Wolsey, Thomas (DNB00)
WOLSEY, THOMAS (1475?–1530), cardinal and statesman, was, according to his gentleman usher, George Cavendish [q. v.], ‘an honest poor man's son’—report said, son of a butcher. But his father, Robert Wulcy (or Wolsey) of Ipswich, whether butcher or no, was, as his will shows, the possessor of lands and tenements in the parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Mary Stoke there. His mother's christian name was Joan. The date of his birth is commonly given as 1471, probably from the fact recorded by Cavendish that he washed fifty-nine poor men's feet at his maundy in 1530. But in a letter written to Wolsey himself the abbot of Winchcombe in August 1514 congratulates him on having been promoted to an archbishopric before he was forty. It would seem probable also that he was not quite of age to take orders in 1496, when his father made his will, providing among other things that if his son Thomas became a priest within a year after his decease he should sing masses for him and his friends at a salary of ten marks. His father must have died just after he made this will; for it was proved eleven days later, and it appears that Wolsey was ordained a priest by the bishop of Lydda, a suffragan of Salisbury, at Marlborough on 10 March 1497–8 (Engl. Hist. Review, ix. 709). He would be competent to take priest's orders at twenty-four, or by dispensation at twenty-three, and we may presume that he was born in 1475, or perhaps late in 1474. No other son or daughter is mentioned in his father's will; but Giustinian in 1519 speaks of the cardinal as having two brothers, one of whom held a benefice and the other was pushing his fortunes.
He was sent early to Oxford, where he graduated B.A. at fifteen, and was called ‘the boy bachelor,’ was elected fellow of Magdalen about 1497, and, soon after graduating M.A., was appointed master of the school adjoining that college. He was also junior bursar in 1498–9, and senior bursar in 1499–1500 (Macray, Reg. Magdalen, i. 29, 30, 133–4), but was compelled to resign for applying funds to the completion of the great tower without sufficient authority. Having had three sons of Thomas Grey, first marquis of Dorset [q. v.], under his care at Magdalen College school, their father presented him to the rectory of Limington in Somerset, to which he was instituted on 10 Oct. 1500. Here he gave some offence to a neighbouring gentleman, Sir Amias Paulet (d. 1538) [q. v.], who, according to Cavendish, set him in the stocks—an indignity for which Wolsey called him, in after years, to severe account. Even then he had good friends besides Dorset, who died in September 1501; for on 3 Nov. of that year he obtained a dispensation from the pope to hold two incompatible benefices along with Limington, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Deane [q. v.], about the same time appointed him one of his domestic chaplains. The archbishop, however, died in February 1503, and Wolsey next became chaplain to Sir Richard Nanfan [q. v.], deputy of Calais, who apparently entrusted to him the entire charge of his money affairs, and commended him to the service of Henry VII.
Wolsey accordingly about 1507, when Nanfan died, became the king's chaplain, and grew intimate with the most powerful men at court, especially with Richard Foxe [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, and Sir Thomas Lovell [q. v.], who remained his lifelong friends. On 8 June 1506 he had been instituted to the parish church of Redgrave in Suffolk, on the presentation of the abbot of Bury St. Edmund's. In the spring of 1508 he was sent to Scotland by the king to prevent a rupture which James seemed almost anxious to provoke. On 31 July the pope gave him a bull permitting him to hold the vicarage of Lydd and two other benefices along with Limington. He must have been presented to Lydd by the abbot of Tintern, and he is said to have raised at his own expense the height of the church tower there. To this year also probably belongs the marvellous story told from memory by Cavendish, as reported to him by Wolsey himself, of his having been despatched by the king as a special envoy to Maximilian the emperor, then in Flanders, not far from Calais, and, getting an immediate answer, of his having performed the double journey and double crossing of the Channel with such extraordinary celerity that he arrived again at Richmond on the evening of the third day after his despatch, and next morning incurred at first an undue reproof from the king, who thought he had not yet started. The affair seems to have taken place at the beginning of August, but he could not have visited the emperor then. The matter, we know, related to the king's intended marriage to Margaret of Savoy, about which Wolsey was certainly in the Low Countries again later in the year.
Henry VII, however, died in April following; but before his death, on 2 Feb. 1509, he had made Wolsey dean of Lincoln. Six days later he obtained also the prebend of Welton Brinkhall in that cathedral, which on 3 May he exchanged for that of Stow Longa. He was installed as dean by proxy on 25 March. Henry VIII at once made him almoner, and on 8 Nov. 1509 granted him all the goods of felones de se and all deodands in England, in augmentation of the royal alms. On 9 Oct. he had a grant of the parsonage of St. Bride's in Fleet Street, of which Sir Richard Empson [q. v.] had taken a long lease from the abbot of Westminster; but the patent seems to have been invalid, and was renewed in a more effectual form on 30 Jan. 1510. On 21 Feb. following one Edmund Daundy of Ipswich obtained a license to found a chantry there, with masses for the souls of Wolsey's father and mother. On 24 April Wolsey, being then M.A., supplicated for the degrees of B.D. and D.D. at Oxford (Boase, Register of the University, i. 67, 296). On 5 July he obtained the prebend of Pratum Minus in Hereford Cathedral, and on 27 Nov. he was presented to the parish church of Torrington in Devonshire, which he held till he became a bishop. On 17 Feb. 1511 he was made a canon of Windsor, and was a few months after elected by the knights of the Garter as their registrar. In the latter part of the same year his signature appears for the first time in documents signed by privy councillors, and it is to be remarked that he always spells his own surname ‘Wulcy.’
We then trace his hand for the first time in public affairs under the new reign; for the plan of operations against France in 1512 was clearly due to him. England, besides attacking the northern coast of that country, sent that unfortunate expedition to Spain under Thomas Grey, second marquis of Dorset [q. v.], which was so ill supported by Ferdinand, and came home in defiance of orders. The mutineers seem to have been encouraged by a knowledge of Wolsey's unpopularity at home; for the special confidence shown in ‘Mr. Almoner’ was very distasteful to the old nobility. A letter of 7 Aug. 1512 from Lord Darcy at Berwick shows that some important intelligence from spies at Berwick was communicated to Wolsey alone of all the council; and in September, when Thomas Howard, first earl of Surrey (afterwards Duke of Norfolk) [q. v.], had retired from court under a cloud, Wolsey ventured to suggest to Bishop Foxe that he might as well be kept out of it henceforth altogether. The king relied on Wolsey to devise new expeditions to wipe out a national disgrace, and he not only drew up estimates of the nature, amount, and expenses of the armaments required, but was busy for months providing shipping, victuals, transports, conduct-money, and other details; so that Bishop Foxe was seriously afraid of his health breaking down under his ‘outrageous charge and labour.’
In 1512 Wolsey was made dean of Hereford, but resigned on 3 Dec. That same month Dean Harrington of York died, and first his prebend of Bugthorpe was given to Wolsey on 16 Jan. 1513, then his deanery, to which Wolsey was elected on 19 Feb., and admitted on the 21st. At this time he was also dean of St. Stephen's, Westminster, and on 8 July he was made precentor of London. On 30 June he had crossed to Calais with the king with a retinue of two hundred men—double that of Bishop Foxe and of Bishop Ruthall. He accompanied Henry through the campaign when Thérouanne and Tournay successively surrendered. He received letters in France from Bishop Ruthall of the Scots king's invasion and defeat at Flodden. He had also letters about it from Catherine of Arragon, who, left at home and anxious for news of her husband, was at this time his frequent correspondent. He no doubt came back with the king in the end of October.
He had his own share, too, in the king's conquests. The bishopric of Tournay, being vacant, was conferred upon him by the pope at the king's request. A French bishop had, however, already been elected, and it was not till peace was made that Wolsey could hope to obtain possession, which, indeed, he never actually did; but in 1518 he surrendered his claims on the bishopric for a pension of twelve thousand livres. Meanwhile he received from the king the bishopric of Lincoln, for which he obtained bulls on 6 Feb. 1514, and was consecrated at Lambeth on 26 March. In May we already find the pope had been urged to consider the expediency of making him a cardinal, which, however, was not done for more than a year later. Meanwhile the death of Cardinal Bainbridge at Rome [see Bainbridge, Christopher] vacated the archbishopric of York, which was conferred on Wolsey by bulls dated 15 Sept.
In the marked increase of his correspondence during the past two years we see that his paramount influence was now acknowledged. He was gradually leading foreign policy back to traditions of Henry VII's time, from which the new king had departed by his alliance with Ferdinand. Young Henry had occasion to resent the perfidy of his father-in-law, who not only was a faithless ally himself, but won over Maximilian to desert England likewise. But Wolsey saw the means of retribution, and when the marriage of Charles of Castile with the king's sister Mary, which was to have taken place in May 1514, was broken off by the double dealing of Maximilian, he laid secretly the foundations not only of a peace but also of an alliance with France. In August the match was arranged between Louis XII and the king's sister Mary (1496–1533) [q. v.]; and in October the young bride went over to France, and was actually married there. To crown the political alliance there was a very secret proposal for an interview between the two kings in March following, and for a joint campaign for the expulsion of Ferdinand from Navarre. But Louis XII died on 1 Jan. 1515, and young Francis I succeeded, intent on the conquest of Milan. Suffolk's embassy to the new French king was rendered futile for political purposes by his private love affair with Mary [see Brandon, Charles, first Duke of Suffolk]. Wolsey certainly saved the duke at this time from the consequences of his indiscretion. But Francis set off for Italy in the summer without having given any pledge to prevent John Stewart, duke of Albany, from going to Scotland.
On 10 Sept. Leo X created Wolsey ‘cardinal sole’—not, as usual, one in a batch of promotions. His title was ‘S. Cæcilia trans Tiberim.’ The hat was sent to England with a very valuable ring from the pope, and the prothonotary who brought it (who was supplied at Wolsey's expense with more costly apparel than he brought with him) was conducted in a stately procession through the streets to Westminster on Thursday, 15 Nov. On Sunday, the 18th, it was placed on Wolsey's head in the abbey, amid a great concourse of bishops, Colet preaching the sermon. On 24 Dec. following Wolsey was appointed lord chancellor in the room of William Warham [q. v.], who had resigned two days before. He now, as the Venetian ambassador expressed it, might be called ‘ipse Rex,’ for it seemed that the whole power of the state was lodged in him.
That same month that Wolsey was made cardinal Francis won the battle of Marignano, and at once became master of Milan. Henry VIII did not like it, and, as Ferdinand's position in Naples was threatened, the latter's ambassador on 10 Oct. concluded with Wolsey a new league for commerce and defence against invasion, which was ratified by Henry on the 27th. Wolsey also sent his secretary, Richard Pace [q. v.], with secret instructions to enlist Swiss mercenaries to serve the Emperor Maximilian against France, taking care that the money for their pay did not fall into his majesty's own most untrustworthy hands. Maximilian, indeed, though he actually managed to clutch a small portion (by no fault on Pace's part), betrayed the enterprise most shamefully in the spring of 1516, when there really seemed great hope of driving out the French from Milan, and made very lame excuses for his conduct. But meanwhile the death of Ferdinand in January produced a new change. Young Charles of Castile, Maximilian's grandson, became king of Spain; but he remained for the present in Belgium, and his councillors leaned to France. Maximilian said he would come down from the Tyrol and remove them and get him to join the league. It was only another pretence for extracting money from England, but it was convenient to humour him. He did come down; but having got what he wanted out of England, before the end of the year he sold all his claims on Italy for two hundred thousand ducats by accepting the treaty of Noyon, made in August between France and Spain. Wolsey's comment on the news was that the emperor seemed to be like a participle, which was in some degree a noun, in some degree a verb. But the king, under his guidance, accepted the most transparent excuses for Maximilian's conduct and made no change in his policy, thereby bringing the emperor under suspicion of his new friends and destroying completely his significance in European politics.
Wolsey's policy now was to let both Francis and the young king of Spain find out the value of alliance with England; for France wanted to recover Tournay, and Charles wanted money to take him to his new kingdom, where there was serious danger, if he delayed, that his brother Ferdinand would be crowned in his place. But delayed Charles was, both by want of money and by an invasion of his Dutch dominions by the Duke of Gueldres. A loan from Henry VIII, however, ultimately enabled him to sail for Spain in September 1517. As to France, England was still supposed to be watching her with jealousy and ill-will. But very secret communications had begun even in February 1517 between Charles Somerset, first earl of Worcester [q. v.], at Brussels and the dean of Tournay, referring probably in the first place to difficulties in the ecclesiastical administration (for the diocese of Tournay lay chiefly in Flanders), but leading ultimately to correspondence with the Duke of Orleans, and a suggestion that the city itself might be surrendered to Francis for four hundred thousand crowns. In November Stephen Poncher, bishop of Paris, and Peter de la Guiche came over to England to arrange matters.
Meanwhile the riot on ‘Evil Mayday’ (1517) had been met by prompt measures of repression, by which Wolsey earned the gratitude of the foreign merchants in London; and a few days after he no less earned the gratitude of many of the rioters themselves, who, after the execution of twenty of the ringleaders, were pardoned at his earnest intercession. Shortly afterwards the sweating sickness became alarmingly prevalent. Wolsey had four repeated attacks during the summer, and in June his life was despaired of. Still he was so unremitting in his attention to business that the king himself, besides various messages, wrote to him with his own hand, both to thank him and to urge him to take some relaxation. Acting perhaps on this advice, he set out on pilgrimage to Walsingham in August, which, however, seems to have done him little good, as he still suffered from fever after his return and was ill again next year.
At Rome, in the spring of 1517, Cardinal Adrian de Castello [q. v.], papal collector in England, was involved in the conspiracy of two other cardinals to poison Leo X, and fled to Venice. His quondam sub-collector, Polydore Vergil [q. v.], had already been imprisoned by Wolsey just before he was made cardinal for letters reflecting on the king and him, and had only been released after some time at the pope's intercession. There is no doubt, moreover, that Cardinal Adrian himself had acted against Wolsey's interests at Rome. The king now urged Leo to deprive him of his cardinalate, and promised Wolsey his bishopric of Bath and Wells. Leo, however, was timid and interposed delays for a whole year, till circumstances compelled him to give way.
In the spring of 1518 Bishop Poncher, having returned to Paris, sent his secretary to England suggesting that the proposed agreement for Tournay should be made the foundation for a European peace, as the Turk was threatening Christendom. The pope was just then urging a crusade, and a legate for the purpose had been received at Paris in December. Other legates were to be sent to other princes and Cardinal Campeggio to England. The king at once intimated to the pope that it was an unusual thing to admit a foreign cardinal in England as legate, but that he would waive his objection on that point if the legate's powers were restricted and Wolsey were joined with him in equal authority. The pope felt compelled to yield, and on 17 May created Wolsey legate de latere as Campeggio's associate. Still, Cardinal Adrian was not yet deprived, and Campeggio, when he reached Calais in June, had to wait there till the king was satisfied on this point also; so that it was only on 23 July that he landed at Deal, and on the 29th that he entered London. On 3 Aug. the two legates were received by the king in state at Greenwich. Meanwhile, on 30 July at Rome, Leo X granted to Wolsey the administration of the bishopric of Bath and Wells; he held this bishopric for four years in commendam.
But under cover, partly of the proposed general European peace, partly of an arrangement for Tournay, plans were now formed for a closer union between France and England. A son had been born to Francis in February, and on 9 July secret articles were signed by the king and Wolsey and the French ambassador for the marriage of the dauphin to the Princess Mary and for the surrender of Tournay. A special commission was issued to Wolsey next day to treat with Villeroy, the French king's secretary of finances, for a peace and for the marriage. A splendid embassy then arrived from France, with Bonnivet and Bishop Poncher at the head, to treat with the representatives of Leo X, Henry VIII, and other princes for a general European league, but certainly with a view to a more particular treaty with England. And though the French raised objections at first to some points in the general league, they had to waive them in order to conclude the closer alliance, in which, besides very advantageous terms for the marriage and the redemption of Tournay (a town of no value to England), Wolsey obtained from them a concession that Albany was not to be allowed to go to Scotland during the minority of James V [see Stewart, John, Duke of Albany]. On Sunday, 3 Oct., Wolsey sang mass at St. Paul's, when the king took his oath to the treaty in a scene which Bonnivet declared ‘too magnificent for description.’ On the 5th the proxy marriage took place at Greenwich; and in the evening Wolsey gave a supper at Westminster, which in the opinion of the Venetian ambassador must have exceeded the banquets of Cleopatra and Caligula. The whole hall was decorated with huge vases of gold and silver. Of the disguisings and pageants a description is given by Hall which partly resembles a well-known scene described by Cavendish and dramatised in the play of ‘Henry VIII,’ except that nothing is mentioned on this occasion of the discharge of cannon. Finally, on 8 Oct., it was agreed that an interview should take place between the kings of England and France near Calais before the end of July 1519.
The world had been for some time blinded as to what was going on when this new French alliance emerged into the light of day. It was not relished in England, and no doubt Polydore Vergil expresses only the ignorant feeling of the time when he says that the giving up of Tournay was a triumph to the French. The whole thing was managed, as Sir Thomas More told the Venetian ambassador, ‘most solely’ by the cardinal, and the king's other councillors had only been called in to approve after the matter was already settled. Charles's ambassador was disgusted at the separate treaty with France, and insisted that it should be cancelled before he accepted the general one, beneficial as he admitted that it was for his master's interests. But Charles himself, desiring to be included as a principal contrahent, ratified the league at Saragossa on 19 Jan. 1519 (Dumont, Corps Diplomatique, iv. 266–9).
Charles was ignorant at that date that his grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian, had died in Austria on the 12th. Although the empire was elective, Maximilian had done his best to secure beforehand the succession of his grandson; but Francis I entered the field as a competitor, and spent much money in bribing the electors. Henry VIII, too, hoping for encouragement from the pope, who dreaded the election of either prince, felt his way towards offering himself as a third candidate, and sent his secretary, Pace (who had been Wolsey's secretary before), to show each of the electors in great confidence the serious objections that existed to either of the other two. To retain his hold on the king Wolsey was obliged to be the instrument of this policy, though he evidently did not think it judicious. Pace's mission was fruitless, and his machinations, not having been effectually concealed, opened the eyes of Francis to the perfidy of Henry VIII, who had actually promised to advance his candidature. Wolsey, however, made a curious use of the affair in his despatches to Rome, getting the bishop of Worcester, Silvestro Gigli [q. v.], to tell the pope that he had done his best to mitigate the king's displeasure with his holiness for having latterly acquiesced in the election of Charles, and to urge that for his services to the universal peace his legateship, which was only temporary like Campeggio's, should be prolonged indefinitely. Campeggio, on his return to Rome, backed up the suggestion, and the pope extended Wolsey's legateship for three years. It was afterwards continued for various terms, and with increased powers for the visitation of monasteries and other objects, both by Leo X and his successors.
Wolsey had supported a French alliance notwithstanding its unpopularity, knowing well the valuable concessions Francis would willingly make to secure it. But he was opposed not only by the nobility at home, but by the queen, who saw clearly that the interests of France were opposed to those of her nephew, the new emperor. So the alliance had been scarcely formed when efforts were made to loosen it. In May 1519, before the struggle for the empire, there were secret meetings of old councillors, who made bold to represent to the king that some young men of his privy chamber who had seen the fashions of the French court used too great familiarity with him; and on this remonstrance Henry dismissed them—a thing of which much was said in Paris. But their places were supplied by older men who stood well in Wolsey's favour, so that if the blow was aimed at him, it was a failure; and Francis, who was very anxious for the interview, offered, if Wolsey sought to be pope, to secure for him the votes of fourteen cardinals. But there was so much negotiation necessary that the summer of 1519 was far spent, and the great meeting had to be put off till the following spring, when, to facilitate matters, Francis made Wolsey his proctor, and the arrangements on both sides being left entirely in his hands, very little further obstacle was encountered.
Wolsey, however, by no means aimed at an exclusive alliance with France; and these negotiations had the effect, which he fully intended, of exciting the jealousy of the new-made emperor. His object was to make England arbiter of the destinies of Europe. Charles had cordially accepted an invitation sent him by Henry just after his election to visit England on his way from Spain. By paying England this honour he hoped to frustrate the interview with France. But Spanish diplomacy was slow, and arrangements had to be made beforehand with the disadvantage of a stormy sea between Spain and England, so that in the spring of 1520 Jean de la Sauch, the emperor's Flemish secretary, who had been flitting to and fro between Spain, England, and the Netherlands, was afraid the French would win. The time was getting short, and Wolsey seemed distinctly in the interest of France. La Sauch believed that it was only because he had been well bribed, and that the emperor to win him should give him substantial preferments in Spain, for nobody else in England favoured the French interview at all. At the very time this was written the emperor had already signed at Compostella a promise that within two months, and before parting company with Henry, he would apply to the pope to give Wolsey the bishopric of Badajoz, worth in itself five thousand ducats, with an annual pension of two thousand ducats besides out of the bishopric of Palencia; and to this agreement the pope gave effect by a bull on 29 July following.
At last, on 11 April 1520, a treaty for the meeting with the emperor was drawn up in London. Charles was to land at Sandwich by 15 May, and visit the king at Canterbury next day. But if, owing to unfavourable weather or other causes, he should fail to do this, he and the king were to have a meeting on 22 July between Calais and Gravelines. Undoubtedly the emperor did his best to arrive in time to anticipate the French meeting, but he did not land until 26 May at Dover. Wolsey first visited him on board his own vessel, and brought him to land; then the king and he next day (Whit Sunday) conducted him to Canterbury to attend the day's solemnities and see the queen, his aunt. On Thursday, the 31st, he embarked again for Flanders, while Henry and Catherine, with a great company, Wolsey's train alone consisting of two hundred gentlemen in crimson velvet, sailed from Dover to Calais.
The French interview took place on 7 June. On the day preceding a treaty was signed by Francis at Ardres, and by Henry VIII at Guisnes, making arrangements for the continuance of a French pension to Mary, even in the event of her succession to the crown, and also providing that Francis should do his best to settle disputes between England and Scotland; in doing which he promised to stand to the arbitration of Wolsey and his own mother, the Duchess of Angoulême. But no other business seems to have been done, though the festivities continued till the 24th, when the kings separated. The Field of the Cloth of Gold was undoubtedly a scene of matchless splendour, and the grandeur of the temporary palace and chapel built by Wolsey for the occasion was the theme of endless admiration. But the show of warm friendship with France was altogether deceptive. Henry was at heart more inclined to the interests of the emperor. It is certain that a secret compact had been signed between them at Canterbury, and, as the emperor's visit had been necessarily hurried, a further meeting had been arranged between them, to take place immediately after the French interview. It took place accordingly on 10 July at Gravelines, and next day the emperor, with his aunt, Margaret of Savoy, visited the king at Calais, and stayed with him till the 14th, when he took his leave.
This further meeting was naturally not relished in France. Without knowing what was done at it, the French saw that they were overreached. The fact was, a proposal had been discussed, both at Calais and at Canterbury, for the marriage of the emperor to the Princess Mary, so lately betrothed to the dauphin; and on the very day that the emperor took his leave a new treaty was signed between him and Henry, whereby each of them engaged for two years to make no new treaty with France which should bind either of them further to those matrimonial alliances which both had already contracted in that quarter; for Charles had pledged himself to marry the French king's daughter Charlotte, and Henry to give his own daughter to the dauphin. This and some further points being concluded, Henry sent to inform Francis that he had consented to the interview at Gravelines only out of courtesy, and that it had been made the occasion of most dishonourable proposals from Charles's ministers for the breaking off of marriage treaties on both sides with France that Henry might assist the emperor to be crowned in Italy. Francis was not deceived, and showed his real feelings at first by ordering Ardres to be fortified; but Wolsey, as a friend, remonstrated so strongly against his doing so that he forbore. He was afraid to give England provocation, promised not to let Albany go to Scotland, and deferred an intention he had announced in September of going in person to Italy to secure Milan against the emperor.
The arrest and execution of the Duke of Buckingham in the spring of 1521 were not due to Wolsey, as stated by the cardinal's great enemy, Polydore Vergil [see Stafford, Edward, third Duke of Buckingham]. It is true that Buckingham, like other noblemen, bore him ill will, and the examination of some of the duke's servants showed that he had said, if the king had died of a recent illness, that he would have had Wolsey's and Sir Thomas Lovell's heads chopped off. But the duke's fall was procured by a secret informer, whose name we do not know, in a paper delivered to Wolsey at the Moor in Hertfordshire, and it appears that Wolsey, far from being over-ready to take action, had given the duke warning at first to be cautious what he said about the king, whatever he might think fit to say about himself.
Matters were now tending to war between the emperor and Francis, and errors on both sides favoured Wolsey's policy of making England arbiter between them. Charles was too eager to commit Henry to take his part, while evading fulfilment of his secret pledge to marry Mary; but Wolsey advised the king not to press for further guarantees, assuring him that the imperialists would ere long seek to him ‘on their hands and knees’ for assistance. The French made a brave start in the war, and were soon masters of Navarre, but, attempting to push their conquests further, were defeated and lost all they had gained. They thus became more willing to accept England's mediation, which they had at first refused. But Charles called upon Henry to declare war against France, as he had bound himself to take part with either side if attacked by the other. Henry, however, required first to ascertain who was the real aggressor, and it was arranged that Wolsey should cross to Calais and hear deputies from both sides on the merits of their dispute, pledges being taken in the meanwhile from both parties that neither should make any private arrangement with the other till England had given its decision.
Wolsey accordingly left England with a number of alternative commissions, dated 29 July 1521, to settle differences between the emperor and Francis, to make a league with both powers and the pope, to treat for a closer amity with France, or for a league with the emperor against France. He landed at Calais on 2 Aug., and the conferences opened under his presidency on the 7th. The principal speakers were the imperial chancellor Gattinara, the French chancellor, Du Prat, and the nuncio, Jerome Ghinucci, then bishop of Ascoli (afterwards of Worcester), who had been despatched from Rome in the year preceding to be present at the great interview between Henry and Francis I. The proceedings were extraordinary. Wolsey proposed a truce during the deliberations of the conference, but neither the nuncio nor the imperialists had any commission for this, and the latter declared that Charles was so offended with Francis that he had forbidden them to treat at all. Wolsey might, however, negotiate with the emperor himself, who had come to Bruges to be near at hand. On this suggestion he acted, and persuaded the French deputies to remain at Calais till his return, giving them to understand that he would be only eight days absent.
Shameful to state, this suspension of the conference and visit to the emperor at Bruges had been planned before Wolsey left England, and under the pretence of removing difficulties he was instructed to make in secret an offensive and defensive alliance against France. Henry was quite bent on a new war with that country, and desired negotiation in the meantime only to secure from the emperor an indemnity for the loss of his French pension and to gain time for preparation. Wolsey's own policy was certainly not warlike, but, as in the case of the imperial election, he felt it necessary to give in to the king's will. In their correspondence he only criticised details and suggested expedients, leaving events to teach their own lesson, without daring to oppose the king directly. His stay at Bruges with the emperor, instead of being limited to eight days, lasted three weeks, and no doubt the delay was due to long debates on the terms of the secret treaty, which was at length signed by himself and Margaret of Savoy (as representing England and the emperor) at Bruges on 25 Aug. During his stay there he twice met with the emperor's brother-in-law, Christian II of Denmark, who first sent an archbishop and two other personages to his lodging to request that he would come to him in the garden adjoining the house occupied by the emperor. Wolsey, as he informed the king, at first hesitated to comply, considering that he was the king's lieutenant, and the king of Denmark ought not to claim superiority over his sovereign; but as the garden lay in his way to the emperor he agreed, and next day Christian came to visit him.
On the resumption of the conference Wolsey was unable to procure a suspension of hostilities, but was obliged to hear long arguments on both sides as to the causes of the war. The imperialists meanwhile took Mouzon, and laid siege to Mézières; but they had to withdraw from the latter place and give up the former. They then advanced to besiege Tournay, but in Spain the French took Fontarabia, and the hopes of a truce were finally wrecked by their refusal to restore the latter place to the emperor, or even into the hands of the king of England as surety. Wolsey, whose health had broken down repeatedly during the conference, was at length recalled by the king, and returned to England in November. Before he left Calais a new league was concluded against France on 24 Nov., in which the pope was a contracting party, his nuncio having just received authority to join it. For Leo X, who had been in serious fear lest the conference should end in a peace, was now better assured. But his forces, with those of the emperor, had just taken Milan from the French, when he rather suddenly died on 2 Dec.
To maintain imperial authority at Rome, it was of the utmost importance that a successor should be chosen favourable to the new alliance. At Bruges Charles had promised Wolsey that on such an occurrence he would use his influence to secure his election, and he wrote to Wolsey himself to assure him that he had not forgotten his promise. Henry also sent Pace to the emperor about it, with instructions to go on to Rome with letters to influence the cardinals. Wolsey himself had but slight expectations, as the Spanish ambassador believed, but did not altogether despair. He was in truth very comfortable at home, where the king had just given him in November the abbey of St. Albans, in addition to his other preferments, in consideration that he had spent, by Henry's own estimate, 10,000l. in connection with the Calais conferences. His name really was proposed in the conclave, but he apparently received not more than seven votes. Adrian VI was elected on 6 Jan. 1522, and it is certain that no imperial influence was used in Wolsey's favour.
But Wolsey knew quite well that the emperor had more real need of England than England had of him. The one thing Charles urgently required was a loan, besides getting Henry to subsidise the Swiss and pay Spanish and Burgundian troops in the Netherlands. Moreover, he wanted to get England committed to an immediate declaration of war, that he himself might not be driven to make separate terms with France. Now he was already considerably in the king's debt, but by Wolsey's advice a hundred thousand crowns was advanced to him on condition that the king should not be called on to make an open declaration against France till the money was repaid. Charles was sadly disappointed, and pressed for leave to visit Henry again in England before Easter on his way to Spain. But this was found impossible, and he did not arrive at Dover until 26 May, the very day he had landed there two years before. He had meanwhile corresponded with Wolsey, writing him letters in his own hand with a secret mark agreed between them at Bruges, strongly urging an additional loan to prevent Italy and the pope coming under French influence. This was conceded to the extent of fifty thousand crowns more; and the emperor, after being feasted at Greenwich and London, went on with the king to Windsor. There, on 19 June, a new treaty was made and sworn before Wolsey by both sovereigns under ecclesiastical censures, binding the emperor to marry Mary when she should be twelve years old—that is to say, six years later—and Henry to give her a very considerable dower, deducting, however, the debts of the emperor and his grandfather Maximilian. Both princes also agreed to invade France before May 1524, and the emperor to pay Henry those pensions which Francis, out of very natural suspicion, had already withheld from him for a whole year.
But Henry, in his eagerness for war, had already before the emperor's arrival despatched Clarencieux herald to declare it to Francis; and Clarencieux did so at Lyons on 29 May of this year (1522), and returned to the king at Greenwich while the emperor was still with him. The two princes then made a further treaty on 2 July to arrange for the joint war which was to commence at once, and on the 6th the emperor sailed from Southampton. Three days before leaving he had given Wolsey a new patent for his pension, which was now to be charged on the vacant bishoprics in Spain instead of the bishopric of Badajoz. But Wolsey's Spanish pensions were always in arrear, like the debts which the emperor owed the king.
Wolsey's hand had been forced by the war party in the council, and on 6 July he declared to the lords in the Star-chamber the first success of the war—the sacking of Morlaix by Surrey—urging them to aid the king with their money. A loan of 20,000l. had already been obtained from the city of London under promises of repayment by the king and cardinal. But the nation was really ill prepared for war, and of course it was involved with Scotland as well as with France. For Francis, seeing the turn things were taking, had let Albany escape in the end of 1521. The Scots, however, were also ill prepared for war; and when Albany at last moved to the borders, he did not know how easily he might have captured Carlisle. But Lord Dacres, putting a bold face on the matter, induced him to negotiate a truce and to withdraw his forces.
Wolsey was immensely relieved, and easily got Dacres pardoned for his felix culpa in having negotiated a truce without commission. But popular ignorance and hatred of the Scots lamented a great opportunity thrown away, while levies raised in various parts had been sent home unpaid. Skelton's bitter invective against Wolsey, ‘Why come ye not to Court?’ written clearly just at this time, is full of this and other popular complaints which are very significant of the feeling against the cardinal (SKELTON, Works, ed. Dyce, ii. 26–67). One of his complaints was that the king's court was comparatively deserted by ambassadors and suitors crowding to Hampton Court or York Place at Westminster. Hampton Court was a mansion of the knights of St. John, of which Wolsey had taken a ninety-nine years' lease on 11 Jan. 1514–, just before he became a cardinal. It had been visited even by Henry VII, but Wolsey spared neither pains nor cost to make it far more magnificent. No doubt it was owing to cavils like Skelton's that three years later (1525) Wolsey made over his lease of it to the king, who, however, allowed him not only still to occupy it, but to lodge, when he saw fit, in his own palace of Richmond, rather to the annoyance, it would seem, of some old servants of Henry VII, in whose days that place of pleasure had been reared.
In the city Wolsey was hated, not for the truce made with the Scots, but for his too cogent measures to get in money for the war. The loan already raised had itself lightened many pockets, when on 20 Aug. he sent for the mayor and aldermen and the most wealthy citizens, and told them that for defence of the realm commissioners were appointed all over the country to swear every man as to the value of his movable property; and he desired to be certified within a reasonable time of the names of all who were worth 100l. and upwards, that they might contribute a tenth. The citizens remonstrated that many of them had already lent a fifth. But Wolsey insisted that the 20,000l. already subscribed could only be allowed as part of the tenth required from the whole city, and the citizens made their own conscientious returns to his secretary, Dr. Toneys, at the chapter-house of St. Paul's.
Yet for all this, more money was required; and next year (1523) parliament was called together on 18 April to vote supplies for the war. It was opened at the Blackfriars by the king in person, with Wolsey at his right hand; but as the cardinal's weak health forbade him to make a long address as chancellor, Cuthbert Tunstall [q. v.] did so in his place, declaring the causes of the war. On the 29th Wolsey, accompanied by divers lords both spiritual and temporal, entered the House of Commons and stated that a subsidy of 800,000l. would be required, which might be raised by a tax of four shillings in the pound on every man's goods and land. Next day Sir Thomas More, as speaker (whose election Wolsey himself had procured), did his best to enforce the demand; but the debates were so long and serious that Wolsey visited the commons again and addressed the members in a way that compelled More to plead the privileges of the house. A vote was at length obtained with difficulty of two shillings in the pound—just half the rate demanded—on lands or goods over 20l., to be paid in two years, with lower rates on smaller incomes. Wolsey refused this as insufficient, and the house, after adjourning over Whitsuntide, was again called on to consider the matter. At last, after very stormy debates, incomes of 50l. and upwards from land were subjected to an additional tax of one shilling in the pound to be paid in the third year, and persons possessing 50l. value of goods were required to pay a shilling in the pound on them one year later.
Convocation also met at St. Paul's during the first sitting of parliament; but Wolsey as legate stopped its proceedings and summoned the convocations of both provinces before him at Westminster, where, after very serious opposition, he extracted from the clergy for their share a grant of half a year's revenue of all benefices, to be paid in five years. The summons to Westminster again provoked Skelton's satire in the distich:
Gentle Paul, lay down thy sweard,
For Peter of Westminster hath shaven thy beard.
Large provision was thus made for a war in which flatterers told Henry VIII that they hoped to see him crowned king of France at Rheims. But the king himself, though he boasted somewhat, was becoming no less convinced than Wolsey that the emperor was seeking to throw the whole expense upon him and to keep the profits to himself. Soon after he had arrived in Spain Charles expressed great gratitude to him for his assistance, by which he had been able to subdue rebellion and establish good order there. He also informed him, with much seeming frankness, that he had received overtures of peace from France through the papal legate. He was less communicative, however, about certain secret offers made to him by the Duke of Bourbon, who was even then meditating revolt from Francis, and had hopes of marrying the emperor's sister Eleanor. But Wolsey found out all about them, and did not intend, as he wrote to the king, that the emperor should ‘have more strings to his bow’ than Henry. He got Bourbon to make offers to England as well, and urged upon the emperor a joint negotiation. But Charles grew cold as England grew warm. He would have thrown over Henry and Bourbon alike if Francis would have consented to give up Milan as well as Fontarabia. Francis, however, would not give up Milan, and in the end of May 1523 the Sieur de Beaurain was sent from Spain to induce Henry to contribute at least five hundred men-at-arms and ten thousand foot in aid of the duke. But, having discharged his mission in England, Beaurain went straight to Bourbon himself at Bourg-en-Bresse and made a special compact with him for the emperor before any envoy could arrive from England, though Knight was sent from Brussels close upon his heels.
With different aims and divided counsels the allies made little progress in the invasion of France that summer. Suffolk with his large army won several places in Picardy, and spread alarm at Paris; but he was ill supported from the Low Countries. Wolsey, for reasons which we do not know, but in which, after some objections, the king fully acquiesced, abandoned a plan of campaign, beginning with the siege and capture of Boulogne, which he himself had drawn up. Possibly even Henry was already convinced that he could make no really valuable addition to his continental possessions, and meant to do like his father—‘traffick with that war to make his return in money.’ At all events, Suffolk's brilliant and unsubstantial victories were used, while the war fever was hot in England, as a reason for procuring what was called ‘an anticipation’—that is to say, for issuing commissions on 2 Nov. (Hall wrongly says in October) to persuade the wealthy to pay the subsidy voted by parliament before the term appointed, and the money was actually gathered in. That same month of November the emperor's army was disbanded for lack of payment, and the English broke discipline and compelled Suffolk to return to Calais.
Just before this, on 14 Sept., Adrian VI died, and there was again a vacancy in the papacy. The alliance of the king and emperor being in such high repute, the English ambassadors at Rome felt sure that Wolsey's presence alone was wanted to decide the new election in his favour. But the imperial ambassador laughed in his sleeve, and, Charles V acting with the same hypocrisy as before, Clement VII was elected on 19 Nov. But whoever was disappointed with the result, it was certainly not Wolsey. He congratulated the king on having so good a friend in the new pope, with whom, as Cardinal de' Medici, they had both had much correspondence; and his satisfaction was greatly increased when Clement, on 21 Jan. following, confirmed to him his legateship for life. The pope also gave him the bishopric of Durham, the temporalities of which he had enjoyed since 30 April, and Wolsey thereupon resigned Bath and Wells (Le Neve, iii. 293).
As to the war, Wolsey used very plain speaking to the emperor about the past, but simply in the tone of an aggrieved friend, and endeavoured to elicit definite assurances for 1524 both from him and Bourbon. But it was soon clear that the emperor, having recovered Fontarabia from the French in February, was neither able nor willing to do more; and Bourbon, who was invited to England to arrange matters, replied that the emperor wished him to stay at Genoa, where he very conveniently blocked the way of Francis into Italy, but did Henry no particular service. In March Wolsey suggested to the pope (who was naturally afraid of the French becoming strong again in Italy) that he should exhort Francis to send some one to England to treat for peace, with suggestions of afterwards settling the question of Milan by marrying the Duke of Milan to the French king's daughter. Francis took the hint; and while nothing seemed to come of the avowed efforts of the pope for peace when he sent Schomberg, archbishop of Capua, to France, Spain, and England in succession, a Genoese merchant, Giovanni Joachino Passano (called by the English John Joachim), came in June to London as if on private business, and carried on secret negotiations with Wolsey as the agent of Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis I.
These, indeed, remained without visible fruit that year, and the imperial ambassador actually arranged with Henry VIII for joint support of Bourbon in an attack on France. But this was clogged with a condition that the duke should do homage to Henry as king of France, which he refused, alleging that Henry had given him his duchy free. Wolsey did not believe that much was to be expected from Bourbon; but Pace, who had been despatched to the duke to report on the situation, was strangely sanguine, and said it was only owing to Wolsey and the delay of the king's money that the crown of France was not set on Henry's head. As a matter of fact, money did come from England, though rather late. It was the emperor, as usual, who failed in his engagements when it came to the second payment. Bourbon entered Provence and laid siege to Marseilles; and in September orders were sent out in England to prepare for an invasion of France in support of him. The king was ready either for peace or war, but, by Wolsey's advice, he would have no middle course. Bourbon withdrew from the siege of Marseilles to Nice, and, by strict orders from Henry, no further disbursements were made to him. No army crossed from England, and Francis, taking courage, invaded Italy and recovered Milan.
His success, however, was transient, and on 24 Feb. 1525 he was defeated and taken prisoner at Pavia. The event took Wolsey, like the rest of the world, by surprise; for though he had not thought highly of the French prospects in Italy, he had been doing his best to secure the king's interests in any event by a renewal of secret negotiations with John Joachim. And he had just taken a most audacious step to cover these secret practices. As the imperial ambassador De Praet was inconveniently inquisitive, he contrived (for there can be no doubt it was not an accident, a special search having been ordered in London that very night) that a messenger of De Praet's should be arrested by the watch as a suspicious character, and his letters taken from him and laid before himself in the chancery next morning. He opened and read them, and found, as he no doubt expected, many severe reflections on himself and the insincerity of the king's friendship towards the emperor. On this he stopped a courier already despatched by De Praet, upbraided the ambassador for what he had written to his own court, and penned a strong despatch to Sampson, the English ambassador in Spain, to represent to the emperor the mischief done by an agent who was endeavouring to disturb friendly feelings between him and Henry! He moreover got Henry himself to write to the emperor with his own hand complaining of the unfriendly conduct of his ambassador.
The outrage no doubt was deliberately designed to show the emperor how little he must presume upon the universal respect paid to his greatness, while offering, as he continually did, mean excuses for breach of engagements. And Wolsey knew that Charles, after mild remonstrance, would pocket the affront, as he actually did, deeply as he at heart resented it. De Praet himself believed that Henry was still the emperor's friend, whom it would not do to alienate; and as Wolsey, with cynical insincerity, professed to be devoted to the common interests of the emperor and his own sovereign, Charles also professed to take him so. This was the more necessary in order that he might keep the profits of his great victory to himself. On hearing of it Wolsey took counsel with some Flemish envoys, at whose request he at length dismissed John Joachim, and he urged the emperor to make full use of his advantage in concert with England, suggesting a joint invasion, by which Charles and Henry would meet in Paris; thereupon France would be handed over to English domination, and Henry would go on with the emperor to his coronation at Rome.
Of course he had no expectation that Charles would listen to a project so chimerical. But Bishop Tunstall and Sir Richard Wingfield [q. v.] were despatched to Spain with these proposals at the end of March, that the emperor by his answer might show whether he was willing to prosecute the war with vigour or restore his captive for a ransom, in which latter case they were not only to remind him that he was bound not to treat apart from England, but also to hint that the king had no lack of offers to forsake the emperor's alliance. For indeed the pope, the Venetians, and the other Italian powers were most seriously alarmed at the emperor's success. The ambassadors, after a tedious voyage, reached the imperial court at Toledo only on 24 May. But they soon obtained an answer frankly confessing that the emperor had no means of maintaining the war; he added, however, a most extraordinary suggestion that his bride, the Princess Mary, should be sent to Spain at once with her dowry of four hundred thousand crowns, and that a further contribution might enable him to carry on the war in earnest. The amazed ambassadors reminded the imperial chancellor that the emperor ought first to repay the 150,000 crowns he had borrowed for his last voyage to Spain and the king's indemnity for his French pensions. But the emperor's real meaning came out three days later, when the chancellor told them that his majesty was much perplexed; and if he could have neither the princess nor her dowry paid beforehand, perhaps the king would allow him to take another wife. In short, Charles had made up his mind to marry Isabella of Portugal, and if the king meant to prosecute the war he would have to do it alone.
The answer suited Wolsey very well. But meanwhile in England the talk was about the king leading an invasion of France in person, and Wolsey, under a commission dated 21 March, called the mayor and aldermen before him and pressed for a general contribution in aid of the project, at the rate of 3s. 4d. a pound on incomes of 50l. and upwards, with lower rates on the smaller incomes, according to the valuations made by the citizens themselves in 1522. Some exclaimed that this was unjust, as many incomes had since been impaired; but remonstrance was stifled by threats that it might cost some their heads, and the matter was pressed both in London and throughout the country. The strain, however, was beyond endurance. Even the prosperous citizens of Norwich could not raise the money requisite, but offered their plate. In Suffolk the clothiers said they must discharge their workmen, whom they had no money to pay, and an insurrection broke out.
For this ‘amicable grant,’ as it was curiously called, Wolsey was not specially responsible. It had been agreed on by the council generally for a war policy that was not to Wolsey's mind, but was imputed to him specially, and the public were slow to believe, what was really the fact, that it was at his intercession that the king agreed to turn the grant into a ‘benevolence’ without further insisting on a fixed rate. A new difficulty, however, was started, that ‘benevolences’ had been made illegal by a statute of Richard III, and Wolsey in vain attempted to persuade the Londoners that an act of parliament passed by a wicked usurper was bad law. In the end the king was obliged to give up the demand altogether and pardon those who had resisted. Even the rebels of Suffolk, when called before the Star-chamber on 30 May, were dismissed with a pardon. Sureties, indeed, were asked for their good conduct, and when they could find none Wolsey said to them, ‘I will be one, because you be my countrymen, and my lord of Norfolk will be another.’
This business was an unpleasant interruption to a work of Wolsey's own, on which he had set his heart. In the preceding year he had procured from Clement VII a bull, dated 3 April 1524, allowing him to convert the monastery of St. Frideswide at Oxford into a college, transferring the canons to other monasteries. That house was accordingly dissolved, and on 11 Sept. following Clement gave him another bull, allowing Wolsey to suppress more monasteries, to the value of three thousand ducats, for the endowment of his college. Several houses were thus suppressed in February 1525, and the work was proceeding. But in June, at the monastery of Begham in Sussex, a riotous multitude with painted faces and disguises put in the canons again—an outrage which of course was punished. At Tunbridge also, though there was no disturbance, the inhabitants did not wish the priory to be converted into a school, and desired to see the six or seven canons restored.
Meanwhile Wolsey was aware that the emperor had been making separate offers of peace to Louise of Savoy, the regent of France; and in June appeared again in London John Joachim, who now bore the title of Seigneur de Vaulx, this time as a regular accredited ambassador. He came from Louise, for Francis had just been conveyed to Spain, and another French envoy, Brinon, arrived shortly after him. With these two Wolsey concluded no fewer than five, or rather six, treaties, at the More (Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which belonged to him as abbot of St. Albans), by which France secured the amity of England for a sum of two million crowns to be paid by instalments, with various other conditions extremely advantageous to England, bonds being afterwards procured from the leading persons and cities of France for the strict fulfilment of the terms. Nor did Wolsey forget his own interests in these transactions; for though he forbore a claim for arrears of a pension once given him by Francis, he obtained thirty thousand crowns for those of his indemnity for the bishopric of Tournay (notwithstanding that the city had been meanwhile won from France by the emperor), and a present of one hundred thousand crowns besides from Louise, payment of which sums was spread over seven years.
In January 1526 Wolsey came to Eltham, where the king was staying, and made, along with the council, certain ordinances for the king's household which were called ‘the statutes of Eltham,’ mainly intended to rid the court of superannuated servants and too numerous dependents. On 11 Feb. he went with great pomp to St. Paul's, when Robert Barnes [q. v.] bore a fagot for heresy. In March Francis I was set at liberty, as agreed in the treaty of Madrid signed two months before, leaving two of his sons hostages in Spain for fulfilment of the terms. Charles now hoped to take his imperial crown at Rome, but the pope and the northern powers of Italy took alarm, and concluded with Francis on 22 May the league of Cognac, which was to enable him to recover his children on easier terms than those wrung from him when he was a prisoner without counsel. This league England was strongly solicited to join, offers being held out to Henry of a duchy in Naples consisting of lands worth thirty thousand ducats a year, and to Wolsey of other lands worth ten thousand ducats a year. But it was not the interest of England to make an open enemy of the emperor. In September imperial troops, along with Cardinal Colonna, treacherously surprised Rome during a truce and wrung terms from the pope by intimidation. Charles himself disavowed the outrage, but in May following Rome was attacked by Bourbon. The commander was killed in the assault, but his unpaid troops sacked the city with a barbarity quite unheard of, and kept the pope for some months prisoner in the castle of St. Angelo.
Meanwhile in England an allegorical play had been performed at Christmas at Gray's Inn suggesting that misgovernment was the cause of insurrection. Wolsey, though he declared, no doubt with perfect truth, that it was the king who was displeased rather than himself, had the author, John Roo, serjeant-at-law, deprived of his coif and committed to the Fleet for a time along with one of the players. The king, and even his council, now seemed to be quite converted to the policy of cultivating the new French alliance rather than an imperial one, and hints were thrown out to Francis that, instead of marrying the emperor's sister Eleanor, he might have Henry's daughter Mary, once offered to his son. So in March 1527 a great embassy arrived in England with Grammont, bishop of Tarbes, at its head, which held very lengthy conferences with Wolsey with a view to a closer league. Of these negotiations a minute French account has been preserved, which gives an extraordinary impression of Wolsey's wonderful statecraft. He demanded a new perpetual peace, with an annual tribute of salt and a pension of fifty thousand crowns to Henry. He affected astonishment at the difficulties made at his high terms, and told the ambassadors (what, perhaps, was not far from the truth) that if he advised the king to abate them he was in danger of being murdered. In the course of a long discussion he gradually shifted the basis of negotiation. If Francis declined to marry Mary himself, he suggested that she might be married to the Duke of Orleans, then a hostage in Spain, the two kings meanwhile agreeing on terms for his and his brother's liberation, on refusal of which they should make joint war on the emperor. Then, after further conference, he told the ambassadors that Henry advised Francis to marry Eleanor for the sake of peace, if the emperor would not restore his sons otherwise. The French were quite confounded at the withdrawal of the very bait that had lured them on. ‘We have to do,’ wrote one of them to Francis, ‘with the most rascally beggar in the world, and the most devoted to his master's interests.’ Wolsey had won the day. Treaties very advantageous to England were signed and sealed at Westminster on 30 April.
In the course of these negotiations Wolsey had talked of going over to France in May to complete matters. The king also, who had separate interviews with the ambassadors, expressed a desire to pay Francis a visit himself. The French objected that this would delay the war against the emperor, and said that he might trust everything to Wolsey; but Henry said he had things to tell Francis of which Wolsey knew nothing. It is clear that he had begun to entertain the thought of divorcing Catherine which it was afterwards alleged that Wolsey had put into his head—a statement quite as untrue as the political figment that the bishop of Tarbes had suggested it by insinuating a doubt of the Princess Mary's legitimacy. Wolsey must have learned the king's ideas on this subject—or rather a part of them—shortly after this; and he certainly did not like them, although, for prudential reasons, he did his best to advance the king's wishes. In May he got the king to appear privately before him and Archbishop Warham, and called on him to prove that his marriage was lawful. The proceedings led to no result; but on 22 June the king told Catherine (bidding her, however, keep the matter secret) that they must separate, as he had been informed by divines that they were living in mortal sin. The badness of the king's cause was made still more apparent to Wolsey when he learned immediately afterwards that Catherine at the time of her marriage to Henry had been a virgin widow. The king saw that he was perplexed by this discovery; but Wolsey was anxious to assure him that he did not consider it fatal to his case, as they had been married in facie ecclesiæ and the dispensation did not meet the case.
Wolsey now set out for France with the name of the king's lieutenant and in state no less than regal. The pretext for the close alliance was the pope's liberation from captivity, and at Canterbury he ordered a special litany for the Pope Clement to be sung by the monks of Christchurch. On his way he endeavoured to quiet rumours about the queen's divorce by shamefully jesuitical statements made in confidence to Archbishop Warham and Bishop Fisher. On 16 Aug. he concluded a number of treaties with Francis at Amiens. His mission would have united England and France in the disowning of papal authority while the pope was under the emperor's control, and his last act in France was to get four cardinals, three French and one Italian, to join him in a protest to that effect. But one thing he had expected to do which he could not do; for he certainly left England in the persuasion that the king was willing, after his divorce, to marry, not the Duchess of Alençon, as later writers said (for she had already found a second husband in January), but Renée, daughter of Louis XII of France. He was forbidden, however, to broach this proposal, and he became painfully aware that the king's ultimate object was one that he had concealed from him and was endeavouring to obtain in his absence by the mission of William Knight (1476–1547) [q. v.] to Rome. He returned to England in September, and Anne Boleyn insisted on being present at his first interview with the king.
It was the friends of Anne Boleyn who had most counselled his going to France, that they might get the king's ear in his absence. Their attempt to manage without him, however, was a great mistake, even in her interest; for Knight with great difficulty, and not till the pope had escaped to Orvieto, obtained bulls, which turned out to be useless for the king's purpose after all, the demand for them only revealing to the papal advisers what that purpose was. But Wolsey, to whom the cause was again committed, now tried the desperate policy of endeavouring to get the pope to give away his authority, without appeal, to himself and another legate to be sent to England, and Gardiner and Foxe were despatched to Italy with this view in February 1528. Their instructions were to procure from the pope a decretal commission to define the law by which the judges should be guided and a dispensation for the new marriage. The latter (although it was really a greater stretch of papal power than the old dispensation to marry Catherine) was passed without difficulty; but the other decretal Gardiner failed to obtain, even after long days spent in arguing with the pope and cardinals; and Foxe at last departed for England with a mere general commission, which they hoped would do, but which Wolsey found to be inadequate. Again he urged Gardiner to press the pope for a decretal commission, not only for public reasons, but personally for Wolsey's sake; and in the end Clement, though with great reluctance, agreed to send one by Campeggio, the legate who was to be despatched as Wolsey's colleague. But the document was only to be shown to the king and Wolsey and then destroyed, Campeggio being strictly enjoined not to let it go out of his hands, for Wolsey himself had said it need not be used in the process, as he only wanted it to strengthen his authority with the king. Clement also was got to give a dangerous promise that he would not interfere with the due execution of this commission, but confirm what should be done under it. This, of course, did not bind him to confirm an unjust decision, and for that very reason Wolsey afterwards instructed Gardiner by a shameful artifice to endeavour to procure a reissue of the document in a form more to the king's purpose.
Meanwhile the French alliance had borne fruit in a joint declaration of war made by an English and a French herald to the emperor at Burgos on 22 Jan. 1528. On 13 Feb. Wolsey explained the causes of this war to a meeting in the Star-chamber; but it was very unpopular, and led not only to interruption of commerce, but also to serious industrial difficulties within the realm, the Suffolk clothiers having to dismiss their men because they had no vent for their cloths. In Flanders the state of matters was no less intolerable, and a truce, so far as England and Flanders were concerned, was agreed to from 1 May to the end of February following. In June the sweating sickness was rife in England, and Anne Boleyn caught it. But she soon recovered, and was anxious about the health of Wolsey, whom she said she loved next to the king for the daily and nightly pains he took in her behalf. The king himself added in his own hand a postscript to the letter. In July, however, Wolsey, having set aside, apparently for good reasons, a nominee of Anne's for the position of abbess of Wilton, incurred a rebuke from the king for taking steps to promote the prioress, of whose nomination he had disapproved. The reproof was expressed in the most friendly terms, but was nevertheless deeply felt, even when Wolsey was reassured of the king's favour.
Cardinal Campeggio, after a long and tedious journey through France, reached London in October suffering severely from gout. Yet the business for which he came, as Wolsey at once discovered, was entirely in his hands, and he allowed his colleague no control over it. He was instructed first to do his utmost to prevent the matter coming to a trial at all, either by persuading the king to forbear prosecuting it further or by inducing Catherine to enter a nunnery. He had also promised the pope not to pronounce sentence without communicating with him—a fact which, to Wolsey's dismay, he let fall at their first interview. Wolsey tried in vain to get hold of the secret commission he had brought, and wrote a host of complaints and remonstrances to Rome on the way in which he was treated by his colleague. His perplexities were increased by Catherine's production of a copy of the brief in Spain [see CATHERINE OF ARRAGON], and his ingenuity was taxed in vain either to get the original into the king's possession or to have it pronounced a forgery by the pope. Anne Boleyn, meanwhile, actually imputed to him the delay of the trial, and allied herself with her father and the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk to bring about his ruin.
To add to his agony, at the new year (1529) Clement VII fell ill and was expected to die—in which case his only hope, and that a poor one, was that through the readily promised aid of Francis he himself might be the new pope. He despatched to Gardiner and Brian at Rome a marked list of the whole college of cardinals, and bade them spare no expense to secure his election. But Clement slowly recovered, and was able to see ambassadors in March. On 21 April he wrote to the king that he could not declare the brief in Spain a forgery without hearing both sides. Meanwhile, Bishop Foxe of Winchester having died in September, that see was given to Wolsey in commendam on 6 April, and he soon after resigned that of Durham. But his fall was at hand. The long-deferred trial [already described under Catherine of Arragon] had to take place. The legatine court assembled on 18 June, and was prorogued by Campeggio on 23 July. Meanwhile at Rome on 13 July the cause had been revoked at Catherine's intercession.
Wolsey was now visibly in disgrace. The king, it is true, knew that he had done his utmost, and still for some weeks took his advice on many things, chiefly by letter through Gardiner. In fact the king actually paid him a visit at Tittenhanger in the beginning of August, and but for Anne Boleyn would have had more frequent intercourse with him. The lords, however, who had so long resented his ascendency, made use of Anne's influence to keep him at a distance from the court. Anticipating his fall, Lord Darcy had drawn up, even as early as 1 July, a long catalogue of his misdeeds, and similar lists were drawn up by others with a view to his impeachment. The cloud, however, had not yet burst when he accompanied Campeggio to take leave of the king at Grafton Regis, where they both arrived on Sunday, 19 Sept. (‘Greenwich’ is a misreading of ‘Grafton’ in Alward's letter printed in Ellis's Original Letters, i. i. 308). Many expected that the king would not speak with Wolsey, and were mortified to see that he received him as graciously as ever and had a long private conversation with him. Anne Boleyn, however, spoke bitterly of him to the king at dinner, and took care next morning, when the two legates left, that there should be few words at parting.
Shortly afterwards Wolsey went up to London for Michaelmas term, which began on 9 Oct. He attended council meetings at which a parliament was summoned for 3 Nov. On the first day of term he entered Westminster Hall as chancellor with all his train, but not preceded by the king's servants as heretofore. That day a bill of indictment was preferred against him in the king's bench by Sir Christopher Hales [q. v.], the attorney-general. Next day he remained at home awaiting the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, who had been to the king at Windsor. They arrived on the day following and desired him to deliver up the great seal, which he refused then to do, as they had brought no commission. They returned to Windsor, and came again with written authority on the 19th, when he gave it up to them. They told him that the king wished him to retire to Esher, a house belonging to his bishopric of Winchester. On the 22nd he executed a deed acknowledging that he had incurred a præmunire, and requesting the king, in part recompense of his offences, to take into his hands all his temporal possessions. On the 30th, while he was absent at Esher, two attorneys appointed by himself received judgment for him that he should be out of the king's protection and forfeit all his lands and goods.
Many wondered that he confessed himself guilty when he might have made a good defence; but he knew well what awaited him if he strove against the king, who really was not at heart his enemy, but must now propitiate Anne Boleyn. To all appearance he had no friends elsewhere, and, as the French ambassador perceived, he was being betrayed even by those whom he trusted most. When ordered to Esher he took his barge to Putney in sight of a vast multitude upon the water who expected to see him conveyed to the Tower. Just before embarking he had called the officers of his household before him and directed them to make an inventory of all the property, that the king might take possession. After landing at Putney he met Henry Norris, who brought him a cheering message from the king, with a gold jewelled ring as a token. He jumped from his mule like a young man, ‘kneeled down in the dirt upon both his knees, holding up his hands for joy,’ and tore the laces of his velvet cap to kneel bareheaded. He presented Norris with all he had to give—a little gold chain and cross which he had worn next his skin, and desired him to take his fool as a gift to the king, though the poor fool himself was most reluctant to leave him. He continued at Esher for weeks ‘without beds, sheets, table-cloths, cups, and dishes,’ which he had to borrow from the bishop of Carlisle (John Kite [q. v.]) and Sir Thomas Arundel. He called his servants and, regretting that he had nothing to give them, advised them to return to their own homes for a month, by which time he might perhaps have recovered favour. Thomas Cromwell (afterwards Earl of Essex) [q. v.] on this, handing him 5l. in gold for his own part, said his chaplains, who owed their preferments to him, ought now to contribute to his necessity, and a considerable subscription was at once made up.
On 1 Nov. he received another message of comfort from the king by Sir John Russell (afterwards first Earl of Bedford) [q. v.], who arrived at Esher at midnight in great secrecy and left before daybreak. Shortly afterwards a portion of his plate and furniture was restored to him, and he received a patent of protection on the 18th. Parliament, however, was opened by the king in person on the 3rd, and Sir Thomas More, the new lord chancellor, made a speech in which he vituperated his predecessor. On 1 Dec. a bill of attainder was passed against him in his absence by the lords and sent down to the commons. It consisted of forty-four articles—mostly untrue, as Wolsey himself declared to Cromwell; and he was certainly justified in saying so, though it bore the signature (no doubt ex officio) of Sir Thomas More at the head of sixteen others. But in the commons Wolsey had an able defender in Cromwell, who had already gained the ear of the king in some matters; and it must have been with the king's secret concurrence that the bill was thrown out.
Wolsey was now leading a devout life, and said he had gained peace of mind by adversity. He still, however, endured much petty persecution, having at one time four or five servants taken from him, and almost daily hearing of new matters laid to his charge. Sir William Shelley [q. v.], the judge, actually induced him, sorely against his will, to rob his successors in the archbishopric by conveying York Place at Westminster to the king. He could only yield, but begged the judge would remind his majesty ‘that there is both heaven and hell.’ At Christmas he fell ill, and Dr. (afterwards Sir William) Butts [q. v.], whom the king sent to him, represented that he was in serious danger, on which the king, alarmed, not only sent him a ring with his portrait in a ruby, but induced Anne Boleyn likewise to send him a token, and caused Dr. Butts and three other physicians to attend him constantly till he was well again. Against Candlemas 1530 the king sent him more furniture, plate, and hangings. On 7 Feb. he executed the conveyance of York Place, and on the 12th he received a general pardon. On the 14th the other possessions of his archbishopric were restored to him; but on the 17th he executed an indenture with the king resigning the bishopric of Winchester and the abbey of St. Albans in consideration of 6,374l. 3s. 7½d., only 3,000l. of which was given him in ready money, the rest being a valuation of the goods that had been delivered to him. After this resignation, however, the king found that he could not give valid grants of life pensions out of these benefices, and Cromwell got Wolsey to give what Cavendish calls a ‘confirmation’ of those grants—probably antedated grants by himself, of which drafts still remain.
Continuing at Esher, Wolsey had an attack of dropsy, and, requiring a drier air, the king allowed him to remove to Richmond. The lords, however, took alarm at his coming nearer London, and Norfolk sent him word by Cromwell that he should remove to York to attend to his diocese, promising him a pension of a thousand marks out of his bishopric of Winchester and abbacy of St. Albans. Early in Lent he prepared to go, but at first he only moved out of the lodge in Richmond Park to the Charter House there; when Norfolk, taking alarm, used such violent threats that he was compelled to begin his journey in Passion Week. He went by Hendon, the Rye House, and Royston to Peterborough, where he rested from Palm Sunday to Thursday in Easter week (10–21 April). Then, till Monday following, he was gladly received as a guest by Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton, a few miles off, whence he went by Grantham and Newark to Southwell, and remained there during the summer. He found his palace at Southwell sadly out of repair, and had at first to be lodged at a prebendary's house till Whitsuntide; but he was then able to occupy the palace, and the country gentlemen resorted to him in great numbers. He kept open house in the hospitable style of the day, and did much to pacify discords in the country and in families, winning the hearts of many who had been prejudiced against him before.
Yet the mere costs of coming down to his diocese had consumed an advance of one thousand marks made him by the king out of his Winchester pension, and he had no prospect of receiving any of his rents before August. He appealed in vain for further aid, and his creditors were clamorous. He was compelled to borrow money of friends. Yet having to get workmen from London to repair his buildings, it was supposed at court that he was raising sumptuous edifices. On Corpus Christi eve (15 June), after he and his household had retired to bed, two messengers, Brereton and Wriothesley, came from the king and called him up to sign and seal some important document with which they again departed in the night to George Talbot, fourth earl of Shrewsbury [q. v.] It was the letter of the lords of England to the pope in favour of the king's divorce. Shortly after he was disquieted by a new process against him and inquisitions taken on the lands of his archbishopric; but he was assured both by the chief baron of the exchequer and by Cromwell that it was only a formality. He was more deeply grieved to learn in July that the king had determined to dissolve the two colleges he had been at so much pains to set up. He wrote to Cromwell, ‘with weeping tears,’ that the news had deprived him of sleep and appetite. The Ipswich college was entirely suppressed, and it had been intended to do the same with that at Oxford, but the buildings had already advanced so far that it would have cost more to suppress than to alter it, and so Christ Church has come down to us, an imperfect realisation of the cardinal's great aim.
At ‘the latter end of grease time’—in September—he removed from Southwell to Scrooby, some way further in the direction of York, evading various attentions that would have been paid him on his journey by the Earl of Shrewsbury and the country gentlemen, lest it should be said elsewhere that he was courting people's favour. He remained at Scrooby till after Michaelmas, officiating on Sundays in neighbouring churches and doing many deeds of charity. He then passed on to Cawood, twelve miles from York, holding confirmations by the way at St. Oswald's Abbey and near Ferrybridge, which, from the number of children, fatigued him not a little. At Cawood as at Scrooby he had to repair the castle buildings. He composed a dangerous dispute between Sir Richard Tempest and Brian Hastings. Finally he arranged to be installed at York on Monday, 7 Nov., with less than the pomp of his predecessors. But when the day appointed was known, the country gentlemen and the monasteries sent copious presents of fat beeves, mutton, wild fowl, and venison to grace the occasion, no one dreaming of what was about to happen.
On Friday, the 4th, as he was finishing his dinner at Cawood, the Earl of Northumberland and Walter Walsh, a gentleman of the privy chamber, suddenly arrived with a company of gentlemen, and demanded the keys of the castle, which the porter refused to give up, but they swore him to keep it for them as the king's commissioners. When their entry was perceived, Wolsey, still unconscious of what had taken place outside, embraced the earl and offered him hospitality, regretting that he had had no notice of his coming. He then took him to his bedchamber, where the earl, trembling, laid his hand upon his arm, and said in a faint voice, ‘My lord, I arrest you of high treason.’ At the same time Walsh, who, wearing a hood for disguise, had hitherto escaped notice, arrested at the portal Wolsey's Italian physician, Dr. Augustine, driving him in with the words: ‘Go in, traitor, or I shall make thee.’ Augustine was indeed a traitor, not to the king but to Wolsey, and the action was prearranged. The earl had refused to show Wolsey a warrant for his arrest, and Walsh said their instructions were secret; but Wolsey surrendered to Walsh as being a gentleman of the privy chamber. Then the earl and Walsh, with the abbot of St. Mary's beside York, took an inventory, which still exists, of Wolsey's goods at Cawood.
There is distinct evidence that Dr. Augustine had been bribed by Norfolk to betray an important secret about Wolsey; and we know both the fact which he had to reveal and the lies with which he augmented it. The fact was that Wolsey at the time of his fall had in his despair sought through the French ambassador to get Francis to write to Henry in his favour. But to this Augustine shamefully added that the cardinal had urged the pope to excommunicate the king if he did not put away Anne Boleyn, hoping by this to cause an insurrection by which he would recover power. To conceal from Wolsey the fact that he had informed against him, Augustine was carried away prisoner tied under a horse's belly. But when he reached London he lived like a prince in Norfolk's house, while his master was carried southwards in custody. Crowds of people at Cawood, when Wolsey's arrest was known, ran after him with curses on his enemies; but he was taken, first to Pomfret, then to Doncaster, then to Sheffield Park, where he was treated kindly as a guest by the Earl of Shrewsbury. Here he was allowed to remain a fortnight, and he begged the earl, who always tried to keep up his spirits, to write to the king that he might be brought face to face with his accusers—a degree of justice that he did not expect. One day the earl told Cavendish that he had got an answer from the king, showing that Henry had still a good opinion of him, and he begged Cavendish to communicate it discreetly, for the messenger was Sir William Kingston, constable of the Tower. The news brought on a severe attack of dysentery, and no kindly sophistries would comfort him. ‘I know,’ he said, ‘what is provided for me; notwithstanding I thank you for your good will and pains.’ His journey had to be deferred one day longer in consequence of his extreme weakness. Kingston then brought him to another place of Shrewsbury's, Hardwick Hall, near Newstead—not the Derbyshire Hardwick, which came to the family later—next day to Nottingham, and the following day to Leicester Abbey. His illness had increased upon the journey, so that at times he was near falling off his mule; and he said to the abbot, ‘I am come to leave my bones among you.’ He had been admitted a brother of that monastery some years before.
He at once took to his chamber. It was a Saturday night (26 Nov.) On the Monday morning (the 28th) he seemed drawing fast to his end. Yet even now a message came from the king about a sum of 1,500l. lately received by him, of which an entry had been found in a book at Cawood. It was money that he had borrowed to pay his servants and to bury him; but if the king would have it, he hoped he would pay his debts, and he gave the names of his creditors, promising to show where it was next day. He was very ill that night, but in the early morning of the 29th desired some food, and was given a ‘cullis’ made of chicken, though it was a fasting day—St. Andrew's eve, as he himself observed after taking it. He was then confessed, and spoke of his ailments as coming to a crisis. Sir William Kingston told him he made himself worse by one vain fear—meaning, of course, lest he should be brought to the block; but he was not to be consoled. ‘Master Kingston,’ he said, ‘I see the matter against me how it is framed; but if I had served God as diligently as I have done the king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs.’ That morning he passed away at eight o'clock, an hour at which, according to Cavendish, he had expected to die the day before.
The mayor and aldermen of Leicester were sent for, and the body, after lying in state till four or five o'clock, was removed into the Lady-chapel of the abbey. Early next morning (30 Nov. 1530) it was interred. It was found that he had worn a hair shirt next his skin underneath another of fine linen.
Wolsey's features are familiar in portraits which have often been engraved, and which are all of one type, giving the face in profile. There are paintings in the National Portrait Gallery, London; at Christ Church, Oxford; at Hampton Court; and in the Royal College of Physicians. Others belong to Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane, and to T. L. Thurlow, esq. (ascribed to Holbein). Among the more notable engravings are those by Elstracke, Faber, Houbraken, Loggan, and Vertue (Cat. First Loan Exhib. Nos. 130, 148; Tudor Exhib. Nos. 87, 109, 119; Bromley, Cat. Engr. Portr. p. 14). The full face, however, is shown in a likeness, scarcely known hitherto, preserved at Arras in a volume of early portraits drawn in pencil and chalk from original paintings. It has a younger look than the face in the other portraits, but in other respects it is much the same, round and fleshy, only without the wart shown in some pictures.
Wolsey left behind him a son and a daughter, both by one Lark's daughter, to whom it may be presumed he was uncanonically married, as many priests were considered to be in those days. The mother was afterwards married to ‘one Leghe of Aldington,’ and the cardinal's after life was certainly not pure. The son, who was named Thomas Wynter, was carefully educated by his father, and provided with many valuable preferments, among them the deanery of Wells and the archdeaconries of Richmond, York, Norfolk, and Suffolk, all of which he resigned in 1528 or 1529 (Le Neve). From 1537 to 1543 he held the archdeaconry of Cornwall (Brewer, Introd. to Letters and Papers, vol. iv. pp. dcxxxvi–viii; Lansd. MS. 979, f. 195). The daughter became a nun at Shaftesbury.[Cavendish's Life of Wolsey is the chief authority for his personal history. Dyce's Poetical Works of John Skelton, and William Roy's Rede me and be nott wrothe (ed. Arber), contain personal descriptions animated by spiteful satire. Equally malicious are the two contemporary historians, viz. Polydori Vergilii Anglicæ Historiæ liber xxvii., and Hall's Chronicle. Rawdon Brown's Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII; History of Grisild the Second (Roxburghe Club); Letters and Papers, Richard III and Henry VII (Rolls Ser.); Cal. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vols. i–iv.; State Papers, Spanish vols. ii–iv., Venetian vols. ii–iv.; Rymer's Fœdera, 1st ed., vols. xiii. xiv.; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy; Lanz's Correspondenz Karls V; Law's Hist. of Hampton Court. Of lives later than that of Cavendish there is one in poetry by Thomas Storer (1599) of little value; and others by Richard Fiddes, D.D., Joseph Grove, and John Galt the novelist. That of Fiddes shows most research for its time, but all are very inadequate now, when so much has been revealed from state papers. The only account of Wolsey's career embodying this information is contained in Brewer's Reign of Henry VIII; but a more condensed view of it will be found in the short biography of Dr. Mandell Creighton, formerly bishop of London (Twelve English Statesmen). Much more, however, has been disclosed, even since Brewer wrote, and his work has meanwhile given rise to much valuable criticism, especially by Dr. Busch in four different tracts, viz., Drei Jahre englischer Vermittlungspolitik, 1518–21 (Bonn, 1884); Cardinal Wolsey und die englische kaiserliche Allianz, 1522–5 (Bonn, 1884); and two articles in the Historisches Taschenbuch, vols. viii. and ix., on Henry's divorce and the fall of Wolsey. Jaqueton's La Politique Extérieure de Louise de Savoie criticises both Brewer and Busch in some points. With regard to the divorce question, most important new matter has been published by Dr. Stephan Ehses in Römische Dokumente (Görres-Gesellschaft, Paderborn, 1893), with valuable criticisms in articles in the Historisches Jahrbuch, vols. ix. and xiii. (1888 and 1892), of which the bearings are discussed in three articles in the English Historical Review (October 1896, and January and July 1897). On Wolsey's fall see Transactions of Royal Historical Society, new ser. xiii. 75–102.]