Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, 1524-1530. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1875.
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The proposal to send a legate into England was duly submitted to the Pope by Casale on the 12th of January, and a long conference ensued. Hitherto he had contrived ostensibly to satisfy the King's wishes, without incurring any personal responsibility. To issue a commission privately, especially such a one as proved wholly inefficacious, was an act easily concealed from the Emperor's agents, and involved no hazard. Not so the sending a legate openly to England, to be joined with Wolsey in pronouncing the divorce. To Clement this appeared a much more dangerous and responsible course. Such a step could not be taken without coming to the Emperor's knowledge, and implicating the Pope in a dispute he was anxious to avoid. He received Casale's proposal with trepidation. In his perplexity, his advisers, St. Quatuor and Simonetta, proposed that the cause should be committed to Wolsey. If the King, they urged, was really troubled by scruples, and what he required could be done with a safe conscience, no doctor sent from Rome could resolve his own difficulties more honestly than himself. If, therefore, he was determined to continue no longer in the marriage state with Katharine, he had better entrust the cause to Wolsey; marry again; follow up his marriage by a trial; and if any dispute arose, apply publicly to the Roman consistory for a legate. This, they urged, was the shortest and the most expedient course; whereas if the King proceeded to trial, the Queen, they said, would not appear, except to protest against the place and the judges, and the Emperor would demand a prohibition from the Pope. In that event the King would be precluded from marrying again, and his children by the second marriage would be declared illegitimate. The Pope could not refuse to entertain the appeal, or avoid revoking the cause; on the contrary, if the King were once remarried, all prohibitions would be useless.
So ingenious a device it is easy to perceive was contrived only to extricate the Pope from all responsibility. Fully alive to the danger of either alternative, he desired nothing better than to wash his hands of the whole affair. Provided he was not called upon to interpose, he was indifferent what course was pursued by the King. Perhaps, also, he was not sorry to throw the responsibility upon the Cardinal; as Wolsey, on his part, was by no means unwilling that it should be shared by the Pope. (fn. 1)
But in making this suggestion Clement was careful to urge that it should not appear to have emanated from himself. As for the legate to be employed, he was willing to leave the choice to Casale's discretion. But here various obstacles arose: one cardinal was laid up with the gout; another was a hostage at Naples; a third had a bishopric in Spain. The inclinations of others were not known; and Campeggio, who appeared the most suitable for the King's purpose, could not leave Rome until it was secured from all danger by the advance of Lautrec. The object of this manœuvre is obvious. If the French advanced on the Roman capital, the Emperor would become more desirous of an accommodation with the Pope, and the efforts of the king of England in promoting that advance could be secured by no more efficient method than by making the mission of Campeggio dependent upon it. (fn. 2)
But, like his previous efforts, the diligence of Casale was of no avail. The dispensation and commission granted by the Pope, and amended by St. Quatuor, were declared to be insufficient on their arrival in England, or were really so, in the present change of the King's proceedings. It was resolved therefore that additional agents should be sent to Rome. Foxe, the King's almoner, and Dr. Stephen Gardiner, Wolsey's secretary, were appointed for this purpose. The implicit trust reposed in the latter by the Cardinal is manifested by the expression dimidium mei applied by him to Gardiner. Of Gardiner's birth, early career, and admission into Wolsey's service, little is known. He was born at Bury St. Edmund's; was master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1525; must in the earlier years of his life have studied in Paris, for he is mentioned by Erasmus in one of his letters, with a humorous allusion to his skill in compounding salads when they studied in that city together. (fn. 3) He is first found in Wolsey's service in 1526; (fn. 4) was in his train at his journey to France in 1527; and must even at that period have contrived to ingratiate himself with the King, as he was among the very few who had been already entrusted with the King's secret. Of his serviceableness to the Cardinal even then, we have a proof in Wolsey's reluctance to part with him, even at the King's request. (fn. 5) His ability is further manifested by the fact, that though his name is mentioned only second in the commission, Wolsey desired he should take precedence of Foxe in managing the negotiations; and Foxe, who was remarkable for his modesty, was contented to yield precedence to his coadjutor, not merely in this respect, but in rank also. It is doubtless to Gardiner that Henry alludes in his letter to Anne Boleyn:—"The bearer (Gardiner), and his fellow, are despatched with as many things to compass our matter, and bring it to pass, as wit could imagine, which being accomplished by their diligence, I trust you and I will shortly have our desired end ... Keep him not too long with you, but desire him for your sake to make the more speed; for the sooner we shall have word from him the sooner shall our matter come to pass. And thus upon trust of your short repair to London—(she was evidently then at Hever) I make an end of my letter, mine own sweetheart." (fn. 6)
Gardiner and his companion were not dispatched till the middle of February. They were instructed to consult, on their arrival at Rome, with the bishop of Tortona and with Casale, who had been kept entirely in the dark with regard to the new arrangements. They were commanded to convey the King's thanks to the Pope for his good intentions, telling him, however, that the dispensation and commission were insufficient for the peace and stability of his realm; and as the King desired to know from the Pope's own lips what were his intentions, he had sent Foxe and Gardiner to declare to him what he considered necessary for his cause. "Secondly," continues the despatch, "as Wolsey finds that the Pope has been labouring under some misapprehension, as if the King had set on foot this cause, not from fear of his succession, but out of a vain affection or undue love to a gentlewoman of not so excellent qualities as she is here esteemed, the ambassadors are to assure the Pope that the Cardinal would not, for any earthly affection to his prince or desire of reward, transgress the truth or swerve from the right path; nor would he have consented in any way to have reported to his Holiness otherwise than his conviction of the insufficiency of the marriage, nor have been guilty of any dissimulation. If God has given any light of true doctrine to the greatest divines and lawyers of this realm, and if in this angle of the world there be any hope of God's favour, Wolsey is well assured, and dare put his soul, that the King's desire is founded upon justice, and does not spring from any grudge or displeasure to the Queen, whom the King honors and loves, and minds to love and to treat as his sister, with all manner of kindness; and as she is the relict of his dearest brother, he will entertain her with all joy and felicity. But as this matrimony is contrary to God's law, the King's conscience is grievously offended. On the other side, the approved excellent virtuous qualities of the said gentlewoman (Anne), the purity of her life, her constant virginity, her maidenly and womanly pudicity, her soberness, 'chasteness, meekness, humility, wisdom descent right noble and high through regal blood, education in all good and laudable qualities and manners, apparent aptness to procreation of children, with her other infinite good qualities, more to be regarded and esteemed than the only progeny, be the grounds on which the King's desire is founded, which Wolsey regards as honest and necessary."
In consideration of these things they are to urge the Pope to supply the defects of the last commission and dispensation, regarding more the usages of England than of Rome, according to the form "here devised;" and, if possible, obtain leave for Campeggio to be sent in preference to any other. If the Pope objected to the form as unusual, they were to urge that it was indispensable in order to avoid the evils that otherwise might befall the realm. If he showed fear of the Emperor, they were to insist on the dishonor he incurred by refusing justice through fear of any earthly person. If he attempted delay, they were to send word immediately, assuring his Holiness that the King would proceed to execution, whether the Pope consented to his wishes or not; and as, of all the Pope's friends, Henry is the most frank, so of all men he would most abhor the ungrateful. If, in spite of all these remonstrances, the Pope should continue obdurate, and propose a different method of procedure, they were only to accept it on condition that a legate should be joined with Wolsey in the execution of the commission. The alternatives required were, a legate to act in conjunction with Wolsey; if that could not be granted, a legate only; or, last and least, a commission to Wolsey and the archbishop of Canterbury jointly. (fn. 7) They are instructed to urge each of these propositions successively, with all the arguments at their command. In the course of these communications they were to exhibit a book to the Pope on the insufficiency of the King's marriage, and prevail upon him and the Cardinals, if possible, to exhort the Queen to conform herself to the King's wishes, forbearing from all further trouble and delay, as by so doing the King would have greater reason to deal liberally with her. (fn. 8) With these instructions Wolsey wrote letters in his own name to the Pope and the Cardinals, recommending the King's suit to their favorable consideration and assistance.
The two ambassadors arrived at Dover on the 11th February, and, embarking next day, were compelled to return by a contrary wind, and wait for a passage until two o'clock on the Saturday morning. Relying on the assurance of the bailly of Dover that the passage, though tedious, would in all likelihood be sure, they were detained at sea that day and the night following, and found themselves at daybreak within four miles of Calais. Here they were overtaken by such a violent tempest that they were compelled to abandon their course, and landed with two servants only on the coast of Gravelines, "having been two days and nights without food, and sea-sick." (fn. 9) They left Calais on Wednesday the 19th, and arrived at Paris the Friday fol- lowing. On Sunday they had an interview at St. Germain's with Francis, just recovering from his disease, but still suffering from an impediment in his speech. They visited Winter, dean of Wells, then under the care of Lupset, the famous grammarian. (fn. 10) From Paris they took the road to Lyons; arrived there on the 3rd of March, left it on the 4th for Orvieto, taking the way by Genoa; and, after "journeying with the greatest possible diligence," they reached Lucca on the 16th. At Lucca they were treated with "a goodly present" from the citizens, consisting of fish, served on silver dishes, sweetmeats from Portugal, four basins of toasted bread—"a very dainty thing,"—marchpanes, torches and candles of virgin wax, and 40 gallons of various wines, all of which were brought in by fifty attendants, with trumpets and musical instruments. (fn. 11) Next day they started for Orvieto, and reached their destination on Saturday, the 21st, "with no garments but the coats they rode in, which were much worn, and defaced by the foul weather." In crossing a river, swollen with melted snow, in order to reach the town, they had to wade through the stream on horseback until the water "reached almost to their girdles." (fn. 12) "Master Gregory Casale says," writes Gardiner, "that in summer the south wind brings pestilence here from a river within a mile of the city. The place may well be called Urbs Vetus; no one would give it any other name. I cannot tell how the Pope should be described as being at liberty here, where hunger, scarcity, bad lodgings, and ill air keep him as much confined as he was in Castel Angel. His Holiness could not deny to Master Gregory that captivity at Rome was better than liberty here." To add to all these discomforts, "the city," continues Gardiner, "is very liable to contagion, and the weather so moist, that, except there be some change of the inhabitants soon, it will be of little consequence who are lords of this country, unless for penance you would wish it for the Spaniards, as being unworthy to die in battle."
As Orvieto could not supply their diminished wardrobe, they had to remain at home while their garments were "at the making." Borrowing was out of the question, as few men in Orvieto had "more garments than one." They found his Holiness in the dilapidated palace of the Bishop, and, before reaching his privy chamber, had to pass through three rooms, "all naked and unhanged, the roofs fallen down, and, as we can guess, thirty persons, riffraff and other, standing in the chamber for a garnishment." (fn. 13) On Monday, the 25th, after dinner, they were admitted to an audience with the Pope in his bed-chamber. When Gardiner had explained the cause of their coming, and directed the Pope's attention to the defects in the dispensation and commission, the Pope replied, that, notwithstanding his promise to amend them, he must dissemble until Italy was pacified: "And whereas it was declared how your Grace (Wolsey) being advertised that his Holiness somewhat stayed in expedition of the King's desire, for that it was showed him that the matter (the divorce) was set forth without your consent or knowledge, and you begged us to protest of your sincerity and mind concerning the merits and the qualities of the gentlewoman (Anne Boleyn)—the Pope said all such protestation was needless, for he could not believe that the King would be led by any undue (improper) affection,—and he desired to see the King's labour and study in the matter. He added, he did not believe the report that you were not privy to it, or that anything of so high consequence would be set forth without your advice. But he confessed that the report had made him waver until he had ascertained the truth."
Next day they presented the King's book to the Pope. He began to read it standing awhile. Then sitting upon a form covered with an old coverlet, not worth twenty pence, he read the preliminary epistle, and the latter part of the book touching the law, without suffering any one to assist him. Commenting upon it, as he turned the leaves, he greatly commended it, said he would keep it, and read it at leisure; and as the preliminary epistle was directed to Wolsey and other prelates, he inquired for their answer. The ambassadors replied that "there was none, but he might infer the answer from Wolsey's letters." Then he demanded whether the King had ever broken the matter to the Queen. They replied in the affirmative, adding that she was content to abide by the judgment of the Church. Next he inquired whether Wolsey would be objected to as suspect, "for that by answering the King's epistle and delivering your mind, you had given sentence beforehand, and could not be considered indifferent." This was an objection they had not anticipated, and it was not very easily parried. In the evening they had an interview with cardinal St. Quatuor, and succeeded apparently in persuading him that the commission devised in England was agreeable to the canon law. Returning to the Pope, on Wednesday, they found him unwilling to discuss the commission, as St. Quatuor was unwell. Their proposal for despatching Campeggio to England was heard with ill-concealed dislike;—still more their pretext, "for componing peace between princes;"—though, says Gardiner, the Pope had received a similar proposition from the Emperor, as "he finally admitted." The next day they found St. Quatuor with his Holiness, and in another corner of the room three more cardinals. As they entered, the Pope withdrew to a little study used for a sleeping apartment, and ordered stools to be brought; then seating himself on one of them, with his back to the wall, he commanded the rest to sit round him. They proceeded to discuss the commission, Gardiner acting as the chief speaker, and answering all objections, in Latin, for the space of four hours. The debate lingered on from day to day, the Pope urging them, on the plea of informality, to accept a general commission in lieu of the one which they required;—Gardiner insisting that if the Pope and his advisers objected merely on a point of form, and the King could obtain no more favor from them than an ordinary person, he would take the remedy into his own hands, and not suffer his cause to be decided by men whose hearts had already prejudged it. Overawed by the passionate boldness of these words, the Pope professed his willingness to satisfy their request as soon as he had consulted the cardinals De Monte and Ancona. (fn. 14) This despatch was sent home by lord Rochfort's priest, who seems to have been continually employed in these negociations. (fn. 15)
The discussion was renewed on the 1st of April. Gardiner pressed for instant decision, but the Pope, as usual, hung back, declaring he must tarry for the advice of his lawyers. Admitting as he was willing to admit the King's arguments, the cause he said must come before the world, and therefore his advisers must be satisfied in the course to be pursued. He was sorry to confess that he was no canonist. They urged that he ought not to be afraid of what the world might say, but decide for himself, especially as he had acknowledged the justice of the King's petition. The dispute now turned upon the point whether they should have a commission in the exact terms submitted by Wolsey to the Pope, which would have been summary and final, or a general commission, which could not take effect without the Pope's subsequent confirmation. Gardiner and his fellows clung tenaciously to the first; the Pope and his advisers insisted on the second, urging that the other was unusual and informal, and that the King himself had been heard to say, that as the Queen might object to Wolsey, it would be as well if the Cardinal "meddled not as a judge in this matter."
The point was contested with great firmness by Gardiner, and with an intrepidity of language and manner to which the Pope had never been accustomed. So far from condescending to flatter, he worked upon the fears and hesitating temper of Clement VII. He desired the Pope and all who were present to note what he had to say of the Papal authority, assuring them, in the most undisguised language, that if they wavered in the course they ought to pursue, it would be said that they either would not or could not give a satisfactory reply. If they could not point out the right way to the wanderer—a task entrusted to them by God—specially to a prince from whom they had received so many obligations—the world would exclaim against their cunning and dissimulation, for they promised much, and performed nothing. England, he remarked, had a special claim on the Pope for counsel; and if it were refused, the king and the lords of England would be driven to think that God had taken away from the Holy See the key of knowledge, and would go over to their opinion who thought that Pontifical laws, which were not understood by the Pope himself, might as well be committed to the flames. The Pope sighed—said he was not learned,—the more the pity. He must be ruled by the lawyers, who objected to their demands. And though it was a saying of the canonists that the Pope had all laws locked up in the cabinet of his breast (quod Pontifex habet omnia jura in scrinio pectoris), to his misfortune he must confess that God had never given him the key wherewith to open it. Who could fail to appreciate the temper of a Pope that could thus take refuge, after four hours of incessant badgering, in a witticism conceived at his own expence? Able a disputant as was Gardiner, and there were few abler, the imperturbable good humour of Clement was more than a match for all his energy and his eloquence.
It was hopeless to insist, so Gardiner and the rest fell back on the other alternative of a general commission in terms less stringent than had been devised in England. When the first was demanded, this had been repeatedly urged by the Papal advisers as the wiser alternative; but when that was abandoned, this also was contested. "We were always told," says Gardiner, "that it should be of our own devising. But when it was drawn and submitted to them, every one had some fault to find. One thought the matter was good, but the style was too ornate; another, that the whole was inadmissible. Another complained of the beginning, and proposed to substitute a different one of his own composition." In Gardiner's homely phrase, "they praised the present flavor of the meat, but blamed the cooking." In the end it was committed to the judgment of the Cardinals present, who promised not to introduce too many alterations; but when the amended draft was submitted to Gardiner, he found in it so many changes, and none for the better, that he broke out into violent protestations against the deceit. "And here," to use his own words, "began a new tragedy," each party unreservedly charging the other with dissimulation. He fell sharply on Gambara, accusing him of luring ambassadors to Rome, as men do hawks, by exhibiting flesh upon their fists. Gambara retorted, that he had done no more than his commission required. After further bickering, Gardiner exclaimed, that when he should have to report what sort of friends the King found in the Papal court, he would abandon it; and the Apostolic See, now tottering, would collapse entirely, to the applause and satisfaction of all the world. "At these words, the Pope's Holiness, casting his arms abroad, in great agitation, bade them put in the words contended for; and therewith walked up and down the chamber, casting now and then his arms abroad, the rest of us standing in great silence."
After all "these tempests" they came at last into still water. The commission was granted for Wolsey and Campeggio to try the cause, the Pope expressing his hope that what he had done would satisfy the King, for, as things then stood, this concession would be construed into a declaration of hostility against the Emperor. It did not satisfy Gardiner entirely. (fn. 16) He was outwitted, notwithstanding his quickness, ability, and decision. (fn. 17)
Foxe was despatched to England with the dispensation (fn. 18) and commission. Till this time, under whatever disguises the King may have veiled his intercourse with Anne Boleyn, he had now cast them aside entirely. The letters he addressed to her during her occasional absence from court were conceived in a style of gross familiarity, by no means calculated to inspire a favorable opinion of the "pudicity" of the writer or the receiver of them. Either she had disguised her previous resentment or she stood on better terms with the Cardinal. "I thank your good Grace," writes Sir Thomas Heneage, "that it pleaseth you to write to so poor a man as I am; and also Mistress Anne in like manner thanketh your Grace for your kind and favorable writing unto her." (fn. 19) On another occasion he writes, "Mr. Carre (Carey, her sister's husband) and Mr. Brown are absent, and there is none here but Norris and myself to attend the King in his bedchamber, and keep his pallet. Every afternoon, when the weather is fair, the King rides out hawking, or walks in the park (at Windsor), not returning till late in the evening. Today, as the King was going to dinner, Mistress Anne spoke to me, saying she was afraid you had forgotten her, as you had sent her no token (present). I was requested by my lady her mother (lady Elizabeth Boleyn) to give her a morsel of tunny; she said she had spoken to Forrest to ask you for it. ... Tonight the King sent me down with a dish to Mistress Anne for her supper ... she wished she had some meat from you, as carps, shrimps, or others. I beseech your Grace pardon me that I am so bold to write unto your Grace hereof. It is the conceit and mind of a woman." (fn. 20)
On his arrival in England at the end of April, Foxe hastened to Greenwich, where he expected to find Wolsey with the King. He had left two hours before. "At which my repair," he writes to Gardiner, "the King, being advertised of the same, commanded me to go unto Mistress Anne's chamber; who at that time, for that my lady Princess and divers others the Queen's maidens were sick of the small-pox, lay in the gallery in the tilt yard. And so admitted unto her presence, after declaration made unto the same in generality, first, of such expeditions as were obtained, and sith, of your singular fidelity, diligence, and dexterity used, not only in the impetration thereof, but also in hastening the coming of the Legate, with your most hearty and humble commendations; which she most thankfully received, and seemed to take the same most marvellously to heart, ofttimes in communication calling me Master Stevens, with promise of large recompense for your good acquittal in the premisses."
As they were talking the King came in, to whom Foxe gave an account of their proceedings at Orvieto; first, touching the dispensation, next the commission, which could only be obtained after long debate, though every effort had been used to procure it in the first form as devised in England; failing in this attempt, he informed the King they had to be satisfied with one of a less stringent character, drawn up by Gardiner, embodying the most important provisions of the first, with a promise from the Pope that he would confirm the sentence, and never revoke the cause. The King seemed to take these observations "marvellously thankfully, and made marvellous demonstrations of joy and gladness, calling in Mistress Anne, and causing me to repeat the same thing again before her."
Foxe, with no common generosity, took the opportunity, without any reserve, of attributing their success chiefly to Wolsey's letters, without which, he said, "we should have obtained nothing, for that the Pope's Holiness shewed us it was reported unto him, long before our coming, that the King's grace followed in this matter privatum aliquem affectum, in that she was with child, and of no such qualities as should be worthy his Majesty." But Wolsey's letters had proved so effectual that the Pope afterwards "leaned to justice, and showed himself marvellous prone and glad to satisfy the King's requests, so far as equity would support and defend the same." In the end, after highly commending Gardiner's diligence, the King commanded Foxe to repair to Wolsey. "Before I could come to Durham Place, whereas my lord's Grace lieth now, (the hall of York Place, with other edifices there, being now in building, my lord's Grace intending most sumptuously and gorgeously to repair and furnish the same,) it was past ten of the clock at night. And although my lord's Grace was then in his bed, yet, understanding of my coming, it pleased his Grace to admit me unto his presence." More cautious and sagacious than the rest, Wolsey was less satisfied with Foxe's tidings. He thought the commission devised by Gardiner was scarcely more valid than the first; but upon further consideration with Dr. Bell, he professed himself better contented, in the presence of lord Rochford, Anne's father. After a meeting next day with two canonists, Dr. Wolman and Dr. Bennet, all agreed that Gardiner (as they reported to the King) had shown great wisdom and dexterity in conducting the cause. "Yet my Lord's Grace," continues Foxe, "as of himself, by his high wisdom perpending and pondering the exoneration of his own conscience, and sith the consent ... of other the prelates here, and, finally, the chances of mortality ... willeth and desireth you eftsoones to solicit and move the Pope's Holiness, and to experiment with the same all kinds of persuasions you possibly by your wisdom and rhetoric can devise and excogitate, to grant the commission decretal" (i.e., confirming the Legate's decision) "in most secret fashion and manner." The Cardinal's reasons are stated at considerable length. They turn chiefly upon the greater security which would thus be obtained for their future proceedings. And as Gardiner was apt to adopt a tone of haughtiness and severity, he is warned "to use all goodly and dulce ways, without concitating the Pope by any sharp words of discomfort."
Further, as it was urged by the lawyers that the Queen might refuse to appear, or might appeal against the sentence, Gardiner was instructed to make secret inquiry whether this could be done; and, if so, how such a refusal would affect their proceedings; what was the remedy; and whether, during the appeal, it would be lawful for the parties to marry again. In minor points connected with the process, he was to obtain the opinion of learned men, chiefly with the view of obviating any objections which might arise on the Queen's part, of whose line of defence the Cardinal had contrived to obtain some information. Gardiner was also to inform himself how far, in a case "of this high consequence," for the conservation of his honor, "or else immortal ignominy and slander, and the damnation of his soul," Wolsey, for the discharge of his conscience, might rest the King's cause on the fact that he was wholly unacquainted with the granting of the bull for the dispensation of his marriage with his brother's wife, and "whether the said ground be so justifiable, and of such sort, as his Grace might well build his conscience upon it, without grudge or scruple hereafter." (fn. 21)
Whilst Foxe was concluding this long letter, from which these details are derived, fresh difficulties had been started respecting certain phrases in the commission, and the powers conferred upon the legates. It was justly inferred that as an appeal must in equity be allowed in all such cases as this, be the clauses of the commission as large as they might, the hands of the judges would be tied; for the Queen could always insist on her right of appeal, "and so protract and defer the decision of this matter, and finally frustrate the King's expectation, to the utter and extreme peril of all those that had intermeddled in this cause." Gardiner is, therefore, to write boldly and freely according to his learning, as the King was resolved to do nothing contrary to the law, and was also persuaded that if the Queen resorted to an appeal it would rather promote his suit than otherwise,—"which opinion and good conformity to justice, like as it has been by my lord's Grace's high wisdom, by little and little instilled into the King's breast, so his Grace ceaseth not daily to increase the same by marvellous prudent handling and dexterity." "Insomuch," writes Foxe, "that yesterday, to my great and no less joy and comfort, his Grace openly, in presence of Mr. Tuke, Mr. Wolman, Mr. Bell, and me, made protestation to the King's highness, that although he was so much bound unto the same as any subject might unto his prince; and by reason thereof his Grace was of so perfect devotion, faith, and loyalty towards his Majesty, that he could gladly spend goods, blood, and life in his just causes; yet sith his Grace (Wolsey) was more obliged to God, and that he was sure he should render an account de operibus suis before Him, he would in this matter rather suffer his high indignation, yea, and his body jointly to be torn in pieces, than he would do anything in this cause, otherwise than justice requireth; ne that his Highness should look after other favour to be ministered unto him in this cause on his Grace's part, than the justness of the cause would bear. But if the bull (i.e. of pope Julius) were sufficient, he would so pronounce it, and rather suffer extrema quœque, than to do the contrary, or else contra conscientiam suam."
How are we to interpret such language as this? Is it the rhapsody of an enthusiast carried away by his own emotions, or the rhetoric of a politician simulating sentiments he did not feel? Yet what had Wolsey to gain by such protestations? The idol of his homage may have little deserved it. He may have fallen far below the standard of true kingship. Still, in his earlier years, when Wolsey entered the King's service, Henry VIII. approached nearer than most sovereigns to the type of that ideal Arthur, in whom Englishmen, notwithstanding the prosaic elements of their nature, were still willing to believe, when he
Manly and beautiful in person beyond all his contemporaries,—noble and kingly in his thoughts, words, and actions,—a most scrupulous observer of his religious duties,—learned and devout, gracious and magnificent above all sovereigns of his time, and, with all his love of courtliness and splendour, never forgetting the man in the trappings of the monarch, there was no-one who in all respects so completely realized to Englishmen their ideal of a king. It is not strange that they were unwilling to be undeceived; that it was long before they would admit the existence of glaring faults and vices, which, undeveloped in his youth, and controlled by better influences, were strongly and sharply manifested in maturer years. Racked and distressed by the Civil Wars,—accustomed to the severe, precise, and suspicious rule of Henry VII.,—England suddenly sprang forth, as at the dawn of a new day, upon the accession of Henry VIII. Gayest among the gay, the head and centre of the brilliant throng by whom he was surrounded, the young King, in the flower of his youth and beauty, brave as a paladin, courteous as a knight of old, mixed freely as no sovereign had ever mixed with his people, and, fond of popularity, was popular with all classes, as no king had ever been. Loyalty was not a duty, but a fascination; and not the less because the older influences which had divided or absorbed the zeal and devotion of mankind had fallen to decay. Popes and Emperors had sunk to the level of ordinary humanity. The Church produced no saints. Little art, and less literature, existed to interest and divide the thoughts of men. The ideal loyalty of the young gentry in the court of Elizabeth was mixed with gallantry prompted by her sex. It was somewhat artificial at the best. But the loyalty which drew men round her father, Henry VIII., was of an intenser kind; and though it showed itself in its most passionate form in Wolsey, to a degree inconsistent with modern notions, it pervaded all classes of the community, and all diversities of opinion. In the light of that loyalty Englishmen judged the King; and in the light of that loyalty they refused to condemn him, let him do what he would. Supreme over the wills and consciences of his subjects, there was little need for any violent assertion of the royal authority. No prelate, no noble,—not even Fisher or More,—would have dreamed of opposing his wishes; much less others not so firm in their principles, or so disinterested in their motives. If the King then submitted his will to the laws, as he did in this instance, that submission was owing, undoubtedly, to the influence exerted by Wolsey, not without great difficulty and great delicacy.
Meanwhile this apparent monopoly of the King's favor served to expose him more than ever to the malicious insinuations of his enemies. The fact of his appearing to be the sole adviser of all measures, brought upon him the responsibility of all. "What gives the Cardinal most anxiety," says Du Bellay, (fn. 22) "is that those who desire to catch him tripping are very glad for the people to cry out, Murder! And some would be very glad if all went wrong, that they might be able to say, 'See, these are the fruits of my lord Legate's doings!' Consequently many of those (Norfolk and Suffolk, &c.) who cried out, when you (Montmorenci) were here, 'We must go and fight the Emperor,' now change their note. But I am of opinion that if you do what the Legate asks, he will be able to stop their mouths; if not, however good may be his will, and great his authority, he will not run the risk. For it is no small cost to have to support a measure against the opposition of others, and yet suffer from misrepresentation."
In compliance with the terms of the treaty of Amiens, the King, in conjunction with Francis, had sent a defiance to the Emperor at the commencement of the year. But though war with the Emperor was necessary for the King's immediate purpose, it was by no means palateable to the King's subjects. Peace with the house of Burgundy had been long established as a popular maxim. English commerce from early times had been chiefly confined to Spain, or the Flemish towns of the Emperor; and even if it could have been speedily turned into a new channel, there was no inclination on the part of the merchants to permit it. Wolsey's attempt to divert trade from Antwerp to Calais, though conceived with a view to English interests, was unpopular with all parties. English commerce with Spain was oppressed by this defiance of the Emperor, and the Flemish ports were closed against it. (fn. 23) The declaration of war, justified by the Cardinal in the Star Chamber, (fn. 24) and defended with his usual ability, was coldly heard, or accepted with derision. "Some knocked other on the elbow, and said softly, 'He lieth.' Other said, that evil will said never well. Other said that the French crowns made him speak evil of the Emperor. The common people much lamented that war should arise between the King and the Emperor; and especially their consideration was because the Emperor's dominions had holpen them with corn, and relieved them with grain, when they could have no corn, or little, out of France." (fn. 25) ... "The war with the Emperor was displeasant, both to merchants and clothiers; for the merchants durst not aventure into Spain sith April last past, and now was come the 11th day of March; wherefore, all broad cloths, kersies, and cottons lay on their hands, insomuch as when the clothiers of Essex, Kent, Wiltshire, Suffolk, and other shires which use cloth-making, brought cloths into Blackwell Hall, of London, to be sold, as they were wont to do, few merchants, or none, bought any cloth at all. When the clothiers lacked sale, then they put from their spinners, corders, tuckers, and such other that live by cloth-working, which caused the people greatly to murmur, and specially in Suffolk, for if the duke of Norfolk had not wisely appeased them, no doubt but they had fallen to some riotous act. When the King's Council was advertised of this inconvenience, the Cardinal sent for a great number of the merchants of London, and to them said, 'Sirs, the King is informed that you use not yourselves like merchants, but like graziers and artificers; for when the clothiers do daily bring cloths to your market for your ease, to their great cost, and there be ready to sell them, you of your wilfulness will not buy them, as you have been accustomed to do. What manner of men be you?' said the Cardinal; 'I tell you that the King straitly commandeth you to buy their cloths, as before time you have been accustomed to do, upon pain of his high displeasure.'" The merchants demurred to buying cloth they could not sell, "'for in all places,' they said, 'our vent is stopped and forbidden.' `Well,' said the Cardinal, 'if you will not buy the cloths at Blackwell Hall, they shall be brought to Whitehall, at Westminster, and so you of London shall lose the liberty, and the King shall buy them all, and sell them to merchant strangers.'" (fn. 26)
Though Wolsey is exclusively credited by Hall with this device, it was in reality suggested by Norfolk, who was then at Stoke endeavouring to appease the popular discontent. On his assurance that English merchants were not arrested in Spain or in Flanders, he had induced the clothiers to continue their men in employment. "If I had not quenched that bruit," he writes to the Cardinal, "I should have had two or three hundred women suing to me to make the clothiers set their husbands and children to work;" and he urges Wolsey not to allow the London merchants to leave so many cloths unsold in Blackwell Hall. (fn. 27) It was the object of the London merchants, many of whom were closely connected with the Flemings, and shared strongly their national antipathy and jealousy of the French, to foment the popular discontent. They hoped that the commons, by complaining that "they be not half set a' work," might induce the King to withdraw his defiance of the Emperor. (fn. 28) Various untoward circumstances contributed to the present distress. Bad seasons, a dearth of corn, a general interruption of industry, and enhanced prices, augmented the murmurs of the people. To ascertain the amount of grain in every man's possession, commissioners were sent into different shires. The statutes against regrating were strictly enforced. (fn. 29) Idle persons and vagabonds were apprehended, and their haunts in village ale-houses, "of late very much increased," were put down with a strong hand. Short-sighted observers, as commonly happens in popular discontents, attributed the evils under which the nation languished to commercial disturbances, or the mismanagement of the Government, — in other words, to Wolsey. But the true causes were of older date, were much deeper and more complicated than such crude and simple notions. They have been admirably summed up by some unknown contemporary writer, (fn. 30) whose philosophical views would not have disgraced the ablest political economist of modern days. In a paper entitled, "Considerations as to the dearness of all manner of victuals," he traces the evils of the times to the following sources: "1. In consequence of the King's foreign wars, which had continued for two or three years. 2. The year in the which the war ended there was a greater rot and murrain among the cattle than had been seen for 40 years before. 3. Three or four marvellously dry summers in succession had produced surfeits among the cattle and sheep, owing to the scarcity of grass and lack of hay and water. 4. In consequence of this there had been no fat cattle in the common fields from Michaelmas to Martinmas, as there usually were. 5. By reason of the lack of fodder, husbandmen had fewer lambs and calves; and the few that were bred were hunger-bitten and worthless, except when they were bred in pastures. 6. Formerly, at such plagues or murrains restraint was laid on killing lambs and calves, but since this dearth no such regulations had been enforced. 7. Owing to the great droughts in summer and frosts in winter, the fish and fowl in the fens had been destroyed, and the price was trebled. 8. Pork had become scarce, because of the dearth of mast, peas, and beans; and from the lack of fodder, the peas had to be given for food to the horses and beasts; nevertheless many horses died. 9. Dearth of cattle made poultry and all white meat dear. 10. Regraters and forestallers had raised the price of cattle, so that in Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire, and the North, no graziers could buy fat or lean beasts, except at third or fourth hand. 11. Notwithstanding all this, thanked be God, all things be as plentiful this day as ever they were, and are like to be, if God send seasonable weather; also if the pastures at this day may continue; and then even dearth never long continues; for the murrain in the common fields hardly attacks the cattle in the pastures at all. The latter also relieve the common field again with their breed of cattle, to the increase of the husbands, and the composing (compost) of the land, which is the chief cause of the plenty of corn, which will never be scarce as long as there are plenty of sheep. At the time when meat is searce, between St. Andrew's tide and Midsummer, cattle and sheep are brought out of" pastures and marshes, except the few that are stall- fed. If there were no pastures within 40 or 50 miles of London, the butchers could not sell so cheap, for they bring up the beasts as they want them, and are put to no charge for grass. The beasts lose little flesh by their long journey, and do not cost much for carriage."
Such were the sensible observations of this unknown author, evidently intended to calm the apprehensions of his countrymen, and counteract the agrarian schemes of his own days—an epidemic not confined to the sixteenth century. Then as now a great outcry was raised against grass lands, and rash economists were intent on passing laws for the distribution of tillage in compliance with popular prejudices.
Simultaneous with this was another grievance. So long as nations must engage in war, either for their own defence, or to protect the rights of others, standing armies are the most moral as they are the most economical instruments. As to their greater efficiency there is no dispute. Armies raised by hasty levies from a rural population are among the costliest as they are the worst of all political expedients, and certainly the deadliest, as the experience of ages has testified again and again. Disturbing the industry required for the cultivation of the soil, habituating the laborer to a new and irregular mode of life, returning him to his village home with disorganised habits and new notions, leaving him to the precarious chance of finding employment, when his own place has been already filled in his absence,—the wars of these ages were doubly wasteful and destructive. Disbanded soldiers, as More shows in his Utopia, formed the great mass of thieves and thriftless vagabonds, whom no punishment could reclaim,—for the most pressing of all reasons,—that they must either starve or steal. They formed the backbone of all the riots and insurrections of the times,—a material ready to explode in all such disturbances as were now engaging the attention of the Cardinal. Besides, the knowledge of arms thus acquired, the practice of keeping arms ready for use in every house, and at every muster, increased the danger, and made all such insurrections much more difficult of repression. Add to this, as was seen in this instance, that the authors of such disturbances were closely allied in blood and occupation with the rural population. No jury would convict them; none that sheltered would surrender or betray them.
The county of Kent, where the memory of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade still lingered, and was surrounded with a romantic halo in the imagination of the common people, had ever been foremost and formidable in these disorders. When the Amicable Loan was pressed two years before, this county had menaced the Government, and the measure had to be withdrawn mainly through the opposition it encountered in Kent. But it was not withdrawn before it had produced a deep and unpleasant impression in the minds of the people. When Wolsey was sent on his mission to France six months before, it was one of his objects, though not avowed, to discover the temper of the Kentish men. The report was favorable; to all appearance the people were tranquil. But now the general distress, caused by want of food and the disturbances of the clothiers, brought up their disorderly propensities to the surface. On the 14th of April they circulated a petition addressed to the Archbishop, praying him to move the King to repay them the amount of the former loan, as the Archbishop had promised it should be refunded, "seeing they were so sore impoverished by the great dearth of corn." (fn. 31) The same day they sent a deputation to his Grace, and on being asked by whose summons they had assembled, "they said poverty only, and they and their neighbours lacked meat and money; that no one counselled them, except their own minds, when complaining to each other." This, the Archbishop informed Wolsey, was not the fact, for some among them had acted "as summoners;" but he did not dare to make further inquiries for fear of incensing the multitude. He reminded them of a similar rising two years ago, with which the King was not well pleased. They said they hoped he would not be displeased, but would pity their poverty, as they were his true subjects. On the Archbishop inquiring why they came to him, they replied because he was the chief of the commissioners, and had most of all "practised the loan." On his promising to present their petition to the King, if they abstained from unlawful assemblies, they dispersed apparently contented. "But," says Warham, "I hear that some spoke unfitting words after they had been in the town and drank their full." (fn. 32)
This gathering of discontented Kentish men, who threatened vengeance against those who refused to join them, was more formidable as indicating the temper of the county, than from its present numbers. But such symptoms were not to be neglected or removed by feeble remedies. "I pray God, your Grace, by your high wisdom, may so provide that no more speech be thereof," (that is, of the loan,) writes Norfolk to Wolsey; "for that is more to be feared than any other thing." (fn. 33) Norfolk was at that time engaged in suppressing similar disturbances in Norfolk and Suffolk. His intrepid and resolute temper was more than once successful throughout the reign in crushing disturbances, which once and again threatened the Crown. The accuracy of his judgment in these matters could not be questioned. Lord Rochford and Sir Henry Guilford were immediately joined in commission with the Archbishop, whose easiness of temper seemed rather to encourage than diminish the danger. (fn. 34) Rapid measures of repression, followed by indictments for high treason, and the apprehension of the ringleaders, crushed the disturbance in the bud, before it had time to develope itself. By the 5th of June, Sir Richard Broke, who presided at the sessions in Rochester Castle, and sent a return of the persons attainted, could declare, with a safe conscience, that "Kent is in good order, but the old term of principiis obsta is executed upon the said evil-disposed persons." (fn. 35)
Wolsey did not fail to come in for his share of popular abuse, on this as on other occasions, partly from dislike of his political measures, partly from religious antagonism. The inhabitants of Goudhurst and Cranbook, especially, distinguished themselves for the violence and lawlessness of their proceedings. In both places there was a flourishing colony of Flemish clothiers; both also were the centres of correspondence with Tyndall, the translator of the New Testament, and both were active in disseminating this reformer's writings, remarkable alike for their advocacy of Imperialism, and their virulent denunciation of the Cardinal and the English clergy; for Tyndall was by no means the meek apostle he is sometimes represented. The depositions against certain inhabitants of these parts exhibit curious traits of their feelings and notions. One Nicholas Love tells Robert Banks, (fn. 36) a cutler of Goudhurst, that he had spoken to John Bigg, clothmaker of the same town, to know what the men of London intended to do, seeing they could have no course (export) for their cloths. On Sunday, 10th May, Robert Bailey (a miller) said to him, "We, with other good fellows, will rise for the Cardi[nal's life]." The miller said to him the same "day, When we have the Cardinal, we may not slay him, for if we do the land shall be interdicted; therefore, if we take him we will bring him to the seaside, and there will put him into a boat, in the which shall be bored four great holes, and the holes shall be stopped with pins, and so the boat and he shall be conveyed, with folks being in another boat, into the sea, and when it is there the pins shall be pulled out, and so sink him." ... On Ascension Day, 21st May, Nicholas Love and twelve others met at Wm. Gastroft's or Gastrode's, shoemaker, and proposed to go to Sir Alexander Culpepper's house, at Bedgebury, and there take his harness, and that of other gentlemen. Robert (Bailey) the miller told them that John Freeman (shoemaker), of Cranbrook, did say that when Robert of Ridsdale made a proclamation, he used a cry, which was this:—
"In his journey (insurrection) he left the gentlemen and justices of the peace behind him, who beheaded him on his return; but if he had taken the gentlemen with him and beheaded them, he might have ruled all at his will." (fn. 37)
With this discontent of the laboring populations, suffering from interrupted employments and bad harvests, other causes combined to aggravate their dis- like of the Cardinal. By his preference of a French to an Imperial alliance—a preference forced upon him by the King's anxiety for a divorce,—he had brought into one channel all the elements of unpopularity which were now setting steadily against him. For the first time in his career, he had taken active steps for the repression of heresy, as it was then called. Before the year 1528 he he had been indifferent, in a much greater degree than More, to the advance of Lutheran opinions. His selection of scholars and lecturers for his new colleges at Oxford and Ipswich had been chiefly made from those who were infected with the new learning, as it was called; at all events, from the rising young men of ability in both universities, whose Lutheran tendencies were scarcely considered by him as any disqualification. He was much less concerned than any other statesman or prelate of the time, to suppress diversities of religious opinion by the secular arm, rightly judging that the most effectual way of meeting the evil would be the diffusion of education; and that societies of scholars supplied with ample endowments, and means for study, as in his College at Christ Church, would prove a more effectual support of the Faith than violent repression, or monastic institutions, which had now fallen far behind the necessities of the age. Puritan writers condemn his worldly pomp and splendor, his arrogance and his ambition; but the charge of persecution is scarcely heard, and never in his earlier years. But now a much more determinate effort was made to suppress and persecute heresy. His legatine authority was employed in purging the realm of false doctrine, and in punishing those by whom it was disseminated. The reason is obvious. The knowledge of Lutheranism came not to this country directly from Germany, but indirectly from Flanders. Throughout the populous towns of Flanders it had spread with inconceivable rapidity, and Brabant had already its martyrs and confessors of the new Faith before that Faith was even heard of here. Antwerp, Mechlin, and Brussels were seething centres of Lutheranism, in one or other of its forms; but Antwerp, Mechlin, and Brussels were the great marts of prohibited books, and the chief haunts of English commerce; not merely on their own account, but for Spain. English broad cloths could not be manufactured without Spanish oils, or find a ready sale except in the dominions of the Emperor. Intercourse, then, with the Flemings, and through Flemings tainted with Lutheranism, active proselytizers, and secret vendors of Lutheran books, which fetched enormous prices because they were contraband, was of the most intimate kind. In every great manufacturing town throughout England, Flemish settlers were to be found, carrying on a prosperous trade with their countrymen abroad, to whom the recent policy of Wolsey was in all respects unpalatable, as it was hostile to their interests. It may be imagined that the dissemination of Tyndall's works, actively carried on by the Flemings, in spite of all prohibitions, contributed not a little to awaken feelings unfavorable to the Church, its riches, and splendid ceremonial, of which the Cardinal was the chief representative. So far as such works roused men to more stern and serious thoughts, it may have been so. But very few of the laboring classes, or even of their superiors, could read, still less purchase Tyndall's writings. The truth seems to be, that the nation, which at first regarded with indulgence, if not with delight, the lavish magnificence of the new reign, was now beginning to regard it with far less complacency. Not only censorious judges and enemies of the Cardinal were ready to connect this magnificence with his personal influence, and condemn it as unbecoming his spiritual office; but in the pressing evils and necessities of the times, the increase of vagabondism, the distress of the laboring classes, frivolities once tolerated and admired now seemed intolerable to the altered temper of the nation. A more frugal, prosaic, and commercial element was daily gathering strength and ascendancy, and found itself more in conformity with the severe, rigid, and economic spirit of Protestantism, than with the sumptuous ritual of the ancient Church, or the dazzling amusements of the Court.
This unpopularity of the Cardinal was increased by bitter hostility from another and very opposite quarter. The suppression of a certain number of the smaller religious foundations for his colleges in Oxford and Cambridge had roused the indignation of all who were interested in their preservation. It might be thought that the conversion of the small and decayed monastic houses, encumbered with debt, badly administered, and the source of great scandal from the absence of efficient discipline, would scarcely have been regarded by any class with displeasure. They had long ceased to be the great centres of religious thought or devotion. They justified, in many respects, the growing complaints of the Reforming party, that they were no better than resorts of idleness, whose inmates spent their lives in gossiping and indolence, regardless of any higher purpose. But even those who, like More and Erasmus, laughed at monks and religious men, were not prepared for the suppression of monasticism. Partly from the dislike of change, partly from unwillingness that the revenues of these houses should be diverted from the neighbourhood in which they were spent to the support of distant colleges, Wolsey's conversion of them into educational endowments was regarded generally with disfavor. The monks might not be very strict ascetics, but they were pleasant neighbours and easy landlords. It was their interest to keep on good terms with those around them; to avoid litigation; to offer shelter and hospitality, not only to the poor, but to the traveller, in seasons and places where no other shelter could be had. A corrody or pension in a religious house was a convenient way of making provision for a poor relative or deserving dependent. Their officers as well as their tenants had easy times, for the religious were neither hard masters nor exacting proprietors. The numerous petitions from great men, found among these papers, for monastic stewardships, rents, and offices, show clearly how much these things were coveted by the laity. In fact the embarassments of the religious had risen mainly from the carelessness with which their property was administered by men who did not understand their business, or were unwilling to demand the utmost value. In rural England there is no greater art of popularity, there is none which places landlord and tenant on a more agreeable footing, or, in the long run, is more ruinous to both. So long as prices in general remained unaltered, and seasons were favorable, tenants and landlords experienced no pressure,—especially in the minor monasteries, where the monks or the nuns had ceased to incur expences for improvements, or even for necessary repairs. But when distress arose, when a new burthen was beginning to be felt, when not merely from the extension of commerce and the rise of prices, but from loans, benevolences, and other imposts required for the increasing expences of government, money grew scarce, such good old days and slip-shod usages drew to an end. To save them for some useful purpose before they were entirely wasted, their suppression was an act of necessity. Not the less was it regarded with dislike. It introduced much more rigid landlords—it increased rents—it extinguished easy masters who maintained a society superior to those about them; were the advisers, teachers, apothecaries of the place, and kept a plain and open table for all comers. They may not have been learned; they may not have risen to the level of the times, still less been able to cope with the Bible-logic and acrid dialectics of the rising and earnest Puritan, or religious knight errant, girded with a new sword, to cut down men and things less earnest, rigid, and serious than himself. Small men they were, it is true, taking interest in and contented with small things. (fn. 38) The time of great saints like St. Bernard, St. Thomas, and St. Bonaventure, had ceased from among them, never to return. Still their displacement was keenly felt, not only for itself, but as a warning to similar foundations, too strong and too powerful to be suppressed. But what could not a cardinal do who was armed with two swords, and especially such a cardinal as Wolsey?
Moreover, the agents employed in the suppression were not men who exercised their functions meekly, or even with scrupulous integrity. One of them, Dr. Allen, a hard astute man, like his fellow Cromwell, had been apparently trained to business, was afterwards made archbishop of Dublin, where his imperiousness and rapacity brought him to a violent end. Of Cromwell it is enough to say, that, even at this early period of his career, his accessibility to bribes and presents in the disposal of monastic leases, was notorious. When Wolsey, who was then at Amiens, proposed to send Allen on a message to the King, Knight wrote to him, "In case Mr. Aleyn be not departed hitherwards in (on) your message, or may be in time revoked, your Grace might use better any about you for your message unto the King than him. I have heard the King and noblemen speak things incredible of the acts of Dr. Aleyn and Cromwell, a great part whereof it shall be expedient that your Grace do know." (fn. 39) And though the Cardinal could know nothing of the indirect proceedings of his officers, he was credited with all their misdoings, and generally regarded as the author of their unjust and harsh exactions. So men looked askance upon him,—even those who a few months before would have joined with More and Erasmus in ridiculing the monks who hated, or at least seemed to hate, the new learning, and obstinately adhered to the old order.
Whilst the Cardinal's enemies were thus eagerly anticipating his fall from the giddy eminence on which he stood, a terrible calamity swept over the nation, threatening destruction alike to him and them. Amidst the feux de joie for a treaty of intercourse recently concluded with Flanders, (fn. 40) and the amorous epistles of Henry, the sweating sickness made its terrible appearance with greater severity than before. This time its ravages extended to the Court and the upper classes, and the brevity of its attacks was more than compensated for by their violence. "This sweat," observes Du Bellay, "which has made its appearance within these four days, is a most perilous disease. One has a little pain in the head and heart, suddenly a sweat breaks out, and a doctor is useless; for whether you wrap yourself up much or little, in four hours, and sometimes in two or three, you are despatched without languishing, as in those troublesome fevers. However, only about two thousand have caught it in London. Yesterday going to swear the truce, we saw them as thick as flies rushing from the streets and shops into their houses to take the sweat, whenever they felt ill. I found the Ambassador of Milan leaving his lodgings in great haste because two or three had been suddenly attacked. ... In London, I assure you, the priests have a better time of it than the doctors, except that the latter do not help to bury. If the thing goes on corn will soon be cheap. It is twelve years since there was such a visitation, when there died ten or twelve thousand persons in ten or twelve days, but it was not so bad as this has begun. The Legate [Wolsey] had come for the term [to Westminster], but immediately bridled his horses again, and there will be no term." (fn. 41)
A few days afterwards the same ambassador writes: "The King keeps moving about for fear of the plague. Many of his people have died of it in three or four hours. ... Of 40,000 attacked in London only 2,000 are dead, but if a man only put his hand out of bed during twenty-four hours it becomes as stiff as a pane of glass." (fn. 42) No remedies were effective, and the most opposite treatments were equally unsuccessful. The terror it occasioned was more fatal than the disease itself: children, in consequence, were less affected by it than persons of riper age. It raged mainly in Kent and Sussex, and the neighbouring counties. Out of England it was unknown, nor was the infection carried by merchants or others into foreign parts. Among the sufferers was Bryan Tuke, the King's secretary, one of the few persons admitted at the time into the King's presence. He has described his own symptoms on the occasion to Peter Vannes, Wolsey's Italian secretary. He tells Vannes that his wife has passed the sweat, but is very weak, and an eruption has broken out about the mouth. He adds, that he puts away the sweat from himself nightly, though other people imagined they would kill themselves if they did the same. He had adopted the same practice during the last infection, feeling sure that so long as he was not sick, the sweat was rather provoked by the disposition of the season, and keeping men close, than by any infection. "Thousands have it," he says, "from fear, who need not else sweat, especially if they observed good diet. When a man is not sick there is no fear of putting away the sweat in the beginning, and before a man's grease be with hot-keeping molten. Surely after the grease is heated, it must be more dangerous for a man to take cold than for a horse, which dies in such a case." His opinion that the sweat proceeded mainly from terror is confirmed by the fact that it prevailed nowhere except in the King's dominions. In France and Flanders, it was called "The King of England's sickness," and was little regarded. People visited by it at Calais did not carry the infection to Gravelines, though the intercourse between the two places was frequent. It was spread mainly by report, for if any one passed from London into the country, and talked of the sweat, within a few hours the neighbourhood was infected. In this way it was carried from Sussex to London, and a thousand fell ill in one night, merely at the news of it. According to the same authority the disease was occasioned by a distemperature arising from "the moisture of years past having so altered the nature of our meats and our bodies to moist humours, as disposeth us to sweat." ... Tuke expresses his regret at finding that the Cardinal was doing so much with so little assistance, and begs him not to run into danger. For himself, "he is in extreme perplexity, and is soon cast down by the least transgression of his diet." (fn. 43)
On Tuesday, the 16th of June, Anne Boleyn, "one of the ladies of the chamber," caught the infection. The court was immediately broken up. The King dislodged in great haste, and retired to Waltham. (fn. 44) Anne returned to her father's house in Hever. The King retained very few of his attendants, and their numbers were daily diminished by his fears or suspicion of danger. It was on this occasion that he lost his favorite, Sir William Compton, whom he had loaded with offices and appointments of every description, and William Cary, the husband of Mary Boleyn. (fn. 45) The King left Waltham for Hunsdon; then retired to Tittenhanger, a small house belonging to Wolsey, where he remained until the 14th of July, in a great state of alarm. "The King," writes Du Bellay, (fn. 46) "has at last stopped twenty miles from here (London) at a house built by Wolsey, finding removals useless. I hear he has made his will, and taken the sacraments, for fear of sudden death. However, he is not ill." (fn. 47) Whatever dissatisfaction he might have felt before against the Cardinal for opposing his purposes, all such displeasure had now entirely passed away. He expressed his greatest solicitude for the Cardinal's health, on whom the whole weight of public business had now fallen, for the rest of the Council had dispersed. He proposed to send Wolsey a copy of his will, "wherein your Grace shall see," says Heneage, "and perceive the trusty and hearty mind that he hath unto you, above all men living. (fn. 48) ... Also he desireth your Grace that he may hear every second day from you, how you do; for I assure you, every morning, as soon as he cometh from the Queen, he asketh whether I hear anything from your Grace." (fn. 49)
Nor were his cares for Wolsey confined to these inquiries. When Tuke read to the King Wolsey's letter giving counsel to his Highness to avoid infection, he not only expressed his gratitude for the Cardinal's attention, but, entering into a long discourse, showed how folks were taken by the sweat; how slight was the danger if proper precautions were adopted; how Mistress Anne (Boleyn) and my lord of Rochford (her father) had had it; what jeopardy they were in; how much they owed to the endeavors of Mr. Butts (his second physician), "who hath been with them, and is returned." In the end he begged Wolsey to keep out of the air,— follow his example of having only "a small and clean company," and, over that, use small suppers, drink little wine, take once a week the pills of Rasis, "with more good, wholesome counsel by his Highness, in most tender and loving manner given unto your Grace." (fn. 50) On another occasion he sends the Cardinal "manws cresty" (manus Christi), with other drugs, as a preservative. (fn. 51) "The King's special desire is," (writes Dr. Bell at a later date,) "that you be of good comfort, and put apart fear and fantasies, and make as merry as in such a season contagious your Grace may ... He often wishes your Grace's heart were as good as his is." (fn. 52) It was something to have a king for a physician; something perhaps to have such a patient to prescribe for as Wolsey. Never did the Cardinal stand higher in his master's favor, and never perhaps was he more tempted to presume upon it.
In these alternations of terror and devotion, of apprehension for his own personal security,—of pity, pills, and prescriptions for Wolsey,—Anne Boleyn was not forgotten. Either to isolate her from ill advisers, or apprehensive lest she might become the instrument of a faction in the growing unpopularity of the divorce, (fn. 53) the King had broken up the princess Mary's establishment at Ludlow, on the plea of economy, though that of the duke of Richmond was still retained with undiminished magnificence. Without revealing to Katharine any of his designs beyond the necessity of finding satisfaction for his conscience, the King continued to treat her with studious courtesy. From the ceremonious respect observed between them no ordinary observer could have imagined that Henry entertained towards his wife any but the most benevolent intentions. To Katherine herself, thus closely watched, apprehensive of the worst, prevented from communicating with any others than her immediate attendants, such treatment must have been more galling than woman or saint could be expected to endure; for whilst Henry repudiated her as his wife, he exacted from her the obedience due to a husband, and the submission of a subject. His thoughts and affections were entirely centered on Anne Boleyn. When she was attacked by the sweating sickness he wrote to her: (fn. 54) "There came to me in the night the most afflicting news possible. I have to grieve for three causes: first, to hear of my mistress's sickness, whose health I desire as my own, and would willingly bear the half of yours to cure you. Secondly, because I fear to suffer yet longer that absence which has already given me so much pain. God deliver me from such an importunate rebel! Thirdly, because the physician (Dr. Chambers (fn. 55)) I trust most is at present absent, when he could do me the greatest pleasure. However, in his absence I send you the second (Dr. Butts), praying God he may soon make you well, and I shall love him the better. I beseech you to be governed by his advice, and then I shall hope soon to see you again." (fn. 56)
A few days after he writes again: "My doubts of your health have disturbed and troubled me extremely; and I should scarcely have had any quiet had I not received some news of you. But as you have felt nothing of it hitherto, I hope you are as well as we are. When we were at Waltham (16th June) two ushers, two valets de chambre, your brother (George Boleyn), and Master Treasurer (Fitzwilliam) fell ill. Since we have retired to our house at Hunsdon (23rd June ?) we have been perfectly well ... I think if you would retire from the Surrey side, as we did, you would escape all danger. There is another thing for your comfort, that few or no women have suffered from it; what is more, none of our Court, and few elsewhere, have died of it. Wherefore I beg of you, my entirely beloved, to put away fear, and not be too uneasy at our absence; for wherever I am, I am yours ... I hope for your speedy return (vous faire chanter le renvoye). No more for the present, for lack of time, except that I wish you in my arms, to banish your unreasonable thoughts. Ma H. R. aimable."
Thus assured of her escape from danger, the King recovered his usual spirits. From dinner to supper he employed his hours in shooting with the cross-bow. The evenings were devoted to "his book" in defence of his divorce, or to drafting his will. "His Highness," says Tuke, "cometh by my chamber door, and doth, for the most part going and coming, turn in for devising (talking) with me upon his book."
Within the next few days one of his attendants, William Carey, the husband of Mary Boleyn, was stricken down without warning, and died in a few hours. He writes to Anne again, "The cause of my writing at this time, good sweetheart, is only to understand of your good health and prosperity, whereof to know I would be as glad in manner as mine own; praying God that (and it be His pleasure) to send us shortly together"—(he was then at Hunsdon, and she at Hever);—"for I promise you I long for it; howbeit, trust it shall not be long to (until it be). And seeing my darling is absent, I can no less do than send her some flesh representing my name, which is hart's flesh for Harry, prognosticating that hereafter, God willing, you must enjoy some of mine, which, He pleased, I would were now." "... No more to you at this time, mine own darling, but that a while I would we were together of an evening;" (fn. 57) —as, doubtless, they had been more than once.
The lady's part in this extraordinary correspondence has not been preserved; nor, unfortunately, is any date or place, besides what may be inferred from their contents, appended to these letters. It is certain that the order of their arrangement as preserved in the Vatican is not strictly chronological. It is equally certain that they do not extend beyond the close of December 1528, when the King had prevailed upon his mistress to overcome her scruples, and take up her permanent abode at Greenwich, where he had prepared for her a most magnificent lodging, and allowed her to keep open court, to the manifest disparagement of the Queen. But the commencement and order of the rest is by no means clear. (fn. 58) In one of his letters he speaks of being in great agony from his inability to fathom her intentions: "I beseech you, with the greatest earnestness, to let me know your whole intention as to the love between us two. I must of necessity obtain this answer, having been more than a year struck with the dart of love, and not assured whether I shall fail, or find a place in your heart and your affection. This uncertainty has hindered me for some time past from calling you my mistress, if you love me with only ordinary affection ..." (fn. 59)
At another time he is in despair, because, since he last parted with her, he has been told she has entirely changed the opinion in which she left him. She had refused to come to court with her mother, or with any other person; "which report," he subjoins, "if true, I cannot enough wonder at, being persuaded in my own mind that I have never committed any offence against you; and it seems a very small return for the great love I bear you, to be kept at a distance from the person and presence of a woman whom of all the world I value most. Consider well, my mistress, how greatly your absence grieves me. I hope it is not your will it should be so; but if I understood for certain that you really desired it, I could only complain of my ill fortune, and by degrees abate my grievous folly." (fn. 60)
As the correspondence goes on, his despair diminishes. From the more respectful address of "mistress," or "mistress and friend," he proceeds to "mine own sweetheart," "darling," or "mine own darling;" and often to expressions more familiar than these and less reserved. It is a libel on the age to say, as some have said, that such expressions are "to be imputed to the simplicity and unpoliteness of the times;" for the age was neither simple nor unpolished; nor in the reign of Henry VIII., at all events, was the written intercourse of the sexes disgraced by the gross allusions sometimes found in this correspondence. If these expressions are not wholly attributable to the nature of the passion felt by the King for a young and lively woman, who possessed none of those higher qualities which could inspire nobler feelings—if, indeed, any woman of high principles would have allowed herself to be entangled in an intrigue of this kind, or have tolerated such addresses,—they show how thin a varnish of romance and chivalry disguised the real sensuality of the age. The King might excuse himself on the plea of a troubled conscience, or the necessity of providing against a disputed succession, but no such excuse can be pleaded for her. No such justification is available for her mother, her father, or her brother, all of whom were only too ready to thrust her into the King's arms, and overcome any scruples or reluctance she might otherwise have entertained. At the same time, she was young, without friend or guidance — (though she had Cranmer for her tutor)—and the King was past the age when youth might be pardoned for stooping to vice and levity.