Roman lawyers to embarrass the process, and of which I shall by-and-by have to speak directly; but I have desired to illustrate the spirit in which Henry entered upon the general question—assuredly a more calm and rational one than historians have usually represented it to be. In dealing with the obstacle which had been raised, he displayed a most efficient mastery over himself, although he did not conclude without touching the pith of the matter with telling clearness. The secretary was to take some opportunity of speaking to the Pope privately; and of warning him, 'as of himself,' that there was no hope that the King would give way: he was to 'say plainly to his Holiness that the King's desire and intent concolare ad secundas nuptias non patitur negativum; and whatsoever should be found of bull, brief, or otherwise, his Highness found his conscience so inquieted, his succession in such danger, and his most royal person in such perplexity for things unknown and not to be spoken, that other remedy there was not but his Grace to come by one way or other, and specially at his hands, if it might be, to the desired end; and that all concertation to the contrary should be vain and frustrate.'
So peremptory a conviction and so determined a purpose were of no sudden growth, and had been probably maturing in his mind for years, when the gangrene was torn open by the Bishop of Tarbes, and accident precipitated his resolution. The momentous consequences involved, and the reluctance to encounter a probable quarrel with the Emperor, might have long kept him silent, except for some extraneous casualty; but the tree being thus rudely shaken, the ripe fruit fell. The capture of Rome occurring almost at the same moment, Wolsey caught the opportunity to break the Spanish alliance; and the prospect of a divorce was grasped at by him as a lever by which to throw the weight of English power and influence into the Papal scale, to commit Henry definitely to the Catholic cause. Like his acceptance of legatine authority, the expedient was a desperate one, and if it failed it was ruinous. The nation at that time was sincerely attached to Spain. The alliance with the house of Burgundy was of old date; the commercial intercourse with Flanders was enormous, Flanders, in fact, absorbing all the English exports; and as many as 15,000 Flemings were settled in London. Charles himself was personally popular; he had been the ally of England in the late French war; and when in his supposed character of leader of the anti-papal party in Europe he allowed a Lutheran army to desecrate Rome, he had won the sympathy of all the latent discontent which was fermenting in the population. France, on the other hand, was as cordially hated as Spain was beloved. A state of war with France was the normal condition of England; and the re-conquest of it the universal dream from the cottage to the castle. Henry himself, early in his reign, had shared in this delusive ambition; and but three years before the sack of Rome, when the Duke of Suffolk led an army into Normandy, Wolsey's purposed tardiness in sending reinforcements had alone saved Paris.
There could be no doubt, therefore, that a breach with the Emperor would in a high degree be unwelcome to the country. The King, and probably such members of the council as were aware of his feelings, shrank from offering an open affront to the Spanish people, and anxious as they were for a settlement of the succession, perhaps trusted that advantage might be taken of some political contingency for a private arrangement; that Catherine might be induced by Charles himself to retire privately, and sacrifice herself, of her free will, to the interests of the two countries. This, however, is no more than conjecture; I think it probable, because so many English statesmen were in favour at once of the divorce and of the Spanish alliance—two objects which, only on some such hypothesis, were compatible. The fact cannot be ascertained, however, because the divorce itself was not discussed at the council table until Wolsey had induced the King to change his policy by the hope of immediate relief.
Wolsey has revealed to us fully his own objects in a letter to Sir Gregory Cassalis, his agent at Eome. He shared with half Europe in an impression that the Emperor's Italian campaigns were designed to further the Reformation; and of this central delusion he formed the key-stone of his conduct. 'First condoling with his Holiness,' he wrote, 'on the unhappy position in which, with the college of the most reverend cardinals, he is placed, you shall tell him how, day and night, I am revolving by what means or contrivance I may bring comfort to the Church of Christ, and raise the fallen state of our most Holy Lord. I care not what it may cost me, whether of expense or trouble; nay, though I have to shed my blood, or give my life for it, assuredly so long as life remains to me for this I will labour. And now let me mention the great and marvellous effects which have been wrought by my instrumentality on the mind of my most excellent master the King, whom I have persuaded to unite himself with his Holiness in heart and soul. I urged innumerable reasons to induce him to part him from the Emperor, to whom he clung with much tenacity. The most effective of them all was the constancy with which I assured him of the good-will and affection which were felt for him by his Holiness, and the certainty that his Holiness would furnish proof of his friendship in conceding his said Majesty's requests, in such form as the Church's treasure and the authority of the Vicar of Christ shall permit, or so far as that authority extends or may extend. I have undertaken, moreover, for all these things in their utmost latitude, pledging my salvation, my faith, my honour and soul upon them. I have said that his demands shall be granted amply and fully, without scruple, without room or occasion being left for after-retractation; and the King's Majesty, in consequence, believing on these my solemn asseverations that the Pope's Holiness is really and indeed well inclined towards him, accepting what is spoken by me as spoken by the legate of the Apostolic See, and therefore, as in the name of his Holiness, has determined to run the risk which I have pressed upon him; he will spare no labour or expense, he will disregard the wishes of his subjects, and the private interest of his Realm, to attach himself cordially and constantly to the Holy See.'
These were the words of a man who loved England well, but who loved Rome better; and Wolsey has received but scanty justice from Catholic writers, since he sacrificed himself for the Catholic cause. His scheme was bold and well laid, being weak only in that it was confessedly in contradiction to the instincts and genius of the nation, by which, and by which alone, in the long run, either this or any other country has been successfully governed. And yet he might well be forgiven if he ventured on an unpopular course in the belief that the event would justify him; and that, in uniting with France to support the Pope, he was not only consulting the true interest of England, but was doing what England actually desired, although blindly aiming at her object by other means. The French wars, however traditionally popular, were fertile only in glory. The rivalry of the two countries was a splendid folly, wasting the best blood of both countries for an impracticable chimera; and though there was impatience of ecclesiastical misrule, though there was jealousy of foreign interference, and general irritation with the state of the Church, yet the mass of the people hated Protestantism even worse than they hated the Pope, the clergy, and the consistory courts. They believed—and Wolsey was, perhaps, the only leading member of the privy council, except Archbishop Warham, who was not under the same delusion—that it was possible for a national Church to separate itself from the unity of Christendom, and at the same time to crush or prevent innovation of doctrine; that faith in the sacramental system could still be maintained, though the priesthood by whom those mysteries were dispensed should minister in gilded chains. This was the English historical theory handed down from William Rufus, the second Henry, and the Edwards; yet it was and is a mere phantasm, a thing of words and paper fictions, as Wolsey saw it to be. Wolsey knew well that an ecclesiastical revolt implied, as a certainty, innovation of doctrine; that plain men could not and would not continue to reverence the office of the priesthood, when the priests were treated as the paid officials of an earthly authority higher than their own. He was not to be blamed if he took the people at their word; if he believed that, in their doctrinal conservatism, they knew and meant what they were saying: and the reaction which took place under Queen Mary, when the Anglican system had been tried and failed, and the alternative was seen to be absolute between a union with Rome or a forfeiture of Catholic orthodoxy, prove after all that he was wiser than in the immediate event he seemed to be; that if his policy had succeeded, and if, strengthened by success, he had introduced into the Church those reforms which he had promised and desired, he would have satisfied the substantial wishes of the majority of the nation.
Like other men of genius, Wolsey also combined practical sagacity with an unmeasured power of hoping. As difficulties gathered round him, he encountered them with the increasing magnificence of his schemes; and after thirty years' experience of public life, he was as sanguine as a boy. Armed with this little lever of the divorce, he saw himself, in imagination, the rebuilder of the Catholic faith and the deliverer of Europe. The King being remarried, and the succession settled, he would purge the Church of England, and convert the monasteries into intellectual garrisons of pious and learned men, occupying the land from end to end. The feuds with France should cease for ever, and, united in a holy cause, the two countries should restore the Papacy, put down the German heresies, depose the Emperor, and establish in his place some faithful servant of the Church. Then Europe once more at peace, the hordes of the Crescent, which were threatening to settle the quarrels of Christians in the West as they had settled them in the East—by the extinction of Christianity itself,—were to be hurled back into their proper barbarism. These magnificent visions fell from him in conversations with the Bishop of Bayonne, and may be gathered from hints and fragments of his correspondence. Extravagant as they seem, the prospect of realizing them was, humanly speaking, neither chimerical nor even improbable. He had but made the common mistake of men of the world who are the representatives of an old order of things at the time when that order is doomed and dying. He could not read the signs of the times, and confounded the barrenness of death with the barrenness of a winter which might be followed by a new spring and summer. He believed that the old life-tree of Catholicism, which in fact was but cumbering the ground, might bloom again in its old beauty. The thing which he called heresy was the fire of Almighty God, which no politic congregation of princes, no state machinery, though it were never so active, could trample out; and as in the early years of Christianity the meanest slave who was thrown to the wild beasts for his presence at the forbidden mysteries of the gospel, saw deeper, in the divine power of his faith, into the future even of this earthly world than the sagest of his imperial persecutors, so a truer political prophet than Wolsey would have been found in the most ignorant of those poor men, for whom his myrmidons were searching in the purlieus of London, who were risking death and torture in disseminating the pernicious volumes of the English Testament.
If we look at the matter, however, from a more earthly point of view, the causes which immediately defeated Wolsey's policy were not such as human foresight could have anticipated. We ourselves, surveying the various parties in Europe with the light of our knowledge of the actual sequel, are perhaps able to understand their real relations; but if in 1527 a political astrologer had foretold that within two years of that time the Pope and the Emperor who had imprisoned him would be cordial allies, that the positions of England and Spain toward the Papacy would be diametrically reversed, and that the two countries were on the point of taking their posts, which they would ever afterwards maintain, as the champions respectively of the opposite principles to those which at that time they seemed to represent, the prophecy would have been held scarcely less insane than a prophecy six or even three years before the event, that in the year 1854 England would be united with an Emperor Napoleon for the preservation of European order.
Henry, then, in the spring of the year 1527, definitively breaking the Spanish alliance, formed a league with Francis I., the avowed object of which was the expulsion of the Imperialists from Italy; with a further intention—if it could be carried into effect—of avenging the outrage offered to Europe in the Pope's imprisonment, by declaring vacant the Imperial throne. Simultaneously with the congress at Amiens where the terms of the alliance were arranged, confidential persons were despatched into Italy to obtain an interview—if possible—with the Pope, and formally laying before him the circumstances of the King's position, to request him to make use of his powers to provide a remedy. It is noticeable that at the outset of the negotiation the King did not fully trust Wolsey. The latter had suggested, August 5.as the simplest method of proceeding, that the Pope should extend his authority as legate, granting him plenary power to act as English vicegerent so long as Rome was occupied by the Emperor's troops. Henry, not wholly satisfied that he was acquainted with his Sept. 12.minister's full intentions in desiring so large a capacity, sent his own secretary, unknown to Wolsey, with his own private propositions—requesting simply a dispensation to take a second wife, his former marriage being allowed to stand with no definite sentence passed upon it; or, if that were impossible, leaving the Pope to choose his own method, and settle the question in the manner least difficult and least offensive.
Wolsey, however, soon satisfied the King that he had no sinister intentions. By the middle of the winter we find the private messenger associated openly with Sir Gregory Cassalis, the agent of the minister's communications;Dec. 15. and a series of formal demands were presented jointly by these two persons in the names of Henry and the legate; which, though taking many forms, resolved themselves substantially into one. The Pope was required to make use of his dispensing power to enable the King of England to marry a wife who could bear him children, and thus provide some better security than already existed for the succession to the throne. This demand could not be considered as in itself unreasonable; and if personal feeling was combined with other motives to induce Henry to press it, personal feeling did not affect the general bearing of the question. The King's desire was publicly urged on public grounds, and thus, and thus only, the Pope was at liberty to consider it. The marriages of princes have ever been affected by other considerations than those which influence such relations between private persons. Princes may not, as 'unvalued persons' may, 'carve for themselves;' they pay the penalty of their high place, in submitting their affections to the welfare of the State; and the same causes which regulate the formation of these ties must be allowed to influence the continuance of them. The case which was submitted to the Pope was one of those for which his very power of dispensing had been vested in him; and being, as he called himself, the Father of Christendom, the nation thought themselves entitled to call upon him to make use of that power. A resource of the kind must exist somewhere—the relation between princes and subjects indispensably requiring it. It had been vested in the Bishop of Rome, because it had been presumed that the sanctity of his office would secure an impartial exercise of his authority. And unless he could have shown (which he never attempted to show) that the circumstances of the succession were not so precarious as to call for his interference, it would seem that the express contingency had arisen which was contemplated in the constitution of the canon law; and that where a provision had been made by the Church of which he was the earthly head, for difficulties of this precise description, the Pope was under an obligation either to make the required concessions in virtue of his faculty, or, if he found himself unable to make those concessions, to offer some distinct explanation of his refusal. I speak of the question as nakedly political. I am not considering the private injuries of which Catherine had so deep a right to complain, nor the complications subsequently raised on the original validity of the first marriage. A political difficulty, on which alone he was bound to give sentence, was laid before the Pope in his judicial capacity, in the name of the nation; and the painful features which the process afterwards assumed are due wholly to his original weakness and vacillation.
Deeply, however, as we must all deplore the scandal and suffering which were occasioned by the dispute, it was in a high degree fortunate, that at the crisis of public dissatisfaction in England with the condition of the Church, especially in the conduct of its courts of justice, a cause should have arisen which tested the whole question of Church authority in its highest form; where the dispute between the laity and the ecclesiastics was represented in a process in which the Pope sat as judge; in which the King was the appellant, and the most vital interests of the nation were at stake upon the issue. It was no accident which connected a suit for divorce with the reformation of religion. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction was upon its trial, and the future relations of Church and State depended upon the Pope's conduct in a matter which no technical skill was required to decide, but only the moral virtues of probity and courage. The time had been when the clergy feared only to be unjust, and when the functions of judges might safely be entrusted to them. The small iniquities of the consistory courts had shaken the popular faith in the continued operation of such a fear; and the experience of an Alexander VI., a Julius II., and a Leo X. had induced a suspicion that even in the highest quarters justice had ceased to be much considered. It remained for Clement VII. to disabuse men of their alarms, or by confirming them to forfeit for ever the supremacy of his order in England. Nor can it be said for him that the case was one in which it was unusually difficult to be virtuous. Justice, wounded dignity, and the interests of the See pointed alike to the same course. Queen Catherine's relationship to the Emperor could not have recommended her to the tenderness of the Pope, and the policy of assenting to an act which would infallibly alienate Henry from Charles, and therefore attach him to the Roman interests, did not require the eloquence of Wolsey to make it intelligible. If, because he was in the Emperor's power, he therefore feared the personal consequences to himself, his cowardice of itself disqualified him to sit as a judge.
It does not fall within my present purpose to detail the first stages of the proceedings which followed. In substance they are well known to all readers of English history, and may be understood without difficulty as soon as we possess the clue to the conduct of Wolsey. I shall, however, in a few pages briefly epitomize what passed.
At the outset of the negotiation, the Pope, although he would take no positive steps, was all, in words, which he was expected to be. Neither he nor the cardinals refused to acknowledge the dangers which threatened the country. He discussed freely the position of the different parties, the probabilities of a disputed succession, and the various claimants who would present themselves, if the King died without an heir of undisputed legitimacy. 1527–8.
Jan. 1.Gardiner writes to Wolsey, 'We did even more inculcate what speed and celerity the thing required, and what danger it was to the realm to have this matter hang in suspense. His Holiness confessed the same, and thereupon began 1528.
March 30.to reckon what divers titles might be pretended by the King of Scots and others, and granted that, without an heir male, with provision to be made by consent of the State for his succession, and unless that what shall be done herein be established in such fashion as nothing may hereafter be objected thereto, the realm was like to come to dissolution.'
In stronger language the Cardinal-Governor of Bologna declared that 'he knew the gyze of England as well as few men did, and if the King should die without heirs male, he was sure it would cost two hundred thousand men's lives. Wherefore he thought, supposing his Grace should have no more children by the Queen, and that by taking of another wife he might have heirs male, the bringing to pass that matter, and by that to avoid the mischiefs afore written, he thought would deserve Heaven.' Whatever doubt there might be, therefore, whether the original marriage with Catherine was legal, it was universally admitted that there was none about the national desirableness of the dissolution of it; and if the Pope had been free to judge only by the merits of the case, it is impossible to doubt that he would have cut the knot, either by granting a dispensation to Henry to marry a second wife—his first being formally, though not judicially, separated from him—or in some other way. But the Emperor was 'a lion in his path;' the question of strength between the French and the Spaniards remained undecided, and Clement would come to no decision until he was assured of the power of the allies to protect him from the consequences. Accordingly he said and unsaid, sighed, sobbed, beat his breast, shuffled, implored, threatened; in all ways he endeavoured to escape from his dilemma, to say yes and to say no, to do nothing, to offend no one, and above all to gain time, with the weak man's hope that 'something might happen' to extricate him. Embassy followed embassy from England, each using language more threatening than its predecessor. The thing, it was said, must be done, and should be done. If it was not done by the Pope it would be done at home in some other way, and the Pope must take the consequences. Wolsey warned him passionately of the rising storm, a storm which would be so terrible when it burst 'that it would be better to die than to live.' The Pope was strangely unable to believe that the danger could be real, being misled perhaps by other information from the friends of Queen Catherine, and by an overconfidence in the attachment of the people to the Emperor. He acted throughout in a manner natural to a timid amiable man, who found himself in circumstances to which he was unequal; and as long as we look at him merely as a man we can pity his embarrassment. He forgot, however, that only because he was supposed to be more than a man had kings and emperors consented to plead at his judgment-seat—a fact of which Stephen Gardiner, then Wolsey's secretary, thought it well to remind him in the following striking language:
'Unless,' said the future Bishop of Winchester in the council, at the close of a weary day of unprofitable debating, 'unless some other resolution be taken than I perceive you intend to make, hereupon shall be gathered a marvellous opinion of your Holiness, of the college of cardinals, and of the authority of this See. The King's Highness, and the nobles of the realm who shall be made privy to this, shall needs think that your Holiness and these most reverend and learned councillors either will not answer in this cause, or cannot answer. If you will not, if you do not choose to point out the way to an erring man, the care of whom is by God committed to you, they will say, 'Oh race of men most ungrateful, and of your proper office most oblivious! You who should be simple as doves are full of all deceit, and craft, and dissembling. If the King's cause be good, we require that you pronounce it good. If it be bad, why will you not say that it is bad, so to hinder a prince to whom you are so much bounden from longer continuing with it? We ask nothing of you but justice, which the King so loves and values, that whatever sinister things others may say or think of him, he will follow that with all his heart; that, and nothing else, whether it be for the marriage or against the marriage.'
'But if the King's Majesty,' continued Gardiner, hitting the very point of the difficulty, 'if the King's Majesty and the nobility of England, being persuaded of your good will to answer if you can do so, shall be brought to doubt of your ability, they will be forced to a harder conclusion respecting this See—namely, that God has taken from it the key of knowledge; and they will begin to give better ear to that opinion of some persons to which they have as yet refused to listen, that those Papal laws which neither the Pope himself nor his council can interpret, deserve only to be committed to the flames.' 'I desired his Holiness,' he adds, 'to ponder well this matter.'
Clement was no hero, but in his worst embarassments his wit never failed him. He answered that he was not learned, and 'to speak truth, albeit there was a saying in the canon law, that Pontifex habet omnia jura in scrinio pectoris (the Pope has all laws locked within his breast), yet God had never given him the key to open that lock.' He was but 'seeking pretexts' for delay, as Gardiner saw, till the issue of the Italian campaign of the French in the summer of 1528 was decided. He had been liberated, or had been allowed to escape from Rome, in the fear that if detained longer he might nominate a vicegerent; and was residing at an old ruined castle at Orvieto, waiting upon events, leaving the Holy City still occupied by the Prince of Orange. In the preceding autumn, immediately after the congress at Amiens, M. de Lautrec, accompanied by several English noblemen, had led an army across the Alps. He had defeated the Imperialists in the north of Italy in several minor engagements; and in January his success appeared so probable that the Pope took better heart, and told Sir Gregory Cassalis, that if the French would only approach near enough to enable him to plead compulsion, he would grant a commission to Wolsey, with plenary power to conclude the cause. De Lautrec, however, foiled in his desire to bring the Imperialists to a decisive engagement, wasted his time and strength in ineffectual petty sieges; and finally, in the summer, on the unhealthy plains of Naples, a disaster more fatal in its consequences than the battle of Pavia, closed the prospects of the French to the south of the Alps; and with them all Wolsey's hopes of realizing his dream. Stru ck down, not by a visible enemy, but by the silent hand of fever, the French general himself, his English friends, and all his army melted away from off the earth. The Pope had been wise in time. He had committed himself in words and intentions; but he had done nothing which he could not recall. He obtained his pardon from the Emperor by promising to offend no more; and from that moment never again entertained any real thought of concession. Acting under explicit directions, he made it his object thenceforward to delay and to procrastinate. Charles had no desire to press matters to extremities. War had not yet been declared against him by Henry; nor was he anxious himself to precipitate a quarrel from which, if possible, he would gladly escape. He had a powerful party in England, which it was unwise to alienate by hasty, injudicious measures; and he could gain all which he himself desired by a simple policy of obstruction. His object was merely to protract the negotiation and prevent a decision, in the hope either that Henry would be wearied into acquiescence, or that Catherine herself would retire of her own accord, or, finally, that some happy accident might occur to terminate the difficulty. It is, indeed, much to the honour of Charles V. that he resolved to support the Queen. She had thrown herself on his protection; but princes in such matters consider prudence more than feeling, and he could gain nothing by defending her: while, both for himself and for the Church, he risked the loss of much. He over-rated the strength of his English connection, and mistook the English character; but he was not blind to the hazard which he was incurring, and would have welcomed an escape from the dilemma perhaps as warmly as Henry would have welcomed it himself. The Pope, who well knew his feelings, May 4.told Gardiner, 'It would be for the wealth of Christendom if the Queen were in her grave; and he thought the Emperor would be thereof most glad of all;' saying, also, 'that he thought like as the Emperor had destroyed the temporalities of the Church, so should she be the destruction of the spiritualities.'
In the summer of 1528, before the disaster at Naples, Cardinal Campeggio had left Rome on his way to England, where he was to hear the cause in conjunction with Wolsey. An initial measure of this obvious kind it had been impossible to refuse; and the pretexts under which it was for many months delayed, were exhausted before the Pope's ultimate course had been made clear. to him. But Campeggio was instructed to protract his journey to its utmost length, giving time for the campaign to decide itself. He loitered into the autumn, under the excuse of gout and other convenient accidents, until the news reached him of De Lautrec's death, which took place on the 21st of August; and then at length proceeding, he betrayed to Francis I., on passing through Paris, that he had no intention of allowing judgment to be passed upon August 21.the cause. Even Wolsey was beginning to tremble at what he had attempted, and was doubtful of success. The seeming relief came in time, for Henry's patience was fast running out. He had been over-persuaded into a course which he had never cordially approved. The majority of the council, especially the Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Suffolk, were traditionally Imperial, and he himself might well doubt whether he might not have found a nearer road out of his difficulties by adhering to Charles. Charles, after all, was not ruining the Papacy, and had no intention of ruining it; and his lightest word weighed more at the Court of Rome than the dubious threats and prayers of France. The Bishop of Bayonne, resident French ambassador in London, whose remarkable letters transport us back into the very midst of that unquiet and stormy scene, tells us plainly that the French alliance was hated by the country, that the nobility were all for the Emperor, and that among the commons the loudest discontent was openly expressed against Wolsey from the danger of the interruption of the trade with Flanders. Flemish ships had been detained in London, and English ships in retaliation had been arrested in the Zealand ports; corn was unusually dear, and the expected supplies from Spain and Germany were cut off; while the derangement of the woollen trade, from the reluctance of the merchants to venture purchases, was causing distress all over the country, and Wolsey had been driven to the most arbitrary measures to prevent open disturbance. He had set his hopes upon the chance of a single cast which he would not believe could fail him, but on each fresh delay he was compelled to feel his declining credit, and the Bishop of Bayonne wrote, on the soth of August, 1528, that the Cardinal was in bad spirits, and had told him in confidence, that 'if he could only see the divorce arranged, the King remarried, the succession settled, and the laws and the manners and customs of the country reformed, he would retire from the world and would serve God the remainder of his days.' To these few trifles he would be contented to confine himself—only to these; he was past sixty, he was weary of the world, and his health was breaking, and he would limit his hopes to the execution of a work for which centuries imperfectly sufficed. It seemed as if he measured his stature by the lengthening shadow, as his sun made haste to its setting. Symptoms of misgiving may be observed in the many anxious letters which he wrote while Campeggio was so long upon his road; and the Bishop of Bayonne, whose less interested eyes could see more deeply into the game, warned him throughout that the Pope was playing him false. Only in a revulsion from violent despondency could such a man as Wolsey have allowed himself, on the mere arrival of the legate, and after a few soft words from him, to write in the following strain to Sir Gregory Cassalis:—
October 4.'You cannot believe the exultation with which at length I find myself successful in the object for which these many years, with all my industry, I have laboured. At length I have found means to bind my most excellent sovereign and this glorious realm to the holy Roman See in faith and obedience for ever. Henceforth will this people become the most sure pillar of support to bear up the sacred fabric of the Church. Henceforth, in recompense for that enduring felicity which he has secured to it, our most Holy Lord has all England at his devotion. In brief time will this noble land make its grateful acknowledgments to his clemency at once for the preservation of the most just, most wise, most excellent of princes, and for the secure establishment of the realm and the protection of the royal succession.'
October 4.This letter was dated on the fourth of October, and was written in the hope that the Pope had collected his courage, and that the legate had brought powers to proceed to judgment. In a few days Nov. 1.the prospect was again clouded, and Wolsey was once more in despair. Campeggio had brought with him instructions if possible to arrange a compromise,—or if a compromise was impossible, to make the best use of his ingenuity, and do nothing and allow nothing to be done. In one of two ways, however, it was hoped that he might effect a peaceful solution. He urged the King to give way and to proceed no further; and this failing, as he was prepared to find, he urged the same thing upon the Queen. He invited Catherine, or he was directed to invite her, in the Pope's name, for the sake of the general interests of Christendom, to take the vows and enter what was called religio laxa, a state in which she might live unencumbered by obligations except the easy one of chastity, and free from all other restrictions either of habit, diet, or order. The proposal was Wolsey's, and was formed when he found the limited nature of Campeggio's instructions; but it was adopted by the latter; and I cannot but think (though I have no proof of it) that it was not adopted without the knowledge of the Emperor. Whatever were his own interests, Charles V. gave Catherine his unwavering support: he made it his duty to maintain her in the ignominious position in which she was placed, and submitted his own conduct to be guided by her wishes. It cannot be doubted, however, from the Pope's words, and also from the circumstances of the case, that if she could have prevailed upon herself to yield, it would have relieved him from a painful embarrassment. As a prince, he must have felt the substantial justice of Henry's demand, and in refusing to allow the Pope to pass a judicial sentence of divorce, he could not but have known that he was compromising the position of the Holy See: while Catherine herself, on the other hand, if she had yielded, would have retired without a stain; no opinion would have been pronounced upon her marriage; the legitimacy of the Princess Mary would have been left without impeachment; and her right to the succession, in the event of no male heir following from any new connection which the King might form, would have been readily secured to her by Act of Parliament. It may be asked why she did not yield, and it is difficult to answer the question. She was not a person who would have been disturbed by the loss of a few Court vanities. Her situation as Henry's wife could not have had many charms for her, nor can it be thought that she retained a personal affection for him. If she had loved him she would have suffered too deeply in the struggle to have continued to resist, and the cloister would have seemed a paradise. Or if the cloister had appeared too sad a shelter for her, she might have gone back to the gardens of the Alhambra, where she had played as a child, carrying with her the affectionate remembrance of every English heart, and welcomed by her own people as an injured saint. Nor again can we suppose that the possible injury of her daughter's prospects from the birth of a prince by another marriage could have seemed of so vast moment to her. Those prospects were already more than endangered, and would have been rather improved than brought into further peril.
It is not for us to dictate the conduct which a woman smarting under injuries so cruel ought to have pursued. She had a right to choose the course which seemed the best to herself, and England especially could not claim of a stranger that readiness to sacrifice herself which it might have demanded and exacted of one of its own children. We may regret, however, what we are unable to censure; and the most refined ingenuity could scarcely have invented a more unfortunate answer than that which the Queen returned to the legate's request. She seems to have said that she was ready to take vows of chastity if the King would do the same. It does not appear whether the request was formally made, or whether it was merely suggested to her in private conversation. That she told the legates, however, what her answer would be, appears certain from the following passage, sadly indicating the 'devices of policy' to which in this unhappy business honourable men allowed themselves to be driven:—
'Forasmuch as it is like that the Queen shall make marvellous difficulty, and in nowise be conformable to enter religion or take vows of chastity, but that to induce her thereunto, there must be ways and means of high policy used, and all things possible devised to encourage her to the same; wherein percase she shall resolve that she in no wise will condescend so to do unless that the King's Highness also do the semblable for his part; the King's said orators shall therefore in like wise ripe and instruct themselves by their secret learned council in the Court of Rome, if, for so great a benefit to ensue unto the King's succession, realm, and subjects, with the quiet of his conscience, his Grace should promise so to enter religion on vows of chastity for his part, only thereby to conduce the Queen thereunto, whether in that case the Pope's Holiness may dispense with the King's Highness for the same promise, oath, or vow, discharging his Grace clearly of the same.'
The explanation of the Queen's conduct lies probably in regions into which it is neither easy nor well to penetrate; in regions of outraged delicacy and wounded pride, in a vast drama of passion which had been enacted Dec. 1.behind the scenes. From the significant hints which are let fall of the original cause of the estrangement, it was of a kind more difficult to endure than the ordinary trial of married women, the transfer of a husband's affection to some fairer face; and a wife whom so painful a misfortune had failed to crush would be likely to have been moved by it to a deeper and more bitter indignation even, because while she could not blame herself, she knew not whom she might rightly allow herself to blame. And if this were so, the King is not likely to have allayed the storm when at length, putting faith in Wolsey's promises, he allowed himself openly to regard another person as his future wife, establishing her in the palace at Greenwich under the same roof with the Queen, with reception-rooms, and royal state, and a position openly acknowledged, the gay Court and courtiers forsaking the gloomy dignity of the actual wife for the gaudy splendour of her brilliant rival. Tamer blood than that which flowed in the veins of a princess of Castile would have boiled under these indignities; and we have little reason to be surprised if policy and prudence were alike forgotten by Catherine in the bitterness of the draught which was forced upon her, and if her own personal wrongs outweighed the interests of the world. Henry had proceeded to the last unjustifiable extremity as soon as the character of Campeggio's mission had been made clear to him, as if to demonstrate to all the world that he was determined to persevere at all costs and hazards. Taking the management of the negotiation into his own keeping, he sent Sir Francis Bryan, the cousin of Anne Boleyn, to the Pope, to announce that what he required must be done, and to declare peremptorily, no more with covert hints, but with open menace, that in default of help from Rome, he would lay the matter before Parliament, to be settled at home by the laws of his own country.
Meanwhile, the Emperor, who had hitherto conducted himself with the greatest address, had fallen into his first error. He had retreated skilfully out of the embarrassment in which the Pope's imprisonment involved him, and mingling authority and dictation with kindness and deference, he had won over the Holy See to his devotion, and neutralized the danger to which the alliance of France and England threatened to expose him. His correspondence with the latter country assured him of the unpopularity of the course which had been pursued by the Cardinal; he was aware of the obstruction of trade which it had caused, and of the general displeasure felt by the people at the breach of an old friendship; while the league with France in behalf of the Roman Church had been barren of results, and was made ridiculous by the obvious preference of the Pope for the enemy from whom it was formed to deliver him. If Charles had understood the English temper, therefore, and had known how to avail himself of the opportunity, events might have run in a very different channel. But he was not aware of the earnestness with which the people were bent upon securing the succession, nor of their loyal attachment to Henry. He supposed that disapproval of the course followed by Wolsey to obtain the divorce implied an aversion to it altogether; and trusting to his interest in the privy council, and to his commercial connection with the city, he had attempted to meet menace with menace; he had replied to the language addressed by Henry to the Pope with an attempt to feel the pulse of English disaffection, and he opened a correspondence with the Earl of Desmond for an Irish revolt.
The opportunity for a movement of this kind had not yet arrived. There was in England, at least, as yet no wide disaffection; but there was a chance of serious outbreaks; and Henry instantly threw himself upon the nation. He summoned the peers by circular to London, Nov. 8.and calling a general meeting composed of the nobility, the privy council, the lord mayor, and the great merchants of the city, he laid before them a specific detail of his objects in desiring the divorce; and informed them of the nature of the measures which had been taken. This, the French ambassador informs us, gave wide satisfaction and served much to allay the disquiet; but so great was the indignation against Wolsey, that disturbances in London were every day anticipated; and at one time the danger appeared so threatening, that an order of council was issued commanding all strangers to leave the city, and a general search was instituted for arms. The strangers aimed at were the Flemings, whose numbers made them formidable, and who were, perhaps, supposed to be ready to act under instructions from abroad. The cloud, however, cleared away; the order was not enforced; and the propitious moment for treason had not yet arrived. The Emperor had felt so confident that, in the autumn of 1528, he had boasted that, 'before the winter was over, he would fling Henry from his throne by the hands of his own subjects.' The words had been repeated to Wolsey, who mentioned them openly at his table before more than a hundred gentlemen. A person present exclaimed, 'That speech has lost the Emperor more than a hundred thousand hearts among us;' an expression which reveals at once the strength and the weakness of the imperial party. England might have its own opinions of the policy of the government, but it was in no humour to tolerate treason, and the first hint of revolt was followed by an instant recoil. The discovery of more successful intrigues in Scotland and Ireland completed the destruction of Charles's influence; and the result of these ill-judged and premature efforts was merely to unite the nation in their determination to prosecute the divorce.
Thus were the various parties in the vast struggle which was about to commence gravitating into their places; and mistake combined with policy to place them in their true positions. Wolsey, in submitting 'the King's matter' to the Pope, had brought to issue the question whether the Papal authority should be any longer recognized in England; and he had secured the ruin of that authority by the steps through which he hoped to establish it; while Charles, by his unwise endeavours to foment a rebellion, severed with his own hands the links of a friendship which would have been seriously embarrassing if it had continued. By him, also, was dealt the concluding stroke in this first act of the drama; and though we may grant him credit for the ingenuity of his contrivance, he can claim it only at the expense of his probity. The Pope, when the commission was appointed for the trial of the cause in England, had given a promise in writino-that the commission should not be revoked. It seemed, therefore, that the legates would be compelled, in spite of themselves, to pronounce sentence; and that the settlement of the question, in one form or other, could not long be delayed. At the pressure of the crisis in the winter of 1528–9, a document was produced alleged to have been found in Spain, which furnished a pretext for a recall of the engagement, and opening new questions, indefinite and inexhaustible, rendered the passing of a sentence in England impossible. Unhappily, the weight of the King's claim (however it had been rested on its true merits in conversation and in letters) had, by the perverse ingenuity of the lawyers, been laid on certain informalities and defects in the original bull of dispensation, which had been granted by Julius II. for the marriage of Henry and Catherine. At the moment when the legates' court was about to be opened, a copy of a brief was brought forward, bearing the same date as the bull, exactly meeting the objection. The authenticity of this brief was open, on its own merits, to grave doubt; and suspicion becomes certainty when we find it was dropped out of the controversy so soon as the immediate object was gained for which it was produced. But the legates' hands were instantly tied by it. The 'previous question' of authenticity had necessarily to be tried before they could take another step; and the 'original' of the brief being in the hands of the Emperor, who refused to send it into England, but offered to send it to Rome, the cause was virtually transferred to Rome, where Henry, as he knew, was unlikely to consent to plead, or where he could himself rule the decision. He had. made a stroke of political finesse, which answered not only the purpose that he immediately intended, but answered, also, the purpose that he did not intend—of dealing the hardest blow which it had yet received to the supremacy of the Holy See.
May 28.The spring of 1529 was wasted in fruitless efforts to obtain the brief. At length, in May, the proceedings were commenced; but they were commenced only in form, and were never more than an illusion. Catherine had been instructed in the course which she was to pursue. She appealed from the judgment of the legates to that of the Pope; and the Pope, with the plea of the new feature which had arisen in the case, declared that he could not refuse to revoke his promise. Having consented to the production of the brief, he had in fact no alternative; nor does it appear what he could have urged in excuse of himself. He may have suspected the forgery; nay, it is certain that in England he was believed to be privy to it; but he could not ignore an 'important feature of necessary evidence, especially when pressed upon him by the Emperor; and it was in fact no more than an absurdity to admit the authority of a Papal commission, and to refuse to permit an appeal from it to the Pope in person. We may thank Clement for dispelling a chimera by a simple act of consistency. The power of the See of Rome in England was a constitutional fiction, acknowledged only on condition that it would consent to be inert. So long as a legates' court sat in London, men were able to conceal from themselves the fact of a foreign jurisdiction, and to feel that, substantially, their national independence was respected. When the fiction aspired to become a reality, but one consequence was possible. If Henry himself would have stooped to plead at a foreign tribunal, the spirit of the nation would not have permitted him to inflict so great a dishonour on the free majesty of England.
So fell Wolsey's great scheme, and with it fell the last real chance of maintaining the Pope's authority in England under any form. The people were smarting under the long humiliation of the delay, and ill endured to see the interests of England submitted, as they virtually were, to the arbitration of a foreign prince. The Emperor, not the Pope, was the true judge who sat to decide the quarrel; and their angry jealousy refused to tolerate longer a national dishonour.
'The great men of the realm,' wrote the legates, 'are storming in bitter wrath at our procrastination. Lords and commons alike complain that they are made to expect at the hands of strangers things of vital moment to themselves and their fortunes. And many persons here who would desire to see the Pope's authority in this country diminished or annulled, are speaking in language which we cannot repeat without horror.'
And when, being in such a mood, they were mocked, after two weary years of negotiation, by the opening of a fresh vista of difficulties, when they were informed that the further hearing of the cause was transferred to Italy, even Wolsey, with certain ruin before him, rose in protest before such a dream of shame. He was no more the Roman legate, but the English minister.
July 27.'If the advocation be passed/ he wrote to Cassalis, 'or shall now at any time hereafter pass, with citation of the King in person, or by proctor, to the court of Rome, or with any clause of interdiction or excommunication, vel cum invocatione brachii sæcularis, whereby the King should be precluded from taking his advantage otherwise, the dignity and prerogative royal of the King's crown, whereunto all the nobles and subjects of this realm will adhere and stick unto the death, may not tolerate nor suffer that the same be obeyed. And to say the truth, in so doing the Pope should not only show himself the King's enemy, but also as much as in him is, provoke all other princes and people to be the semblable. Nor shall it ever be seen that the King's cause shall be ventilated or decided in any place out of his own realm, but that if his Grace should come at any time to the Court of Rome, he would do the same with such a main and army royal as should be formidable to the Pope and all Italy.' Wolsey, however, failed in his protest; the advocation was passed, Campeggio left England, and he was lost. A crisis had arrived, and a revolution of policy was inevitable. From the accession of Henry VII., the country had been governed by a succession of ecclesiastical ministers, who being priests as well as statesmen, were essentially conservative; and whose efforts in a position of constantly increasing difficulty had been directed towards resisting the changing tendencies of the age, and either evading a reformation of the Church while they admitted its necessity, or retaining the conduct of it in their own hands, while they were giving evidence of their inability to accomplish tKe work. It was now over; the ablest representative of this party, in a last desperate effort to retain power, had decisively failed. Sept. 25.Writs were issued for a Parliament when the legates' departure was determined, and the consequences were inevitable. Wolsey had known too well the unpopularity of his foreign policy, to venture on calling a Parliament himself. He relied on success as an ultimate justification; and inasmuch, as success had not followed, he was obliged to bear the necessary fate of a minister who, in a free country, had thwarted the popular will, and whom fortune deserted in the struggle. The barriers which his single hand had upheld suddenly gave way, the torrent had free course, and he himself was the first to be swept away. In modern language, we should describe what took place as a change of ministry, the Government being transferred to an opposition, who had been irritated by long depression under the hands of men whom they despised, and who were borne into power by an irresistible force in a moment of excitement and danger. The King, who had been persuaded against his better judgment to accept Wolsey's schemes, admitted the rising spirit without reluctance, contented to moderate its action, but no longer obstructing or permitting it to be obstructed. Like all great English statesmen, he was constitutionally conservative, but he had the tact to perceive the conditions under which, in critical times, conservatism is possible; and although he continued to endure for himself the trifling of the Papacy, he would not, for the sake of the Pope's interest, delay further the investigation of the complaints of the people against the Church; while in the future prosecution of his own cause, he resolved to take no steps except with the consent of the legislature, and in a question of national moment, to consult only the nation's wishes.
The new ministry held a middle place between the moving party in the Commons and the expelled ecclesiastics, the principal members of it being the chief representatives of the old aristocracy, who had been Wolsey's fiercest opponents, but who were disinclined by constitution and sympathy from sweeping measures. An attempt was made, indeed, to conciliate the more old-fashioned of the churchmen, by an offer of the seals to Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, probably because he originally opposed the marriage between the King and his sisterin-law, and because it was hoped that his objections remained unaltered. Warham, however, as we shall see, had changed his mind: he declined, on the plea of age, and the office of chancellor was given to Sir Thomas More, perhaps the person least disaffected to the clergy who could have been found among the leading laymen. The substance of power was vested in the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the great soldier-nobles of the age, and Sir William Fitz-William, lord admiral; to all of whom the ecclesiastical domination had been most intolerable, while they had each of them brilliantly distinguished themselves in the wars with France and Scotland. According to the French ambassador, we must add one more minister, supreme, if we may trust him, above them all. 'The Duke of Norfolk,' he writes, 'is made president of the council, the Duke of Suffolk vice-president, and above them both is Mistress Anne;' this last addition to the council being one which boded little good to the interests of the See that had so long detained her in expectation. So confident were the destructive party of the temper of the approaching Parliament, and of the irresistible pressure of the times, Octoberthat the general burden of conversation at the dinner-tables in the great houses in London was an exulting expectation of a dissolution of the Church establishment, and a confiscation of ecclesiastical property; the King himself being the only obstacle which was feared by them. 'These noble lords imagine,' continues the same writer, 'that the Cardinal once dead or ruined, they will incontinently plunder the Church, and strip it of all its wealth,' adding that there was no occasion for him to write this in cipher, for it was everywhere openly spoken of.
Movements, nevertheless, which are pregnant with vital change, are slow in assuming their essential direction, even after the stir has commenced. Circumstances do not immediately open themselves; the point of vision alters gradually; and fragments of old opinions, and prepossessions, and prejudices remain interfused with the new, even in the clearest minds, and cannot at a moment be shaken off. Only the unwise change suddenly; and we can never too often remind ourselves, when we see men stepping forward with uncertainty and hesitation over a road, where to us, who know the actual future, all seems so plain, that the road looked different to the actors themselves, who were beset with imaginations of the past, and to whom the gloom of the future appeared thronged with phantoms of possible contingencies. The hasty expectations of the noble lords were checked by Henry's prudence; and though parties were rapidly arranging themselves, there was still confusion. The city, though disinclined to the Pope and the Church, continued to retain an inclination for the Emperor; and the Pope had friends among Wolsey's enemies, who, by his overthrow, were pressed forward into prominence, and divided the victory with the reformers. The presence of Sir Thomas More in the council was a guarantee that no exaggerated measures against the Church would be permitted so long as he held the seals; and Henry, perhaps, was anxious to leave room for conciliation, which he hoped that the Pope would desire as much as himself, so soon as the meeting of Parliament had convinced him that the mutinous disposition of the nation had not been overstated by his own and Wolsey's letters.
The impression conceived two years before of the hostile relations between the Pope and Charles had not yet been wholly effaced; and even as late as September, 1529, after the closing of the legates' court, in the very heat of the public irritation, there were persons who believed that when Clement met his Imperial captor face to face, and the interview had taken place which had been arranged for the ensuing January, his eyes would be opened, and that he would fall back upon England. At the same time, the incongruities in the constitution of the council became so early apparent, that their agreement was thought impossible, and Wolsey's return to power was discussed openly as a probability—a result which Anne Boleyn, who, better than any other person, knew the King's feelings, never ceased to fear, till, a year after his disgrace, the welcome news were brought to her that he had sunk into his long rest, where the sick load of office and of obloquy would gall his back no more.
There was a third party in the country, unconsidered as yet, who had a part to play in the historical drama: a party which, indeed, if any one had known it, was the most important of all; the only one which, in a true, high sense, was of importance at all; and for the sake of which, little as it then appeared to be so, the whole work was to be done—composed at that time merely of poor men, poor cobblers, weavers, carpenters, trade apprentices, and humble artisans, men of low birth and low estate, who might be seen at night stealing along the lanes and alleys of London, carrying with them some precious load of books which it was death to possess; and giving their lives gladly, if it must be so, for the brief tenure of so dear a treasure. These men, for the present, were likely to fare ill from the new ministry. They were the disturbers of order, the anarchists, the men disfigured pravitate hereticâ, by monstrous doctrines, and consequently by monstrous lives—who railed at authorities, and dared to read New Testaments with their own eyes—who, consequently, by their excesses and extravagances, brought discredit upon liberal opinions, and whom moderate liberals (as they always have done, and always will do while human nature remains itself) held it necessary for their credit's sake to persecute, that a censorious world might learn to make no confusion between, true wisdom and the folly which seemed to resemble it. The Protestants had not loved Wolsey, and they had no reason to love him; but it was better to bear a fagot of dry sticks in a procession when the punishment was symbolic, than, lashed fast to a stake in Smithfield, amidst piles of the same fagots kindled into actual flames, to sink into a heap of blackened dust and ashes; and before a year had passed, they would gladly have accepted again the hated Cardinal, to escape from the philosophic mercies of Sir Thomas More. The number of English Protestants at this time it is difficult to conjecture. The importance of such men is not to be measured by counting heads. In 1526, they were organized into a society, calling themselves 'the Christian brotherhood,' with a central committee sitting in London; with subscribed funds, regularly audited, for the purchase of Testaments and tracts; and with paid agents, who travelled up and down the country to distribute them. Some of the poorer clergy belonged to the society; and among the city merchants there were many well inclined to it, and who, perhaps, attended its meetings 'by night, secretly, for fear of the Jews.' But, as a rule, 'property and influence' continued to hold aloof in the usual haughty style, and the pioneers of the new opinions had yet to win their way along a scorched and blackened path of suffering, before the State would consent to acknowledge them. We think bitterly of these things, and yet we are but quarrelling with what is inevitable from the constitution of the world. New doctrines ever gain readiest hearing among the common people; not only because the interests of the higher classes are usually in some degree connected with the maintenance of existing institutions; but because ignorance is itself a protection against the many considerations which embarrass the judgment of the educated. The value of a doctrine cannot be determined on its own apparent merits by men whose habits of mind are settled in other forms; while men of experience know well that out of the thousands of theories which rise in the fertile soil below them, it is but one here and one there which grows to maturity; and the precarious chances of possible vitality, where the opposite probabilities are so enormous, oblige them to discourage and repress opinions which threaten to disturb established order, or which, by the rules of existing beliefs, imperil the souls of those who entertain them. Persecution has ceased among ourselves, because we do not any more believe that want of theoretic orthodoxy in matters of faith is necessarily fraught with the tremendous consequences which once were supposed to be attached to it. If, however, a school of Thugs were to rise among us, making murder a religious service; if they gained proselytes, and the proselytes put their teaching in execution, we should speedily begin again to persecute opinion. What teachers of Thuggism would appear to ourselves, the teachers of heresy actually appeared to Sir Thomas More, only being as much more hateful as the eternal death of the soul iis more terrible than the single and momentary separation of it from the body. There is, I think, no just ground on which to condemn conscientious Catholics on the score of persecution, except only this: that as we are now convinced of the injustice of the persecuting laws, so among those who believed them to be just, there were some who were led by an instinctive protest of human feeling to be lenient in the execution of those laws; while others of harder nature and more narrow sympathies enforced them without reluctance, and even with exultation. The heart, when it is rightly constituted, corrects the folly of the head; and wise good men, even though they entertain no conscious misgiving as to the soundness of their theories, may be delivered from the worst consequences of those theories, by trusting their more genial instincts. And thus, and thus only, are we justified in censuring those whose names figure largely in the persecuting lists. Their defence is impregnable to logic. We blame them for the absence of that humanity which is deeper than logic, and which should have taught them to refuse the conclusions of their speculative creed.
Such, then, was the state of parties in the autumn of 1529. The old conservatives, the political ecclesiastics, had ceased to exist, and the clergy as a body were paralyzed by corruption. There remained—
The English party who had succeeded to power, and who were bent upon a secular revolt.
The Papal party, composed of theoretic theologians, like Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and represented on the council by Sir Thomas More.
And both of these were united in their aversion to the third party, that of the doctrinal Protestants, who were still called heretics.
These three substantially divided what was sound in England; the first composed of the mass of the people, representing the principles of prudence, justice, good sense, and the working faculties of social life: the two last sharing between them the higher qualities of nobleness, enthusiasm, self-devotion; but in their faith being without discretion, and in their piety without understanding. The problem of the Reformation was to reunite virtues which could be separated only to their mutual confusion; and to work out among them such inadequate reconciliation as the wilfulness of human nature would allow.
Before I close this chapter, which is intended as a general introduction, I have to say something of two prominent persons whose character antecedent to the actions in which we are to find them engaged it is desirable that we should understand; I mean Henry VIII. himself, and the lady whom he had selected to fill the place from which Catherine of Arragon was to be deposed.
If Henry VIII. had died previous to the first agitation of the divorce, his loss would have been deplored as one of the heaviest misfortunes which had ever befallen the country; and he would have left a name which would have taken its place in history by the side of that of the Black Prince or of the conqueror of Agincourt. Left at the most trying age, with his character unformed, with the means at his disposal of gratifying every inclination, and married by his ministers when a boy to an unattractive woman far his senior, he had lived for thirty-six years almost without blame, and bore through England the reputation of an upright and virtuous King. Nature had been prodigal to him of her rarest gifts. In person he is said to have resembled his grandfather, Edward IV., who was the handsomest man in Europe. His form and bearing were princely; and amidst the easy freedom of his address, his manner remained majestic. No knight in England could match him in the tournament except the Duke of Suffolk: he drew with ease as strong a bow as was borne by any yeoman of his guard; and these powers were sustained in unfailing vigour by a temperate habit and by constant exercise. Of his intellectual ability we are not left to judge from the suspicious panegyrics of his contemporaries. His state papers and letters may be placed by the side of those of Wolsey or of Cromwell, and they lose nothing in the comparison. Though they are broadly different, the perception is equally clear, the expression equally powerful, and they breathe throughout an irresistible vigour of purpose. In addition to this he had a fine musical taste, carefully cultivated; he spoke and wrote in four languages; and his knowledge of a multitude of other subjects, with which his versatile ability made him conversant, would have formed the reputation of any ordinary man. He was among the best physicians of his age; he was his own engineer, inventing improvements in artillery, and new constructions in ship-building; and this not with the condescending incapacity of a royal amateur, but with thorough workmanlike understanding. His reading was vast, especially in theology, which has been ridiculously ascribed by Lord Herbert to his father's intention of educating him for the Archbishopric of Canterbury; as if the scientific mastery of such a subject could have been acquired by a boy of twelve years of age, for he was no more when he became Prince of Wales. He must have studied theology with the full maturity of his intellect; and he had a fixed and perhaps unfortunate interest in the subject itself.
In all directions of human activity Henry displayed natural powers of the highest order, at the highest stretch of industrious culture. He was 'attentive,' as it is called, 'to his religious duties,' being present at the services in chapel two or three times a day with unfailing regularity, and showing to outward appearance a real sense of religious obligation in the energy and purity of his life. In private he was good-humoured and good-natured. His letters to his secretaries, though never undignified, are simple, easy, and unrestrained; and the letters written by them to him are similarly plain and businesslike, as if the writers knew that the person whom they were addressing disliked compliments, and chose to be treated as a man. Again, from their correspondence with one another, when they describe interviews with him, we gather the same pleasant impression, he seems to have been always kind, always considerate; inquiring into their private concerns with genuine interest, and winning, as a consequence, their warm and unaffected attachment.
As a ruler he had been eminently popular. All his wars had been successful. He had the splendid tastes in which the English people most delighted, and he had substantially acted out his own theory of his duty which was expressed in the following words:—
'Scripture taketh princes to be, as it were, fathers and nurses to their subjects, and by Scripture it appeareth that it appertaineth unto the office of princes to see that right religion and true doctrine be maintained and taught, and that their subjects may be well ruled and governed by good and just laws; and to provide and care for them that all things necessary for them may be plenteous; and that the people and commonweal may increase; and to defend them from oppression and invasion, as well within the realm as without; and to see that justice be administered unto them indifferently; and to hear benignly all their complaints; and to show towards them, although they offend, fatherly pity. And, finally, so to correct them that be evil, that they had yet rather save them than lose them if it were not for respect of justice, and maintenance of peace and good order in the commonweal.'
These principles do really appear to have determined Henry's conduct in his earlier years. His social administration we have partially seen in the previous chapter. He had more than once been tried with insurrection, which he had soothed down without bloodshed, and extinguished in forgiveness; and London long recollected the great scene which followed 'evil Mayday,' 1517, when the apprentices were brought down to Westminster Hall to receive their pardons. There had been a dangerous riot in the streets, which might have provoked a mild Government to severity; but the King contented himself with punishing the five ringleaders, and four hundred other prisoners, after being paraded down the streets in white shirts with halters round their necks, were dismissed with an admonition, Wolsey weeping as he pronounced it.
It is certain that if, as I said, he had died before the divorce was mooted, Henry VIII., like that Roman Emperor said by Tacitus to have been consensu omnium dignus imperil nisi imperasset, would have been considered by posterity as formed by Providence for the conduct of the Reformation, and his loss would have been deplored as a perpetual calamity. We must allow him, therefore, the benefit of his past career, and be careful to remember it, when interpreting his later actions. Not many men would have borne themselves through the same trials with the same integrity; but the circumstances of those trials had not tested the true defects in his moral constitution. Like all princes of the Plantagenet blood, he was a person of a most intense and imperious will. His impulses, in general nobly directed, had never known contradiction; and late in life, when his character was formed, he was forced into collision with difficulties with which the experience of discipline had not fitted him to contend. Education had done much for him, but his nature required more correction than his position had permitted, whilst unbroken prosperity and early independence of control had been his most serious misfortune. He had capacity, if his training had been equal to it, to be one of the greatest of men. With all his faults about him, he was still perhaps the greatest of his contemporaries; and the man best able of all living Englishmen to govern England, had been set to do it by the conditions of his birth.
The other person whose previous history we have to ascertain is one, the tragedy of whose fate has blotted the remembrance of her sins—if her sins were, indeed, and in reality, more than imaginary. Forgetting all else in shame and sorrow, posterity has made piteous reparation for her death in the tenderness with which it has touched her reputation; and with the general instincts of justice, we have refused to qualify our indignation at the wrong which she experienced, by admitting either stain or shadow on her fame. It has been with Anne Boleyn as it has been with Catherine of Arragon—both are regarded as the victims of a tyranny which Catholics and Protestants unite to remember with horror; and each has taken the place of a martyred saint in the hagiology of the respective creeds. Catholic writers have, indeed, ill repaid, in their treatment of Anne, the admiration with which the mother of Queen Mary has been remembered in the Church of England; but the invectives which they have heaped upon her have defeated their object by their extravagance. It has been believed that matter failed them to sustain a just accusation, when they condescended to outrageous slander. Inasmuch, however, as some natural explanation can usually be given of the actions of human beings in this world without supposing them to have been possessed by extraordinary wickedness, and if we are to hold Anne Boleyn entirely free from fault, we place not the King only, but the privy council, the judges, the Lords and Commons, and the two Houses of Convocation, in a position fatal to their honour and degrading to ordinary humanity; we cannot without inquiry acquiesce in so painful a conclusion. The English nation also, as well as she, deserves justice at our hands; and it must not be thought uncharitable if we look with some scrutiny at the career of a person who, except for the catastrophe with which it was closed, would not so readily have obtained forgiveness for having admitted the addresses of the King, or for having received the homage of the Court as its future sovereign, while the King's wife, her mistress, as yet resided under the same roof, with the title and the position of Queen, and while the question was still undecided of the validity of the first marriage. If in that alone she was to blame, her fault was, indeed, revenged a thousandfold,—and yet no lady of true delicacy would have accepted such a position; and feeling for Queen Catherine should have restrained her, if she was careless of respect for herself. It must, therefore, be permitted me, out of such few hints and scattered notices as remain, to collect such information as may be trusted respecting her early life before her appearance upon the great stage. These hints are but slight, since I shall not even mention the scandals of Sanders, any more than I shall mention the panegyrics of Foxe; stories which, as far as I can learn, have no support in evidence, and rest on no stronger foundation than the credulity of passion.
Anne Boleyn was the second daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, a gentleman of noble family, though moderate fortune; who, by a marriage with the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, was brought into connection with the highest blood in the realm. The year of her birth has not been certainly ascertained, but she is supposed to have been seven years old in 1514, when she accompanied the Princess Mary into France, on the marriage of that lady with Louis XII. Louis dying a few months subsequently, the widow married Sir Charles Brandon, afterwards created Duke of Suffolk, and returned to England. Anne Boleyn did not return with her; she remained in Paris to become accomplished in the graces and elegancies, if she was not contaminated by the vices of that Court, which, even in those days of royal licentiousness, enjoyed an undesirable pre-eminence in profligacy. In the French capital she could not have failed to see, to hear, and to become familiar with occurrences with which no young girl can be brought in contact with impunity, and this poisonous atmosphere she continued to breathe for nine years. She came back to England in 1525, to be maid of honour to Queen Catherine, and to be distinguished at the Court, by general consent, for her talents, her accomplishments, and her beauty. Her portraits, though all professedly by Holbein, or copied from pictures by him, are singularly unlike each other. The profile in the picture which is best known is pretty, innocent, and piquant, though rather insignificant: there are other pictures, however, in which we see a face more powerful, though less prepossessing. In these the features are full and languid. The eyes are large; but the expression, though remarkable, is not pleasing, and indicates cunning more than thought, passion more than feeling; while the heavy lips and massive chin wear a look of sensuality which is not to be mistaken. Possibly all are like the original, but represented her under different circumstances, or at different periods of her life. Previous to her engagement with the King, she was the object of fleeting attentions from the young noblemen about the Court. Lord Percy, eldest son of Lord Northumberland, as we all know, was said to have been engaged to her. He was in the household of Cardinal Wolsey; and Cavendish, who was with him there, tells a long romantic story of the affair, which, if his account be true, was ultimately interrupted by Lord Northumberland himself. The story is not without its difficulties, since Lord Percy had been contracted, saveral years previously, to a daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, whom he afterwards married, and by the law he could not have formed a second engagement so long as the first was undissolved. And again, he himself, when subsequently examined before the privy council, denied solemnly on his oath that any contract of the kind had existed. At the same time, we cannot suppose Cavendish to have invented so circumstantial a narrative, and Percy would not have been examined if there had been no reason for suspicion. Something, therefore, probably had passed between him and the young maid of honour, though we cannot now conjecture of what nature; and we can infer only that it was not openly to her discredit, or she would not have obtained the position which cost her so dear. She herself confessed subsequently, before Archbishop Cranmer, to a connection of some kind into which she had entered before her acquaintance with Henry. No evidence survives which will explain to what she referred, for the Act of Parliament which mentions the fact furnishes no details. But it was of a kind which made her marriage with the King illegal, and illegitimatized the offspring of it; and it has been supposed, therefore, that, in spite of Lord Percy's denial, he had really engaged himself to her, and was afraid to acknowledge it. This supposition, however, is not easy to reconcile with the language of the Act, which speaks of the circumstance, whatever it was, as only 'recently known;' nor could a contract with Percy have invalidated her marriage with the King, when Percy having been pre-contracted to another person, it would have been itself invalid. A light is thrown upon the subject by a letter found among Cromwell's papers, addressed by some unknown person to a Mr Melton, also unknown, but written obviously when 'Mistress Anne' was a young lady about the Court, and before she had been the object of any open attention from Henry.
'Mr Melton. This shall be to advertise you that Mistress Anne is changed from that she was at when we three were last together. Wherefore I pray you that ye be no devil's sakke, but according to the truth ever justify, as ye shall make answer before God; and do not suffer her in my absence to be married to any other man. I must go to my master, wheresoever he be, for the Lord Privy Seal desireth much to speak with me, whom if I should speak with in my master's absence, it would cause me to lose my head; and yet I know myself as true a man to my prince as liveth, whom (as my friend informeth me) I have offended grievously in my words. No more to you, but to have me commended unto Mistress Anne, and bid her remember her promise, which none can loose, but God only, to whom I shall daily during my life commend her.'
The letter must furnish its own interpretation; for it receives little from, any other quarter. Being in the possession of Cromwell, however, it had perhaps been forwarded to him at the time of Queen Anne's trial, and may have thus occasioned the investigation which led to the annulling of her marriage.
From the account which was written of her by the grandson of Sir Thomas Wyatt the poet, we still gather the impression (in spite of the admiring sympathy with which Wyatt writes) of a person with whom young men took liberties, however she might seem to forbid them. In her diet she was an epicure, fond of dainty and delicate eating, and not always contented if she did not obtain what she desired. When the King's attentions towards her became first marked, Thomas Heneage, afterwards lord chamberlain, wrote to Wolsey, that he had one night been 'commanded down with a dish for Mistress Anne for supper;' adding that she caused him 'to sup with her, and she wished she had some of Wolsey's good meat, as carps, shrimps, and others.' And this was not said in jest, since Heneage related it as a hint to Wolsey, that he might know what to do, if he wished to please her. In the same letter he suggested to the Cardinal that she was a little displeased at not having received a token or present from him; she was afraid she was forgotten, he said, and 'the lady, her mother, desired him to send unto his Grace, and desire his Grace to bestow a morsel of tunny upon her.' Wolsey made her presents also at times of a more valuable character, as we find her acknowledging in language of exaggerated gratitude; and, perhaps, the most painful feature in all her earlier history lies in the contrast between the servility with which she addressed the Cardinal so long as he was in power, and the bitterness with which the Bishop of Bayonne (and, in fact, all contemporary witnesses) tells us, that she pressed upon his decline. Wolsey himself spoke of her under the title of 'the night-crow,' as the person to whom he owed all which was most cruel in his treatment; as 'the enemy that never slept, but studied and continually imagined, both sleeping and waking, his utter destruction.'
Taking these things together, and there is nothing to be placed beside them of a definitely pleasing kind, except beauty and accomplishments, we form, with the assistance of her pictures, a tolerable conception of this lady: a conception of her as a woman not indeed questionable, but as one whose antecedents might lead consistently to a future either of evil or of good; and whose character removes the surprise which we might be inclined to feel at the position with respect to Queen Catherine in which she consented to be placed. A harsh critic would describe her, on this evidence, as a self-indulgent coquette, indifferent to the obligations of gratitude, and something careless of the truth. From the letter referring to her, preserved by Cromwell, it appears that she had broken a definite promise at a time when such promises were legally binding, and that she had really done so was confirmed by her subsequent confession. The breach of such promises by a woman who could not be expected to understand the grounds on which the law held them to be sacred, implies no more than levity, and levity of this kind has been found compatible with many high qualities. Levity, however, it does undoubtedly imply, and the symptom, if a light one, must be allowed the weight which is due to it.
It is a miserable duty to be compelled to search for these indications of human infirmities; above all when they are the infirmities of a lady whose faults, let them have been what they would, were so fearfully and terribly expiated; and, if there were nothing else at issue but poor questions of petty scandal, it were better far that they perished in forgetfulness, and passed away out of mind and memory for ever. The fortunes of Anne Boleyn were unhappily linked with those of men to whom the greatest work ever yet accomplished in this country was committed; and the characters of a king of England, and of the three estates of the realm, are compromised in the treatment which she received from them.
- 27 Ed. III. stat. 1; 38 Ed. III. stat. 2; 16 Rich. cap. 5.
- 25 Ed. III. stat. 4; stat. 5, cap. 22; 13 Rich II. stat. 2, cap. 2; 2 Hen. IV. cap. 3; 9 Hen. IV. cap. 8.
- See p. 66.
- Lansdowne MS. 1, fol. 26; Stow's Chron. ed. 1630, p. 338.
- 2 Hen. IV. cap. 3; 9 Hen. IV. cap. 8.
- 2 Hen. IV. cap. 15.
- 1 Hen. VII. cap. 4. Among the miscellaneous publications of the Record Commission, there is a complaint presented during this reign, by the gentlemen and the farmers of Carnarvonshire, accusing the clergy of systematic seduction of their wives and daughters; and see a Petition of the Clergy of the Diocese of Bangor, in a subsequent volume of this work.
- 2 Hen. IV. cap. 15.
- Morton's Register, MS. Lambeth. See vol. ii. cap.
- Morton's Register; and see Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. pp. 618–621.
- Quibus Dominus intima vit qualis infamia super illos in dictâ civitate crescit quod complures eorundem tabernas pandoxatorias sive canpones indies exerceant ibidem expectando fere per totum diem. Quare Dominus consuluit et monuit eosdem quod in posterum talia dimittant, et quod dimittant suos longos crines et induantur togis non per totum apertis.
- The expression is remarkable. They were not to dwell on the offences of their brethren coram laicis, qui semper clericis sunt infesti.—Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 618.
- Johannes permissione divinâ Cantuar. episcop. totius Angliæ primas cum in præsenti convocatione pie et salubriter consideratum fuit quod nonnulli sacerdotes et alii clerici ejusdem nostræ provinciæ in sacris ordiuibus constituti honestatem clericalem in tantum abjecerint ac in comâ tonsurâque et superindumentis suis quæ in anteriori sui parte totaliter aperta existere dignoscuntur, sic sunt dissoluti et adeo insolescant quod inter eos et alios laicos et sæculares viros nulla vel modica comas vel habituum sive vestimentorum distinctio esse videatur, quo fiet in brevi ut a multis verisimiliter formidatur quod sicut populus ita et sacerdos erit, et nisi celeriori remedio tantæ lasciviæ ecclesiasticarum personarum quanto ocyus obviemus et clericorum mores hujusmodi maturius compescamus, Ecclesia Anglicana quæ superioribus diebus vitâ faviâ et compositis moribus floruisse dignoscitur, nostris temporibus, quod Dens avertat, pracipitanter ruet;
Desiring, therefore, to find some remedy for these disorders, lest the hlood of those committed to him should be required at his hands, the Archbishop decrees and ordains,—
Ne aliquis sacerdos vel clericus in sacris ordinibus constitutus togam gerat nisi clausam a parte anteriori et non totaliter apertam neque utatur ense nec sicâ nec zonâ aut marcipio deaurato vel auri ornatum habente. Incedent etiam omnes et singuli presbyteri et clerici ejusdem nostræ provinciæ coronas et tonsuras gerentes aures patentes ostendendo juxta canonicas sanctiones.—Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 619.
- See Warham's Register, MS. Lambeth.
- 21 Hen. VIII. cap. 13.
- Roy's Satire against the Clergy, written about 1528, is so plain-spoken, and goes so directly to the point of the matter, that it is difficult to find a presentable extract. The following lines on the bishops are among the most moderate in the poem:—
'What are the bishops divines—
Yea, they can best skill of wines
Better than of divinity;
Lawyers are they of experience,
And in cases against conscience
They are parfet by practice.
To forge excommunications,
For tythes and decimations
Is their continual exercise.
As for preaching they take no care,
They would rather see a course at a hare;
Rather than to make a sermon
To follow the chase of wild deer,
Passing the time with jolly cheer.
Among them all is common
To play at the cards and dice;
Some of them are nothing nice
Both at hazard and momchance;
They drink in golden bowls
The blood of poor simple souls
Perishing for lack of sustenance.
Their hungry cures they never teach,
Nor will suffer none other to preach,' &c.
- Latimer's Sermons, pp. 70, 71.
- A peculiarly hateful form of clerical impost, the priests claiming the last dress worn in life by persons brought to them for burial.
- Fitz James to Wolsey, Foxe, vol. iv. p. 196.
- Supplication of the Beggars; Foxe, vol. iv. p. 661. The glimpses into the condition of the monasteries which had heen obtained in the imperfect visitation of Morton, bear out the pamphleteer too completely, See chapter x. of this work.
- Foxe, vol. iv. p. 658.
- 13 Ric. II. stat. ii. c. 2; 2 Hen. IV. c. 3; 9 Hen. IV. c. 8. Lingard is mistaken in saying that the Crown had power to dispense with these statutes. A dispensing power was indeed granted by the 12th of the 7th of Ric. II. But by the 2nd of the 13th of the same reign, the king is expressly and by name placed under the same prohibitions as all othsr persons.
- Hall, p. 784.
- 25 Hen. VIII. c. 22.
- 28 Hen. VIII. c. 24. Speech of Sir Ralph Sadler in Parliament, Sadler Papers, vol. iii. p. 323.
- Nor was the theory distinctly admitted, or the claim of the house of York would have been unquestionable.
- 25 Hen. VIII. c. 22. Draft of the Dispensation to be granted to Henry VIII. Rolls House MS. It has been asserted by a writer in the Tablet that there is no instance in the whole of English history where the ambiguity of the marriage law led to a dispute of title. This was not the opinion of those who remembered the wars of the fifteenth century. 'Recens in quorundam vestrorum animis adhuc est illius cruenti temporis memoria,' said Henry VIII. in a speech in council, 'quod a Ricardo tertio cum avi nostri materni Edwardi quarti statum in controversiam vocâsset ejusque heredes regno atque vitâ, privâsset illatum est.'—Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 714. Richard claimed the crown on the ground that a pre-contract rendered his brother's marriage invalid, and Henry VII. tacitly allowed the same doubt to continue. The language of the 22nd of the 25th of Hen. VIII. is so clear as to require no additional elucidation; but another distinct evidence of the belief of the time upon the subject is in one of the papers laid before Pope Clement.
'Constat, in ipso regno quam plurima gravissima bella sæpe exorta, confingentes ex justis et legitimis nuptiis quorundam Angliæ regum procreatos illegitimos fore propter aliquod consanguinitatis vel affinitatis confictum impedimentum et propterea inhabiles esse ad regni successionem.'—Rolls House MS.; Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 707.
- 28 Hen. VIII. c. 24.
- Appendix 2 to the Third Report of the Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records, p. 241.
- See Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, cap. I.
- Sadler Papers, vol. iii. p. 323.
- 28 Hen. VIII. c. 24.
- See vol. iii. of this work, chap. xv.
- Four Years at the Court of Henry the Eighth, vol. ii. pp. 315-16.
- Sir Charles Brandon, created Duke of Suffolk, and married to Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII.
- 28 Hen. VIII. c. 24.
- The treaty was in progress from Dec. 24, 1526, to March 2, 1527 [Lord Herbert, pp. 80, 81], and during this time the difficulty was raised. The earliest intimation which I find of an intended divorce was in June, 1527, at which time Wolsey was privately consulting the bishops.—State Papers, vol. i. p. 189. Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 35.
- It was for some time delayed; and the Papal agent was instructed to inform Ferdinand that a marriage which was at variance a jure et laudabilibus moribus could not be permitted nisi maturo consilio et necessitatis causâ.—Minute of a brief of Julius the Second, dated March 13, 1504, Rolls House MS.
- Lord Herbert, p. 114.
- Lord Herbert, p. 117, Kennett's edition. The act itself is printed in Burnet's Collectanea, vol. iv. (Nares' 1 edition) pp. 5, 6. It is dated June 27, 1505. Dr Lingard endeavours to explain away the renunciation as a form. The language of Moryson, however, leaves no doubt either of its causes or its meaning. 'Non multo post sponsalia contrahuntur,' he says, 'Henrico plus minus tredecim annos jam nato. Sed rerum non recte inceptarum successus infelicior homines non prorsus oscitantes plerumque docet quid recte gestum quid perperam, quid factum superi volunt quid infectum. Nimirum Henricus Septimus nullâ ægritudinis prospectâ causâ repente in deteriorem valetudinem prolapsus est, nec unquam potuit affectum corpus pristinum statum recuperare. Uxor in aliud ex alio malum regina omnium laudatissima non multo post morbo periit. Quid mirum si Rex tot irati numinis indiciis admonitus cœperit cogitare rem male illis succedere qui vellent hoc nomine cum Dei legibus litem instituere ut diutius cum homine amicitiam gerere possent. Quid deinceps egit? Quid aliud quam quod decuit Christianissimum regem? Filium ad se accersiri jubet. Accersitur. Adest, adsunt et multi nobilissimi homines. Rex filium regno natum hortatur ut secum una cum doctissimis ac optimis viris cogitavit nefarium esse putare leges Dei leges Dei non esse cum papa volet. Non ita longâ oratione usus filium patri obsequentissimum a sententiâ nullo negotio abduxit. Sponsalia contracta infirmantur, pontificiæque auctoritatis beneficio palam renunciatum est. Adest publicus tabellio—fit instrumentum. Rerum gestarum testes regati sigilla apponunt. Postremo films patri fidem se illam uxorem nunquam ducturum.'—Apomaxis Ricardi Morysini. Printed by Berthelet, 1537.
- See Lingard, sixth edition, vol. iv. p. 164.
- Hall, p. 507.
- He married Catherine, June 3, 1509. Early in the spring of 1510 she miscarried.—Four Years at the Court of Henry the Eighth, vol. i. p. 83.
Jan. 1, 1511. A prince was born, who died Feb. 22.—Hall.
Nov. 1513. Another prince was born, who died immediately.—Lingard, vol. iv. p. 290.
Dec. 1514. Badoer, the Venetian ambassador, wrote that the Queen had been delivered of a still-born male child, to the great grief of the whole nation.
May 3, 1515. The Queen was supposed to be pregnant. If the supposition was right she must have miscarried.—Four Years at the Court of Henry the Eighth, vol. i. p. 81.
Feb. 18, 1516. The Princess Mary was born.
July 3, 1518. 'The Queen declared herself quick with child,' (Pace to Wolsey: State Papers, vol. i, p. 2,) and again miscarried.
These misfortunes we are able to trace accidentally through casual letters, and it is probable that these were not all. Henry's own words upon the subject are very striking:—
'All such issue male as I have received of the Queen died incontinent after they were born, so that I doubt the punishment of God in that behalf. Thus being troubled in waves of a scrupulous conscience, and partly in despair of any issue male by her, it drove me at last to consider the estate of this realm, and the danger it stood in for lack of issue male to succeed me in this imperial dignity.'—Cavendish, p. 220.
- 'If a man shall take his brother's wife it is an unclean thing. He hath uncovered his brother's nakedness. They shall be childless.'—Leviticus xx. 21. It ought to be remembered, that if the present law of England be right, the party in favour of the divorce was right.
- Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii.
- Legates to the Pope, printed in Burnet's Collectanea, p. 40.
- State Papers, vol. vii, p. 117.
- Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 30.
- Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii.; Hall, 669.
- They were shut up in the Castle of St Angelo.
- State Papers, vol. vii. pp. 18, 19.
- The fullest account of Wolsey's intentions on Church reform will be found in a letter addressed to him by Fox, the old blind Bishop of Winchester, in 1528. The letter is printed in Strype's Memorials Eccles., vol. i. Appendix 10.
- Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii. It is not uncommon to find splendid imaginations of this kind haunting statesmen of the 16th century; and the recapture of Constantinople always formed a feature in the picture. A Plan for the Reformation of Ireland, drawn up in 1515, contains the following curious passage: 'The prophecy is, that the King of England shall put this land of Ireland into such order that the wars of the land, whereof groweth the vices of the same, shall cease for ever; and after that God shall give such grace and fortune to the same King that he shall with the army of England and of Ireland subdue the realm of France to his obeysance for ever, and shall rescue the Greeks, and recover the great city of Constantinople, and shall vanquish the Turks and win the Holy Cross and the Holy Land, and shall die Emperor of Rome, and eternal blisse shall be his end.'—State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 30, 31.
- Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 57.
- Knight to Henry: State Papers, vol. vii. pp. 2, 3.
- Wolsey to Cassalis: State Papers, vol. xii. p. 26.
- The dispensing power of the Popes was not formally limited. According to the Roman lawyers, a faculty lay with them of granting extraordinary dispensations in cases where dispensations would not be usually admissible which faculty was to be used, however, dummodo causa cogat urgentissima ne regnum aliquod funditus pereat; the Pope's business being to decide on the question of urgency.—Sir Gregory Cassalis to Henry VIII., Dec. 26, 1532. Rolls House MS.
- For full details, see Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, cap. 2.
- Knight and Cassalis to Wolsey: Burnet's Collect., p. 12.
- Strype's Memorials, vol. i., Appendix, p. 66.
- Sir F. Bryan and Peter Yannes to Henry; State Papers, vol. vii. p. 144.
- Strype's Memorials, Appendix, vol. i. p. 100.
- Strype's Memorials, Appendix, vol. i. pp. 105-6; Burnet's Collectanea, p. 13.
- Wolsey to the Pope, Burnet's Collectanea, p. 16: Vereor quod tamen nequeo tacere, ne Regia Majestas, humano divinoque jure quod habet ex omni Christianitate suis his actionibus adjunctum freta, postquam viderit sedis Apostolicæ gratiam et Christi in terris Vicarii clementiam desperatam Cæsaris intuitu, in cujus manu neutiquam est tam sanctos conatus reprimere, ea tunc moliatur, ea suæ causæ perquirat remedia, quæ non solum huic Regno sed etiam aliis Christianis principibus occasionera subministrarent sedis Apostolicæ auctoritatem et jurisdictionem imrainuendi et vilipendendi.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 20. Wolsey to John Cassalis: If his Holyness, which God forbid, shall shew himself unwilling to listen to the King's demands, to me assuredly it will be but grief to live longer, for the innumerable evils which I foresee will then follow. One only sure remedy remains to prevent the worst calamities. If that be neglected. there is nothing before us but universal and inevitable ruin.'
- Gardiner and Fox to Wolsey: Strype's Memorials, vol. i. Appendix, p. 92.
- His Holiness being yet in captivity, as he esteemed himself to be, so long as the Almayns and Spaniards continue in Italy, he thought if he should grant this commission that he should have the Emperour his perpetual enemy without any hope of reconciliation. Notwithstanding he was content rather to put himself in evident ruin, and utter undoing, than the King or your Grace shall suspect any point of ingratitude in him; heartily desiring with sighs and tears that the King and your Grace, which have been always fast and good to him, will not now suddenly precipitate him for ever: which should be done if immediately on receiving the commission your Grace should begin process. He intendeth to save all upright thus. If M. de Lautrec would set forwards, which he saith daily that he will do, but yet he doth not, at his coming the Pope's Holiness may have good colour to say, 'He was required of the commission by the ambassador of England, and denying the same, he was eftsoons required by M. de Lautrec to grant the said commission, inasmuch as it was but a letter of justice.' And by this colour he would cover the matter so that it might appear unto the Emperour that the Pope did it not as he that would gladly do displeasure unto the Emperour, but as an indifferent judge, that could not nor might deny justice, specially being required by such personages; and immediately he would despatch a commission bearing date after the time that M. de Lautrec had been with him or was nigh unto him. The Pope most instantly beseecheth your Grace to be a mean that the King's Highness may accept this in a good part, and that he will take patience for this little time, which, as it is supposed, will be but short.—Knight to Wolsey and the King, Jan. I, 1527–8: Burnet Collections, 12, 13.
- Such at least was the ultimate conclusion of a curious discussion. When the French herald declared war, the English herald accompanied him into the Emperor's presence, and when his companion had concluded, followed up his words with an intimation that unless the French demands were complied with, England would unite to enforce them. The Emperor replied to Francis with defiance. To the English herald he expressed a hope that peace on that side would still be maintained. For the moment the two countries were uncertain whether they were at war or not. The Spanish ambassador in London did not know, and the Court could not tell him. The English ambassador in Spain did not leave his post, but he was placed under surveillance. An embargo on Spanish and English property was laid respectively in the ports of the two kingdoms; and the merchants and residents were placed under arrest. Alarmed by the outcry in London, the King hastily concluded a truce with the Regent of the Netherlands, the language of which implied a state of war; but when peace was concluded between France and Spain, England appeared only as a contracting party, not as a principal, and in 1542 it was decided that the antecedent treaties between England and the empire continued in force. See Lord Herbert; Holinshed; State Papers, vols. vii. viii. and ix.; with the treaties in Rymer, vol. vi. part 2.
- Gardiner to the King: Burnet's Collectanea, p. 426
- Duke of Suffolk to Henry the Eighth: State Papers, vol. vii. p. 183.
- Hall, p. 744.
- When the clothiers of Essex, Kent, Wiltshire, Suffolk, and other shires which are cloth-making, brought cloths to London to be sold, as they were wont, few merchants or none bought any cloth at all. When the clothiers lacked sale, then they put from them their spinners, carders, tuckers, and such others that lived by clothworking, which caused the people greatly to murmur, and specially in Suffolk, for if the Duke of Norfolk had not wisely appeased them, no doubt but they had fallen to some rioting. When the King's council was advertised of the inconvenience, the Cardinal sent for a great number of the merchants of London, and to them said, 'Sirs, the King is informed that you use not yourselves like merchants, but like graziers and artificers; for where the clothiers do daily bring cloths to the market for your ease, to their great cost, and then be ready to sell them, you of your wilfulness will not buy them, as you have been accustomed to do. What manner of men be you?' said the Cardinal. 'I tell you that the King straitly commandeth you to buy their cloths as beforetime you have been accustomed to do, upon pain of his high displeasure.'—Hall, p. 746.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 157. By manners and customs he was referring clearly to his intended reformation of the Church. See the letter of Fox, Bishop of Winchester (Strype's Memorials, vol. ii. p. 25), in which Wolsey's intentions are dwelt upon at length.
- Legrand, vol. iii. pp. 136, 7.
- State Papers, vol. vii. pp. 96, 7.
- Wolsey to Cassalis: Ibid. p. 100.
- State Papers, vol. vii. pp. 106, 7.
- Ibid. p. 113
- Ibid. vii. p. 113.
- Take the veil.
- Instruction to the Ambassadors at Rome: State Papers, vol. vii. p 136.
- Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 231.
- Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 93.
- Instrucion para Gonzalo Fernandez que se envia a Ireland al Conde de Desmond, 1529.—MS. Archives at Brussels.—The Pilgrim, note 1, p. 169.
- Henrici regis octavi de repudiandâ dominâ Catherinâ oratio Idibus Novembris habita 1528.
Veneranda et chara nobis præsulum procerum atque consiliariorum cohors quos communis reipublicæ atque regni nostri administrandi cura conjunxit: Haud vos latet divinâ nos Providentiâ viginti jam ferme annis hanc nostram patriam tantâ felicitate rexisse ut in illâ ab hostilibus incursionibus tuta semper interea fuerit et nos in his bellis quæ suscepimus victores semper evasimus; et quanquam in eo gloriâri jure possumus, majorem tranquillitatem opes et honores prioribus hue usque ductis socculis, nunquam subditis a majoribus parentibusque nostris Angliâ regibus quam a nobis provenisse, tamen quando cum hâc gloriâ in mentem una venit ac concurrit mortis cogitatio, veremur ne nobis sine prole legitimâ decedentibus majorem ex morte nostrâ patiamini calamitatem quam ex vitâ fructum ac emolumentum percepistis. Recens enim in quorundam vestrorum animis adhuc est illius cruenti temporis memoria quod a Ricardo tertio cum avi nostri materni Edwardi Quarti statum in controversiam vocasset ejusque heredes regno atque vitâ privâsset illatum est. Tum ex historiis notæ sunt illæ diræ strages quæ a clarissimis Angliæ gentibus Eboracensi atque Lancastrensi, dum inter se de regno et imperio multis ævis contenderent, populo evenerunt. Ac illæ ex justis nuptiis inter Henricum Septimum et dominam Elizabetham clarissimos nostros parentes contractis in nobis inde legitimâ natâ sobole sopitæ tandem desierunt. Si vero quod absit, regalis ex nostris nuptiis stirps quæ jure deinceps regnare possit non nascatur, hoc regnum civilibus atque intestinis se versabit tumultibus aut in exterorum dominationem atque potestatem veniet. Nam quanquam formâ atque venustate singulari, quæ magno nobis solatio fuit filiam Dominam Mariam ex nobilissimâ fœminâ Dominâ Catherinâ procreavimus, tamen a piis atque eruditis theologis nuper accepimus quia eam quæ Arturi fratris nostri conjux ante fuerat uxorem duximus nostras nuptias jure divino esse vetitas, partumque inde editum non posse censeri legitimum. Id quod eo vehementius nos angit et excruciat, quod cum superiori anno legatos ad conciliandas inter Aureliensem ducem et filiam nostram Mariam nuptias ad Franciscum Gallorum regem misissemus, a quodam ejus consiliario responsum est, 'antequam de hujusmodi nuptiis agatum inquirendum esse prius an Maria fuerit filia nostra legitima; constat enim,' in quit, 'quod ex dominâ Catherinâ, fratris sui viduâ, cujusmodi nuptiæ jure divino interdictæ sunt, suscepta est.' Quæ oratio quanto metu ac horrore animum nostrum turbaverit quia res ipsa æternæ tam animi quam corporis salutis periculum in se continet, et quam perplexis cogitationibus conscientiam occupat, vos quibus et capitis aut fortunæ ac multo magis animarum jactura immineret, remedium nisi adhibere velitis, ignorare non posse arbitror. Hæc una res—quod Deo teste et in Regis oraculo affirmamus—nos impulit ut per legatos doctissimorum per totum orbem Christianum theologorum sententias exquireremus et Romani Pontificis legatum verum atque æquum judicium de tantâ causâ laturum ut tranquillâ deinceps et integrâ conscientiâ in conjugio licito vivere possimus accerseremus. In quo si ex sacris litteris hoc quo viginti jam fere annis gavisi sumus matrimonium jure divino permissum esse manifeste liquidoque constabit, non modo ob conscientiæ tranquillitatem, verum etiam ob amabiles mores virtutesque quibus regina prædita et ornata est, nihil optatius nihilque jucundius accidere nobis potest. Nam præterquam quod regali atque nobili genere prognata est, tantâ præterea comitate et obsequio conjugali tum cæteris animi morumque ornamentis quæ nobilitatem illustrant omnes fœminas his viginti annis sic mihi anteire visa est ut si a conjugio liber essem ac solutus, si jure divino liceret, hanc solam præ cæteris fœminis stabili mihi jure ac fœdere matrimoniali conjungerem. Si vero in hoc judicio matrimonium nostrum jure divino prohibitum, ideoque ab initio nullum irritumque fuisse pronuncietur, infelix hic meus casus multis lacrimis lugendus ac deplorandus erit. Non modo quod a tam illustris et amabilis mulieris consuetudine et consortio divertendum sit, sed multo magis quod specie ad similitudinem veri conjugii decepti in amplexibus plusquam fornicariis tam multos annos trivimus nullâ legitimâ prognatâ nobis sobole, quæ, nobis mortuis, hajus inclyti regni hereditatem capessat.
Hæ nostræ curæ istæque solicitudines sunt quæ mentem atque conscientiam nostram dies noctesque torquent et excruciant, quibus auferendis et profligandis remedium ex hâc legatione et judicio opportunum quærimus. Ideoque vos quorum virtuti atque fidei multum attribuimus rogamus ut certum atque genuinum nostrum de hâc re sensum quem ex nostro sermone percepistis populo declaretis: eumque excitetis ut nobiscum una oraret ut ad conscientiæ nostræ pacem atque tranquillitatem in hoc judicio veritas multis jam annis tenebris involuta tandem patefiat.—Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 714.
- Hall. Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii.
- Legrand, vol. iii.
- The words were used by the Spanish Chancellor.—Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 93.
- Legrand, vol. iii. pp. 232, 3.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 120; Ibid. p. 186.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 41.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 193.
- The Emperor could as little trust Clement as the English, and to the last moment could not tell how he would act.
'Il me semble,' wrote Inigo di Mendoza to Charles on the 17th of June, 1529,—'il me semble que Sa Sainteté differe autant qu'il peut ce qu'auparavant il avoit promis, et je crains qu'il n'ait ordonné aux legatz ce qui jusques à present avoit resté en suspens qu'ils precedent par la première commission. Ce qui faisant votre Majesté peut tenir la Reine autant que condamné.'—MS. Archives at Brussels.
The sort of influence to which the See of Rome was amenable appears in another letter to the Emperor, written from Rome itself on the 4th of October. The Pope and cardinals, it is to be remembered, were claiming to be considered the supreme court of appeal in Christendom.
'Si je ne m'abuse tous on la pluspart du Saint College sont plus affectionnez à vostre dite Majesté que à autre Prince Chrestien: de vous escrire, Sire, particulièrement toutes leurs responses seroit chose trop longue. Tant y a que elles nont telles que votre Majesté a raison doibt grandement se contenter d'icelles.
…Seulement diray derechef à vostre Majesté, et me souvient l'avoir diet plusieurs fois, qu'il est en vostre Majesté gaigner et entretenir perpetuellement ce college en vostre devotion en distribuant seulement entre les principaulx d'eulx en pensions et benefices la somme do vingt mille ducas, l'ung mille, l'autre deulx ou trois mille. Et est cecy chose, Sire, que plus vous touche que à autre Prince Chrestien pour les affaires que vostre Majesté a journellement à despescher en ceste court.'—M. de Praet to Charles V August 5th, 15.29. MS. Ibid.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 377.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 374.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 355.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 355.
- Memorandum relating to the Society of Christian Brethren. Rolls House MS.
- Dalaber's Narrative, printed in Foxe, vol. iv. Seeley's Ed.
- All authorities agree in the early account of Henry, and his letters provide abundant proof that it is not exaggerated. The following description of him in the despatches of the Venetian ambassador shows the effect which he produced on strangers in 1515:—
'Assuredly, most serene prince, from what we have seen of him, and in conformity, moreover, with the report made to us by others, this most serene King is not only very expert in arms and of great valour and most excellent in his personal endowments, but is likewise so gifted and adorned with mental accomplishments of every sort, that we believe him to have few equals in the world. He speaks English, French, Latin, understands Italian well; plays almost on every instrument; sings and composes fairly; is prudent, and sage, and free from every vice.'—Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII. vol. i. p. 76.
Four years later, the same writer adds,—
'The King speaks good French, Latin, and Spanish; is very religious; hears three masses a day when he hunts, and sometimes five on other days; he hears the office every day in the Queen's chamber—that is to say, vespers and complins.'—Ibid. vol. ii. p. 312. William Thomas, who must have seen him, says,
'Of personage he was one of the goodliest men that lived in his time; being high of stature, in manner more than a man, and proportionable in all his members unto that height; of countenance he was most amiable; courteous and benign in gesture unto all persons, and specially unto strangers; seldom or never offended with anything; and of so constant a nature in himself that I believe few can say that ever he changed his cheer for any novelty how contrary or sudden so ever it were. Prudent he was in council and forecasting; most liberal in rewarding his faithful servants, and even unto his enemies, as it behoveth a prince to be. He was learned in all sciences, and had the gift of many tongues. He was a perfect theologian, a good philosopher, and a strong man at arms, a jeweller, a perfect builder as well of fortresses as of pleasant palaces, and from one to another there was no necessary kind of knowledge, from a king's degree to a carter's, but he had an honest sight in it.'—The Pilgrim, p. 78.
- Exposition of the Commandments, set forth by Royal authority, 1536. This treatise was drawn up hy the bishops, and submitted to, and revised by, the King.
- Sagudino's Summary, four Years at the Court of Henry VIII., vol. ii. p. 75.
- 'The truth is, when I married my wife, I had but fifty pounds to live on for me and my wife so long as my father lived, and yet she brought me forth every year a child.'—Earl of Wiltshire to Cromwell: Ellis, third series, vol. iii. pp. 22, 3.
- Burnet, Vol. i. p. 69.
- Thomas Allen to the Earl of Shrewsbury: Lodge's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 20.
- Earl of Northumberland to Cromwell: printed by Lord Herbert and by Burnet.
- 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 7.
- Since these words were written, I have discovered among the Archives of Simancas what may perhaps be some clue to the mystery, in an epitome of a letter written to Charles V. from London in May, 1536:—
'His Majesty has letters from England of the 11th of May, with certain news that the paramour of the King of England, who called herself Queen, has been thrown into the Tower of London for adultery. The partner of her guilt was an organist of the Privy Chamber, who is in the Tower as well. An officer of the King's wardrobe has been arrested also for the same offence with her, and one of her brothers for having been privy to her offences without revealing them. They say, too, that if the adultery had not been discovered, the King was determined to put her away, having been informed by competent witnesses that she was married and had consummated her marriage nine years before, with the Earl of Northumberland.'
- Ellis, third series, vol. ii. p. 131.
- Wyatt's Memorials, printed in Singer's Cavendish, p. 420.
- Ellis, third series, vol. ii. p. 132.
- Ellis, first series, vol. i. p. 135. 'My Lord, in my most humblest wise that my poor heart can think, I do thank your Grace for your kind letter, and for your rich and goodly present; the which I shall never be able to deserve without your great help; of the which I have hitherto had so great plenty, that all the days of my life I am most bound of all creatures, next to the King's Grace, to love and serve your Grace. Of the which I beseech you never to doubt that ever I shall vary from this thought as long as any breath is in my body.'
- Cavendish: Life of Wolsey, p. 316. Singer's edition.
- Cavendish, pp. 364,-5.