Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3, 1519-1523. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1867.
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Preface, Section 2
Meanwhile the French were busy and buzzing like flies in the shambles. Every advantage was eagerly seized by them, and vaunted to the utmost. Their activity, their tenacity, their lythe insinuations, were strikingly contrasted with the rigid and solemn stateliness of their rivals; mortifying to the quick De la Sauch and his comrades, who were compelled to sit still for want of instructions. The apparent success of the French led them to doubt, but without reason, Wolsey's sincerity. "The people here, to a man," wrote De la Sauch to Chièvres, (fn. 1) "detest the French interview; they say they are leaving their old friends for their old enemies; that there is no help for it unless the Emperor come; and in that case they hope the interview may yet be broken off. So you may be sure that you have only Wolsey to gain, which will now be very difficult; for, no doubt, besides the great gifts he has received from the French, they have promised him the Papacy, which we might have done with much better grace. I see quite well he will be very glad if the Emperor do not come; for whenever we venture to question his opinions, he gives us our congé, saying, 'Bien! ne le faicles point; allez vous en;' or words to that effect."
The insinuation that Wolsey received bribes from France appears to me, judging from the whole tenor of the correspondence, to rest on no better foundation than the suspicions of De la Sauch,—suspicions to which too much weight must not be attributed, whether they emanate from Spanish, Venetian or other foreign ambassadors. Beyond the facts which fell under their own immediate cognizance, the evidence of such men is worth no more than that of ordinary mortals; not often so much; for the circuit and means of their intelligence were more limited. Drawn off on a false scent to suit the purposes of the government to which they were accredited,—anxious not unfrequently to magnify their services at home,—agents and ambassadors were apt to exaggerate or lend too credulous an ear to rumors which coincided with their own views; fingunt quod sibi volunt. Frequently they wanted the ability, not seldom the inclination, to take a calm survey of passing events; and as to testing the evidence on which hearsay information rested, that was generally impossible.
To this credulity I attribute the broad assertion of La Sauch, that Wolsey and the nobles of England, corrupted by French bribes, were ready to compromise their own honor and the interests of their country. The Spaniard judged others by himself. It was the readiest way for excusing his own incapacity; the most obvious explanation of his own disappointments. "We must turn their own arts against the French, and not be sparing of our promises," says La Sauch in the letter already referred to, "or Francis will make them drink his aurum potabile, and they will tipple à la bouteille, while our ambassadors sit looking on with folded arms. Had this been provided for three or four months ago, the French interview would never have taken place, and our own would have been arranged more consistently with our honor." Then, after telling a curious anecdote of Queen Katharine's holding a council to confer about the interview, in which she had harangued the members present, and made such representations against the French meeting "as one would not have supposed she dared to do, or even imagine," he adds, "there is no doubt that the French interview is against the will of the Queen and of all the nobles, though some may have already tasted the bottle." (fn. 2)
Quick and lively as he was, this total misconception of Wolsey's intentions and policy is not very creditable to the ambassador's discernment. So far from lending a ready ear to the insinuations of the French, Wolsey was doing his best to delay, if not to hinder, the interview. Nor do these insinuations receive the least countenance from the correspondence of the times. His private letters are numerous; yet no hint of bribery is to be found in them, or in the despatches he received from the French court. Such corruption as De la Sauch intimates could scarcely have existed, when not the slightest indication of it is found in the most confidential intercourse on either side. (fn. 3)
But to proceed. The powers so much desired arrived at last. It was arranged that Charles should land at Sand- wich in the middle of May. From Sandwich the two Kings were to proceed to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury; and in honor of the event Wolsey had procured from the Pope a plenary indulgence and jubilee. (fn. 4) At Canterbury the Emperor was to be met by queen Katharine. The Spaniards pressed hard to have the term prolonged to the end of May, nominally for the convenience of their master, really in the hope that by further delays they might either get rid of the French interview, or infuse so much jealousy and suspicion into the minds of both parties as should neutralize any dangerous effects to be anticipated from it. But Wolsey remained firm,—not influenced by corrupt motives, as the Spaniards imagined,—but, as more careful and impartial thinkers will believe, by other considerations. So long as he held the scales between the two monarchs, he controlled the policy of both. Any exclusive preference for either would have compelled him to abandon his own position. He would have ceased to be mediator, and have become an ally.
Meanwhile the negociations for the French interview were pushed forward with the greatest rapidity. Resolved to stick at no concessions, provided they involved no real sacrifice, Francis I. was prompt, courteous, and conciliating. (fn. 5) Contrary to the express wishes of his council, he consented, at Wolsey's suggestion, to advance beyond his own territories, and receive the king of England on English ground in the English pale. (fn. 6) He permitted Wingfield to resort to his chamber at all times, without waiting for his express permission. To all the points on which the Cardinal desired his pleasure he readily assented,—was, in fact, so ready to condescend to all his requirements, that Henry did not hesitate, as we have seen, to take advantage of this facility, and ask for a longer prorogation of the interview, hoping in the interim to bring his communications with the Emperor to a more satisfactory adjustment. But here the courtesy of the French monarch had reached its term. He was not prepared to play his opponent's game, or advance one step further than his own interest dictated. He had so far deferred to the King's wishes already as to put off the interview until the end of May, and the tourney to the 4th of June. (fn. 7) It was unreasonable, he said, to demand more. Then came the unanswerable objection, which neither politeness nor policy could overrule;—the Queen was eight months in her pregnancy, and further procrastination must prevent her appearance at the meeting.
To press for delay after such a plea was impossible. The English ambassador could do no less than declare that his master "would not for anything" that the Queen should be absent from the interview, "without the which his highness thought there should lack one great part of the perfection of the feast." (fn. 8) The sickness of Wolsey, who appears to have been attacked by jaundice and colic in April, and the difficulty of completing the necessary preparations within the term prescribed, seemed at first to offer a more reasonable argument for delay. Guisnes and Ardres were equally neglected and ruinous. (fn. 9) Neither of them were adapted for a royal residence; least of all for the magnificent entertainments in which each sovereign proposed to outdo the other. To remedy this inconvenience, it had been proposed by Francis that the meeting should be held in the fields; that the Kings, or at least their retinues, should lodge in tents or wooden huts hastily erected for the occasion. But the country supplied no timber; every foot of wood, not merely for the lodgings, but for the lists, the barriers and the stages, had to be brought from a great distance. (fn. 10) Henry's retinue amounted to 3,997 persons and 2,087 horses; the Queen's to 1,175 persons and 778 horses. Besides the ordinary accommodations for housing so large and distinguished a company, state apartments had to be provided capacious enough to satisfy the King's and the Cardinal's requirements. There was to be a great chamber 124 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 30 feet high, "longer and wider than the White Hall;" a dining room 80 feet long, 34 wide and 27 high, "larger than the greatest chamber in Bridewell;" a withdrawing room 60 feet long, 34 wide and 27 feet high. A chapel,—for how could chivalry be divorced from piety ?—duly served with deans, chaplains and singing boys, formed part of the arrangements. "The clerk of the closet was to warn ten chaplains to accompany the King, and provide the closet with the best hangings, traverse, jewels, images, and altar cloths;" (fn. 11) whilst the rich copes and vestments given by Henry VII. to the abbey of Westminster, with all their emblazonments of jewelry and gold embroidery, were to add lustre to the scene, and divide the palm with gilded armor and regal ornaments. Horses and hounds, collars and leashes, horns and baldrics, presents for the French nobility and gentry, tasked the ingenuity and swelled the baggage trains of the royal attendants.
It was an age of pageantry, when even the richest and the noblest found little scope for their inventive faculties except in ceremonials of romance and gallantry. Never had any occasion presented itself better adapted to the prevailing humor of the times. The genius and invention of the age found pleasant occupation in architectural rebuses, and riddles in paint and gilding. Wherever the eye fell, the Tudor badge of the rose stood all ablaze in resplendent colors, "large and stately," tricked out in every form of tortuous device, on canvas, tapestry and cloth of gold. (fn. 12) Posies not less ingenious than intricate, the work of the celebrated "Maistre Barkleye, "the black monk and poet," (fn. 13) attracted the gaze of puzzled spectators by their curious garniture and enigmatical flourishes. Brief as was the time allowed for preparation, and far as the work must have fallen short of the glowing conception of its prime architect, the accounts of eye-witnesses leave no room to doubt the extraordinary splendor of the scene. (fn. 14) Like similar exhibitions of a later date, and scarcely more restricted in its objects, the pageant was intended to show what England could accomplish in those arts which the age valued above all others. Fired with emulation, both nations sent notices through the world to come and wonder. Even a gigantic glass greenhouse, sprawling over half an acre, would have lifted its livid and shapeless length in hopeless rivalry against this burnished summer palace, put up and pulled down in a month, and packed away in boxes for England when its work was over. For decorative art, even when subservient to these "fierce vanities," had not yet been wholly divorced from religious feeling. Fostered by scholars and ecclesiastics, it had not yet sunk into vulgar obtrusiveness or irretrievable meanness. (fn. 15)
Occupied with such designs, Wolsey might fairly have asked for delay, both for "better preparation, and in consequence of his maladies, which, if they did so fervently continue" as at present, would hinder his "travelling, to his great regret and inward pensiveness." (fn. 16) He might fairly hold out the tempting prospect that if queen Claude were delivered on the confines of the two kingdoms, when the king and queen of England were present, she might expect the honor of their becoming sponsors for the child. Under other circumstances such arguments might have proved successful. But Francis had begun to suspect, not without reason, that these repeated applications for delay were little better than a pretext for evading the interview altogether. However studied the secrecy in which the imperial negociations were involved, he was not ignorant of the projected meeting of the King of England and the Emperor. He taxed the English ambassador with the fact; he desired, through his minister the Admiral, that the visit of Charles should be delayed until after the interview at Arde. What, he asked, would Henry have thought, if he had arranged on his part for a similar communication with the King of Castile ? (fn. 17) Reasonable as the appeal might seem, the Cardinal well knew that Francis was in no condition to enforce it. He scarcely designed to notice this remonstrance. It would be a strange and ungrateful proceeding, he coldly remarked, if a prince should be debarred from receiving the ambassadors of his ancient friends and confederates. "And, to be plain with you, if the king of Castile should offer to descend at Sandwich or about those parts, as he hath done, to see and visit the King and the Queen, his uncle and aunt, the King being in journeying toward the sea and next thereunto, it were too marvellous ingratitude to refuse the same; for by such dealing the King might well judge and think that the King our master neither esteemed, loved nor favored him."
Such arguments afforded no loophole for discussion. Even the logic of diplomacy must yield to the demands of natural piety. As the condition of the French queen had proved an insurmountable obstacle to deferring the interview, the claims of hospitality and relationship were equally opposed to the ungraciousness of refusing hospitality to the Emperor, should chance or inclination drive him to the English coast. Nothing remained for Francis except to refuse the conditions, or proceed with the arrangements under all these discouragements. To refuse would at once have exposed him to the danger he was most anxious to avert, and have hastened the union between England and the Emperor. And though he must often have felt that he was embarked on a desperate policy, that sooner or later such a conjunction would inevitably take place, he preferred that course which seemed for the present most accordant with his wishes. Possibly by the fascinations of a personal interview, by flattering the vanity of the English monarch, by the blandishments of the handsomest women in France, (fn. 18) selected with great care to be present on the occasion, he hoped to thwart the dreaded coalition of his formidable rivals. If he could not absolutely prevent it, he might yet put it off to a distant period when he should be better prepared to meet it.
So, though more than once in peril of shipwreck, the negociations for the interview went speedily forward, with much apparent, but with little real cordiality. Articles for the tourney were arranged; officers were despatched, after the ancient fashion, to Spain, Flanders, and elsewhere, (fn. 19) to invite all who professed "the maistrie of arms" (fn. 20) to meet and take part in these jousts "for the honor and pastime" of the ladies; proclamations suspended in thoroughfares and public places, (fn. 21) commanded all vagabonds and idle persons to evacuate the roads leading to the field within six hours "on pain of hanging;" and enjoined upon gentlemen and officers of every degree to abstain from profane swearing and the use of offensive language.
The numerous and intricate regulations required in order to control the emulation and curb the angry passions engendered by so exciting a pastime, had been duly considered and arranged, (fn. 22) when a new difficulty arose, bidding fair to set at nought the labor and expense already incurred. Rumors were industriously circulated that Francis was bringing secretly into the field large bodies of men with a proportionate quantity of ammunition. (fn. 23) At the moment when the English monarch was prepared to cross the sea, he was informed that the French king had equipped twelve or fourteen large vessels. Such rumors were easily spread and eagerly believed by partizans on both sides of the Channel who either looked with dissatisfaction at the proposed interview with an hereditary foe, or grudged Wolsey the power and importance he seemed to acquire from it. As if by magic, the clink of hammers,—the hum of preparation,—stopped at once, until the Cardinal had received assurance from the French king, under his broad seal, that no vessel should leave any port in Normandy or Britanny until the interview was over. (fn. 24)
So favorable an opportunity for display of personal skill and daring, of fine clothes, fine horses and fine armor, on such a field and before such a presence, had not occurred within the memory of man. Both nations were full of young blood; both were adventurous and greedy of distinction; both anxious to make proof of their activity and valor, for which no such vasty theatre could be found within their ordinary confines. Without offence to distribute places and employments among so many competitors for fame was no easy task. Who should have the honor of sustaining the reputation of England in the lists, or be delegated to the more quiet but less envied honor of guarding the Queen or waiting on my lord Cardinal, gave occasion for interminable anxiety and jealousy. It was impossible for the coolest head or most conciliating temper to steer clear of heart-burnings and dissensions, and satisfy the claims of all. And though Shakspeare was mistaken in representing the duke of Buckingham as absent from the interview, he has expressed accurately enough in Buckingham's celebrated speech the bitter disappointment and offended pride of more than one of the nobility, whose employments on this occasion did not correspond with their own estimate of their own merits. "Why the Devil," says Buckingham,—
"Upon this French going out, took he upon him
(Without the privity of the King) to appoint
Who should attend on him ? He makes up the file
Of all the gentry; for the most part such,
To whom as great a charge as little honor
He meant to lay upon: and his own letter,—
The honorable board of council out,—
Must fetch him in the papers."
As proctor for both Kings, the appointment of the lists rested exclusively with Wolsey. The arrangements, from the greatest to the smallest, were under his control:—yet not "without the privity of the King," as the Duke asserts in his anger; for Henry was generally consulted, and as generally assented to whatever the Cardinal proposed.
Many such lists will be found in this volume. (fn. 25) They are for the most part in the handwriting of Ruthal, then bishop of Durham and Secretary of State; in other words, they were dictated by the Cardinal; and at his option "the file of all the gentry" was made up. But I find no reason for supposing that Wolsey was influenced by undue partiality or sought to gratify his own caprices in the selection. On the contrary, the names of the nobility and gentry attending the interview are an evidence that they were taken impartially from every shire of England, solely out of consideration to their rank, their wealth and their importance. Posts and employments were allotted according to the exigencies of the occasion, or the capacities of those who were appointed to fill them. And, so far as the duke of Buckingham was concerned, there is no warrant for supposing that he was suffering at this time under the displeasure of the Cardinal; rather the reverse.
He had, indeed, not many months before, incurred the King's displeasure. According to Hall, (fn. 26) in November the year before Sir, Wm. Bulmer and others had been summoned to the Star Chamber for riots and misdemeanors,—offences not uncommon in the young men of that age,—Sir William especially, "because he, being the King's servant sworn, refused the King's service, and became servant to the duke of Buckingham." The King, who presided on this occasion, declared his displeasure in his sternest mood, and with greater passion than such an offence would seem to warrant; saying, "that he would none of his servants should hang on another man's sleeve, and that he was as well able to maintain him as the duke of Buckingham; and what might be thought by his departing, and what might be supposed by the Duke's retaining [him], he would not then declare. The knight", continues Hall, kneeled still on his knees, crying the King mercy, and never a nobleman there durst entreat for him, the King was so highly displeased with him." Yet Sir William was pardoned, and his offence so far forgotten that he was appointed to attend the interview, in the "King's wages," commanding a body of light horse, specially appointed to secure the King's person from surprise. (fn. 27) The Duke was also taken into favor. Nor can I find any indication that Wolsey at this time employed his great influence to injure Buckingham, except the omission of the Duke's name from the lists of those who were appointed to take an active part in the tournament be considered as an evidence of the Cardinal's malice. (fn. 28)
The King and Queen started for the sea side on Monday the 21st of May. On Friday the 25th they arrived at Canterbury. On the 26th news came that the Emperor's fleet was in sight. The same evening Charles landed at Dover, and was received by the Cardinal. "In his retinue," says Hall, "were many noble men, and many fair ladies of his blood, as princes and princesses; and one lady as chief to be noted was the princess Avinion. Great joy made the people of England to see the Emperor, and more to see the benign manner and meekness of so high a prince."
On hearing of the Emperor's arrival, the King rode over to Dover early in the morning. On Whit Sunday both sovereigns took horse for Canterbury, "the more to solempne the feast of Pentecost. But specially to see the queen of England, his aunt, was the intent of the Emperor."
On Thursday the last day of May the Emperor embarked at Sandwich for Flanders. (fn. 29)
What projects occupied the two monarchs in that solitary ride from Dover to Canterbury, we are not likely to know. Too secret to be trusted to the ordinary channels of negociation, they were of too grave a nature to be discussed before witnesses. Even Wolsey himself appears to have taken no part in them. Eyewitnesses and historians of the times have been careful to detail the ceremonies connected with the Emperor's landing; his cloth of estate, his black eagle "splayed in cloth of gold." The moderation, not to say meagreness, of his dress and equipage, disproportioned to his rank, as they thought, and unlike the magnificence to which they had been accustomed in England, have all been duly recorded. His fair complexion, his aquiline nose and blue eyes, his pallid face set off with an under-hanging jaw, detracting much from the general intelligence of his countenance, his mouth disfigured by small and irregular teeth, are subjects of history. But of the secret motives of his visit, of his meeting with Katharine and the princess Mary,—if indeed she was presented to her proposed husband,—no information is afforded. This much, in the absence of more satisfactory data, may be assumed as the true purpose of the Emperor's coming. It is not probable that he would have taken so long a journey, or left Spain then on the eve of a rebellion, merely out of love to the king and queen of England. If at so momentous a crisis he had resolved on visiting his Flemish dominions, it was not to be present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, or honor with his presence the sumptuous preparations of his rival. Unable to prevent that meeting, uncertain of its consequences, by his refusal as the head of Christendom to take any part in it he contrived to condemn it indirectly; by his proximity to the scene, to neutralize all the advantages expected from it by the French king.
Nor was this all. Uncertain how far the fascination and chivalrous frankness of Francis I. and the tact of his mother Louise might influence the King and the Cardinal, by abiding for a time in Flanders the Emperor would be better able to keep them steady to his interests; or at least he would be near at hand to remedy the mischief, if mischief should arise.
So fenced, prepared and watched, Henry proceeded to his interview with the French king; not in that unguarded, careless humor which some writers have surmised; nor yet bent on pleasure merely, or the display of his personal splendor and accomplishments. The reserve that marked his conduct on more than one occasion, as compared with the freer bearing of his rival, is not to be attributed to haughtiness alone or insular exclusiveness. Nor, on the part of Francis I., was his frank violation of tedious ceremony, or his romantic display of generous confidence, entirely free from interested motives. He had his purposes to serve, no less than Charles; and both regulated their actions accordingly.
On the day of the Emperor's departure, the King sailed from Dover, and arrived at Calais at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, remaining there until Monday the 4th of June, when he removed to Guisnes. Situated in a flat and uninviting plain,—poor and barren, as the uncultivated border land of the two kingdoms,—Guisnes and its castle offered little attraction, and if possible less accommodation, to the gay throng now to be gathered within its walls. Its weedy moat and dismantled battlements, "its keep too ruinous to mend," (fn. 30) defied the efforts of carpenters and bricklayers, as the English commissioners pathetically complained; and could not by any artifice or contrivance be made to assume the appearance of a formidable, or even a respectable fortress, to friend or enemy. But on the castle green, within the limits of a few weeks, and in the face of great difficulties, the English artists of that day contrived a summer palace, more like a vision of romance, the creation of some fairy dream, (if the accounts of eyewitnesses of all classes may be trusted,) than the dull every-day reality of clay-born bricks and mortar. No "palace of art" in these beclouded climates of the West ever so truly deserved its name. As if the imagination of the age, pent up in wretched alleys and narrow dwelling-houses, had resolved for once to throw off its ordinary trammels, and recompense itself for its long restraint, it prepared to realize those visions of enchanted bowers and ancient pageantry on which it had fed so long in the fictions and romances of the Middle Ages. As it was the last display of this kind which I shall have to notice, as it faded rapidly away before the sterner work in which men soon after found themselves engaged, with or against their wills, I have thought it worth while to notice so much of the details as will enable the reader to form some slight conception for himself of this scene of enchantment which the genius of the age had contrived for its own amusement.
The palace was an exact square of 328 feet. It was pierced on every side with oriel windows and clerestories curiously glazed, the mullions and posts of which were overlaid with gold. An embattled gate, ornamented on both sides with statues representing men in various attitudes of war, and flanked by an embattled tower, guarded the entrance. From this gate to the entrance of the palace arose in long ascent a sloping dais or hall-pace, along which were grouped "images of sore and terrible "countenances," in armor of argentine or bright metal. At the entrance, under an embowered landing place, facing the great doors, stood antique figures girt with olive branches. The passages, the roofs of the galleries from place to place and from chamber to chamber, were ceiled and covered with white silk, fluted and embowed with silken hangings of divers colors and braided cloths, "which showed like bullions of fine burnished gold." The roofs of the chambers were studded with roses, set in lozenges, and diapered on a ground of fine gold. Panels enriched with antique carving and gilt bosses covered the spaces between the windows; whilst all along the corridors and from every window hung tapestry of silk and gold, embroidered with figures. Chairs covered with cushions of Turkey work, cloths of estate, of various shapes and sizes, overlaid with golden tissue and rich embroidery, ornamented the state apartments. The square on every side was decorated with equal richness, and blazed with the same profusion of glass, gold, and ornamental hangings; and "every quarter of "it, even the least, was a habitation fit for a prince," says Fleuranges, who had examined it with the critical eye of a rival and a Frenchman.
To the palace was attached a spacious chapel, still more sumptuously adorned. Its altars were hung with cloth of gold tissue embroidered with pearls; cloth of gold covered the walls and desks. Basins, censers, cruets and other vessels, of the same precious materials, lent their lustre to its services. On the high altar, shaded by a magnificent canopy of immense proportions, stood enormous candlesticks and other ornaments of gold. Twelve golden images of the Apostles, as large as children of four years old, astonished the eyes of the spectator. The copes and vestments of the officiating clergy were cloth of tissue powdered with red roses, brought from the looms of Florence, and woven in one piece, thickly studded with gold and jewelry. No less profusion might be seen in the two closets left apart for the King and the Queen. Images and sacred vessels of solid gold, in gold cloth, cumbrous with pearls and precious stones, attested the rank, the magnificence and devotion of the occupants. The ceilings of these closets were gilded and painted; the hangings were of tapestry embroidered with fretwork of pearls and gems. The chapel was served by thirty-five priests, and a proportionate number of singing boys.
From the palace a secret gallery led into a private apartment in Guisnes Castle, along which the royal visitors could pass and repass at pleasure.
The King was attended by squires of the body, sewers, gentlemen-ushers, grooms and pages of the chamber; for all of whom suitable accommodation had to be provided. (fn. 31) The lord Chamberlain, the lord Steward, the lord Treasurer of the Household, the Comptroller, with their numerous staffs, had to be lodged, in apartments adapted to their rank and services. As it was one great object of the interview to entertain all comers with masques and banquetings of the most sumptuous kind, the mere rank and file of inferior officers and servants formed a colony of themselves. The bakehouse, pantry, cellar, buttery, kitchen, larder, accatry, were amply provided with ovens, ranges, and culinary requirements; to say nothing of the stables, the troops of grooms, farriers, saddlers, stirrup-makers, furbishers and footmen. Upwards of 200 attendants were employed in and about the kitchen alone. (fn. 32)
Outside the palace gate, on the green sward, stood a gilt fountain, of antique workmanship, with a statue of Bacchus "birlyng the wine." Three runlets, fed by secret conduits hid beneath the earth, spouted claret, hypocras, and water into as many silver cups, to quench the thirst of all comers. On the opposite side was a pillar wreathed with gold, and supported by four gilt lions; and on the top stood an image of blind Cupid, armed with bow and arrows. The gate itself, built in massive style, was pierced with loop-holes. Its windows and recesses were filled with images of Hercules, Alexander and other ancient worthies, richly gilt and painted. In long array, in the plain beyond, 2,800 tents stretched their white canvas before the eyes of the spectator, gay with the pennons, badges and devices of the various occupants; whilst miscellaneous followers, in tens of thousands, attracted by profit or the novelty of the scene, camped on the grass and filled the surrounding slopes, in spite of the severity of provost-marshal and reiterated threats of mutilation and chastisement. Multitudes from the French frontiers, or the populous cities of Flanders, indifferent to the political significance of the scene, swarmed from their dingy homes to gaze on kings, queens, knights and ladies dressed in their utmost splendor. Beggars, itinerant minstrels, vendors of provisions and small luxuries, mixed with wagoners, ploughmen, laborers and the motley troop of camp followers, crowded round, or stretched themselves beneath the summer's sun on bundles of straw and grass, in drunken idleness. No better lodging awaited many a gay knight and lady who had travelled far to be present at the spectacle, and were obliged to content themselves with such open air accommodation. Backwards and forwards surged the excited and unwieldy crowd as every hour brought its fresh contingent of curiosity or criticism, in the shape of some new comer conspicuous for his fantastic bearing, or the quaint fashion of his armor. Each new candidate for the love and honor of the ladies, for popular applause, or less noble objects, was greeted with shouts and acclamations as he succeeded in distinguishing himself from the throng by the strangeness or splendor of his appointments. Christendom had never witnessed such a scene. The fantastic usages of the Courts of Love and Beauty were revived once more. The Mediæval age had gathered up its departing energies for this last display of its favorite pastime,—henceforth to be consigned, without regret, to "the mouldered lodges of the past."
At the time that Henry set sail for Calais Francis started from Montreuil for Arde. It was a meagre old town, long since in ruins; the fosses and castle of which had been hastily repaired. He was attended on his route by a vast and motley multitude. No less than 10,000 of this poor vagrant crew were compelled to turn back, by a proclamation ordering that no person, without special permission, should approach within two leagues of the King's train, "on pain of the halter." As the French had proposed that both parties should lodge in tents erected on the field, they had prepared numerous pavilions, fitted up with halls, galleries, and chambers, ornamented within and without with gold and silver tissue. Amidst golden balls and quaint devices glittering in the sun, rose a gilt figure of St. Michael, conspicuous for his blue mantle powdered with golden fleurs de lys, and crowning a royal pavilion, of vast dimensions, supported by a single mast. In his right hand he held a dart, in his left a shield emblazoned with the arms of France. Inside, the roof of the pavilion represented the canopy of heaven, ornamented with stars and figures of the zodiac. (fn. 33) The lodgings of the Queen, of the duchess d'Alençon, the King's favorite sister, and of other ladies and princes of the blood, were covered with cloth of gold. (fn. 34) The rest of the tents, to the number of 300 or 400, emblazoned with the arms of the owners, were pitched on the banks of a small river outside the city walls. A large house in the town, built for the occasion, served as a place of reception for royal visitors.
From the 4th of June, when Henry first entered Guisnes, the festivities continued with unabated splendor for twenty days. They were opened by a visit of Wol- sey to the French king, and gave the Cardinal an opportunity for displaying his love of magnificence, not unaptly reckoned by poets and philosophers as the nearest virtue to magnanimity. (fn. 35) A hundred archers of the guard, followed by fifty gentlemen of his household, clothed in crimson velvet with chains of gold, bareheaded, bonnet in hand, and mounted on magnificent horses richly caparisoned, led the way. After them came fifty gentlemen ushers, also bareheaded, carrying gold maces with knobs as big as a man's head; next a cross-bearer in scarlet, supporting a crucifix adorned with precious stones. Four lacqueys followed, with gilt bâtons and poleaxes, in paletots of crimson velvet, their bonnets in hand adorned with plumes, their coats ornamented before and behind with the Cardinal's badge in goldsmith's work. Lastly came the Legate himself, mounted on a barded mule trapped in crimson velvet, with gold frontstalls, studs, buckles, and stirrups. Over a chimere of figured crimson velvet he wore a fine linen rochet. Bishops and other ecclesiastics succeeded, and the whole procession was brought up by fifty archers of the King's guard, their bows bent, their quivers at their sides, their jackets of red cloth adorned with a gold rose before and behind. (fn. 36)
In this state the procession approached the town of Arde. Arrived at the King's lodgings Wolsey dismounted, amidst the roar of artillery, and the sound of drums, trumpets, fifes, and other instruments of music. He was received by the king of France, bonnet in hand, with the greatest demonstrations of affection. The visit was returned next day by the French. These ceremonies were preliminary to the meeting of the two sovereigns on Thursday 7th June. On that day the king of England, appareled in cloth of silver damask, thickly ribbed with cloth of gold, and mounted on a charger arrayed in the most dazzling trappings overlaid with fine gold and curiously wrought in mosaic, advanced towards the valley of Arde. No man, from personal inclination or personal qualities, was better calculated to sustain his part in a brilliant ceremonial such as then struck the eyes of the spectators. An admirable horseman, tall and muscular, slightly inclined to corpulence, with a red beard and ruddy countenance, Henry VIII. was at this time, by the admission of his rivals, the most comely and commanding prince of his age. (fn. 37) Closely attending on the King was Sir Henry Guilford, the master of the Horse, leading a spare charger, not less splendidly arrayed in trappings of fine gold wrought in ciphers, with headstall, reins, and saddle of the same material. Nine henchmen followed in cloth of tissue, the harness of their horses covered with gold scales. In front rode the old marquis of Dorset, bearing the sword of estate before the King; behind came the Cardinal, the dukes of Buckingham and Suffolk, with the earl of Shrewsbury and others.
A shot fired from the castle of Guines, and responded to by a shot from the castle at Arde, gave warning that the two princes were ready to set forward. As Henry advanced towards the valley with all his company in military array, the French king might be descried on the opposite hill with his dazzling company, in dress, deportment and the splendor of his retinue not less glorious or conspicuous than his rival. Over a short cassock of gold frieze, he wore a mantle of cloth of gold covered with jewels. The front and the sleeves were studded with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and large loose-hanging pearls; on his head he wore a velvet bonnet adorned with plumes and precious stones. Far in advance rode the provost marshal with his archers to clear the ground. Then followed the marshals of the army in cloth of gold, their orders about their necks, mounted on horses covered with gold trappings; next the grand master, the princes of the blood and the king of Navarre. After them came the Swiss guard on foot, in new liveries, with their drums, flutes, trumpets, clarions and hautbois; then the gentlemen of the household; and immediately preceding the King was the grand constable, Bourbon, bearing the sword naked, and the Grand Ecuyer, with the sword of France, powdered with gold fleurs-de-lys.
As the two companies approached each other, there was a momentary pause. The French watched with some jealousy the close array of the English footmen, who, stretched in a long line on the King's left, marched step for step, with all the solemn gravity of their nation, a if they were rather preparing for battle than pastime; whilst, on the other side, the superior numbers of the French awakened the national jealousy of the Englishmen. "Sir, ye be my king and sovereign," broke in the lord Abergavenny in breathless haste; "wherefore, above all I am bound to show you truth, and not to let (stop) for none. I have been in the French party, and they be more in number;—double so many as ye be." Then spoke up the earl of Shrewsbury, "Sire, whatever my lord of Abergavenny sayeth, I myself have been there, and the Frenchmen be more in fear of you and your subjects than your subjects be of them. Wherefore," said the Earl, "if I were worthy to give counsel, your grace should march forward." "So we intend, my lord," replied the King. "On afore, my masters," shouted the officers of arms; and the whole company halted, face foremost, close by the valley of Arde.
A minute's pause—a breathless silence, followed by a slight stir on both sides. Then from the dense array of cloth of gold, silver and jewelry, of white plumes and waving pennons, amidst the acclamations of myriads of spectators on the surrounding hills, and the shrill burst of pipes, trumpets and clarions, two horsemen were seen to emerge, and, in the sight of both nations, slowly descend into the valley from opposite sides. These were the two sovereigns. As they approached nearer they spurred their horses to a gallop; then uncovering embraced each other on horseback, and after dismounting embraced again. Whilst the two sovereigns proceeded arm in arm to a rich pavilion, which no one else was allowed to enter, except Wolsey on one side and the Admiral of France on the other, the officers on both sides, intermingling their ranks, made good cheer, and toasted each other in broken French and English: "Bons amys, French and English!" (fn. 38)
Friday and Saturday were occupied in preparing the field for the tournament. The lists, 900 feet in length and 320 feet broad, were pitched on a rising ground in the territory of Guisnes, about halfway between Guisnes and Arde. Galleries hung with tapestry surrounded the inclosure; and, on the right side, in the place of honor, were two glazed chambers for the two Queens. A deep foss served to keep off the crowd. The entrances were guarded by twelve French and twelve English archers; and at the foot of the lists, under a triumphal arch, stood the perron or tree of mobility, from which the shields of the two Kings were suspended, on a higher line than those of the other challengers and answerers. The perron for Henry VIII. was formed of a hawthorn; and for Francis I., of a raspberry (framboisier), in supposed allusion to his name. Cloth of gold served for the trunk and dried leaves; the foliage was of green silk; the flowers and fruits of silver and Venetian gold. Under the tree, which measured in compass not less than 129 feet, the heralds took their stand on an artificial mound, surrounded by railings of green damask.
On Sunday, whilst the French king dined at Guisnes with the queen of England, the English king dined with the French queen and the duchess of Alençon at Arde. On arriving at the Queen's lodgings Henry was received by Louise of Savoy, and a bevy of ladies magnificently dressed. Passing slowly through their ranks, in leisurely admiration of their charms, (fn. 39) he reached the apartment where the Queen attended his coming. As he made his reverence to the Queen, she rose from her chair of state to meet him. Kneeling with one knee on the ground, his bonnet in his hand, he first kissed the Queen, next Madame, then the duchess of Alençon, and finally all the princesses and ladies of the company. This done, dinner was announced. At the third service, Mountjoy herald entered with a great golden goblet, crying, in the name of the king of England, Largess to the most high, mighty and excellent prince, Henry king of "England, &c. Largess, largess!" The banquet ended at five in the evening; when the King took his leave. To display his skill before the ladies, he set spurs to his horse, making it bound and curvet "as valiantly as any man could do."
The jousts commenced on Monday the 11th. The rules adopted to secure fair play and guard against accidents may be seen at p. 307 of this volume.
On the first day the kings of England and France, with their aids, held the lists against all comers; and, with the exception of Wednesday, when the wind was too high, the jousts continued without interruption throughout the week. On Sunday the two Kings exchanged hospitality as before. On this occasion Francis, dropping all reserve, visited the king of England before eight in the morning, attended by four companions only, and, entering his apartment without ceremony, embraced him as he was seated at breakfast. (fn. 40) The jousts were concluded in the following week, with a solemn mass sung by the Cardinal in a chapel erected on the field. The arrangements observed on this occasion, not less elaborate than those by which the feats of arms were regulated, may be seen at p. 311. Here, as in the ceremonial of the lists, the spirit of chivalry reigned triumphant. When the cardinal of Bourbon, according to the usages of the time, presented the Gospel to the French king to kiss, Francis, declining, commanded it to be offered to the king of England, who was too well bred to accept the honor. When the Pax was presented at the Agnus Dei, the two sovereigns repeated the same mannerly breeding. The two Queens were equally ceremonious. After a polite altercation of some minutes, when neither would decide who should be the first to kiss the Pax, womanlike they kissed each other instead. A sermon in Latin, enlarging on the blessings of peace, was delivered by Pace at the close of the service; and an artificial firework, four fathoms long, in the shape of a salamander, was sent up in the air in the direction of Guisnes, to the astonishment and terror of the beholders. The whole was concluded with a banquet, at which the royal ladies, too polite to eat, spent their time in conversation; but the legates, cardinals and prelates dined, drank, and ate sans fiction, in another room by themselves.
On Sunday, the 24th of June, the Kings met in the lists to interchange gifts and bid each other farewell. Henry and his court left for Calais; Francis returned to Abbeville.
The two Kings parted, on the best of terms, as the world thought, and with mutual feelings of regret. Yet, Henry had already arranged to meet the Emperor at Gravelines, there to settle the terms of a new convention, to the disadvantage of the French King. (fn. 41) The imperial envoy, the marquis d'Arschot, arrived at Calais on the 4th of July, and was received by the duke of Buckingham. On the 5th the King visited Gravelines, and returned with the Emperor to Calais three days after. The interview, graced by the presence of Charles, his brother Ferdinand, Herman the archbishop of Cologne, and the lord Chièvres, though less splendid, was more cordial than the interview with the French king, and was meant for business.
Frugal and reserved, the Emperor contrived, by his simple and unostentatious habits, to render himself more agreeable to his English guests than even Francis had been able to do with all his profuse and expensive civilities. Not, as some may condemn us, in consequence of our national fickleness; nor, as others may excuse us, because Englishmen preferred the plainer manners of the German or the Fleming; but because in the interview with France, in spite of appearances, there was no real cordiality. A tournament, in fact, was the least eligible method of promoting friendly feeling; it was more likely to engender unpleasant disputes and jealousies. To enforce the rules laid down for preserving order and fair play among the combatants was not an easy or a popular task. National rivalry was apt to break out, and it was hard for the judges to escape the imputation of partiality. Nor did the English, it must be admitted, return from the field in much good humor. With a feeling of complacency engendered by their insular position and their long isolation from the Continent, they had been wont to consider themselves as far superior to the French in all exercises of strength and agility. The French knights had shown themselves fully equal to their English opponents; the French king was not inferior in personal courage and activity to his English rival. (fn. 42) Then rumors, such as spring up like the dragon's teeth in vast and motley multitudes, evidently fanned and fostered by Flemish emissaries, continually represented the French as engaged in contriving some act of treachery against the English king and nation. Among the nobles also, the dukes of Suffolk and of Buckingham, the lord Abergavenny and others were glad of any pretext for maligning a pageant of which Wolsey had the prime direction.
Francis still hovered on the frontier in the fruitless hope of being invited to take part in this interview with the Emperor. The day before Charles left Ghent, the lady Vendôme and the Duchess her daughter-in-law contrived to have business in that town; but their artifice was not successful. Francis was obliged to content himself with the assurance that the visage and countenance of his English ally appeared "not to be so replenished with joy" as at the valley of Arde, (fn. 43) and that he had given proofs of undiminished affection by riding a courser that Francis had given him. With an impressiveness intended to be candid, he told Sir Richard Wingfield, who had succeeded as English resident at the French court, that "if the king Catholic were a prince of like faith unto the King his brother (Henry), and that he might perceive from Wolsey that his coming thither (to Calais) might be the cause of any good conclusion between them" (that is, between himself and the Em- peror), "he would not fail to come in post, and not to have looked for rank and place to him belonging, but would have put him into the King's chamber as one of the number of the same." But neither his extreme humility, nor his flattering proposal that Henry and himself, as "the chief pillars of Christendom," should "handle the Pope," whom Francis knew "to be at some season the fearfullest creature of the world, and at some other to be as brave," nor the schemes and blandishments of the ladies, availed. He chafed under his disappointment; still more at his ill success in counteracting the growing intimacy of Henry and the Emperor. He had exhausted, to little purpose, "that liberal and unsuspicious confidence" which too credulous historians are apt to think characterized his proceedings at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, to the disadvantage of his less attractive and engaging contemporary. He could neither prevent the meeting of his two rivals, nor penetrate their secrets. He was utterly foiled, yet dared not show his resentment. Whilst the Pope and the Spaniards, unable to penetrate beneath the surface, or read the signs of the times, were puzzled and scandalized at the Emperor's condescension, the world looked on with astonishment, as well it might, to see the two monarchs of the West thus anxiously soliciting the Cardinal's good graces. What could there be in the son of a butcher to command such deference ? (fn. 44)
Of the projects discussed at this interview we are not precisely informed. The English version, intended for the meridian of the French court, and to lull the suspicions of Francis, will be found at p. 346. If any credit be due to a statement prepared under such circum- stances, and calculated to alienate the French king irrecoverably from the Emperor, we are to believe that the imperial ambassadors had already proposed to Henry to break off his matrimonial engagement with France, and transfer the hand of the princess Mary to the Emperor. As an inducement for the King to coincide in this arrangement, the Emperor undertook to make war on France by sea and land, and not desist until Henry "had recovered his right and title in the same." (fn. 45) The King, according to the same document, rejected such a treacherous overture with the utmost horror, vehemently protesting against its immorality and perfidiousness. That such a proposal was made, though probably not by Chièvres, (fn. 46) to whom it is attributed,—that it was accepted by England, but with none of the indignation described in the document,—is clear beyond dispute. Long before any interruption had occurred in the amicable relations between the two countries,—before even the landing of Charles at Canterbury, or the interview in the valley of Arde,—it had been secretly proposed that the French engagement should be set aside, and the hand of Mary be transferred to the Emperor. (fn. 47) The King's horror at this act of faithlessness—if it had any existence beyond the paper on which it was written—must have been tardy and gratuitous, seeing that the chief purpose of the meeting at Calais was to settle the basis of this matrimonial alliance, and obtain the solemn ratification of the Emperor.
But Charles was in no hurry to commit himself. His indecision was the result rather of policy than of temper. As the Princess and himself were within the prohibited degrees of relationship, no matrimonial alliance could be concluded between them without a papal dispensation:—a pretext fertile in delay, or, should his interests require it, spacious and convenient for retracting his engagements. The offer of his hand, whether made in sincerity or not by the Emperor, served his purposes; it kept Henry faithful to his interests, and opposed an effectual barrier to the blandishments of France. By insisting on a papal dispensation, the Emperor reserved for himself a loophole to escape, should he find his union with Mary inexpedient, or desire to extract more advantageous terms from his future father-in-law. His matrimonial projects at this time were somewhat complicated.
He had bound himself by the most solemn obligations to marry the princess Charlotte of France. Her continued indisposition, and the disinclination of his Spanish subjects to the match, furnished him with a valid excuse for breaking his engagement. To gratify himself no less than his subjects, the Emperor was already turning his eyes towards a matrimonial alliance with Portugal. Next perhaps to the hand of Mary, such an alliance offered those pecuniary advantages of which Charles at this time stood much in need. His troops were in a state of disorder and insubordination for want of pay. They could neither be suffered to remain where they were, nor be transferred to more friendly territories, lest by their excesses they should convert friends into enemies. His ambassadors wanted money even to pay their couriers. Of his vast dominions in the old world, Spain, in a state of insurrection, refused to submit to the extortions of the tax collectors. (fn. 48) The Flemings, sulky and dissatisfied with the prodigality of the court, would advance no funds for purposes and projects over which they could exercise no control. Never wealthy,—jealous, to a fault, of their independence,—his new German subjects turned a deaf ear to his entreaties; whilst Italy, plundered alike by friend and foe, was in no condition to relieve his increasing necessities. Master of the most extensive dominions in the world, Charles was the least formidable prince of his age. As Leo X. told the imperial ambassador, his master's power was merely negative:—it depended on his opposition to French aggrandizement, which most men feared, and all men suspected. As for the rest, said the sagacious Pontiff, it was more in appearance than reality.
So a marital alliance with England, or rather the aid which so rich a country could afford him, became with Charles a state necessity. But of the three ladies whom he had engaged to wed, not one could be rejected without disastrous consequences. On Madame Charlotte depended the friendship of France; on the princess Mary, the alliance of England; the rejection of Isabella of Portugal was equivalent to the loss of some millions of ducats. It was his policy, therefore, or that of his ministers, to flatter the expectations of each by turns, and reduce none to absolute despair. La Sauch and Barroso carried on the negociations with Portugal—to which his own sister, of course, contributed not a little; the bishop of Elna kept the English court in good humor; whilst Chièvres, the most powerful and influential of his advisers, whom Wolsey most feared and hated, not without cause, supported his interests with France.
For the present, negociations languished on all sides. On his return from the interviews at Guisnes and Calais, Wolsey had started on a pilgrimage to Walsingham, and all business was suspended in his absence. The King spent most of his time in hunting. (fn. 49) The Emperor was occupied in preparing for his coronation at Aix-la-Chapelle. As for France, its relations with England, though ostensibly amicable, were ruffled by various incidents which boded no good to the unity of the two crowns. Too cautious, if not too politic, to express his real sentiments, the French monarch naturally regarded the late interview at Calais with jealousy and distrust. He was too well informed of what had passed not to harbor resentment; too sensible of his danger to display it. A vigorous or angry remonstrance would have given England an excuse for throwing herself at once into the arms of the Emperor. If that step could not be entirely averted, every hour's delay was an advantage. A seeming friendship, however flimsy and hollow, was better than a declaration of open hostility. A show of undiminished amity with England served to intimidate the Pope, and keep in awe the secondary powers of Christendom, who were only too ready to declare against him. The task, as might be supposed, was a hard one; it was in danger of being frustrated every hour by some unforeseen accident,—by some trifle, weak as air, invested with exaggerated proportions by the jealousy of the two courts, or the mer- cantile rivalry of the two nations. At the meeting in the valley of Arde, Francis had taken an opportunity of putting the ruinous defences of that town into better condition. The work had been continued when the interview was over. Eager to take offence, Henry complained. He ordered his ambassadors to remonstrate. The French were indignant:—such a proceeding, they said, was "very strange;" and the ambassadors, must have exceeded their commission. The defences, they averred, were necessary for the security of the King's person;—for the loyalty and obedience of his subjects on the frontiers. The English Court doggedly refused to entertain "this strange overture," as they termed it. They urged that no fortifications had been erected at Arde ever since they were razed, either in this King's reign or in that of his predecessor; therefore, "it was right strange under the color of this interview that the French should attempt to do what might annoy the King's subjects, and put them in suspicion of living in trouble rather than in quietness." With remonstrances that looked like menaces they mingled gentler expostulations. Such works, they said, could be of no advantage to the French king; the friendship of England was a better protection than walls or bulwarks. If, however, Francis persisted in this course, Englishmen would be faintly encouraged to take his part, so much they murmured at these proceedings. (fn. 50)
The town of Arde was as much a part of the French dominions as Calais was of England; and Henry would have deemed it strange and unwarrantable if, even under the pretence of amity, Francis had protested against similar repairs at Guisnes or Calais. The dispute grew warm;—the king of England and his minister more resolute;—at last Francis yielded. The fortifications of Arde were abandoned, and by the 1st of October, as Sandys wrote to Wolsey, (fn. 51) not a workman or pioneer was to be found in the place.
Whilst these causes for irritation arose to disturb the amity of the two Kings, the Emperor was occupied at Gravelines in making himself agreeable to his new allies, his subjects in Spain, taking advantage of his absence, rose in rebellion under Don Juan Padilla. The enthusiasm inspired by the insurrection, the celerity with which it spread among the commons, indicate some deeper and more abiding cause of disaffection than the greed of the Emperor's Flemish ministers, to whose rapacity and insolence it has been generally attributed. But I have only to consider the fact in its more immediate relation to those events which determined the policy of England. Whilst the whole energies of Charles were taxed to repress rebellion in Spain, he could find no leisure for interfering in the affairs of Italy. So Francis prepared to make the most of his advantage, by invading the peninsula, secure of success, and free from interruption.
The news of his intention fell like a thunderbolt on the astonished ears of the English court. Nothing could be more unwelcome or more disastrous. It was not merely the aggrandisement of French territory which had to be feared, should the French arms prove successful. The mere presence of the French in Italy would at once put a stop to all those designs which English and Imperialists had been prosecuting with the utmost vigor, secrecy and despatch, and had not yet brought to a successful termination. It had been the object of Wolsey to unite in one firm alliance, offensive and defensive, the Pope, the Emperor and England. But if Francis persisted in his intention, if he once made his appearance in Italy, all hopes of such a combination were at an end. So far from becoming a party to the league, the Pope, timid and vacillating, would make the best terms that he could with his dreaded and abhorred protector. All Italy would follow his example; and thus the very instrument which the Cardinal hoped might be brought to bear against France would be turned against himself.
To oppose the design with threats or open violence would have been inconsistent with those professions of friendship which England still thought fit to adopt towards the French king. Nothing remained but to try the effects of negociation. The English ambassador was instructed to represent to Francis the deep regret with which his master had heard of his intention to cross the mountains. Such a distance, he urged, must separate very friends, and prove a barrier to that free and constant intercourse which had hitherto existed between them. As French interests were so well established in Italy, Henry trusted that there would be no urgent cause for such an expedition. If, however, Francis apprehended the Emperor's designs in that quarter—(and that alone could justify his enterprise in the midst of profound peace)—his English ally would take ample care to send effectual aid, and join with him in repelling the invader. (fn. 52)
What answer was made by Francis to these amicable remonstrances we are not informed. I find by a subsequent despatch from Sir Nicholas Carew (fn. 53) that the English ministers were still laboring at the same anvil, with little apparent success. To discover his real intentions, Carew told the French monarch that after the diet, soon to be held at Worms, the Emperor intended to return into Spain, and extinguish the rebellion in person. More than usually cautious and reticent, Francis replied it was quite needful the Emperor should do so. He was in no mood to betray his intentions, as he was apt to do when drawn into conversation. When Carew informed him that his master had persuaded the Pope, the Emperor, the Swiss, and all the estates of Italy to maintain their amity with France, so that he should have no occasion to cross the mountains, except for his amusement, Francis coldly answered that his expedition was only for the satisfaction of his subjects and the reform of justice. With more courtesy, but less sincerity, his favorite minister, the Admiral, professed the greatest gratitude for Henry's good offices. He thought the English "counsel right good and honorable to the King his master;" and if matters could be concluded on the other side of the mountains in such a way as not to compromise his master's honor and profit, why—he himself would be content to urge the King to follow Henry's advice, and desist from so expensive an expedition!
Matters were beginning to wear a serious aspect. On the part of the Emperor they were not more encouraging. After his coronation at Aix, a ceremony imposed upon him by the constitution of the empire, Charles had to decide at once on his future movements. The condition of Spain and of Italy was equally critical; both equally demanded his immediate presence. The rebellion was advancing with rapid strides in Spain; Italy, exposed to the intrigues of the French, was in danger of being lost irretrievably. If Charles turned his steps towards Italy, Spain would be surrendered to the rebels, and Navarre revert to its ancient rulers. The d'Albrets, re-established on their ancient throne, would prove an effectual support to France, and cause incessant trouble to Spain. If, on the other hand, he turned to Spain, the Pope and all the minor potentates of Italy, abandoned to themselves, would fall a prey to the intrigues of the French.
Besides, he had already bound himself at his coronation to settle the troubles of Germany. What sort of task that was at any time, and still more in 1520, the reader may judge by a memorial of the agenda at the diet at Worms, apparently transmitted by Spinelly, at the instigation of Tunstal, and arranged under fifteen heads. (fn. 54) In addition to the religious controversies and the refutation of Luther's heresies, almost all the disputes by which Germany had been distracted for the last fifty years were to be carefully examined, and, if possible, adjusted. More than thirty bishops were at variance with the temporal lords for their several jurisdictions. Nuremburg, Wurtzburg, Bamburg, Constance, were each engaged in obstinate feuds; here temporal, there ecclesiastical disputes, put forth their vigorous and interminable filaments. One proposal, especially worth notice, was to be carried if possible, and seemed likely to raise a storm of opposition; sc., "that no man, without the consent of the Emperor and Electors, should, for any personal quarrel or other cause, presume to declare war, as had been done in times past:" and to this, says the memorial, the cities and towns were determined to stick fast.
Could anything show more clearly the confusion and disorder into which Germany was plunged, or the magnitude of the task undertaken by the Emperor, at the time when every quarter of his dominions was threatened by a domestic or a foreign enemy, and the very units of which society was composed were ready to start back into their primæval chaos ?
Charles was perplexed, and hesitated. His council was divided. One party, of whom Chièvres was the chief, was loud and earnest in its asseverations that the ill news from Spain was exaggerated. If, said they, Italy be abandoned, Milan must be lost; French influence will become predominant in the peninsula; the Pope, inclined to befriend the Emperor, will make terms with his enemy. These arguments were enforced by numerous Italian exiles driven from their homes through hatred or oppression of French rule; still more, by the repeated remonstrances of Don Manuel, the Spanish ambassador at the Papal court. But they were not urged solely out of consideration to the Emperor's interests. Chièvres and his Flemish favorites had become odious to Spain by their rapacity. To return, and brave the irritation of the Spaniards, was impossible. So in the determination of this political dispute was involved the fall of one party, and the supremacy of its rivals. And not that only. If Charles resolved on returning to Spain, the influence of Chièvres would be at an end, and with it all hopes of French supremacy in the councils of the Emperor. This is the key to the policy of Henry and his minister. This was the reason of their urging the Emperor to return to Spain. Their repeated representations of the necessity of such a step,—their solicitude for this quarter of the imperial dominions, so disproportionate to that charity which nations in general entertain for the troubles of their neighbours,—had this end in view,—this, and no other. And to this, and no other cause, must we refer the explosion of wrath with which the Spanish envoy some months before received Wolsey's considerate suggestion, that Madame (Margaret) should change places with Chièvres, whose grey hairs required repose, and whose presence would be less beneficial in Spain. (fn. 55)
As sickness prevailed at Worms the diet was dissolved in the end of May 1521, after a very short conference. It was not reserved for Emperor or electors to settle in the space of two months the disputes by which Germany was distracted, still less to put back again into the original nutshell from which it had emanated the nascent spirit of reform. The sun-dial of public opinion would not return one degree backward for Pope, Emperor, men, or devils. So Luther, fortissimus peccator, retired from the diet to disseminate winged briefs and letters from his island of Patmos, and fight the devil over again in his solitude of the Wartberg, as he had fought with him among the beasts at Worms. Bishops were still doomed to go on quarreling with temporal lords, and temporal lords with bishops. The denunciation of private wars did not hinder Hutten and Sickingen from avenging their own quarrels, or those of others, as passion or interest dictated. The days when diets could smooth down into unity the ruffled passions, principles, convictions of men, were as equally numbered with the past, as those of Convocation and General Councils.
But the political complications in which Charles found himself involved were augmented by his matrimonial projects. To carry on three such negociations as these simultaneously with secresy and success demanded great tact. His choice varied between England and Portugal, for the rupture with France had already proceeded so far as to cause him little uneasiness. A matrimonial alliance with Portugal suited best his inclination, while one with England best served his political interests. But then the dowry offered by Henry was less in amount than that offered by Portugal; besides, the English monarch insisted on deducting from it the sums he had already advanced to the Emperor. One hope remained. If he consented to the projected marriage with Mary, the fulfilment of which could be indefinitely postponed on a variety of pretexts, Henry might be induced to declare war against France, and so irretrievably commit himself to a course from which he could not retire with honor. This was all that the Emperor wanted; that done, he would be free to choose his bride from France, England or Portugal, as best suited his inclinations or his interests. So the policy of the Emperor was mainly concentrated on two objects; first, to exact from the king of Portugal as large a dowry as possible; secondly, to induce England by all means in his power, short of an irrevocable engagement to Mary, to declare war against France. Of the real nature of his negociations with Portugal, the English court was to be kept in ignorance, except so far as a knowledge of the offers of Portugal might serve to advance his interests in England; whilst the king of Portugal, informed from time to time of the advantageous conditions offered by England, would be induced to bid higher for an imperial son-in-law.
With the course of these negociations at the court of Portugal I am not concerned. Although the secret was very strictly kept, it did not wholly escape the penetration of Wolsey. Into the trap thus cunningly prepared for him he obstinately refused to enter, much to the dissatisfaction of the imperial agents, who vented their anger in abusive epithets, and consoled themselves for their disappointment by insinuations against the Cardinal's honesty. It cannot be said that he remained unmoved; for he was not of a temper to bear indignity with patience. But, conscious of his strength, he treated their anger and impatience with indifference, and not unfrequently with lofty contempt. He had determined on his course; he had fixed the terms on which the alliance of England was to be had:—these, and no others;—they might take them, or go. He would not bate an inch, or depart a hair's breadth from them, let Emperors and imperialists storm as they would.
And storm they did, for they were not accustomed to contradiction. The least pliant, the least courteous, in general the least successful negociator in the world, the Spaniard was detested in every court in Europe. In dealing with the Pope, the Venetians, or inferior powers, he dispensed with the arts of diplomacy, not because he despised them, but because he was too proud to condescend, too overbearing to conciliate, where force could be employed with impunity. With England that was impossible. In Wolsey he met with a scorn loftier than his own, and his anger was consequently unbounded. Formal, tedious, corrupt, are the expletives by which Don Manuel and others, in their correspondence with Charles V., found a safety-valve for their vexation, a compensation for their wounded vanity. But to accept as some have done such expressions as grave historical evidence, to regard them as anything more than the spleen of the moment, to convert them into a solemn and ponderous charge against Wolsey's integrity, is altogether absurd.
The Emperor's council was no less perplexed and distracted than the Emperor. A million dollars with the hand of the princess of Portugal was a tempting offer; but then its acceptance involved the loss of the English alliance, and the union of England with France. That alliance could be had only upon the terms dictated by Wolsey, and these were hard and strict:—a dower of 50,000l., the privilege for Henry to declare hostilities against France at his own option, and indemnity for the losses he must incur in so doing. Would it not be possible to cajole or bribe the Cardinal, and so extract from him more favorable terms, a greater deference to the wishes and interests of the Emperor ? Might he not, being only an Englishman, incapable of conceiving grand theories of universal dominion, and a stranger to that wisdom which a continental education engendered, become a puppet in the diplomatic hands of Cobos, Gattinara, or even Don Manuel ? So weak men judge of the strong; so small men imagine the great.
At this time Tunstal was the English ambassador at the imperial court. He had complained already of the way-wardness, delay and indecision of the Emperor's council. In no mood to be trifled with, the Cardinal wrote in the King's name to the ambassador, then at Worms. After thanking him for his discreet behaviour and good service, he thus proceeds: (fn. 56) "We marvel at the sudden "change in the Emperor's council, in resolving not to enter further into this alliance of marriage till he have leave from the Pope, unless we consent to treat all matters simultaneously; sc. make a defensive league with the Pope, take the Swiss into pay, grant him aid against his Spanish rebels, and agree to a new interview. This is far discrepant from the overtures made us at Calais and by his ambassadors in England. Now, although, as you state, the Pope's dispensation is necessary for this marriage, as we have foreseen, the parties being in the second degree of consanguinity, the difficulty may be cleared by a bull of dispensation. But we will not consent to any treaties or arrangements until this article of the marriage be first fully concluded, nor join in any league with the Pope and the Emperor until such dispensation be first granted sub plumbo, which shall be obtained in the most secret manner. (fn. 57)
" We wonder they refuse these things, which are so much to their advantage. For considering the amity between us and France, that our daughter is already honorably bestowed there, that we are at peace with all Christian princes, what need have we of any further alliance with Pope or Emperor than such as we have already ? Why should we meddle with the Swiss, or make war upon France ? What object have we to gain in aiding the Emperor against his rebels, except it be for the love we bear him ? Do we stand in need of aid from the Emperor, or from any other ? If they make difficulties, we are not minded to bestow our favors upon those who are unwilling to accept them. We only require this assurance on their part that we may be the more heartily inclined to the Emperor's interests; for without it we have no special inducement to tender his welfare. It will not prevent the Emperor from marrying any person of lawful age before our daughter comes to mature years, as he will only be bound to take her if he be then at liberty."
Then addressing himself specially to the ear of the ambassador he adds: "This alliance must be concluded before any other convention; for, if it were delayed until after the league with the Pope, the Emperor and his ministers might insist upon very unreasonable demands, lead us into war and intolerable expenses, bring us into suspicion with our other confederates, and, after we had helped them to play their game, leave us in the lurch."
After some remarks on the dowry to be given with the Princess, which was not to exceed 50,000l. sterling, Tunstal is informed that no particulars will be sent him at present as to the league with the Pope, the entertainment of the Swiss, the aid to be given against the Spanish rebels,—all points of the utmost solicitude to Charles and his ministers, and their main inducement for entering on these negociations for Mary's hand. For, "to be plain with you," he subjoins, "it would be great folly in this young prince, not being more surely settled in his dominions, and so ill provided with treasure and good councillors, the Pope also being so brittle and variable, to be led into war for the pleasure of his ministers. It is therefore not advisable to enter into stricter bonds with the Pope than at present, or be at charges for the Swiss, or to send any embassy to alienate them from France, or give assistance against the rebels in Spain, as the Emperor may reimburse himself by confiscating their lands and goods. As for the interview which they ask for, thought it will be expensive to us and our nobles, we shall not object to it, if all else be concluded."
Then, as if to remind the Emperor that these new objections had no place in his thoughts when he first viewed with the utmost jealousy and alarm the personal interview of the French and English monarchs only a few months before, he adds: "At Canterbury, and again at Calais, when this matter was broached, the Emperor was willing to have concluded this alliance without any dispensation from the Pope; and we are led to suspect that they now only are seeking to delay it until they have learned from the French ambassador now sent to them what offer will be made [them] by the French king. As we understand that the Emperor lately reproved Chièvres and the Chancellor (Gattinara) for neglecting England, and charged them that they should write nothing to us without his express knowledge, if you see no better towardliness in them than heretofore, repair to the Emperor himself, show him our mind, note his answers, and how he seems disposed; for we doubt not, when he has well weighed the nature of this bond and the advantage of the match, he will make no further difficulty. Then, if the Emperor's council continue intractable, you shall tell the Emperor secretly, as of yourself, that, in consideration of the old-standing amity between the two sovereigns, there is no prince, your own king excepted, for whom you entertain a stronger regard; and therefore you are induced for his own sake to tell him what consequences are certain to ensue if he reject this alliance. For if the match between the princess Mary and the Dauphin be suffered to proceed, and the Dauphin become king of France, and in her right king of England, the navies of France and England will shut the Emperor from the seas. If he make his abode in Spain, the Low Countries will be in danger; and the French king, monarch of two kingdoms and of the duchy of Milan, will imperil Naples, and attain the monarchy of Christendom. Whereas all these advantages would fall to the Emperor, if he accepted this alliance; so that he should rather labor himself to break this match with France than stay for England to make any overtures for the same."
Thus fortified, Tunstal returned once more to the great object of his negociation. The chief impediment to its success was the Flemish minister Chièvres, as might have been expected. He was far advanced in years, and resented the suggestion of Wolsey, already mentioned, that he should give himself a little repose, and enjoy the shade of his own laurels, without venturing again into Spain. The advice was not the more palatable because it was wholesome. The rapacity of Chièvres and his nephew the young cardinal De Croy,—cardinal and archbishop of Toledo at the age of twenty,—self. sufficient and incompetent,—had filled the breasts of the Spanish nobles and ecclesiastics with bitter indignation. The old goat, as they complained, in gibing allusion to his name, did nothing but fill empty Flemish wells, and, gnawing to the bone his imperial ward, foster poverty and contention in his household. (fn. 58) But though his in- fluence was on the wane, he was still omnipotent with the Emperor. In his present temper, it was hopeless to expect that Chièvres would countenance a match with England, and thus augment the influence of that party to which he was personally and politically opposed. In vain Tunstal argued first with one and then with another: points determined at one meeting were unsettled at the next. Pretexts were not wanting to avoid a definitive answer, or put off the ambassador's audience, when it was not likely to prove agreeable.
First, the terms of the alliance were open to controversy:—the Emperor did not understand Latin, and the papers must be translated into French. Then again his attention was engrossed by the diet at Worms. He had much business with the electors on the affairs of the empire. At Shrovetide, there was to be "a solemn joust of nobles and gentlemen." His sister's marriage, visits of ceremony from and to the Electors, filled up the interval. It was clear the ambassador would get no answer. "I think," says Tunstal, "they will delay till they see how the electors are inclined." (fn. 59) This was the real secret. If the Emperor could bring them into good humor and some degree of unanimity, he might expect to reap the fruits of his ingenuity and their benevolence, and so stand upon his own terms. For Charles was deeply involved. "The household and all the gentlemen been behind of their wages almost trei quarters," says Spinelly; "whereupon hath grown a great murmur against the lord Chièvres." But Charles was not disheartened. On the strength of his new expectations he had borrowed of the Belzers of Augsburg 130,000 florins. He was a young man then, and the child of fortune. The reconciliation of the rival claims of the spiritual and temporal powers, the pacification and unity of all Germany, the harmonious cradling of the lion with the kid, of Luther with the Lady of Babylon,—all these were golden visions, easy to be realized by the supreme monarch of Christendom,—an Emperor of twenty-one.
In this juncture Wolsey addressed himself to Henry VIII. After stating that he had received letters in cipher from his ambassador with the Emperor, the contents of which he had deciphered, and sent, he proceeds: "This is far discrepant from good and congruence, founded and contrived only for delays, whereby they be like more to lose than your Grace shall; and great simpleness and lack of good remembrance may be arrected to them, thus to use so wise and expert a prince in his affairs as ye be; alleging that they cannot treat of the alliance proposed by your Grace, the honor of their master saved, except the Pope do dispense with their oath made to France; whereas, both at Calais and also Canterbury, they would actually have concluded marriage, if your Highness would have been thereto agreeable, without making any mention of any such dispensation. And whereas your Grace, in the Emperor's privy chamber at Calais, objected that the Emperor was bounden by the contract made with the daughter of France, by cause he was of full age, notwithstanding she was not at like age; yet the Chancellor expressly denied the same. And though your Grace said according to truth and the law, yet by their denial it manifestly appeared that they reckoned their master solute, not needing any such dispensation as that they now allege; and much the less that this promise by your Grace demanded import not so much as an actual and real contract, whereunto a all times they have showed themselves to be agreeable, to the intent thereby your Grace should break with France...
"And whereas the lord Chièvres hath found a new invention, wherein he thinketh that your Grace should be pleased; that is to say, that a diet within your realm should be holden at Calais betwixt commissioners to be sent thither on both parts, and that they should treat as well of the said alliance as of all other matters; ... I cannot see to what purpose that diet should serve, or what good effect should come thereof, but only thereby ye should be brought in suspicion with France: and by the color of the same, the Emperor the sooner and rather should make his hand with the same. Wherefore, seeing this their untowardness, and that this answer is their final resolution, it shall be in mine poor opinion well done, that the Master of the Rolls (Tunstal) do no further press them in this behalf; but after a little tarrying there to know what conclusion shall be taken in this great assembly of the estates of Almain, and using to the Emperor's own person such words as be contained in his last instructions, he shall take his leave and depart. And I assure your Grace, may be or long too they shall on their hands and feet seek unto your Highness; for if the French king and they be at pique, as your Grace shall perceive they be right like to be, by the copy of such letters as the French king now writeth to his ambassador, which I send unto the same herewith, Spain also continuing in rebellion, they shall not only have need of your favor, succor and assistance, but also, if they attempt anything by hostility, your Grace not consenting thereto, they shall be utterly undone. Howbeit, in this controversy betwixt these two princes, it shall be a marvellous great praise and honor to your Grace so by your high wisdom and authority to pass between and stay them both, that ye be not by their contention and variance brought into the war; which, as I perceive by the latter clause of the French king's letters, he trusteth ye will be in case the Emperor should enter into Italy, and so pluck the crown imperial at Rome with a great army; whereupon I doubt not but your Grace will take good deliberation and be well advised, considering what ye be bounden to do by virtue of such treaties as be passed betwixt you, or ye shall make any promise to the said French king in that behalf."
The result will have been anticipated by my readers. When reason fails to open men's eyes to their true interests, what remains ? Moriemini in peccatis vestris. Considering that the Emperor's ministers wilfully rejected a proposal more to the Emperor's profit than to the King's, as Wolsey wrote shortly after to Tunstal, it was the King's pleasure they should be pressed no further. So leaving Sir Thomas Spinelly in his place, he was ordered to return immediately. (fn. 60)
Thus matters stood: Charles remained still at Worms, feasting electors and denouncing Luther; Francis I. was in the full bustle of war, levying lanceknights, and preparing ordnance; Henry VIII., digesting, as best he might, the Emperor's strange behaviour, and more strange refusal of his daughter's hand; Leo X. was oscillating between the French and Imperial alliance,—now deluding Don Manuel, and now the French ambassador, by taking them alternately into his confidence, and playing the one off against the other;—when an event took place, which struck not only England, but all Europe, with amazement. This was the apprehension of the duke of Buckingham.
In Shakspeare's play of Henry VIII., the Duke is introduced as holding conversation with the duke of Norfolk. He demands news of the latter touching the interview "'twixt Guisnes and Arde," on the plea that "all the whole time he was his chamber's prisoner." Now, even if by Norfolk we are to understand Surrey, who became duke of Norfolk on his father's death in 1524,—and no other supposition will suit the chronology of the play—Shakspeare has fallen into a grave historical error. It was not Buckingham, but Norfolk, who should have required an account of the meeting of "those "sons of glory, those two lights of men;"—for both Buckingham and his son-in-law lord Abergavenny were present at the interview. Whereas Norfolk, with Fox bishop of Winchester, and other members of the Council, remained in England, (fn. 61) and Surrey was absent as lieutenant in Ireland. On what authority Shakspeare, who in general adheres closely to Hall in his English historical plays, assumed that Buckingham was confined to his chamber "by an untimely ague," I have not been able to discover. Not a word of this illness is found in Hall. On the contrary, Hall states, correctly enough, that the Duke was appointed, in conjunction with Wolsey, to conduct the French king to his lodgings at Arde, on the last day of those famous festivities. (fn. 62) Perhaps Shakspeare may have been struck by the fact—not a little remarkable—that to the duke of Buckingham, next in rank to the duke of Suffolk, popular, wealthy and greedy of distinction, no conspicuous part in the tournament was assigned. His name does not appear among the combatants. He abstained from the various feats of arms, in which not Suffolk only, but other noblemen far inferior in rank to the duke of Buckingham, found numerous opportunities for display. This is the more remarkable; for we learn by the papers in this volume that the Duke had entered with zest and eagerness into such courtly amusements only a few months before. As the arrangements were "ordered by the good discretion of the right reverend cardinal of York," it might be thought that the omission of Buckingham's name was a studied insult:—and hence his indignation at Wolsey for usurping the authority of his master.
But neither Wolsey's pride nor "an untimely ague" was the true cause of the Duke's exclusion. Once before, when he had been appointed one of the answerers in a tilting at Court, he had requested Wolsey to be allowed to run on the King's side. If this could not be granted, he begged to be excused from taking any part in the jousts; (fn. 63) and I presume that his excuse was accepted. Unless then the King was willing to nominate the Duke as one of his own band, at the interview—a favor he could hardly expect,—it was not likely that he would consent to run on the opposite side in contradiction to his own expressed wishes, and his notorious dislike of the French.
Up to this time then, he had conceived no offence against the Cardinal, or had contrived to conceal his displeasure. It was not known to the King or Wolsey; for immediately after the French interview the Duke was selected to wait upon the King at Calais and at Gravelines, and assist at the meeting with the Emperor. (fn. 64) He distinguished himself on this occasion by his cordial reception of the imperial envoy, the marquis d'Arschot. (fn. 65) In attributing to the Duke a violent dislike to the French king, Shakspeare adheres to historical accuracy. The Duke's cordiality to the imperial envoy, his desire to promote a union with Charles, were prompted as much by that dislike, as by any jealousy, real or supposed, of the Cardinal's overweening influence. From that date until the end of November his name disappears from the page of history.