Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 2, 1515-1518. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1864.
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THE political fabric reared by Wolsey with so much labour, skill, and perseverance, fell to the ground at the death of Lewis XII. By the marriage of the princess Mary with Lewis the policy of the treaty of Cambray had been turned back upon its authors. One chief object of that policy had been, as explained already, (fn. 1) to shut out England from all interference in continental politics; to render France, in effect, the dictator of Europe; and, what in those days was scarcely less important for this purpose, to leave the Pope entirely dependent on the will of the Christian king. But by this marriage alliance Wolsey had contrived, under the semblance of an equal partition of authority, to make England in reality predominant. Such it was felt to be by Lewis himself, and more so by his successor. The feeble health of the king, prematurely aged, (fn. 2) and shorn of his due influence by this new affinity, was no match for the ambition of Henry or the genius and vigor of Wolsey, now in the prime of his life. (fn. 3) Ferdinand, advanced in years, and not less a martyr to sickness, was contented to let things take their own course, provided he was not molested in his own dominions, and his new conquest of Navarre was not called in question. Maximilian, penniless, fertile in devices for raising money too transparent to deceive, and never a penny the richer, even when his plots were successful, was a greater terror to his friends than to his enemies. No prince had grander schemes, or less ability and perseverance. Ready to pawn the Holy Roman Empire to the highest bidder, it was fortunate for the tranquillity of Europe that none of the Frescobaldi or Fuggers of that age would advance the money on any security Maximilian could offer. Nominally the governor of his grandson Charles, he possessed no real influence. Grandson and ministers were alike deaf to his entreaties for money, and jealous of the interference of Margaret of Savoy, who furthered his schemes with the adroitness of a female politician and the fidelity of a daughter.
So the triumph of Wolsey was complete. For his triumph it was, and none ventured to dispute his claim. It was his first great effort at diplomacy; and his influence dated from that effort. With what prudence and ingenuity he had mastered the difficulties that stood in his way cannot be told. He had to overcome the reluctance of Mary herself, even at that time attached to Suffolk, and break off her engagement with Charles. This was but a small part of his task. It was not to be expected that Francis would submit without a struggle to a match which imperilled his succession. The difficulties were greater at home. Any union with France was unpopular; it was not acceptable even to those councillors who shared the King's confidence. The old nobility, represented by Norfolk, (fn. 4) opposed it; and the more so as Wolsey's success sealed his supremacy and their downfall.
The debates upon this marriage and the alliance with France had given rise to a mortal struggle in the Privy Council between the old party and the new, of which only feeble indications have reached us. Would the king yield to this new influence and new nobility, of whom Suffolk was the chief, or would he continue his old advisers? The struggle had ended in a triumph for Wolsey, to be dissipated by the death of Lewis XII. The powers of confusion were again abroad. A powerful minority irritated by defeat had resolved once more to strike for supremacy. Matters abroad wore a gloomier aspect;—a young sovereign on the throne of France, full of ardent hopes and ambition, the darling of all the daring and restless spirits of the age, despised the Anglican alliance;—Charles and his ministers were sulky and offended,—Ferdinand old and distrustful,—Maximilian ready to sell himself, his lance-knechts, and the Swiss, to work for pay, plunder, or conquest;—war glomed in all directions and in all forms. Who was to ride the storm, and manage the elements?—that was the question, which every man asked, and each one answered in his own way.
This struggle, productive of so many momentous consequences, drew Suffolk and Wolsey closely together. The first thing to be done was to send an embassy, and congratulate Francis I. on his accession. At the head of it was the Duke of Suffolk, who had only returned from France six weeks before. The deputation arrived at Senlis on Saturday the 27th January. (fn. 5) Francis was then at Rheims for his "sacring," and desired the ambassadors to meet him at Noyon on Thursday, Candlemas eve. No reception could be more gracious or condescending. He gave them hearty welcome; asked lovingly after the health of the king and the queen, expressed his pleasure at this renewal of the good understanding between the two countries, and appointed a formal audience for Friday, February 2d. That day West, afterwards bishop of Ely, made a Latin harangue, a wearisome and indispensable part in such ceremonials. He enlarged on the virtues and qualities of a good ruler, and concluded by expressing a hope that the future conduct of Francis would be conformable to the promises he had made when duke of Angoulême. To his livelier audience the speech had too much the air of a homily; but they were civil enough to say that the matter was good, and the Latin elegant. Francis thanked the deputation for their compliments, and alluded to the death of his predecessor. They had good reason, he said, to be sorry, "forasmuch as the late king had married the princess Mary, of which marriage," he said, "he was a great cause, trusting that it should have long endured." In their reply the ambassadors thanked the king in their master's name for the singular comfort he had given Mary in this season of her affliction, calling to his mind "how lovingly he had written to Henry, by his last letters, that he would neither do her wrong, no suffer her to take wrong of any other person, but be to her as a loving son should be to his mother." Francis answered, "he could do no less for his honor, seeing that she was Henry's sister, a noble princess married to his predecessor;" and he expressed a hope that she would write to England, and report "how lovingly he had behaved to her." Thus ended the public audience.
The same day, sending for the duke into his bedchamber, Francis thus addressed him: "My Lord of Suffolk, so it is that there is a bruit in this my realm that you are come to marry with the queen, your master's sister." Utterly taken aback by this announcement, it was in vain that the discomfited Suffolk stammered out a denial, and protested he had no such intentions. In the utmost confusion, he entreated the king not to impute to him so great a folly as to come into a strange realm and marry a queen there without the consent of the sovereign. "I ensure your grace," he added, "I have no such purpose, nor it was ever intended on the king my master's behalf, nor on mine." Francis replied, that if Suffolk would not be plain with him he must be plain with the duke; and then proceeded to inform him that Mary herself had broken the matter to him, and he for his part had promised "on his faith and truth, and by the troth of a "king," that he would do his best to help her. He then detailed certain secrets which had passed between Mary and Suffolk, (fn. 6) calling up the deepest crimson into Suffolk's face. "And when," continues Suffolk, describing the interview to Wolsey, "he had done thys, I cold do non lyes but to thanke hes grace for the greth godnes that his grace in tynded to schaw unto the quyene and me; how by et I schowd hes grace that I was lyke to by ondon (to be undone) if the matter schold coume to the knollag of the kyng me masster." Francis reassured him; told him to be under no apprehension, for as soon as ever he reached Paris he would see the queen, and then both should write letters with their own hand to Henry "in the best manner that could be devised." Suffolk concluded by expressing his satisfaction at what had passed: "My Lord," he says, repeating the conversation to Wolsey, "after mine opinion, I find myself much bounden to God, considering that he that I feared most is contented to be the doer of this act himself, and to instance the king my master in the same for me, whereby his grace shall be marvellously discharged as well against his council as all the other noblemen in his realm."
Wolsey's reply to this letter is of so much importance to the clear understanding of this strangest of all negotiations that I venture to insert it entire. The draft only remains at the Record Office. The words in italics were inserted by Wolsey himself.
"In my most hearty manner I recommend me unto your good Lordship, and have received your letter written with your own hands, dated at Paris (fn. 7) the 3rd day of this month, and as joyous I am, as any creature living, to hear as well of your honorable entertainment with the French king, and of his loving mind towards you for your marriage with the French queen, our master's sister, as also of his kind offer made unto you, that both he and the said French queen shall effectually write unto the king's grace for the obtaining of his good will and favor unto the same. The contents of which your letter I have at good leisure declared unto the king's highness, and his grace marvellously rejoiced to hear of your good speed in the same, and how substantially and discretely ye ordered and handled yourself in your words and your communication with the said French king, when he first secretly brake with you of the said marriage. And therefore, my Lord, the king and I think it good that ye procure and solicit the speedy sending unto his grace of the letters from the said French king touching this matter, assuring you that the King continueth firmly in his good mind and purpose towards you, for the accomplishment of the said marriage, albeit that there be daily on every side practices made to the let of the same, which I have withstanded hitherto, and doubt not so to do till ye shall have achieved your intended purpose; and ye shall say, by that time that ye know all, that ye have had of me a fast friend.
"The king's grace sends unto you at this time not only his especial letters of thanks unto the French king for the loving and kind entertainment of you and the other ambassadors with you, and for his favorable audience given unto you and them, but also other letters of thanks to the queen his wife, and to other personages specified in your letter jointly sent with the other ambassadors to the king's grace. And his Highness is of no less mind and affection than the French king is for the continuance of good peace and amity betwixt them. And his grace will favourably hear such ambassadors as the said French king shall send hither to commune and treat upon the same; and upon the overture of their charges ye shall be with all diligence made privy thereunto. The Lady of Suffolk is departed out of this present life; and over this, my Lord, the king's grace hath granted unto you all such lands as be come into his hands by the decease of the said Lady of Suffolk; and also by my pursuit hath given unto you the lordship of Claxton, which his highness had of my Lord Admiral for 1,000 marks, which he did owe to his grace.
"And finally, my Lord, whereas ye desired at your departing to have an harness made for you, the king's grace hath willed me to write unto you, that he saith that it is impossible to make a perfect headpiece for you, unless that the manner of the making of your sight were assuredly known. And because I am no cunning clerk to describe the plainness of such a thing, inasmuch as ye shall perceive by this my writing what the matter meaneth, ye may make answer to the king's [grace] upon the same, like as ye shall think good.
"And whereas ye write that the French king is of no less good will towards me than his predecessor was, I pray you to thank his grace for the same, and to offer him my poor service, which, next my master, shall have mine heart for the good will and mind which he beareth to you; beseeching you to have my affairs recommended, and that I may have some end in the same, one way or other. And thus for lack of more leisure I bid you most heartily farewell, beseeching you to have me recommended to the queen's grace.
Suffolk and his fellows went on to Paris, and arrived there on February 4. The king stayed behind at Compiegne to give audience to the ambassadors sent by Charles, prince of Castile, for a marriage between himself and Madame Renée, the youngest daughter of Lewis XII., then four years old. Ferdinand, the old king of Spain, with unwise rivalry had demanded her hand, at the same time, for the Infant Ferdinand, thus early fomenting a misunderstanding between the two brothers. On the 13th, Francis made his entry into Paris. "M. de Nassau and M. de St. Py," says Gattinara, who was present on the occasion, writing to Margaret of Savoy,—
"were on a scaffold, with the queen and the ladies to view the sight; and on the same scaffold were the duke of Suffolk and the deputy of Calais (Wingfield), who have left off their mourning; and we others were in a house, and looked out of the windows at the pageant. Very near us, in another house, was the queen widow (Mary), and certés, Madame, the entry was fine and sumptuous. First came the archers of the town, a goodly number, all with their habits of goldsmith's work of one pattern; then the eschevins and governors of the town, all attired in black velvet, with a great train of people; after them, the crafts, dressed in silks, and all on horseback; then the foot soldiers of the town in great number, dressed en Suisse; then the provost on horseback and the town councillors, in scarlet; and next his archers, bedizened with goldsmith's work; after them "la Justice du Chastellet," with a dozen counsellors in scarlet and fur hoods (chaperons); then the general of the finances, followed by the accountants, in cloth of silk and splendid furs; then 80 members of the court of parliament, in scarlet, with their hoods on their shoulders, and the four presidents, with their mantles and hoods, and caps on their heads, clothed in the same manner as I am, when we pronounce our arrets. After a short interval followed 200 pensionaries, all armed and trapped, accoutred and covered, both horse and man, with cloth of gold of various fashions and devices;—a sight very gorgeous to behold. Next followed the Swiss Guard; then the old knights of the Order, armed, trapped, and accoutred with cloth of gold; amongst whom I recognized M. de Piennes, M. de Bussy d'Amboise the elder, M. de Champdenyer, and M. des Chanes. Then came the ushers of the Chancery in great number, and the masters of requests, attired in black velvet furred with letices; then a horse by itself, which carried the little casket of the seal, set upon a cushion on the saddle, which was of blue velvet sprinkled with fleurs de lis of gold; then came the Chancellor, wearing over his crimson robe a scarlet cloak, cut on both sides in a different manner from those of the others, and a different cap on his head. Afterwards came the pages and the equerry of the king, all dressed in white, partly in velvet and partly in silver cloth; and the horses, all Spanish, were also accoutred in white; then the trumpeters, the heralds, and the kings of arms, in white silk robes, bearing their coats of arms; next the king, armed, upon his barbed horse, wholly accoutred in white and in cloth of silver. The king did not keep under the canopy (pale), but displayed his horsemanship by continually curvetting and prancing. And there were good horses and riders who did marvels to attract the notice of the ladies. After the king, and behind the canopy, came the princes of the blood, so richly accoutred, mounted, and barbed, that I know not how to describe them. Then came the 200 gentlemen of the king's household; all armed and barbed in divers colours, some more richly than others, and they marched in troops and in battalions, with their lances on their thighs, and morions on their heads. Finally came the 400 archers of the guard, all armed and bearing lances.
"After the king's servants had passed, we waited to see the queen pass as she returned to the palace. First came 20 horses of the duke of Suffolk's servants, all attired in grey damask, with many of M. de Nassau's gentlemen; next those of his household and of his litter, with M. de Nassau and M. de Sainct Py in front. The queen's litter followed, with the queen and Madame d'Angoulême. In another litter were Madame Renée and the daughter of the duke of Longueville lately deceased, and another young lady. A third litter contained the old Madame de Bourbon and the young Madame d'Alençon, sister to the king. Five other litters followed. After these came the acquinées to the number of 24; the first 14 ladies being dressed in cloth of gold, the others in various fashions. The duke of Suffolk spoke as he walked with the first of the said ladies, who some say was the duchess of Longueville. Next followed three chariots filled with ladies.
"This evening a banquet was held in the palace, in which M.M. de Nassau and Sainet Py supped with the King. The ambassador of the Pope sate next the king on his right hand, then the duke of Suffolk, M. de Nassau, the deputy of Calais, and M. de Sainct Py, the Venetian ambassador, and no more. On the left hand were seated:—M. d'Alençon, M. de Bourbon, his brother who was made duke, M. de Lorraine, M. de Vendôme, who has also lately been made duke, and others, whom I have forgotten, as I was not there. The banquet is said to have been sumptuous.
"This morning M. de Nassau was told that an answer would be given us today, which has not been the case. The king has caused the English embassy to go to him; and the grand master, M. de Boissy, M. de Bussy d'Amboise the elder, and three or four great personages, have gone to accompany and conduct them, which it is not the custom to do until after the first audience. This appears to be done in order to make us advance; but as we do not know the wishes of our master, the king and his council will perhaps think we have come only to entertain them.
"I forgot to say that at the entry there were a great number of ecclesiastics, and more than 300 Cordeliers, without mentioning the other Orders; for after the king had caught sight of them, they were made pass through other streets where the men-at-arms did not come."
There were anxious hearts at the gay ceremony. On the Tuesday previous Suffolk had paid his first visit to Mary. To his inquiries of the French King's behaviour, she replied, in general terms, as if evading the question, that "he had been in hand with her about many matters," but on hearing of Suffolk's arrival had promised to desist, praying her not to disclose what he had said to her, either to the king or Suffolk; "for because your grace (Henry) should not take none unkindness therein." Suffolk would fain have persuaded himself that Francis had observed his promise: "I think," says the duke, writing to Henry, (fn. 8) "he' n'old do anything that should discontent your grace; or else I will say that he is the most untrue man that lives." The same day the duke wrote to Wolsey, (fn. 9) to say he had been in hand with Mary to ascertain the nature of the communications between her and Francis, of which he had written in his last; and she had confessed that Francis had used importunities that made her "so weary and so afeard" he would try to ruin Suffolk, that she had thought it best to be candid, and had said to him: "Sir, I beseech you that you will let me alone, and speak no more to me of these matters; and if you will promise me by your faith and truth, and as you are a true prince, that you will keep it counsel and help me, I will tell you all my whole mind." On his promise of secresy, Mary avowed her engagement to Suffolk, begging the king to have pity and mitigate her brother's displeasure.
Once already she had been sacrificed to political considerations, and might reasonably apprehend that the promises made her by Henry would not be permitted to take effect, if an eligible match were demanded by the nation, or dictated by national expediency. Henry was aware of her affection for Suffolk before her late portentous union with Lewis. He had promised her, when she parted with him "at the water side," (fn. 10) that if, to oblige him, she would marry Lewis this time, she should be permitted on the next occasion to do "as she list." (fn. 11) But besides her brother's good will, the consent of others had to be gained, "hinderers," as she calls them, and enemies to the man she loved, who would not scruple to retard his advancement. Her marriage was the topic of conversation in every court of Europe; political agents and ambassadors canvassed the chances of this or that suitor for the Fair Queen,—La Royne Blanche,—as she was commonly called, whose hand was eagerly sought for its own sake, and not less for the prospective advantages it held out in the uncertainty of Henry's issue. What was the nature of the offers made her by Francis, whose queen (fn. 12) had been already consigned to the tomb by the seers and prognosticators of the time, I do not care to inquire. More than once she had been pestered by his solicitations within the first week of her widowhood, (fn. 13) sometimes in his own behalf, sometimes in behalf of others, and among the rest for the duke of Savoy. (fn. 14) "If Mary continue at this court," writes Gattinara to Margaret of Savoy, "they speak of her marriage with your brother-in-law, (fn. 15) whom the king, as I am told, has invited to court, and offered to furnish with money." The duke of Lorraine, as the Emperor told Maraton, was anxious to have her, and his suit was favored by the king of France. (fn. 16) To this list must be added the duke of Bavaria and the prince of Portugal. Maximilian, who had foresworn matrimony, and resigned himself to the hopes of canonization, entertained designs upon the hand of this modern Penelope. In the depth of his embarrassments, and the difficulty of finding some decent pretext to raise money, a negotiation for a marital alliance with England, whether successful or not, held out the prospect of wealth in earnest, or at least a liberal loan from the purse of so rich a brother-in-law. Not long since he had written to his daughter Margaret declaring that he would never marry again for "beauty or money," were he to die for it. (fn. 17) But beauty he could resist; not so the charms of money. "Madam," says Lewis Maraton, writing to Margaret on the 9th February, "I have received your letter this morning, dated Brussels, the 1st February, with the portrait of a certain person whom you know; and after dinner, when the Emperor was in his chamber, I showed it him. He kept his eyes fixed upon the portrait for a full half hour or more; and after thus attentively gazing he summoned a secretary who had seen the said personage, and asked him if it was very like. The secretary told him, 'there could not be a better likeness.' The Emperor has commissioned me to ask you, without letting it be known that he had taken any interest in the matter, to write to the king of England to get the lady into his own hands, urging his majesty of England that if she be married in France, and were to die without heirs, his kingdom would be exposed to great hazards." (fn. 18) The Emperor's application arrived too late, and was strangled in the birth, like most of his projects.
But whilst sovereigns were looking wistfully at the great prize, and politicians at home and abroad were speculating on the chances, or projecting matches for Mary, she had taken the matter into her own hands. She possessed, like the rest of the Tudors, though with less opportunities of displaying it, a spice of that wilfulness, which more than once, in cases of emergency, served her family in lieu of nobler qualities, and, if not magnanimity itself, might easily be mistaken for it. The attentions of Francis had been intolerable, ungenerous and unmanly, especially in her forlorn and youthful state. She had waived the subject, when pressed by Suffolk, with natural modesty and reluctance. But to Henry himself she spoke out more plainly. (fn. 19) She told him she had been compelled to disclose to Francis her affection for Suffolk, in order to be relieved of the annoyances of his suit, which was not to her honor; and, in conclusion, she urged her brother for leave to return, that she might not be exposed to a repetition of them. Henry's answer was not such as she might have expected. There was a party in the council who opposed her union with the duke for obvious reasons. She wrote to her brother a second time, reminding him of his promise: (fn. 20)
"Sir,—Your grace knoweth well that I did marry for your pleasure this time; and now I trust that you will suffer me to do what me list to do. For, Sir, I know well ... rs (fn. 21) that they doth (do); and I insure your grace that my mind (affection) is not there where they would have me; and I trust your grace will not do so to me, that have always been so glad to fulfil your mind as I have been; whereto I beseech your grace will have granted ... For if you will have me married in any place, saving whereas my mind is, I will be there whereas your grace nor none other shall have any joy of me; for I promise your grace you shall hear that I will be in some religious house, the which I think your grace would be very sorry of, and your realm also. Sir, I know well that the king that is now will send to your grace for his uncle the duke of Savoy for to marry me; but I trust your grace will not do it."
Meanwhile Suffolk's opponents in the council had not been inactive. They had employed a friar, named Langley, to poison her ear against the duke. (fn. 22) The friar told her that Suffolk and Wolsey had dealings with the devil, and "by the puissance of the said devil" kept Henry subject to their wills. He assured her that Suffolk, by his diabolical arts, had caused the disease "in Compton's leg;" (fn. 23) for he knew "the premises well, and could not doubt it was the duke's doing." So Wolsey was left to fight her battles singlehanded. The disputes at the council table were long and obstinate. If Suffolk triumphed, and a good understanding were, by his means, promoted between the two sovereigns, Wolsey and he would monopolize their master's favour, as the duke hinted. If he failed, he must not only forfeit the hand of Mary, but, to all appearance, he and Wolsey would be irretrievably ruined. That Henry should tolerate such scandals, ringing so loudly throughout the courts of Europe,—that he should apparently care so little for Mary's comfort and reputation as to expose her week after week to the importunities of Francis,—still more, that he should continue with Francis on the most friendly terms, as if nothing had happened,—are difficulties not easily solved. Was it confidence in his sister's honour, though she was but a widow of eighteen? Did he disbelieve her fears, and think that her assertions were unfounded?
Two other projects were bound up with Suffolk's commission: one was, to obtain possession of the jewels presented to Mary by her late husband; the other, to make profit out of the wish of Francis to recover Tournay. (fn. 24) It will be remembered that at her marriage with Lewis "a great diamond and a tablet with a great round pearl" (fn. 25) formed part of the bridal offerings. The Earl of Worcester wrote in glowing terms of "the goodliest and richest sight of jewels that ever he saw." (fn. 26) All of them, the king had told Worcester, were destined for Mary's use; but he added, merrily laughing, "My wife shall not have all at once, but at divers times;" for he would have "many and at divers times kisses and thanks for them." These jewels, and Mary's claim to them, now formed the basis of a long and intricate negotiation, in the conduct of which Mary's honor and happiness held but a secondary place. The price of her hand was to be the duke's success in accomplishing this intricate and difficult task; and as Suffolk's abilities as a negotiator, though sharpened by his affection for Mary, were not brilliant, he was no match for the subtle politicians of the French court. If his accomplishments as a mathematician were no better than his spelling, it may be doubted whether a "sum "in addition of money" would not have proved to him an inextricable mystery. At all events, he staggered under the difficulties of his task, and panted to get away from the "stinking prison" of Paris, as he calls it, in words more emphatic than elegant. Again and again he earnestly besought the king "to call him and the queen his sister home." (fn. 27) "Her grace nor I shall never be merry to win," he tells Henry, "and therefore I beseech your grace she and I may" be in your remembrance."
In reply to these urgent and repeated entreaties, Wolsey, their unflinching friend, entreated the two lovers to have patience. He told Suffolk that the king, after the sittings of the Council, had called him apart, and bade him write to Suffolk to use all his efforts to obtain from Francis Mary's gold plate and jewels; (fn. 28) and until this were accomplished, Suffolk and the queen would not obtain licence to return. "I assure you," continues Wolsey, "the hope that the king hath to obtain the said plate and jewels is the thing that most stayeth his grace constantly to assent that ye should marry his sister; the lack whereof, I fear me, might make him cold and remiss and cause some alteration, whereof all men here, except his grace and myself, would be right glad."
The terms imposed were somewhat of the hardest. In a fit of stinginess, more befitting his father, Henry demanded the restoration of Mary's jewels and furniture; all the expenses of her passage were to be returned, and the sums reimbursed that had been laid out in providing her bridal apparel. Though rarely accustomed to remonstrate, Suffolk and the commissioners could not but complain of such extreme demands. "As the queen," they wrote to Wolsey, (fn. 29) "shall have all her stuff returned, we think it is not reasonable to demand such sums as have been laid out by the king's officers for provision of the same, for she may not have both the money and stuff. And sithence it is likely that we shall commune with reasonable men, we would be rather loth to demand anything out of season." Every day the negotiations became more hampered and more perplexed; the generous spirit in which they had been commenced was fast disappearing, and was superseded by the less amiable desire of each party to outwit and overreach the other. The English, instructed from home, especially by Suffolk's opponents—who, to suit their own party purposes, urged the king to unreasonable demands—endeavoured to obtain an advantageous exchange for Tournay. They insisted on the delivery of the jewels which Lewis had promised or given her, and the dowry he had settled upon her. The French negotiators fell back upon the promise made at Mary's marriage, that Tournay should be restored unconditionally; and pleaded in return that the jewels had been given to Mary only as queen of France, and could not be transported out of the realm. The disposition of the two courts became daily more bitter and impracticable, and Mary's hopes of a happy union with Suffolk more distant every hour. She wrote to her brother to say that all her plate and jewels should be "at his commandment;" and she only regretted that the gift was not so large as it might have been, in consequence of the difficulties created by the negotiation. (fn. 30) "And, Sir," she added, in a tone of respect contrasting with the more familiar address of her earlier letters, "over and above this, I most humbly beseech your grace to write to the French king and all your ambassadors here, that they make all the speed possible, that I may come to your grace, for my singular desire and comfort is to see your grace, above all things in this world."
We may overlook this extravagant expression of affection for her brother in a young woman of nineteen, brought unexpectedly into the prospect of a union with the man she had long loved, and the success of which depended entirely on that brother's consent. But there was a stronger reason for this urgency and vehemence,—unknown to all except herself and Suffolk;—Mary was married already, and her marriage could no longer be kept secret. The history of this strange affair may be learnt from a letter of Suffolk's, addressed to the king, and inclosed in another to Wolsey, for Wolsey's perusal. Whether the letter was delivered to the king or not is uncertain, for to Wolsey alone were the secrets of this love-making confided, and his advice was implicitly followed, even to the expressions contained in the letters of the queen-widow. (fn. 31) After stating that he had done his best to obtain "hall her stouf and jowyelles," Suffolk continues, (fn. 32) "I find you so good lord to me, that there is nothing that grieves me, but that she and I have no more to content your grace. But, Sir, as she has written to you of her own hand, she is content to give you all that her grace shall have by the right of her wosbound (husband); and, if it come not to so much as your grace thought, she is content to give your grace what sum you shall be content to axe, to be paid on her jointure, and all that she has in this world." Then, after entreating the king, as well he might, not "to let his enemies have the advantage over him," he thus proceeds:
"Sir, one thing I ensure your grace, that it shall never be said that I did offend your grace in word, deed, or thought, but for this matter touching the queen, your sister, the which I can no longer nor will not hide from your grace. Sir, so it is, that when I came to Paris, (fn. 33) the queen was in hand with me the first day I came, and said she must be short with me, and open to me her pleasure and mind. And so she began, and showed how good lady she was to me, and if I would be ordered by her she would never have none but me. She showed me she had verily understood as well by friar Langley and friar Fr ... that and ever she came in England, she should never have me; and therefore she swore that and I would not marry her at once, she would never have me, nor never come to England."
Then follows a passage, unfortunately too mutilated to be intelligible, but apparently implying that she had received information that Suffolk's purpose was to take her to England and marry her elsewhere:—
"I axed her what it was; and she said that the best in France (Francis) had said unto her, that and she went into England she should go into Flanders. (fn. 34) To the which she said that she had rather to be torn in pieces than ever she should come there; and with that she wept. Sir, I never saw woman so weep; and when I saw that, I showed unto her grace that there was none such thing, upon my faith, with the best words I could: but in none ways I could make her to believe it. And when I saw that, I showed her grace that and her grace would be content to write unto your grace and to obtain your good will, I would be content; or else I durst not, because I had made unto your grace such a promise. Whereunto, in conclusion, she said: 'If the king, my brother, is content, and the French king both, the one by his letters and the other by his words, that I should have you, I will have the time after my desire, or else I may well think that the words of the men in these parts, and of them in England, be true,—that you are come to 'tice me home, to the intent that I may be married into Flanders;—which I will never, even to die for it; and so I possessed the French king ere you came. And if you will not be content to follow my end (comply with my determination), look never after this day to have the same proffer again.'"
Rather than lose all, Suffolk tells the king he thought it best to comply; and so she and he were privately married in the presence of ten persons only, none of his fellows from England being made aware of his intentions: for Mary would not suffer it; "for she said and I did so she thought they would give me counsel to the contrary."
Suffolk's pathetic appeal was seconded by the following letter from Mary: (fn. 35)
"Pleaseth your grace, to my greatest discomfort, sorrow, and disconsolation, but lately I have been advertised of the great and high displeasure which your highness beareth unto me and my Lord of Suffolk for the marriage between us. Sir, I will not in any wise deny but that I have offended your grace, for the which I do put myself most humbly in your clemency and mercy. Nevertheless, to the intent that your highness should not think that I had simply, carnally, and of any sensual appetite done the same, I having no regard to fall in your grace's displeasure, I assure your grace that I had never done against your ordinance and consent, but by reason of the great despair wherein I was put by the two friars ... which hath certified me, in case I came to England, your council would never consent to the marriage between the said Lord and me, with many other sayings concerning the same marriage; so that I verily thought that the said friars would never have offered to have made me like overture unless they might have had charge from some of your council; the which put me in such consternation, fear, and doubt of the obtaining of the thing which I desired most in this world, that I rather chose to put me in your mercy by accomplishing the marriage than to put me in the order of your council, knowing them to be otherwise minded. Whereupon, Sir, I put my lord of Suffolk in choice whether he would accomplish the marriage within four days, or else that he should never have enjoyed me; whereby I know well that I constrained him to break such promises he made your grace, as well for fear of losing me, as also that I ascertained him that by their consent I would never come into England. And now that your grace knoweth the both offences of the which I have been the only occasion, I most humbly, and as your most sorrowful sister, requiring you to have compassion upon us both, and to pardon our offences, and that it will please your grace to write to me and my lord of Suffolk some comfortable words, for it shall be the greatest comfort for us both.
"MARY." (fn. 36)
In a letter to Wolsey the duke writes: (fn. 37) —
"My Lord,—I recommend me to you, and so it is that I wit that you have been the chief in ... and has been the helper of me, so that I am obliged to you next God and my master, and therefore I will hide none thing from you, trusting that you will help me now as you have done hall ways. Me Lord, so it is that when I came to Paris I heard many things which put me in great fear, and so did the queen both; and the queen would never let me be in rest till I had granted her to be married; and so to be plain with you, I have married her heartily, and has lien with her, insomuch as far [as in] me lies (fn. 38) that she be with child. My Lord I am not in a little sorrow if the king should know it, and that his grace should be displeased with me; for I ensure you that I had rather 'a died than he should be miscontent, and ... or for me nown good lord, since you have brought ... hitherto, let me not be undone now, the whiche I fear me shall be, without the help of you. Me Lor, think not that ever you shall make any [friend] that shall be more obliged to you; and therefore me nown good Lord ... help."
Then after a very mutilated passage, implying that Francis and his mother would write to Henry in his and Mary's favour, he adds: "Me Lord, I doubt not they will write this for me, or how you shall think best they should write." Then he proceeds to tell Wolsey that in France,
"they marry as well in Lent as out of Lent, with licence of any bishop. Now my Lord, you know all, and in you is all my trust, beseeching you now of your assured help, and that I may have answer from you of this and of the other writings as shortly as may be possible, for I ensure you that I have as heavy a heart as any man living, and shall have till I may hear good news from you."
This letter was apparently accompanied by the following, (fn. 39) although the former is preserved in the British Museum, and the latter at the Record Office,—such separation of documents being not uncommon. I have retained the original spelling as a specimen of the duke's orthography, though not the most intricate by any means. Both are wholly in Suffolk's hand.
"Me Lord,—For to in deus the quyenes mattar and myene un to the kynges grace, I thynke byest for your fourst entre you schold dyllewar un to to (sic) hem a dymond wyet a greth pryell, wyche you schall rysayef wyet thys from the quyen hes sustar. Ryquyer hem to take et aworth, asuarryng hes grace yt whan soo ewar sche schall have the possesseun of the resedeu yt he schall have the chowse of them acourdyng unto her formar wrettyng. Me Lord, sche and I bowth rymyttys thes mattar holle to your dysskras[eun], tresting yt in hall hast possebbyll wye schall her from you som good tydynges tocheng howar afyeres, wher wyeth I ryquyer you to depeche thes byrrar, and yt he tarre for noon oddar caus. By youre, the 5 day of Mache, at tyn a cloke at neth.
I think it is clear from these and other expressions scattered throughout his correspondence that Suffolk had left England in the first instance with a promise from Henry that he should be united to Mary on her return; the King, at least, would offer no obstacle to their union. How far Mary was right in supposing that if she returned that promise would be evaded, or what were its precise terms, we have no means of deciding. It is clear from the tone of his letter to Wolsey, that Suffolk did not apprehend any settled displeasure on the part of his sovereign. He had pledged his word to the king not to take advantage of Mary's affection or precipitate their union. The offence was venial, and he assured himself of an easy and prompt forgiveness. But Wolsey understood his master's temper much better than Suffolk, and he replied to the duke, in the following letter, every word of which must have struck a pang into Suffolk's heart: (fn. 40)
"My Lord,—With sorrowful heart I write unto you, signifying unto the same that I have to my no little discomfort and inward heaviness perceived by your letters, dated at Paris the 5th day of this instant month, how that you be secretly married unto the king's sister, and have accompanied together as man and wife. And albeit ye by your said letters desired me in no wise to dis[c]lose the same to the king's grace, yet seeing the same toucheth not only his honor, your promise made to his grace, and also my truth towards the same, I could no less do but incontinent upon the sight of your said letters, declare and shew the contents thereof to his highness, which at the first hearing could scantly believe the same to be true: but after I had showed to his grace that by your own writing I had knowledge thereof, his grace, giving credence thereunto, took the same grievously and displeasantly, not only for that ye durst presume to marry his sister without his knowledge, but also for breaking of your promise made to his grace in his hand, I being present, at Eltham; having also such a[n] assured affiance in your truth, that for all the world, and to have been torn with wild horses, ye would not have broken your oath, promise, and assurance, made to his grace, which doth well perceive that he is deceived of the constant and assured trust that he thought to have found in you, and so his grace would I should expressly write unto you. And for my part, no man can be more sorry than I am that ye have so done, being so incumbered therewith that I cannot devise nor study the remedy thereof, considering that ye have failed to him which hath brought you up of low degree (fn. 41) to be of this great honor; and that ye were the man in all the world he loved and trusted best, and was content that with good order and saving of his honor ye should have in marriage his said sister. Cursed be the blind affection and counsel that hath brought you hereunto! fearing that such sudden and unadvised dealing shall have sudden repentance.
"Nevertheless in this great perplexity I see no other remedy but first to make your humble pursuits by your own writing, causing also the French king, the queen, with other your friends, to write: with this also that shall follow, which I assure you I write unto you of mine own head without knowledge of any person living, being in great doubt whether the same shall make your peace or no; notwithstanding, if any remedy be, it shall be by that way. It shall be well done that, with all diligence possible, ye and the queen bind yourself by obligation to pay yearly to the king during the queen's life £4,000 of her dower; and so ye and she shall have remaining of the said dower £6,000 and above to live withal yearly. Over and besides this ye must bind yourself to give unto the king the plate of gold and jewels which the late French king had. And whereas the queen shall have full restitution of her dote, ye shall not only give entirely the said dote to the king, but also cause the French king to be bound to pay to the king the 200,000 crowns, which his grace is bounden to pay to the queen, in the full contentation of the said dote de novissimis denariis, and the said French king to acquit the king for the payment thereof; like as the king hath more at the large declared his pleasure to you, by his letters lately sent unto you. This is the way to make your peace; whereat if ye deeply consider what danger ye be and shall be in, having the king's displeasure, I doubt not both the queen and you will not stick, but with all effectual diligence endeavor yourselves to recover the king's favor, as well by this mean as by other substantial true ways, which by mine advise ye shall use, and none other, towards his grace, whom by corbobyll drifts and ways you cannot abuse. Now I have told you my opinion, hardily follow the same, and trust not too much to your own wit, nor follow not the counsel of them, that hath not more deeply considered the dangers of this matter than they have hitherto done.
"And as touching the overtures made by the French king for Tournay, and also for a new confederation with the king and him, like as I have lately written to you, I would not advise you to wade any further in these maters, for it is to be thought that the French king intendeth to make his hand by favoring you in the attaining to the said marriage; which when he shall perceive that by your means he cannot get such things as he desireth, peradventure he shall show some change and alteration in the queen's affairs, whereof great inconvenience might ensue. Look wisely therefore upon the same, and consider you have enough to do in redressing your own causes; and think it will be hard to induce the king to give you a commission of trust, which hath so lightly regarded the same towards his grace.
"Thus I have as a friend declared my mind unto you, and never trust to use nor have me in anything contrary to truth, my master's honor, profits, wealth, and surety; to the advancement and furtherance whereof no creature living is more bounden; as our Lord knowyth, who send you grace to look well and deeply upon your acts and doings; for ye put yourself in the greatest danger that ever man was in."
With so many anxieties, and the dread of punishment hanging over his head, it is not to be wondered that Suffolk's negotiations at the French court failed of success. His enemies accused him of studying his own interests with Mary and neglecting the interests of the nation. They insinuated that he had sacrificed the purposes of his mission to ingratiate himself with the French king. He desired to have "some word of comfort" from Henry; but none apparently came. The French, on their side, were displeased with him for the jewel he had sent to England on first announcing his marriage, and demanded its restoration as an heir-loom of the queens of France. They assured him that queen Claude had such a mind to it she would never be satisfied without it. (fn. 42) As for the restoration of Mary's property and jewels, Suffolk tells Wolsey he had done his best; but it passed his learning, whether she had her right, or had been outwitted by the subtlety of the French ministers. Above all other things Mary's condition occasioned him great perplexity. His intimacy with her was daily becoming more notorious; his honor and hers was compromised whilst the marriage was kept strictly private. No man with a spark of courage and generosity could endure to see the woman whom he loved exposed to such a scandal, or himself and his sovereign pointed at by the public finger of scorn in every court of Christendom. "My Lord," he says to wolsey, in great anguish, "at the reverence of God help that I may be married, as I go out of France, openly, for many things of which I will awartes (advertize) you by mine next letters. Give me your advice whether the French king and his mother shall write again to the King for this open marriage; seeing that this privy marriage is done, and that I think none otherwise but that she is with child." (fn. 43)
It was now unfortunately the season of Lent, and Easter Sunday did not fall until the 8th April. No licence could be obtained without a dispensation, and such a course would have given rise to unfavourable comments in England, where these ecclesiastical restrictions were, at present, more closely observed than in France. Possibly there might be other motives of a political nature, with which we are not acquainted. But, whatever they were, the wishes of Suffolk and Mary were disregarded. Not-withstanding their earnest entreaties for a speedy and favorable reply, there seems to have been a total cessation of correspondence from England between the 12th March and the 3rd April. In the displeasure of Henry, and the momentary triumph of Suffolk's enemies, it was uncertain what line of conduct the king would pursue. For a subject to marry the sister of his sovereign, without his consent, was a thing unheard of in England; and the duke's enemies called loudly for signal vengeance on the man who had been guilty of such gross presumption. At last Mary obtained leave to depart the first week after Easter; for Francis was now impatient to start on his Italian expedition. On the 14th April she gave a receipt at the Abbey of Clugny in Paris for 200,000 gold crowns, including 20,000 paid for her travelling expenses, as a moiety of her dowry; (fn. 44) but her gold plate and her jewels, with the exception of "four bagues of 'no great value" (fn. 45) were never restored, on the beggarly plea that Francis, sorely displeased at the loss of the diamond called the Mirror of Naples, would do no more. (fn. 46) On the 16th the pair started for England, and reached Montreuil on the 22nd, uncertain of their reception, and even of the fate which awaited them. At Calais they were afraid to leave the house, as the duke would have been killed by the angry mob. (fn. 47) On his road to the seaside Suffolk addressed the following letter to his master: (fn. 48)
"Most gracious Sovereign Lord,—So it is that I am informed divers ways that all your whole council, my Lord of York excepted, with many other, are clearly determined to 'tympe' your grace that I may either be put to death or be put in prison, and so to be destroyed. Alas, Sir, I may say that I have a hard fortune, seeing that there was never none of them in trouble but I was glad to help them to my power, and that your grace knows best. And now that I am in this none little trouble and sorrow, now they are ready to help to destroy me. But, Sir, I can no more but God forgive them whatsoever comes on me; for I am determined. For, Sir, your grace is he that is my sovereign lord and master, and he that has brought me up out of nought; and I am your subject and servant, and he that has offended your grace in breaking my promise that I made your grace touching the queen your sister; for the which I, with most humble heart, I will yield myself unto your grace's hands to do with my poor body your gracious pleasure, not fearing the malice of them; for I know your grace of such nature that it cannot lie in their powers to cause you to destroy me for their malice. But what punishment I have I shall thank God and your grace of it, and think that I have well deserved it, both to God and your grace; as knows 'howar' Lord, who send your grace your most honourable heart's desire with long life, and me most sorrowful wretch your gracious favour, what sorrows soever I endure therefor. At Mottryll, the 22nd day of April, by your most humble subject and servant,
"My most dear and most entirely beloved brother, in most humble manner I recommend me to your grace. Dearest brother, I doubt not but ye have in your good remembrance, that whereas for the good of peace, and for the furtherance of your affairs, ye moved me to marry with my lord and late husband King Loys of France, whose soul God pardon, though I understood that he was very aged and sickly, yet for the advancement of the said peace and for the furtherance of your causes I was contented to conform myself to your said motion, so that if I should fortune to survive the said late king, I might with your good will marry myself at my liberty without your displeasure. Whereunto, good brother, ye condescended and granted, as ye well know, promising unto me that in such case ye would never provoke or move me but as mine own heart and mind should be best pleased, and that wheresoever I should dispose myself ye would wholly be contented with the same. And upon that your good comfort and faithful promise, I assented to the said marriage; else I would never have granted to, as at the same time I showed unto you more at large. Now that God hath called my said late husband to His mercy and that I am at my liberty, dearest brother, remembering the great virtues which I have seen and perceived heretofore in my Lord of Suffolk, to whom I have always been of good mind, as ye well know, I have affixed and clearly determined myself to marry with him; and the same, I assure you, hath proceeded only of mine own mind, without any request or labour of my said Lord of Suffolk, or of any other person. And to be plain with your grace, I have so bound myself unto him, that for no cause earthly I will or may vary or change from the same. Wherefore, my good and most kind brother, I now beseech your grace to take this matter in good part, and to give unto me and to my said Lord of Suffolk your good will herein; ascertaining you, that upon the trust and comfort which I have for that you have always honourably regarded your promise, I am now comen out of the realm of France, and have put myself within your jurisdiction, in this your town of Calais, where I intend to remain till such time as I shall have answer from you of your good and loving mind herein; which I would not have done but upon the faithful trust that I have in your said promise. Humbly beseeching your grace for the great and tender love, which ever hath been and shall be between you and me, to bear your gracious mind and show yourself to be agreeable hereunto, and to certify me by your most loving letters of the same; till which time I will make mine abode here, and no further enter your realm.
"And to the intent it may please you the rather to condescend to this my most hearty desire, I am contented, and expressly promise and bind me to you by these presents, to give you all the whole dote which was delivered with me, and also all such plate of gold and jewels as I shall have of my said late husband's. Over and besides this I shall, rather than fail, give you as much yearly part of my dower to as great a sum as shall stand with your will and pleasure. And of all the premises I promise, upon knowledge of your good mind, to make unto you sufficient bonds. Trusting verily that in fulfilling of your said promise to me made, ye will show your brotherly love, affection, and good mind to me in this behalf, which to hear of I abide with most desire, and not to be miscontented with my said Lord of Suffolk, whom of mine inward good mind and affection to him I have in manner enforced to be agreeable to the same without any request by him made, as knoweth our Lord, whom I beseech to have your grace in his merciful governance." (fn. 49)
The effect of this letter is unknown, for we have no further notice of Mary and her troubles. Henry contented himself with taking her plate and jewels, and binding her in an obligation of 24,000l, to repay the expenses of her former marriage with Lewis by yearly instalments of 1,000l., and to give up her dowry to its full amount. (fn. 50) The terms were rigidly enforced. On the 13th May she was openly espoused to Suffolk at Greenwich, (fn. 51) in presence of the king and queen. Sir Wm. Sidney, the duke's relative, was despatched to Francis with instructions (fn. 52) : "That, consider ing there were no more privy to the secret marriage made between them in France, but only the said French king, and none privy here thereunto but the king, to whom the said French king and duke disclosed the same, the said Sir Wm. Sidney shall say that the king's grace desireth and perfectly trusteth that, for the honor of the said French queen, and for avoiding all evil bruits which may ensue thereof, he will reserve and keep the same at all times hereafter secret to himself without making any creature privy thereunto, like as the king shall do for his part."
Henceforth Mary's name drops from the page of history, and is only mentioned in connexion with some court banquet or ceremonial. Her dower long continued to form a subject of dispute between the two courts to the close of this volume, and more than once Suffolk complained of the pecuniary difficulties into which he was plunged by the hard terms imposed upon him by his royal brother-in-law. (fn. 53)
On Suffolk's return to England the negotiations in France fell into the hands of West, afterwards bishop of Ely; a man of great ability, and not easily misled. But in every point of his commission, even to the prevention of the Duke of Albany's return to Scotland, Suffolk had been foiled, and to recover the lost ground was impossible. Secure of his treaty with England, which had been signed in London on the 5th April, (fn. 54) Francis was indifferent to the threats and remonstrances of West. He had agreed to pay one million of gold crowns due from Lewis XII. to Henry VIII., and all other sums owing to Mary for her dower. So, having locked the door on his old enemy, and with nothing to fear from that quarter for the present, he started at once from Paris, impatient to carry out his Italian expedition, leaving West to follow or not as he pleased. In fact he wanted no English eyes to spy into his intentions; least of all, eyes so active and suspicious as West's. The council of Charles were entirely at his devotion. Charles himself had been betrothed to Madame Renée. Should England, unfaithful to the treaty, venture to move, he had taken the precaution of sending Albany into Scotland with a large sum of money; and nothing was easier than to endanger and hamper his rival with an irritating and pertinacious border warfare, on the very verge of those counties which were least affected to Henry's rule. If this project failed he had still a card to play in The White Rose, Richard de la Pole, the exiled duke of Suffolk, whom Francis fostered, pitied, and cajoled with promises of restoration to the crown of England.
Francis was now in his 22nd year. (fn. 55) His accession to the throne had been the signal for all the ardent and adventurous spirits of the age to rally round him; dissatisfied with that English alliance, to which Lewis had ingloriously resigned himself. His person is too well known to need description here, but most readers will be surprised to hear that Silvester de Giglis, the bishop of Worcester, not a favorable witness, who had seen him with the Pope at Bologna, describes him at this period of his life as tall and broad-shouldered, with an oval and handsome face, very slender in the legs, and much inclined to corpulence. (fn. 56) The contrast of his legs to his stomach seems to have fastened on the memory of his visitors. Pasqualigo, who saw him in Paris, gives an amusing account of a conversation he had with Henry VIII. on the personal appearance and manners of his cousin of France. (fn. 57) "His majesty came to me and said: 'Is the king of France as tall as I am?' I told him there was little difference. 'Is he as stout?' I told him he was not. 'What sort of legs has he?' I replied 'Spare.' Whereupon he opened the front of his doublet, and placing his hand on his thigh, said 'Look here; I have a good calf to my leg.'" Trivulcio told Giustinian (fn. 58) that Francis was so extremely liberal he would drain the very blood from his veins; but his mother, Louise of Savoy, hoarded money, and interfered in everything. He regretted that the king was under petticoat government, remained so short a period at the council board, was fond of amusement, and wasted so much of his time in his mother's chamber. But Trivulcio belonged to the old school, and was of a jealous and suspicious temper. That the influence of Louise was great is apparent from the letters of the Flemish and English envoys. And she deserved it, for never did mother more idolize a son. She had witnessed the accession of him of whom she was so fond and so proud with unrestrained delight. "God has amply recompensed me," she writes in her diary on that occasion, "for all the sorrows and incommodities I have endured in my earlier years. Humility has kept me company, and patience has never abandoned me." Her inward satisfaction displayed itself outwardly. "A good report," says Solomon, "maketh the bones fat;" and so it proved with her." The king's mother," says Gattinara to Margaret of Savoy, (fn. 59) "appears to me much younger and fresher looking than she was four years ago." "Sir," writes Suffolk to Henry VIII., "it is she that rules all; and so may she well; for I never saw woman like to her, both for [wit], honor, and dignity." (fn. 60) "She hath a great stroke in all matters with the King her son," he observes on another occasion. (fn. 61) In all his ambitious projects she encouraged him; she hoarded money, refused marriage, for his sake, lavished upon him all those epithets which could rouse even the most dormant ambition, "C'est mon filz glorieux et triomphant César." "L'exalt- ation de mon César," she murmured to herself as she noted down his exploits in her diary. "He is young," says Sir Robert Wingfield, writing to Henry VIII., (fn. 62) "mighty, insatiable; always reading or talking of such enterprises as whet and inflame himself and his hearers. He keepeth no silence; for his common saying is to all that he speaketh with, that his trust is that by his [valor and] industry the things which have been lost, lettyn, [and spoiled] by his ignoble predecessors shall be recovered, and that the monarchy of Christendom shall rest under the banner of France, as it was wont to do. And your Majesty may be sure that at this day it is no small part of that kingdom that would the same were true."
In this temper and with these incitements, Francis now started on the conquest of Milan. He kept all his plans to himself, not disclosing his intentions even to his best allies, the Venetians. All correspondence with England ceased. In vain Wolsey and the King fretted and fumed at this galling neglect, which wore the air of contempt; in vain they treated with an ill-assumed indifference the rumour that Francis was meditating the conquest of Italy without communicating his intentions to them. "Sir ambassador," exclaimed Henry, pale with anger, to Giustinian, who had announced (fn. 63) to him with malicious candour the departure of Francis from Lyons, "the French king will not go into Italy this year, though he says so. I believe he is afraid of me, and that will prevent him from crossing the Alps." On Sebastian stating that the French king was adored by his subjects, "By God !" exclaimed Henry, "he gives them poor reason to love him, running thus at the very commencement of his reign into the toils and charges of war." "The king of France never cares," says Wolsey to the same ambassador three days after, "to ask aid of England; he omits to make us the least communication of his intentions, showing in how small account he holds his Majesty. Think, sir ambassador, whether this is to be borne, and say if these are the fashions of confederates!" (fn. 64) Now and then Louise sent a letter so well timed as to come too late to do mischief, offering ample amends for any apparent injury or neglect. Regardless of all idle menaces Francis held on his way. Ferdinand, who had already been in treaty (fn. 65) with Francis to secure his late conquest of Navarre, was too old and too ill to offer serious opposition. Maximilian wasted the time in hunting or coquetting with the princess of Hungary, a young girl not yet in her teens. "The Emperor," said Pope Julius, "is fickle and inconstant; he is always dunning for money, which he spends in hunting the chamois; yet he must be conciliated in the devil's name, (fn. 66) and money always provided for him." (fn. 67) From him there was no danger. So Francis, the new Cid, started from Lyons for Grenoble at the end of July. The passes in Italy had already been occupied by the Swiss under their captain general, Galeazzo Visconti. Galeazzo (fn. 68) makes their number not more than 6,000 in consequence of the defection of Berne, Friburg, and Soleure, who had gone home from want of pay. They were posted at Susa, commanding the two roads from Mont Cenis and Geneva, by one of which the French must pass or abandon their artillery. In this perplexity it was proposed by Triulcio to force a lower passage acros the Cottian Alps leading to Saluzzo. The attempt was attended with almost insurmountable difficulties. There was no regular road;—every foot of ground had to be gained hand to hand by pioneers, filling up ravines and undermining rocks, or fencing the dangerous slopes, as they dragged their heavy guns with toilsome march to the steep summits of the mountains. Arrived at the top, the prospect was still more formidable. The mountains sloped to the bottom with sharp and projecting cliffs, unsafe for the giddy footing even of an unencumbered passenger. Men in armour fell headlong into the abyss; horses plunged and struggled in vain with their unmanageable burthens, lost their footing, and rolled thundering over the precipices with guns, carriages, and drivers. But the French troops, with wonderful spirits and alacrity,—never mounting higher than when they have to overcome the most formidable natural difficulties,—were not to be baffled. They dropped their artillery by cables from steep to steep; down one range of mountains and up another, until five days had been spent in this perilous enterprise, and they found themselves safe in the plains of Saluzzo. Happily the Swiss, secure in their position at Susa, had never dreamed of the possibility of such a passage. The men-at-arms and the foot under La Palice clambered over the rocks, some by one passage and some another.
Prosper Colonna, who commanded in Italy for the Pope, was sitting down to his comfortable dinner at Villa Franca when a scout covered with dust dashed into his apartment announcing that the French had crossed the Alps. The next minute the town was filled with the advanced guard, under the Sieur d'Ymbercourt and the celebrated Bayard. The Swiss at Susa had still the advantage of position, and might have hindered the passage of the main body of the French; but they had no horse to transport their artillery, were badly led, and evidently divided in their councils. They retired upon Novara without accomplishing any other feat except that of sacking and plundering Chivasso and Vercelli. In fact the brilliant enterprise and audacity of the French in crossing the Cottian Alps had won for them the victory, and dazzled and dismayed the confederates. Cardona, the Spanish viceroy, lingered in Verona; Leo temporized and hesitated in his plans; the Gallicizing Swiss at Novara openly advocated the French cause, and the dissension was increased by the backwardness of Ferdinand in sending the pay he had promised them.
There was in the armies of the Swiss, now constantly recruited by fresh and hungry adventurers, an ecclesiastic named Matthew Scheiner, Cardinal of Sion, who plays an important part in the pages of this volume. He was a man of inexhaustible activity, of rough and ready eloquence, and highly esteemed by his countrymen. He hated, or at least affected to hate the Frènch, with a hatred that nothing could extinguish. The Swiss were now at Milan, intending to effect a junction with the viceroy of Naples, who had advanced to Cremona. Early in the morning of the 13th September, Sion called the troops together at beat of drum, in the courtyard of the castle of Milan; then, mounting a chair in the midst of them, he harangued them on the valor and glory of their nation. (fn. 69) They were, he exclaimed, the real rulers of this world: they it was who dispensed crowns and empires; without them no prince could be assured of his dominions, and with them the weakest might promise himself assured victory. He enlarged upon their conquests in Italy, reminded them how popes and kings had sought their alliance, and ended by pointing to the French camp and promising them an easy conquest. (fn. 70) "There," said "he, are treasures sufficient to enrich you all for life; glory enough to make you the most redoubtable nation on the face of the earth." It was in vain that Galeazzo and others more experienced in these matters denounced the folly of the enterprize, and advised delay. (fn. 71) Sion's speech was received with enthusiastic cries; hogsheads of wine were broken up and distributed among the troops; the cornet de bœuf sounded the rendez-vous through the camp and the streets of Milan, (fn. 72) and every man hurried forward, anxious to be the first to assail and plunder the French. The French camp was at Marignano, about twelve miles distant. The day was hot and dusty. The advanced guard of the French was under the command of the constable of Bourbon, whose vigilance defeated any advantage the Swiss might otherwise have gained by the suddenness and rapidity of their movements. At nine o'clock in the morning, as Bourbon was sitting down at table, a scout, dripping with water, made his appearance. He had left Milan only a few hours before, had waded the canals, and came to announce the approach of the enemy. Bourbon ordered his horse, and galloped to the king's quarter. As they stood discussing the probability of the news, a gentleman-at-arms rode up, saying that a great cloud of dust had been seen in the direction of Milan. (fn. 73) The Swiss came on apace; they had disencumbered themselves of their hats and caps, and thrown off their shoes, the better to fight without slipping. They made a dash at the French artillery, and were foiled after hard fighting, though Galeazzo avers that they captured 15 great guns, and drove the French back half a mile. (fn. 74) Marillac, who was with Bourbon that day, admits that the French could make no impression on the main body of the Swiss, who fought with such obstinacy and determination, that the French recoiled, and at one time gave over the battle for lost. It was an autumnal afternoon; the sun had gone down; dust and night-fall separated and confused the combatants. The French trumpets sounded a retreat; both armies couched down in the darkness within cast of a tennis-ball of each other. (fn. 75) The cornets de vache of the Swiss blared and brayed through the night, answered by the French trumpets and clarions. Where they fought, there each man laid down to rest when darkness came on, within hand-grip of his foe;—foot-soldier pike in hand, the horseman in the saddle, the gunner with his linstock, longing for the dawn.
It was Friday morning; the autumnal mist crawled slowly away, and once more exposed the combatants to each other's view. The advantage of the ground was on the side of the French. They were drawn up in a valley protected by a ditch full of water. Though the Swiss had taken no refreshment that night, (fn. 76) they renewed the fight with unimpaired animosity and vigor. A party of them broke into the French camp, and found their way to Bourbon's quarters, where they fell to rifling the provisions and the wine-casks, and were burnt in the cellars and magazines. Another band lost their way. Francis, surrounded by a body of mounted gentlemen, performed prodigies of valour. The night had given him opportunity for the better arrangement of his troops; (fn. 77) and as the day wore on, and the sun grew hot, the Swiss, though "marvellously deliberate, brave, and obstinate," began to give way. The arrival of the Venetian general, D'Alviano, with fresh troops, made the French victory complete. (fn. 78)
But the Swiss retreated inch by inch with the greatest deliberation, carrying off their great guns on their shoulders; their helmets, their armour, and every part of their person which was unprotected was covered with the shafts of the Gascon cross-bowmen, who did great execution. The French were too exhausted to follow. And their victory had cost them dear; for the Swiss, with peculiar hatred to the French gentry and the lance-knights, had shown no mercy. They spared none, and made no prisoners. (fn. 79)
The glory of the battle was great, and that at a time when such glory was most coveted, and war opened the only road to distinction. At that day there was not a sovereign in Europe who did not envy Francis the fame he had acquired in this his first battle. His old censor, Trivulcio, who accused him of lying in bed too late, and wasting his time in his mother's chamber, admitted that this battle had been fought not by men but by giants, (fn. 80) and that the eighteen battles at which he had been present were but the squabbles of little children in comparison with this. The Swiss, the best troops in Europe and hitherto reckoned invincible, had been beaten by the men they despised as effeminate, whom they called in derision "hares in armour." (fn. 81) They had been the terror and scourge of Italy, equally formidable to friend and foe, and now their prestige was extinguished. But it was not in these merely military aspects that the battle of Marignano was important. No one who reads the French chronicles of the times, can fail to perceive that it was a battle of opinions and of classes even more than of nations; of a fierce and rising democratical element, now rolled back for a short season, only to display itself in another form against royalty and nobility;—of the burgher classes against feudality. When Sion inflamed the fierce passions of the Swiss by telling them that they were the real dispensers of power, he spoke a language which, in one form or another, had been silently making its way to the hearts of the lower orders throughout all the nations of Europe. The old romantic element, overlaid for a time by the political convulsions of the last century, had once more gained the ascendant. It was to blaze forth and revive, before it died out entirely, in the Sydneys and Raleighs of queen Elizabeth's reign; it was to lighten up the glorious imagination of Spenser before it faded into the dull prose of puritan divinity, and the cold grey dawn of inductive philosophy. But its last great battle was the battle of Marignano.
The news was received in the different courts of Europe with very different emotions. Leo for a time left off his intrigues, and hastened to make his peace with the conqueror. Charles sent letters of congratulation; Ferdinand trembled for his possessions in the South of Italy, and for the effects of that selfish policy which had deprived him of effectual help when he most required it. To Erasmus, then at Basle, busy with his New Testament, the defeat of the Swiss furnished pleasant matter for jesting. (fn. 82) "Our friends, the Swiss, (he writes,) are in a great fume, because the French would not politely allow themselves to be beaten, as they were beaten by you English, but sent many of them to the right about with their great guns. They have returned home fewer in number than when they started; ragged, gaunt, disfigured and wounded, their ensigns torn, their festal songs turned into funeral dirges." Giustinian, the Venetian ambassador, gleeful as a schoolboy when he could throw grit into Wolsey's bread, was not sorry at the opportunity of carrying him the tidings. At first Wolsey had persuaded himself that Francis, would never pass into Italy; when that hope failed, he had assured himself, on the faith of letters received from Brussels, that Francis must inevitably be defeated. On the 25th September, eleven days after the victory at Marignano, he had told Sebastian, on his asking the news, (fn. 83) that he had letters from Brussels of the 18th (fn. 84), quoting advices from Verona of the 12th, and describing the perilous position of the Christian king. He lamented, in pathetic terms, the ruin which he foresaw must ensue from the mad folly of a misguided young man, and the pertinacity of the Venetians in not abandoning the French alliance. On 11th of October, as Wolsey still affected to disbelieve the news of the French victory, Giustinian had the satisfaction of assuring him there could be no doubt of the fact. The king had been duly notified of the victory by Francis himself and his mother Louise, but, with extraordinary pertinacity, refused to credit the unwelcome tidings. (fn. 85) With an incredulity almost childish, he treated the letters as forgeries, and the report as a political canard got up by the French to suit their own purposes. In order to disabuse him Francis sent an agent to England, named De Bapaume, with Guienne herald. The envoy's account of his reception presents an accurate and lively picture of the king himself, and the conflicting emotions of the court. Henry was then building his great galley, called The Virgin Mary, in honor of the French queen. (fn. 86) The report is addressed to Louisa of Savoy.
"Madam, on Thursday last, the 25th of this month, (fn. 87) I received the letters which you were pleased to send me by the present bearer, Guyenne herald, dated the 18th. And as the hour was late, and the king of England, the two queens, and the council were gone to the great galley, I could not on that day accomplish your commands, or do what was contained in your letters. The next day before I left there arrived a servant of M. de la Fayette, captain of Boulogne, who brought other letters of yours, dated the 16th, with a cipher enclosed.
"Forthwith, Madam, I departed from this town in company with the said herald, and visited the said king of England in his château at Greenwich. And after I had made him the most cordial recommendations from my master and yourself, the herald presented his Majesty with the two letters written by the king. He did not take any great pleasure in reading them; for it seemed, to look at him, as if tears would have burst from his eyes, so red were they from the pain he suffered in hearing and understanding the good news and prosperity of my master, who had advertised him thereof by his letters. (fn. 88) ...
"Madam, after reading the said letters, the king of England called me apart, and privately asked me what news there was from the king of Arragon, and whether the king my master intended to make war on him for the kingdom of Naples. I replied, I thought not, and that I neither knew nor had heard anything about it. I had been given to understand that my master would return from Italy into France with his army, at the feast of All Saints, or soon after. On this he told me, he understood so from the king's letters. Then he asked me about the arrangements with the Pope. I told him they were made and concluded. He replied: It was not so; for the contrary was the case, and the Pope had yet to ratify, and he knew better than I; for my master and you would have let him know if it had been so. Then he asked me about the Emperor; where he was, and what he was doing? I told him I had heard no news of him; only I had learnt from some private persons that he was seeking the friendship of the king my master. Then his Majesty said he knew well where he was, and what he was about; and as for seeking the friendship of the king my master, quite the contrary was the truth: and there he stopped.
"He next inquired how many Swiss had fallen in the battle. To which I made answer, about 20,000. This assertion he would not believe, although Guyenne herald assured him of it. He protested that not more than 10,000 Swiss, who formed the vanguard, fought with the king and his army; and that the rearguard, which contained the great body of the Swiss, took no part in the engagement, nor struck a single blow; for the king or his predecessors had bribed them, and made an agreement with them. His Majesty asserted he was well informed of this by letters from persons present at the battle, who had written the truth of the matter. On this the Admiral (Surrey), and other lords and gentlemen who were present, seeing that the king could not dissemble his resentment, or even pretend to take pleasure in the prosperity of his ally, began saying that he ought to be very joyful that the king, his good brother and ally, had defeated the Swiss, who were so fierce and haughty that they had presumed to name themselves the rulers and correctors of princes;—that the glory and renown of all gentlemen and nobles were extinguished and annihilated by their usurpation and arrogance;—with other words to this effect. Hereupon his Majesty said, that certainly he was very glad, for the Swiss were nothing but villains, and he had ever known them to be such; and the lansquenetz, whom he called Almains, were greatly superior, and better soldiers than they. And he asked me, now that Christian princes were agreed and on good terms, what better could they do than make war upon the Turk? Hereupon all present gave their advice, concluding that it would be well so to do, saying that the kings of France and of England were young and powerful, and that since Charlemagne there had not been in Christendom any princes who could do it better than they. This discourse was long kept up ... At the king's departure I asked him if he would be pleased to write to my master. He answered, Yes; and to that end he would send the letters of the king to his council ...
"Madam, after this I went immediately to my lord the Duke of Suffolk, who was at the said château; to whom I communicated all the news. He answered me much more civilly than the king, and told me he was as glad of the prosperity of the king my master as any man in the kingdom of France, if not more so; praying me to make his humble recommendations to you. I reminded him of the kind treatment the king had shown him in France, and the good words they had had together, as you charged me in your letters. He told me it was true, and for this cause he reputed himself obliged to do the king more pleasure and service than any other prince. And then I declared to him the contents of the cipher which you had sent; pointing out to him the things which were being done over here, as well by land as by sea. He told me it was true that the king of England had made an appearance of preparing himself for war, and for this cause had got ready a small number of ships, and on land had likewise shown some diligence in assembling men, and having them ready; but this he had done solely to content his subjects, who desired in my master's absence that England should go to war with him; but the king himself had no such inclination. The duke said the king of England would maintain the peace and amity between the two kingdoms; and there was nothing so much to be desired as that they should see each other and speak together; and he will never rest till this come to pass; for he is of opinion that after that there will never arise any question or debate between them; and he prayed me to write these things to the king and yourself, and to return to him at his house near this town immediately after the feast of All Saints, when he would send for me, and speak more plainly to me of this matter.
"I left him, and, accompanied with the herald, went to my lord the Cardinal of York, being at Westminster, whom likewise I informed of the good news of the king and his prosperity. He told me he rejoiced at it, and that he esteemed the victory of the king and his success as much as if they had been the king's his master, by reason of the alliance and friendship between them. He thanked the king and you for making him participator of the news, and said he was pleased to hear it above all things in the world. Then I gave him to understand the contents of your cipher, and told him that if he and the king of England thought that the king my master at his departure into Italy had not left his kingdom strong and powerful, and chiefly the towns on the frontiers, they had been greatly deceived; although the king had never thought that the king of England would attempt to invade his country and make war upon him in his absence, considering the treaty of peace and amity existing between them. On this he laid his hand on his breast, and swore to me that the king his master had never thought of such a thing, nor his council; and as for the ships which he had prepared during this time, and chiefly his great galley, that was done solely to give pleasure and pastime to the queen and the queen Mary his sister; and that it was true that on Thursday last the king, the said queens, and all the council had dined on board, and made the greatest cheer and triumph that could be devised. And with regard to preparations by land, the king of England had done nothing with intent to make war on France or on Scotland, but only for the purpose of keeping himself ready for all contingencies; for if the king his master had resolved on making war upon the Scotch, he would have done so by land, and not by sea. In saying this, however, he did not mean to have it understood that, if the duke of Albany did not abstain from the injuries and violent dealing he had used towards the queen of Scotland, his master's sister, and her children, and if he did not make amends for the same, the King of England would not endeavour, when time and place offered, to make him acknowledge and repair them, as he had formerly told me, and charged me to write to you; but on his faith there was not at present any such thing in meditation. Both the cardinal and the duke of Suffolk advised me not to speak to the king of this, for fear he should entertain some suspicion. So I have deferred doing so till it please you to send me further instructions.
"Madam, when the answers of the cardinal and the duke of Suffolk, who do not agree, are weighed and considered by you, you will take such counsel as you may think best. I am and shall always be of opinion that if the king my master had met with worse success in Italy, the king of England would have certainly prepared with all his power to descend upon France; this is now quite common and well known over here. But, God be thanked, it is no longer necessary to think of such things, (fn. 89) for all is changed with our good fortune; and as for Scotland, if war is to take place there, it cannot be within six months and more from this date, because there will not be sufficient time for it.
"I wrote to you that the Great Chamberlain of Scotland (Hume) had been taken prisoner by the duke of Albany; and such was the fact: but the Cardinal has since told me, he has escaped, and is at present in this kingdom. The Cardinal informed me that the duke of Albany had delivered him into the custody of the earl of Arran, who has married the Chamberlain's sister, and the said earl released him without the knowledge of the duke; and he and the said earl came away into this kingdom, where they remain at present with the queen of Scotland; by reason of which, as the same Cardinal said, they are at this time more mutinous in Scotland than ever; and though the greatest part was heretofore with the said lord of Albany, they have now abandoned him, and he is much reduced. So, in spite of him, the uncle of the said chamberlain and others his relatives and friends were at liberty and released from prison. Subsequently I made enquiry of the herald of arms of Scotland to know if this was the case, who told me he did not know for certain, but he believed it was not ...
"Madam, those who were on Thursday last in the galley, dining with the said king of England, have told me for certain that there are in the said galley 207 pieces of artillery, large as well as small, of which 70 are of copper and cast (fonte), and the rest of iron, with four or five thousand bullets, and four or five hundred barrels of powder. The galley is propelled by six score oars, and is so large that it will hold 800 or 1,000 fighting men. The king of England acted as master of the galley, wearing a sailor's coat and trowsers of frise cloth of gold; he had on a thick chain, in which were five links, and amongst the same there were three plates of gold, on which was written, as a device, 'Dieu est mon Droit;' and at the bottom of the said chain was a large whistle, with which he whistled almost as loud as (fn. 90) a trumpet or clarionet. Mass was sung on board by the bishop of Durham; and the galley was named by queen Mary 'The Virgin Mary.'
"Madam, after these things I went twice to the said Cardinal of York, who sent for me; and on each occasion, and especially yesterday in the presence of the bishops of Winchester and Durham, he told me that the king of England and his council considered the language which the king my master had used in his letters to the king of England was very strange; viz. that the king of France had not suspected that so noble and so virtuous a prince, loving his own honour and fearing God, as the king of England, would have wished to make war upon him, contrary to his faith and promise, without first advertising and informing him of the same, and without signifying it to him and letting him know it, in order that, if there was any fault, it might be amended, or at any rate he might prepare to defend himself: which words the said king of England and all his council considered very harsh and unpleasant ...
"After further arguments to this effect they said they hoped the king of France would henceforth behave more graciously and use more gracious words in his communications, as their master would to him. To this the writer replied, that his master's letters were couched in nothing but gracious and good terms; and if they would otherwise interpret them, the fault lay in the king of England and his council, for the king of England had written in still ruder terms to his master; otherwise the king would never have made him such a reply. Other arguments passed on both sides. In the conclusion it was agreed that henceforward they should write as good brothers and allies ought to do.
"This done they spoke to me afterwards of the jewels which queen Mary demands, telling me that the answers which the king of France had given were like all his previous replies, and that the objections contained in the said letters, by which the king pretended he was not bound to deliver up the jewels, were unreasonable, as the king of England had represented to him by a bishop, his ambassador, whom he had sent for that purpose; that my lord chancellor and the said bishop, the ambassadors, had many times met together, but that they could not determine the matter; and it appeared to them, that the king deceased had given the jewels to the said queen Mary to adorn and decorate her person, although this was after the marriage for the most part, and that they ought to be delivered up. I defended myself as well as I could; and so, at the end, they deferred the matter, without saying more about it. I believe they see clearly that this is only reasonable.
"Afterwards they proceeded to the Scotch business; and though I had told them that I had no commission from the king, and so knew nothing about it, they nevertheless did not omit to reiterate the complaints which I have repeated so often to you; viz., the ill treatment which they say my lord the duke of Albany has shown to the queen of Scotland, in having taken from her her children, deprived her of the government, seized all her goods, and driven her out of the said kingdom, with only one gown, and no attendance: adding that the said lord duke of Albany had caused it publicly to be proclaimed throughout the said kingdom that every one should prepare himself for war against the king of England, who was coming to assail them in order to take and subvert their kingdom,—a thing which the said king of England, as they say, never purposed to do ... They prayed me to write these things to you, to the end that it might please the king and you to prevent them ...
"Madam, I was afterwards alone with the Cardinal of York, who charged me to write to the king and yourself that there is no prince in this world that the king of England loves better or holds more dear than he does the king of France. He swore and affirmed this to me, with his hand on his breast. He said they were both young, and there was the greatest similarity between them in nobility, magnanimity, and virtue, wherefore they ought the more to love one another; and he humbly prayed the king and you to treat the king his master well, stating that the king of England for his part would do more than he was bound to do: and on this subject may it please you to consider that the time is no longer such as it used to be.
"To learn how the Scotch business stood, I asked him about it; and he told me that if the king would recall the duke of Albany,—allow the estates of that country and the Scotch parliament to nominate guardians of the children and take the administration of the realm during the minority of the king of Scotland, the queen retaining the name only, and allowed to go and come with her children when and as often as she pleased,—and if her goods and dowry were restored, and she enabled to return to Scotland,—then all would be appeased, and there would never be occasion for war. But if this were not done, the king of England was resolved to aid his sister, and to do so much that she should have what belongs to her. I also spoke to him touching the king of Arragon, because I had heard that within a few days passed something had taken place between the king of Arragon and them, and how they had renewed their ancient amity, and amongst other things had engaged that if the king of England made war on Scotland the king of Arragon should assist him; and also if the king of France made war on the king of Arragon in Guienne, the king of England should succour him. Hereupon the Cardinal told me, that if the king would treat the king of England well, and not do anything contrary to the treaty of peace and amity between them, I might assure you on his part, that the King of England would not make an alliance with the king of Arragon, or any other person, prejudicial to the king my master ...
It might be true in the language of diplomacy that up to the date of the battle of Marignano Henry had not been guilty of any overt act which could be construed into a breach of his treaty with France, whatever might have been his inclinations. The time had not yet arrived for forming a powerful confederacy against his rival, with any tolerable hopes of success. Ferdinand, as I have stated before, was content to remain neutral, undoubtedly believing, like the other rulers of Europe, that the ambition of Francis would end in his ruin, and the Swiss would secure an easy victory. There was better expectation of Maximilian. The imperial cities of Brescia and Verona were menaced by the Venetians, and the Emperor was in danger of losing every foot of land in Italy. He had the reputation of being an able soldier. Better than all, he had great influence with the Swiss, and could bring any number of them or of German lance-knights into the field. Such men, to whom war was a trade from their infancy, had so manifest a superiority over the raw national militia of other countries, that no king had any chance of success without their aid. That superiority was not merely in their superior training and experience. Beyond that of keeping their arms and implements in full trim, war was their only employment. Whereas the national militia—and that of England especially, taken from the plough-tail at few and irregular intervals for muster, clothed in ill-fitting and old-fashioned habiliments which descended from father to son, badly cleaned and scarcely ever complete—must have presented a spectacle more ludicrous than formidable, as they took the field in rusty head pieces and cumbrous body armour, hastily patched together for the occasion. It is clear, from the various unsuccessful attempts described in these papers to prevent even the armour furnished by the king from being pawned or purloined, that native troops were of small account in a continental war.
But then who could trust Maximilian, himself as much a mercenary as the Swiss, and ready like them to sell himself to the highest bidder? At the very time when he was abusing the French to Sir Robert Wingfield, and declaiming against their subtle practices, he was giving private audience to French ambassadors (fn. 91), and listening to the proposals of his grandson Charles for a closer amity with France. (fn. 92) Always extravagant and always in difficulties, any aid from Maximilian had to be purchased at a heavy cost. But Wolsey was inclined to venture. The successes of Francis in Italy, his league and evident good understanding with the Pope, had thoroughly alarmed Ferdinand, and provoked the resentment of England. The former had sent an ambassador, and, what was still more unusual with him, rich presents to Henry to invoke his aid. But whatever was done must be done secretly. The treaty with France still stood in the way. The French king had carefully avoided all literal violation of it; and Henry could not, without breach of faith, venture upon open aggressions.
There was in the Cardinal's service an ecclesiastic, of whose early career little is known—Richard Pace, immortalized by Shakespeare, and reckoned by some as scarce inferior to Wolsey himself in ability or in the favor of Henry. The date and place of his birth are unknown. He tells us himself, (fn. 93) however, that he lived in a menial capacity with Thomas Langton, the predecessor of Fox in the see of Winchester. The bishop, discovering Pace's proficiency in music, believed he would make a scholar, and so furnished him with the requisite means to study at Padua; for this prelate, like others of his order in that age, used to say of himself, that he considered he had been advanced to his high dignity solely for the purpose of fostering learning. He had a school attached to his palace, where he superintended the education of the boys; and "it was his great delight," says Pace, "to hear the boys repeat to him at night the lessons they had said to their schoolmaster during the day; and whoever acquitted himself to the bishop's satisfaction never failed of being praised and rewarded. For the good bishop had always these words in his mouth: Virtus laudata crescit. If a dull boy appeared before him, but one who was willing to learn, the bishop never reproached him with his stupidity, but cheered and exhorted him to do his best, and to overcome nature by diligence, setting before him the shining example of others who had surmounted similar obstacles." (fn. 94) During his stay in Italy, Pace seems to have made the acquaintance of Erasmus, Tunstal, and William Latimer. He returned to England, settled at Oxford; as Wood thinks, (fn. 95) with some reason, at Queen's College, of which Langton had been the provost; was taken into the service of Bainbridge, who succeeded Langton in the provostship, and went with him to Rome, when he was Cardinal and archbishop of York, at the close of the year 1509. When Bainbridge was poisoned, Pace, who had been appointed one of the Cardinal's executors, was extremely active in bringing the offenders to justice. His pertinacity and resolution in this matter brought down upon him the resentment of De Giglis, bishop of Worcester, who was strongly suspected of being implicated in Bainbridge's murder; with what degree or truth must for ever remain uncertain, for the court of Rome were not willing to prosecute the matter too strictly, and Worcester's services at the time in procuring the cardinalate for Wolsey imposed silence on his accusers. Pace returned to England in March 1515, with a recommendation to Wolsey from Sir Richard Wingfield; (fn. 96) and from this time to the close of the year we hear no more of him. He was now to be employed by the Cardinal on a secret mission of the greatest importance, and his correspondence on that occasion occupies a great part of this volume. (fn. 97)