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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Introduction, Section 6
In this long interval he had time to look about him, and mature his plans. The French were anxious for peace, and received him gratefully. The great dearth, misery, and poverty of the towns through which he passed formed a striking contrast to the happier condition of England. (fn. 1) The recovery of the French princes depended entirely on the influence which England could exert, or the aid she would render to France, in obtaining more reasonable conditions; for the Emperor would abate nothing of his "high demands." The Cardinal might justly flatter himself that he would find in Francis no serious opposition to his purpose. He might even expect, with skilful and able management, to prevail on the French monarch, partly from interest, and partly from necessity, to employ his influence with the captive Pope, as Wolsey directed; or, if necessary, supersede his authority by electing another, nominally free from Imperial dictation, really devoted to the service of the two kings, now bound together by the ties of fraternal affection. (fn. 2) On the 29th he wrote to the King in the following strain: "Daily and hourly musing and thinking on your Grace's great and secret affair, and how the same may come to good effect and desired end, as well for the deliverance of your Grace out of the thrald, pensive and dolorous life that the same is in, as for the continuance of your health and the surety of your realm and succession, I consider how that the Pope's Holiness' consent must concur, as well for the approbation of such process as shall be made by me in the said matter, as in case the Queen would appeal (as it is not unlike she will do), or decline from my jurisdiction; whose consent failing and not possible to be had, then the approbation of the Cardinals to be convoked into one place, representing the state of the College, is necessarily requisite. For the speedy attaining of the which consents I can imagine but two remedies;—the one is, the Pope's deliverance and restitution to liberty; that failing, the other is the convocation of the said Cardinals into some convenient place in France. For the which purpose both your Highness, the French king, and I, have not only sent forth our letters to all such Cardinals as be absent, but also devised offers, allections and practices to be set forth to induce them to assemble in France, of whose repair thither there is good hope and appearance." (fn. 3)
If the Pope could be set at liberty through an arrangement between Francis and the Emperor, Wolsey was persuaded that "the King's affair"—this was the official phrase for the King's divorce—would "take most sure, honorable, effectual and substantial end." By a delusion, only to be accounted for on the principle that drowning men catch at straws, he flattered himself that the Pope, out of gratitude to the King, "would finally be induced to do all things therein (the divorce) that might be to the King's satisfaction and purpose." (fn. 4) Nothing but this, and the conviction that failure would expose him to irretrievable disgrace and ruin, could have blinded him to the extreme improbability of succeeding in either alternative. That the Pope, who was thus to be indebted for his liberty to the condescension of the Emperor, should, out of gratitude to the King, consent to the divorce of the Emperor's aunt, was as probable as that the French cardinals would assemble at Avignon under the quasi-papacy of Wolsey himself. But he had committed himself to a cause from which retreat was impossible, and he clutched at any delusive hope of escape with the agony and energy of despair.
Yet to careless and inconsiderate observers never had Wolsey appeared more happy or more prosperous. He seemed, to the envy of all his enemies, to monopolise the favour of his royal master, who had no will but that of his great minister. He was courted and flattered by all the crowned heads of Europe. Even the Emperor himself thought it worth his while to conceal the profound dislike he entertained for the Cardinal under the mask of the most ceremonious respect. Notwithstanding his many just causes for dissatisfaction, he continued to treat Wolsey with the same deference he had been accustomed to manifest in former years. He was never more outwardly courteous, never more willing to purchase his favour, than at the present moment. At the commencement of this year, 1527, it was the first object of the new Spanish ambassador to wait upon the Cardinal the day after his arrival, and assure him "how earnestly the Emperor wished for his prosperity and welfare, and how much indebted he was to the Cardinal for his past services." (fn. 5) A few days afterwards Charles assured the Cardinal that if he would consent to keep and foster, as he had done at other times, the friendship between himself and the king of England, the Emperor would immediately order all arrears of his pension to be paid, and would bestow on him besides an additional "pension of 6,000 ducats, to be consigned on the best revenues in Spain." (fn. 6) On the very eve of his journey into France, Mendoza, to tempt him with "a higher bait," pointed out to Wolsey how useful the Emperor might be in securing for him the Pontificate, "dwelling upon his own merits, and the opportunity which the Emperor now had of forwarding his elevation, as the papal chair was entirely in his hand," by the captivity of Clement VII. (fn. 7) To all these flattering offers Wolsey turned a deaf car. "God forbid," he said, "that I should be influenced by such motives. It is enough for me if the Emperor really intend to replace the Pope, and restore the Church to its former splendor." Whatever construction may be put on these refusals, the fact remains that Charles was not less anxious than Francis himself to secure the favour of the Cardinal. Wolsey saw himself, as no ecclesiastic of that or any other age had ever seen himself, the object of the profoundest attention and most delicate flattery from kings, emperors, and nobles. What was the poor and lank shadow of the papacy, beleaguered by a noisy band of German ruffians in the Castle of St. Angelo, dependent on the charity of an aged beggar-woman for a daily salad, compared with the substantial grandeur, power, and authority of one whom all agreed to honor if they did not love?
On Sunday, 4th August, "after dinner, about one of the clock," he rode over from Perpignan to Amiens, where the French king had arrived with all his train the day before. Francis was preceded by his mother the Regent, "riding in a very rich chariot," with Margaret the queen of Navarre, followed by upwards of a hundred ladies mounted on white palfreys, and attended by a large retinue of noblemen and gentlemen. Two hours after, the King appeared with his three companies of guards, — the Swiss, armed with guns and haversacks, — the French, with bows and arrows; the third, pour le corps, consisted of tall Scotsmen, much comelier personages than the rest. They wore a uniform of white cloth, guarded with silver bullion. As Wolsey approached "he was encountered from place to place with divers noble and worthy personages, making to him divers orations in Latin, to which he made answer again ex tempore." At two miles from the town he was met by the corporation; at a mile and a half the King himself came in sight, "mustering upon a hill-side, his guard standing in array along the same, expecting my Lord's coming; to whom my Lord made as much haste as conveniently it became him; until he came within a pair of butt-lengths, and then he stayed awhile." On seeing this, Francis sent one of his nobles, De Vaudemont, to learn the reason for his delay. To gratity his vanity or love of mischief, De Vaudemont, plunging down the hill at a hand gallop, "caused his horse to come aloft once or twice so nigh my Lord's mule, that he was in doubt of his horse; and with that he lighted from his courser, doing his message to my Lord with humble reverence; which done, he mounted again, and caused his horse to do the same at his departing as he did before." Then as the King advanced, the Cardinal, on his mule richly caparisoned, dividing his company, proceeded alone to meet him; "and his Grace," as Wolsey writes to Henry, "doing the semblable for his part, being discovered (uncovered), with his bonnet in his hand, encountered, and with most hearty, kind, loving countenance and manner embraced me (the Cardinal), presenting unto me the king of Navarre, with the cardinal of Bourbon." After many compliments on both sides, Francis insisted that his visitor should ride on his left hand; "and thus entering and passing throughout the city, which was marvellously replenished with people, crying Vive le Roy, he forgot not, far above my deserts, to recognize how much he, his moder, and realm, were bounden unto me, and how heartily I was welcome unto them. And as he did know (so it pleased him to say) that your Highness used me in all your affairs as your chief and principal councillor, so he from henceforth would do the same; praying me, therefore, to be contented with no less affection to embrace his affairs than I daily do and have done your Grace's own. ... And albeit I often demanded what his Grace's intent was, seeing he was past his palace wherein he was lodged, to go and proceed any further through the city, conjecting thereby that his intent was to accompany me to my lodging,—which to do I refused, with as many humble persuasives and exhortations as I could devise;—yet it was not in my power to dissuade him, but in anywise he would accompany me to the town, without suffering me to return with him to his palace. And so, after demand whether I would see my Lady that night (whereof I showed myself to be very glad and desirous), I parted from him, and by the cardinal of Lorraine was brought and accompanied into my lodging, which I found richly and pompously apparelled with the French king's own stuff." Having described the magnificence of the hangings, he proceeds: "After a little pause and shifting of myself, there was sent unto my lodging the cardinal of Bourbon, the duke of Vendôme, with many other prelates and noblemen, to conduce me to my Lady's presence, who was lodged in the Bishop's palace; in the hall whereof, being large and spacious, richly hanged and apparelled with arras, was placed and set in right good order, on both sides, the French king's guards, my Lady his mother, the queen of Navarre, Madame Renée, the duchess of Vendôme, the king of Navarre's sister, with a great number of other ladies and gentlewomen standing in the midst. To whose presence I somewhat approaching and drawing nigh, my said Lady also advancing herself forwards, in most loving and pleasant manner encountered, welcomed, and embraced me, and likewise saluted my lord of London (Tunstal), my Lord Chamberlain (Sands), Master Comptroller (Sir Henry Guildford), the Chancellor of the Duchy (Sir Thomas More), and most part of such gentlemen as came with me, and most specially the earl of Derby (fn. 8) (a lad of eighteen), whom it liked her Grace to kiss and right lovingly to welcome. In the doing whereof, I, for my part, semblably saluted the queen of Navarre, Madame René ... and a great part of the other ladies; which done on both sides, my Lady returned, and taking me by the arm, led and conveyed me into her inner chamber, where under a rich cloth of estate were set two chairs, garnished, one of black velvet, and the other with cloth of tissue." After many compliments on both sides, (fn. 9) and a promise on her part that in the event of his meeting with any obstruction in arranging the alliance, she would interpose her authority in his favor, they separated, "forasmuch as it was eight of the clock, and my Lady had not supped." (fn. 10)
On Monday, at 3 o'clock, he received a message that Francis would give him audience. "At my entering into the great chamber, there met with me the king of Navarre, who conduced me to the French king's bed-chamber, where he lay upon a couch, covered with a white sheet—(the weather was very hot)—without any cloth of estate or sparver (tester) over the same, made for the easement and staying of his leg, which, by the travail of the day before, was much altered, and in such wise swelled, that without great pain he could not go nor stand upon the same. On the right side whereof was placed my Lady the French king's moder, the queen of Navarre, and a little distance beneath them, the lady Renée, the king of Navarre's sister, and other ladies and gentlewomen, to a great number; and on the other side the cardinals of Bourbon and Lorraine ... with many other prelates, nobles, and gentlemen. And incontinently as I was come to the French king's presence, he excusing the manner of his lying there, and being sorry that he could not use himself otherwise unto me, and I again repeating how glad I would have been to have taken more pain upon me, whereby I might have alleviated his Grace of the great labor and travail that the same hath sustained ... he said he knew well my good will and mind in that behalf; nevertheless, for declaration of his duty towards your Grace, he would not have omitted any thing of that he hath done, though the same should have put him in greater danger; which his pain, that he now sustaineth, proceeding of a light hurt in his leg, is not, by God's grace, to be much regarded or feared. And herewith, he taking with him my Lady and me, withdrew himself into a little secret chamber, excluding all other; wherein was a little couch for his Grace to lie upon, for staying of his leg; and by the same two chairs set, the one for my lady, the other for me. And albeit, standing, I would have delivered your Grace's letters, and, the same read, proceeded to the further declaration of my charge, yet his Grace, till I and my Lady were set, would in no wise permit and suffer me so to do." Conforming himself to the King's wish, the Cardinal proceeded to unfold his mission; first, in relation to the marriage of the princess Mary, whom Francis, with the easy assurance of his nation, professed that he loved above all creatures, adding that he regarded her as the lapis angularis of the new alliance. He urged this with great vehemency, professing "your Grace should have of him as humble and obeissant a servant and son as any man should have in earth, esteeming and reputing the same more than the recovery of his children, or any other thing in this world." In these asseverations he was joined by his mother, both exhibiting, no doubt, proportionate urgency, as they felt assured that their request would not be granted. "I, replying," continues Wolsey, "showed that your Grace no less desired the said marriage ... and that I, being her godfather, loving her entirely next unto your Highness, and above all other creatures, was desirous that she should be bestowed upon his person, as in the best and most worthy place of Christendom." But if he married Mary, interposed the Cardinal, what was to become of Eleanor, and how were his children to be recovered ? "Vous dictiz vray, Monsr Cardinal," he replied after a pause; "I pray you, therefore, show me your advice." In the end it was arranged that Francis should fulfil his engagement with the Emperor, and Mary should be married to the duke of Orleans.
The next point turned on the conditions to be offered to Charles, to which Francis assented with some difficulty, declaring, "with tears descending from his eyes" —(a fact, not a figure of speech)—"that by his truth and faith he would do more at your Grace's request than at all the world's." The next day was spent in communicating these arrangements to the French councillors, who were scarcely prepared to assent to them without raising some real or pretended objection. All difficulties, however, were smoothed away by the interposition of Louise, and the protestation of eternal friendship and perpetual peace on the part of Francis, followed with the usual commentary of "tears in his eyes;" so that even a veteran diplomatist like Wolsey, not generally sympathising with such melting moods, greatly rejoiced; and he and the King's councillors with him "were moved with the same." (fn. 11)
He found Francis all that he could have desired. Never was king in a more complaisant or yielding temper. But he had not yet broached the great secret of his mission, and he contemplated the necessity of so doing with no little reluctance. On the 11th, apparently the day on which he gave a grand supper to Madame and the ladies of the Court, he wrote to Henry that although he had found Francis ready to comply in every respect with the King's wishes, he had forborne to disclose the King's "secret matter" until he had put all things in assured train. To anticipate the Emperor's negociations with the Pope in favor of Katharine,—for Wolsey had now heard from Flanders that the Emperor was acquainted with the King's intentions,—he had devised, by Clerk's advice, "certain expeditions (fn. 12) to be made at Rome," by Ghinucci, the bishop of Worcester, whom he had recalled from Spain, and by Gregory Casale and Salviati. "I have," he says, "set forth such practices, not sparing for offering of money, that by one mean or other there is great appearance that one of those I purpose to send ... shall have access unto the Pope's person; to the which if they or any of them may attain, there shall be all possible ways and practices set forth for the obtaining of the Pope's consent, as well in the convocation of Cardinals," as in the administration of the Church during his captivity, and granting of other things beneficial to the King's purpose. (fn. 13) He proposed, therefore, to defer communicating to Francis the particulars of the King's divorce, until the arrangements between the two crowns had been signed and completed. That done, he would disclose it in "such a cloudy and dark sort that he shall not know your Grace's utter determination and intent in that behalf, till your Highness shall see to what effect the same will be brought." (fn. 14)
Till now Henry had given out that he intended nothing more by these proceedings than an examination into the legal validity of his marriage, with the view, if possible, of removing all defects, and obviating any future objections to Mary's legitimacy. This was the official version of the affair, devised for the purpose of lulling suspicion and eluding opposition. (fn. 15) That the King had resolved upon a divorce is certain; that Wolsey was aware of his intention can scarcely be doubted, even if he cherished a half unconscious wish that possibly the King might, in view of the scandal and the difficulties of such a course, be ultimately diverted from his purpose. Whether, indeed, he knew at this time of Henry's resolution to marry Anne Boleyn, is not so evident; nor is it necessary to suppose that this was "the utter determination" he intended to communicate to the French king. When the divorce was obtained, on the ground of the invalidity of the Papal dispensation, the King would be free to marry whom he pleased. The consent of any other power would be needless. But on the determination of the Pope, and his willingness to comply with the King's demand, the whole case turned; and as it was not to be expected that Clement would invalidate the acts of his predecessor in the Holy See, or oppose the Emperor's wishes, except under great pressure, Wolsey flattered himself that if Francis could be induced to join with Henry in bringing their united influence to bear upon the Pope, the Emperor's opposition might be overcome. For securing this object various devices were suggested and discarded,—such as, the liberation of the Pope from his captivity by the remonstrances of the two Kings, in gratitude for which, it was thought, he would show himself more forward in yielding to the King's wishes; —or a convocation of the Cardinals at Avignon, who might act in the Pope's name, and in protestation of the liberties of the Church;—or, thirdly, a commission to Wolsey, as the Pope's vicegerent,—a course always attended with this insuperable difficulty, that Clement or his successor might at any time revoke such a commission, or deprive Wolsey of his legatine authority. Yet as every one of these courses had the advantage of appearing legal and regular, they were exempt from scandal, and involved no flagrant violation of justice.
I have said that the King was fully resolved upon a divorce,—by fair means if possible,—by any, if not. Ostensibly he had yielded to Wolsey's advice. He had abstained from violent measures, to which he was at first inclined, and submitted his cause to the judgment of the Church. Anticipating how much was involved in the issue, not only as it concerned his own influence, but as it might lead to an open defiance of ecclesiastical authority, to which the King was violently driven by the Boleyns and their advisers, Wolsey justified himself in the course he had adopted. He was persuaded that in complying with the King's resolution he was securing the Church and the nation from greater perils. Though his growing impatience increased with accumulated force, and eventually overwhelmed his unfortunate minister, the King suffered himself for a time to be overruled, and he yielded to the Cardinal's advice. "As touching the tenor of your letter," Knight writes to Wolsey, "concerning the secret matter, his Grace doth suppose that for the more sure, honorable, and safe conducing of the King's said secret affair unto the end that is proposed, which, for many high and urgent considerations, a true, loving, and faithful subject ought to desire and pray to Almighty God to bring to good and brief conclusion, his Grace hath studied and by your wisdom found that two things must be foreseen, of the which, one is necessary and requisite for approbation of the process that shall be made by your Grace. The first is, the Pope's consent authorizing you so to do ... and if by occasion of the Emperor by no means admitting conditions reasonable, he be kept in servitude and captivity;—then the other way is, that the cardinals representing the State of the College [do meet in convention at Avignon]." (fn. 16) In a subsequent letter he writes that his Highness, considering Wolsey's "continual study, watch and breach of mind," thinks "he cannot render condign thanks unto his merits." (fn. 17)
Yet, after all, Henry was not disposed to surrender himself to the guidance of Wolsey without reserve. There were secrets he did not think fit to communicate to his powerful favourite. Though Anne Boleyn and her party were naturally anxious for the divorce, they were not anxious that the result should exclusively depend on Wolsey's management, and thus increase instead of diminishing his influence. The divorce, if Pole may be trusted, was suggested by the Boleyns and their advisers; and if Cranmer (fn. 18) was one of them, we may well believe that they would have preferred a shorter and more summary process than was agreeable to the Cardinal; and for this the Pope's captivity might have furnished a sufficient justification. It seems that they were not taken into consultation by the Cardinal, nor were they grateful for his exertions. On the 19th, Knight, the King's confidant, writes again to Wolsey, "My lords of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Rochfort (Boleyn), and Mr. Treasurer (Fitzwilliam), be privy unto the other letter that I do send unto your Grace at this time with these; after the open reading whereof the King delivered unto me your letter concerning the secrets, commanding me to give unto you his most hearty thanks for abiding a time convenient before that ye discover any part of the said secret unto the French king." (fn. 19) In this as in a previous communication he states expressly that no one was privy to these affairs, except the King and himself. It will be seen presently that even Knight was commissioned by the King to proceed to Rome on a mission connected with the divorce, which neither he nor the King thought fit to communicate to the Cardinal.
In the meantime negociations proceeded swimmingly in the French Court. On Sunday, the 18th August, the treaty of Amiens was sealed and confirmed. "On the day of the Assumption of Our Lady," writes a correspondent (fn. 20) to Cromwell, "my Lord said mass at the church in Amiens, but not solemnly; after which he gave the Regent, the King's mother, the Holy Sacrament. He then dined with the King, where he was served with many dishes and little meat. (fn. 21) The Sunday after, the peace and oath were concluded, with much solemnity, in the cathedral church. The French King and Regent were in one traverse, which was passing lofty, and on the south side of the high altar; and on the north side was a little mount of three steps for the Cardinal, on which was set a cloth of estate and two chairs without any traverse ... at which cloth sat my Lord and the French legate lately come from Rome (Salviati) ... He is one of the worst favored men ever seen, and with the worst countenance. After mass the King took his solemn oath at the high altar, before my Lord, and then my said Lord likewise in our King's behalf." He adds, that "the president of Rouen then made a proposition (oration)" half an hour and more long, during all which time the new Legate "slept like a dormouse in his chair." (fn. 22) The ceremonies were concluded on Monday with a sumptuous feast given by the Cardinal to Francis, his mother, and the French nobles, handsomer than the supper received by Wolsey the day before, "and he showed them more gold and silver than the King." (fn. 23) On all these occasions contemporary narrators are struck by the magnificence and solemnity displayed by the English, as compared with the simplicity, frugality, and absence of all ceremonial on the part of the French.
Though Wolsey followed the Court to Compiegne, he was now able to devote himself to the business of the divorce with less distraction. The conjunction between the two monarchs was so complete and intimate that he had no longer any danger to apprehend from the machinations of the Emperor. The design of assembling a convention of French cardinals at Avignon as a sort of conciliabulum, with the Cardinal as patriarch or Papal representative, was soon abandoned, if indeed it had ever been seriously entertained. (fn. 24) So his course of action was simplified, and he had only to concentrate his energies on the Pope, and obtain the necessary authorization for his future proceedings. But success was not easy. Clement, still a prisoner in the castle of St. Angelo, was watched with extreme jealousy by the Imperialists. As the divorce had now become known to the Emperor, neither English nor Italian agents, in the pay of England, were readily admitted. Nor, even if they had been, was it at all clear that the Pope, secluded from his Chancery and legal advisers, could or would proceed to take any step involving such serious ecclesiastical and political consequences as that of annulling the dispensation of his predecessor Julius II., or suffer Wolsey to annul it. At all events, the legal formalities to be observed on this occasion were sufficient to furnish him with innumerable pretexts for delay. Strange to say, on this occasion the English monarch and his minister were the most uncompromising advocates for the personal infallibility of the Pope, and pronounced the divine commission of St. Peter a sufficient justification for any act that his successor might do. Clement himself took a more mitigated view of his own authority. He was not convinced when they urged him to reverse the official decisions of previous pontiffs by an extrajudicial determination of his own, and to declare that determination irreversible and infallible. Nor were they more successful when, in their anxiety to secure their own ends, they went so far as to assert that without the possession and exercise of such an authority the Pope could not be the father of his people, nor the Head of that Church which Christ had founded for the good of mankind. If Henry had obtained his divorce, he and Wolsey would have ranged themselves among the most unqualified supporters of the Pope's personal infallibility. In these views they did not wholly want the support of more than one Roman lawyer and ecclesiastic.
Clerk had been despatched into England, before the end of August, to inform the King of what had been already "done and sped at Rome," concerning his secret matter. (fn. 25) It appears that, for purposes of his own, to which I shall refer more explicitly, the King had resolved to send Knight, who was privy to all his intentions, to the Pope,—ostensibly with the view of carrying Wolsey's plans into effect—really to try a little negociation on his own account. Wolsey heard of this determination with ill-disguised dissatisfaction. He had sent for Ghinucci, the bishop of Worcester, the King's ambassador in Spain, as the fittest person for obtaining "anything that might concern the King's privy matter, or any protestation to be made by the Pope." He urged, sensibly enough, that if a dexterous Italian negociator found it extremely difficult to gain admission to the Pope, much more was it to be feared that the King's secretary (Knight), "who had no colour or acquaintance there," would not be admitted or suffered to come into the Pope's presence; and even if he might attain thereunto, — "the ways and means whereof," urged Wolsey, "I cannot possibly imagine,—it is not to be thought, considering he is sent from "your Grace, that he shall anything do or speak with the Pope sine arbitris, which is clean contrary to your Grace's purpose." He desired, therefore, that Knight's mission should be deferred, and that Worcester (who had heard of the divorce in Spain) might be sent in his place. Without detailing the particular reasons for his request, Worcester was to obtain a general faculty for Wolsey, to execute plenary jurisdiction in the King's suit during the Pope's captivity; "by means whereof I may delegate such judges as percase the Queen will not refuse or appeal from." In event of such an appeal he had provided that the cause should immediately be brought before himself, and his decision as Papal vicegerent should be regarded as final. With this view a clause was to be inserted in the general commission, by virtue of which the Pope should ratify any sentence pronounced by Wolsey, as if it had been pronounced by his Holiness himself. "And, Sir, having nothing so much in my heart, daily study, and thought, as the bringing of your Grace's intended purpose to honorable fruit and effect, since I am advertised that the Pope's Holiness is detained in strait hold, and, as some men write, conveyed to Gaieta, I cannot imagine no better instruments in earth to be sent unto the Pope than Gregory de Casalis, the bishop of Worcester (Ghinucci), and the Prothonotary Gambara, who shall find more feasible entrance to his Holiness' presence than your Secretary (Knight), or any other person to be sent from your Grace out of England." (fn. 26) He then adds significantly, "by this mean, and such other things as be set forth to be obtained at the Pope's hand, there is perfect hope, if your Grace will take a little patience, suffering such things to be experimented and done, which be and shall be devised for that purpose, by one way or other, your intent shall honorably and lawfully take the desired effect; which to bring to pass is my continual study and ardent desire, ready to expone my body, life, and blood for the achieving of the same."
These words show clearly the difficulties which the Cardinal had to encounter, both in the temper of the King himself, and the course he proposed to adopt. Impatient as ever of the least opposition or impediment to his wishes, the King was ready to adopt any plausible device recommended to him by his favourites for accomplishing his purpose. It was only by Wolsey's persuasion that he could be prevailed upon to take the measures required for his dignity and his safety, and assume some appearance of decency, by submitting to the forms of law in dissolving his marriage with Katharine. Of justice and veracity in this matter, or even of decorum, as will be seen hereafter, he was by no means careful. Yet in this as in all his actions, arbitrary as he was, he was anxious, if possible, to shelter himself behind the law, and decline responsibility. This was the strongest hold that Wolsey had upon an imperious nature, not deficient in traits of magnanimity and grandeur, but now spoiled by indulgence, and emancipated from all salutary restraints. It was Wolsey's conviction that if the King could not obtain his purpose honorably and lawfully," he would obtain it violently and unlawfully, to the peril of all concerned. For this he was induced to expose "body, life, and blood," in accomplishing the King's desire. It may be said that a man of higher principles and more delicate sense of honour would rather have resigned his appointments than allowed himself to become the instrument of designs so flagrantly cruel, unjust, and dishonorable. Nothing could be more revolting than the hypocrisy of pretending a strict regard for the forms of justice, and these secret efforts to defeat justice,—nothing more base than to pretend to the Queen conscientious scruples as to the legality of her marriage, and yet take such measures against her as should prevent these scruples from being judicially tested. But though nothing can be said in defence of these proceedings, it must be remembered, in palliation of Wolsey, that resignation involved utter ruin. As Mendoza expressed it, his enemies did not seek his fall only, but his destruction. He was too able and powerful to be suffered to live in retirement, or even in disgrace. The King's favour carried with it honor, safety, the security of the Church, the welfare of his colleges, even life itself:—the loss of it was the loss of all. Nor did he stand alone in this excessive deference to royalty. There was not a nobleman in the land, not a thorough-paced Protestant or Reformer, who did not entertain the same exaggerated notions of submission to the royal will,—party from fear of an authority that recognized no control,—partly from a sense that the most tyrannical exertion of it was better than the licence and lawlessness of the civil wars,—and partly because the Spiritual Supremacy, to which even the most arbitrary monarchs had once been compelled to yield some show of deference, had now fallen into abeyance. It had become nothing better than a shadow, an instrument of tyranny, subservient to the selfish designs of temporal princes.
But Henry had no intention, on this or on any other occasion, to be ruled implicitly by his minister. He thanked Wolsey for his excellent advice and his diligent service;—"a service," he said, "which cannot be by a kind master forgotten, of which fault I trust I shall "never be accused, especially to you-ward, which so laboriously do serve me." Yet he resolved, notwithstanding, to follow his own counsel, and he secretly determined on sending Knight to Rome, pretending to fear that the Queen might anticipate him "in his great matters;"—really, if not to defeat, to counteract Wolsey's plans in one very important particular. (fn. 27)
To understand the reasons for this extraordinary proceeding, it must be remembered that the Cardinal had proposed to obtain a protestation from Pope that nothing done in the Papal Court to the prejudice of the King or his allies, during the Pope's captivity, should be considered valid. By such a declaration His Holiness would be precluded from depriving the Cardinal of his legatine authority, as the Emperor desired, and would incapacitate himself from revoking the cause and cancelling the proceedings in England. The next step was to obtain a commission for the Cardinal to decide the cause by himself or his delegates, without appeal. Much as the King desired a divorce, either at his own suggestion, or more probably at the instigation of the Boleyns, who seem to have been chiefly guided by Cranmer in all their measures, (fn. 28) he did not care to see Wolsey invested with greater authority than he possessed already. He was apparently jealous of an expedient which seemed to overshadow the dignity of the Crown, and he sent Knight to the Pope with secret instructions to obtain a dispensation for second nuptials, without insisting on a commission for Wolsey. He could easily annul, if needful, the legateship, by forbidding its exercise in his own dominions; but a commission from the Pope, procured by the King's own intervention, could not be so easily disposed of. Knight found Wolsey at Compiegne on the 10th of September. He had taken time by the forelock, and had already despatched Casale and others to Rome, for the commission. The rest shall be told in Knight's own words. He wrote to the King, "Please it your most noble Grace to understand that Christopher Mores, in discreet manner, hath delivered unto me your gracious letters concerning your secret affair, which is to me only committed; the contents whereof I shall not fault to follow according unto your Grace's pleasure, with such diligence, discretion, and dexterity as in me shall be possible. And where at my coming hither my lord Legate supposed to have (fn. 29) so fully contented your Highness, that by the coming of Christopher Mores I should have been by your Grace countermanded, willing me therefore to abide and tarry for the said Christopher, I, for the avoiding of (his) suspicion, showed myself content so to do; being, nevertheless, determined to proceed in my journey, if the said Christopher Mores had not come the next day. And now your Grace's pleasure known, my Lord hath advised me to repair to Venice; which counsel cannot hinder your Grace's purpose. For there being, if there be any possibility of access unto the Pope, I have commodity to pass by the sea, till within one hundred miles of Rome. And, Sir, if your dispensation (i.e. to marry again) may be obtained constante matrimonio—(that is, without any divorce from Katharine)—whereof I doubt, having any possibility of access I shall soon obtain it; and if it cannot be impetrate nisi soluto matrimonio (without a divorce) then less diligence may be suffered. Of which doubts, at my coming into Italy, I shall be soon resolved." Comment is needless. If the Pope would have allowed Henry to marry two wives, Wolsey's commission and elaborate diplomacy would be needless. But what then is to be thought of Henry's conscientious scruples
The Cardinal was profuse in his gratitude for the King's condescending acknowledgment of his services. "I cannot," he says, "with my pen or tongue express how greatly it is to my consolation, rejoice, and comfort to understand by your Grace's most loving, eloquent, and excellently indicted letters, that my labors, travail, and poor service, is so graciously and thankfully by your Highness accepted and taken; (fn. 30) whereby I do not only account my said service and troubles well bestowed and employed, but also that I am most highly rewarded for the same." Then alluding to Knight's mission to Rome, and his own proceedings touching the commission, he adds, that if it be well pondered, nothing better could well be devised for furthering the King's wishes; "and God I take to my judge, that whatsoever opinion, contrary to my thought or deserts, by any report or suggestion, your Grace hath or might conceive, I never intended to set forth the expedition of the said general commission, for any authority, ambition, commodity, private profit or lucre, but only for the advancement of your Grace's secret affair. And if the same were now presently or hereafter should be obtained, if your pleasure were that no part thereof should be executed, I shall with most humble, reverent, and obeisant heart submit myself to the same; assuring your Highness that I shall never be found, but as your most humble, loyal, true, and faithful obeisant servant, delighting in none earthly thing so much as to set forth, avaunce, and accomplish all your commandments and pleasures, without contradiction, or sparing of my body, life or goods. And were it not (besides my most bounden duty) for the ardent and reverent love that I have and bear unto your Majesty, and the increase and exaltation of your honor, there is no earthly good or promotion that should cause me to endure the travail and pains which I daily and hourly sustain, without any regard to the continuance of my life or health, which is only preserved by the assured trust of your gracious love and favor, the contrary whereof I shall never deserve." (fn. 31)
Was ever loyalty more chivalrous or more romantic? Was it ever more eloquently set forth, or expressed in terms of profounder devotion? Did it not pass the love of woman? Even in his fall, when he had met with the basest return for all his services, the sentiment immortalized by the great dramatist still recurs to his lips, that the favor and respect of his prince had for him a greater charm and attraction than love or conquest! Old, yet not weary of service, he left Compiegne on Tuesday the 17th of September, arrived at Boulogne on the 21st, and crossed over from Calais at the end of the month. "These things finished," says Cavendish, (fn. 32) "and others, for the weal of the town (of Calais), he took shipping and arrived at Dover, from whence he rode to the King, being then in his progress at Sir Henry Wyat's house in Kent. (fn. 33) It was supposed among us that he should be joyfully received at his homecoming, as well of the King as of all other noblemen; but we were deceived in our expectation. Notwithstanding, he went immediately after his coming to the King, with whom he had long talk, and continued there in the Court two or three days." A more explicit account of his reception is given by Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador. Mendoza states that at the end of September the Legate returned with his train from France, and immediately after repaired to Richmond, where the King was then staying. Arriving at the palace, he sent word to the King, apprising him of his return, and asking where and at what hour he might visit his Majesty, "it being the custom, whenever the Legate has affairs of State to communicate, for the King to retire with him to a private closet. Now it happened on this occasion that the lady called Anna de Bolaine, who seems to entertain no great affection for the Cardinal, was in the room with the King; and before his Majesty could reply, she exclaimed 'Where else should the Cardinal come? Tell him he may come here, where the King is.' With this answer the messenger returned, and the Legate, though extremely annoyed at the circumstance, which boded him no good, dissembled it as much as he could, and concealed his resentment. Though it was thought at the time—and perhaps the Legate himself may have believed so—that this sudden change in the King's manner was indicative of his displeasure, the matter has gone no further, and things remain outwardly as they were before." (fn. 34)
I return to Knight, who was now making the best of his way into Italy, fully assured that he should obtain from the Pope the dispensation desired by the King by a more short and summary process than the tedious and circuitous devices of Wolsey. Nothing can show more clearly the superior statesmanship of the Cardinal than his appreciation of difficulties, and the care and caution used in making his advances. The flexibility with which he adapted himself to the vary- ing moods and circumstances of the hour is remarkable, as compared with that insular arrogance and unbending deportment which, overlooking all difficulties and despising all caution, were too common in Englishmen especially at this time, and though due to their shyness, in some measure, were aggravated by their inexperience. Knight reached Parma, and proceeding to Foligni, (fn. 35) he seems for the first time to have become aware that he would not be suffered to enter Rome without a passport. The city was held by the Imperialists. The Pope, shut up in St. Angelo, was surrounded by the Emperor's spies and minions; a messenger from so powerful a sovereign, whose will was omnipotent in England, even though nominally allied to the Emperor, would have little chance of obtaining a private interview, still less of communicating "the King's secret," without being overheard. Knight was therefore compelled to remain at Foligni, unable to proceed, until the beginning of December, when he received from the King, by "a chaplain of my lord of Rochford" (probably Cranmer), a minute for a new dispensation. Perceiving the King's "fervent desire," he advanced to Narni, and the next day to Rome. The news was then rife of the Pope's delivery. At twelve miles distance from Rome Knight fell in with banditti, and narrowly escaped with his life. His coming had long been anticipated by Gambara, who, together with Gregory Cassale, had been despatched by Wolsey in September. Gambara had contrived to enter the city unperceived, and hold communications with the Pope before the 26th of November. (fn. 36) From that moment all Knight's hope of success was delusive. As Wolsey told the King, (fn. 37) the secretary had too little experience to be trusted with a delicate and difficult mission in a Court so subtle and labyrinthine as that of Rome. On entering the city, he took up his apartments in the house of a Roman, where many Spaniards were lodged. "That day," says Knight, "I found mean that the Pope was advertised of my arrival, and his Holiness ordained immediately that the prothonotary Gambara should come unto me; albeit, and though he were at the door of my lodging, he durst not adventure to come unto me. (fn. 38) Wherefore the next morning I went unto him, and was informed there was no mean to speak with the Pope, for if he would have offered 10,000 crowns for a safe-conduct for me, he could not have obtained it. And seeing that there was none other remedy, I wrote as much as I would have said on your Highness' behalf unto his Holiness; and the same with your Grace's letter of credence, and the last minute for your dispensation, closed together in a paper and sealed, and directed unto his Holiness, which the cardinal of Pisa delivered unto him in the presence of the prothonotary Gambara." The Pope, as Gambara reported, read the inclosures, and sent word that as Knight's arrival was known to Alarcon, the commander of the Spanish forces, he had better leave Rome as rapidly as possible, and remain at Narni or the neighbourhood; and as "soon as he were at liberty he would send unto me all your Grace's requests in as ample a form as they be desired. I suppose verily that his Holiness is at his liberty by this time, or undoubtedly shall be shortly ... And thus I trust in Almighty Jesu to have in my custody shortly, as much perfect spedd and under lede, as your Highness hath long time desired; and under secret manner — (that is, unknown to the Cardinal and others) — for I have written unto the Pope's Holiness that your Highness esteemeth as much the keeping secret the dispensation as the obtaining of the same." (fn. 39)
On the 9th of December, (fn. 40) the evening before the arrangements with the Imperialists for his liberation were to be completed, the Pope contrived to effect his escape. His profound distrust of the Spaniards, who had so grossly deceived him already, is manifested in the careful preparations he had made for his flight, and his resolution to carry these preparations into effect, at the very moment when the discovery of them would have effectually neutralized the negociations already set on foot for his release. In the dusk of the evening, when the sentinels were changed, he presented himself at the gates, disguised in a blouse and long false beard; his head and his face were partly concealed by a slouched and tattered hat; on his arm he carried a basket, and an empty sack at his back. Thus accoutred he was taken for one of the domestics belonging to the major-domo of the Papal palace. Pretending that he was sent forward to provide lodgings on the road for the Pope, who was to travel the next day to Viterbo with the Cardinals, he was allowed to pass unchallenged. He crossed the garden of St. Peter's, and letting himself out by a secret gate, of which he had secured the keys from the gardener, he at once mounted a chaise provided by Louis Gonzaga; and at midnight, attended by a solitary peasant, he traversed Celano, struck through the wood of Boccano, took a slight repast at Capranica, and, taking the mountain track, arrived the next morning at the dilapidated town of Orvieto.
At daybreak the Imperial colonels presented themselves, as usual, at the gates of St. Angelo, to pay their respects to his Holiness. As it was his custom to hear mass in his private chapel before he gave audience, this delay in his appearance created no suspicion. The day passed on, but no Pope was seen. They demanded of the valets de chambre whether his Holiness did not think of rising, as the day was far advanced, and it would be needful to start early, for the road was bad, and the hours for travelling were short in the winter. The attendants had no suspicion of what had occurred, and the Pope was already safely housed at Orvieto some hours before the truth was discovered. (fn. 41)
It was here, that miserable, and alone, with no attendant cardinals and few of his household about him, Knight, some days after, found the Pope in the dilapidated and ill furnished palace of the Bishop. If Gambara has not misrepresented him, his escape from imprisonment had altered his tone already. He referred to Knight's previous message, and the danger he was in from the Spaniards at Rome; adding, that although he had promised to forward the dispensation desired by the King, he must now beg for delay, as he had been required by an ambassador from the Emperor (fn. 42) to suffer nothing to pass prejudicial to the Queen, "And forasmuch as this dispensation might encourage your Grace to cause my lord Legate auctoritate legationis to hear and discern in the cause that your Highness intendeth, and his Holiness standeth as yet in manner in captivity and perplexity, his Holiness therefore besought your Grace to have patience for a time, and it should not be long or (ere) your Highness should have not only that dispensation, but any thing else that might lie in his power." Knight protested vehemently against the delay. He had already sent word to his master, as he informed the Pope, that his Holiness had granted the King's desire. How then would the King ever be persuaded that the Pope would make good his promise hereafter, if he attempted to evade it now? In the end Clement consented to send the dispensation on condition that the King would do nothing in the divorce until the Pope was at liberty. "After this his Holiness showed the minute—(that is, of the dispensation sent by the King)—to cardinal St. Quatuor (Quadri-Santi), telling him to reform it according to the style of this Court; which done, he showed it unto me; and after said that he thought good that I should depart, because I rode but competent journeys, and the prothonotary Gambara should follow by post and bring the bull with him, which is of the same form and substance that your Highness' minute is of; and if there be anything omitted, or to be added, his Holiness is always content to reform it." A copy of this bull Knight sent by Gambara to the King.
It must be remembered in this perplexing affair, that when the King, under pretence of trusting the Cardinal, was trying, not very successfully, with Knight to outwit him, two dispensations at least, if not more, were desired. One of these was to be kept secret, and was known only to Knight and the King. When, therefore, the news should be brought to the Cardinal that the Pope had granted the dispensation to Knight as required, he would be deceived into supposing it was the same dispensation as he himself had contrived. In the dis- pensation contrived by Knight and the King, it was stipulated that Henry should proceed at once to second nuptials, whether the nullity of his marriage with Katharine was established or not. But in the dispensation devised by Wolsey it was only provided that the King should be allowed to marry, within certain degrees, after sentence pronounced by the Cardinal, or by delegates appointed by him, by virtue of the Papal commission. Thus it will be seen that the two were quite distinct in their purposes: nor is it likely that Wolsey, had he known their contents, would have approved of Knight's instructions. If the first demand was impracticable, Knight could fall back upon the second, and urge it on the Pope in conjunction with Wolsey, without betraying his secret to the Cardinal. Knight was by no means a skilful negotiator, and the dispensation devised by the King was soon abandoned. He then tried his hand at obtaining a commission. But the value of a commission depended entirely upon its provisions, and the judges to be appointed under it. Various plans were suggested: first, a general commission for Wolsey to hear and determine the cause as the Pope's vicegerent;—a demand not likely to be conceded, "as he might be thought partial:"—next, the substitution in his place of Staphileo, dean of the Rota, who was friendly to the King. In the last resort, some Cardinal, whose authority and impartiality could not be questioned, was to be sent by the Pope, and joined in the commission with Wolsey. By such a device it was thought that Katharine would no longer resist, but be awed into acquiescence.
Knight carried with him from home a minute of the dispensation required, and a memorandum of the commission drawn up in England. The form and substance of the first were to be embodied in a bull. But as the Pope professed that he was not expert in framing commissions, the draft brought by Knight was submitted to St. Quatuor. The Cardinal, like an experienced canonist, perceiving it was the work of vulgar and unskilful hands, declared it "could not pass without perpetual dishonor unto the Pope, the King, and your Grace (Wolsey)." Setting to work with the severity of a parliamentary draftsman, he omitted this clause, declared another to be informal, and objected to a third as obscure, until he had reduced the whole into a shape, if not as explicit and stringent as the one desired, yet seeming to the unsophisticated judgment of Knight to answer the purpose sufficiently. "At all events," as he wrote with undissembled satisfaction to Wolsey, "I do bring a commission with me, and a dispensation, which I trust the King and your Grace will like well." For this valuable piece of service, Knight offered St. Quatuor a fee of 2,000 crowns. (fn. 43)
He started on his return to England, a happy man. He had obtained within a very brief period all that the King had desired, and had easily distanced his Italian competitors, who had conjured up such needless difficulties and delays. The dispensation under lead, and the commission for Wolsey, "which is sufficient, though not like the minute," were duly despatched to England. When they arrived they were found to be "of no effect or authority." (fn. 44) So Knight and his mission were unceremoniously snuffed out;—a warning to all who wade beyond their depth in the law, or dabble in diplomacy they do not understand. (fn. 45) He was not, however, the only one who was shipwrecked on this rock. Knight's inauspicious mission produced no other effect than that of awakening the suspicions of the Pope, and putting him more completely on his guard. He had been so profoundly intimidated by recent events,—the resentment of the Emperor, as compared with the distant promises and ineffectual protestations of his French and English allies, had been so direct and immediate,—that he was thoroughly resolved never again to encounter it, or expose himself to its terrors by joining in any demonstration of hostility against Charles, however seductive might be the chances of success. Whilst, therefore, to enhance his own credit with the Emperor, Clement was ready to accept Henry's professions of support, and retain his friendship, if the terms were not too costly, it was not his intention to incur any hazard, beyond fair words and a show of compliance. Least of all, however appearances might tell against him, did he intend to provoke the Emperor's displeasure, or a repetition of his resentment, by taking upon himself the responsibility, directly or indirectly, of pronouncing the marriage of Katharine informal. He was not to be moved by those torments of conscience which the King professed to feel, and for the abatement of which he had recourse to the Pope as his spiritual physician. In that violation of the Levitical law, which Henry alleged was the cause of his disquiet, he did not believe. But even if the King's scruples had been ever so real, had in fact been as genuine as Henry wished them to be thought, Clement was not inclined to expose Rome to another siege, and himself to a second imprisonment in St. Angelo, in order to quiet them. He commanded Sanga, his confidant, to discover what the dispute was about, and how it had arisen, — for the Imperial agent, the General of the Observants, had been already importuning his Holiness to interfere, and inhibit all further proceedings. (fn. 46)
I return to Wolsey, to whose abler hands, after Knight's egregious failure, the King was only too willing to leave the management of the cause. He had proposed from the first to employ Italian agents, as more skilful diplomatists, and more likely to secure effectual aid at the Court of Rome. For this purpose he had suggested the employment of Ghinucci, bishop of Worcester, who was acquainted with the King's secret, and was at that time the King's ambassador with the Emperor. But in this he had been over-ruled. As Knight was preferred by the King, he had to acquiesce in the arrangement, and entrust him with a minute of a general commission to be procured from the Pope. He had contrived that it should be so artfully drawn as to disclose as little as possible of the King's intentions. (fn. 47) This was the commission which the cardinal St. Quatuor reformed, at Knight's desire, extracting its teeth and rendering it inoperative. Suspecting Knight's inefficiency, or unwilling to be out-generaled, Wolsey had at the same moment dispatched Gambara, the nuncio, to negociate with the Pope, and facilitate Knight's mission. As a further precaution he had sent orders to Gregory Casale to join them on the road after he had settled his business with Lautrec. (fn. 48) Thus, by bringing various influences to bear upon the Pope, he hoped to succeed in his object.
As Casale was kept in the dark in regard to the exact nature of his commission, it was necessary that the Cardinal should word his instructions in so ambiguous a manner, that, whilst he appeared to repose implicit confidence in his messenger, Casale should learn no more than suited the purposes of his employer. Wolsey, therefore, began by assuring him that the King had consented to employ him in his secret matter, on the Cardinal's assurance of his fidelity. "I have told you already how the King, partly by his assiduous study and learning, and partly by conference with theologians, has found his conscience somewhat burthened with his present marriage; and out of regard to the quiet of his soul, and, next, to the security of his succession, and the great mischiefs likely to arise, he considers it would be offensive to God and man if he were to persist in it. With great remorse of conscience he has now for a long time felt that he is living under the displeasure of the Almighty, whom in all his efforts and his actions he always sets before him. He has made diligent inquiry whether the dispensation granted by pope Julius to himself and the Queen, his brother's widow, is valid and sufficient; and he is told it is not. It was founded on certain false suggestions;—as that his Majesty desired the marriage for the good understanding between Henry VII., Ferdinand and Isabella; whereas there was no suspicion of any misunderstanding, &c. Next when the King reached the age of fourteen, the contract was revoked, and his father objected to the match. It is to this offence against his Maker that the King attributes the death of his male children, and dreads the heavy wrath of God if he persists. Notwithstanding his scruples of conscience he has resolved to wait for the judgment of the Holy See, trusting that, out of consideration to his services in behalf of the Church, the Pope will not decline to remove these scruples, and discover a method by which the King may take another wife, and, God willing, have male children."
This was the official account, intended to pass current for the real one. Whether it transpired or not, no inconvenience would ensue. It was modified in certain particulars, as place and circumstances required. Not a word was said, as on other occasions, that the King's doubts were first suggested by his confessor, still less that they were started by the bishop of Tarbes.
"As his Holiness," continues Wolsey, adroitly manipulating his agent, "is now in captivity,"—(the letter was written shortly before the Pope's escape,)—"and there are some (the Imperialists) who will endeavour to interfere with his wishes, a method has been devised whereby his Holiness may be deftly instructed in this matter, and induced to grant the King's request. Trusting in your faith and dexterity, the King desires you to change your dress, and, as if you were employed in some other person's service, obtain a secret interview with the Pope, at which no one else shall be present. You are to promise those who have the management of these matters any sum of money required for securing the interview. When admitted to the Pope you shall exhibit the King's letter of credence, in which there is an urgent paragraph written by the King's own hand. (fn. 49) You shall insist on our grief at the misfortunes of the Church; enlarge on the unsatisfactory nature of this marriage—the King's scruples—the vehement desire of the whole nation and nobility, without any exception, that the King should have an heir; (fn. 50) —that the more thoughtful among us consider that God has refused us so great a blessing in consequence of the illegality of this union; and unless some remedy be provided, worse evils will succeed,—factions and controversies will arise on the death of the King, and the nation will be plunged into the horrors of civil war." To give greater effect to these arguments, Casale is instructed to insist on the services rendered by Henry as Defender of the Faith. He is to say that a man of far inferior deserts, suffering from remorse of conscience, would have a claim on the Pope's consideration. "You shall then request the Pope, all fear and doubt set aside, to consider the case, and the infinite advantage it will be to the Holy See, if, without delay, or disclosing his purpose to any one, the Pope will issue a special commission in the form of a brief, directed to me, granting me a faculty to summon whom I please to inquire into the validity of the dispensation—(which, of course, was equivalent to declaring it invalid)—according to the tenor of a copy now inclosed—so written and arranged as not to require transcription, or occasion any delay if the Pope's officials must take a copy of it. But to avoid all peril in that behalf, the Pope may affix to it his signature and seal, thus openly testifying that it is of his own will and pleasure that I should take cognizance of the cause."
In order that the reader may understand what sort of a commission was here desired, I must briefly interrupt Wolsey's instructions, which I have slightly abridged from the original Latin, and turn to the commission itself, to which the Pope was requested to affix his signature at once without further inquiry. The substance of the commission was as follows: (fn. 51) —"Clement VII. to our beloved _, health and apostolic benediction. ... Whereas 18 years ago, our dearest son in Christ, Henry VIII. king of England, &c., was induced by the persuasion of those about him, and a pretended apostolic dispensation, to contract marriage with Katharine, his brother's widow; and whereas it has been found, upon further examination, that the said dispensation was granted on false pretences, and is faulty and surreptitious,—that thereby the King's conscience is troubled; and that, in full confidence of our plenary power as supreme ruler here on earth, he has required, &c. &c. In consideration of the premises we appoint you, our dear son, the cardinal of York, of whose virtues, love of justice and equity, we are well assured, to exercise our authority in your own person for the trial of this cause. We also appoint you "_as assessor, enacting that the decision of either of you shall be valid in the absence of the other. You are to proceed summarily and de pleno, without the publicity or formality of judicial proceedings, and inquire into the validity of the said dispensation. And if you jointly or severally are satisfied of its invalidity, you shall pronounce the marriage between Henry and Katharine to be null and void, allowing the parties to separate, and contract marriage de novo, all appeal or challenge set aside. Also by this our authority we empower you to over-rule all canonical defects or objections, and declare the issue of the first as well as of the second marriage to be legitimate, if you think fit. And whatever is done by you in this cause, judicially or extra-judicially, we ratify and confirm in the fullest manner, without revocation." (fn. 52)
Never was a more extravagant demand made on any Pope's good nature, and never was a stranger proposal submitted to the highest spiritual authority of Christendom. A man even of less firmness than Clement VII., and less regard for justice, would have resented a suggestion that he should both abdicate his functions of supreme judge, and lend himself a willing and unresisting instrument to such a gross act of injustice. By assuming the invalidity of the dispensation, the commission prejudged the case which it authorised the Cardinal to try, and pronounced sentence before the evidence had been heard. Nor was it less scandalous or immoral that the decision should in effect be committed to Wolsey, the King's own subject, who had already expressed an adverse opinion, and now desired the authority of a judge, not to hear, but to condemn. With good reason might cardinal St. Quatuor declare that a commission so drawn, and with such clauses, could not pass without perpetual dishonor to the Pope, the King, and the Cardinal. In urging Clement to so flagrant a violation of decency and justice, we may believe that Wolsey was influenced, not merely by a desire to gratify the King, but by the thought that in so doing he was saving the Church from imminent destruction. Opposition to the King's wishes would convert Henry, as he foresaw, into the bitterest enemy of the Papacy. Compliance with his intractable humor, which no one understood better, might stave off the danger for a time. In a letter of the same date, he bids Casale tell the Pope, in terms hardly exaggerated, that his life will be shortened should his Holiness refuse. "His Majesty," he says, "will of two evils choose the least; and as he is absolutely resolved to satisfy his conscience, if in so doing he cannot obtain redress from the Holy See, he will cease to respect it, and its authority will fall into contempt from day to day, especially in these perilous times." (fn. 53) That the Boleyns and their advisers were no friends to himself, the Church or its hierarchy, of which he was the chief representative, he clearly perceived. He had reason to suspect that they would prove tempting and dangerous advisers, and use their influence with the King in furthering the designs of those who hated the Church as much as they loved its endowments. Contempt for spiritual authority was increasing at a rapid pace. Many already, both in England and the Continent, were loud in their denunciations of the clergy. But if these were his motives, it is strange he should ever have imagined that the spiritual authority could be strengthened by such an act as this. In asking the Pope to comply with these dishonorable demands, he was himself setting an example of disrespect for that authority, the loss of which he regarded as perilous to the best interests of Christendom. Nothing could show more clearly the real degradation of the Papacy, or the little hold it still retained on the respect and affections of mankind. The attempt was a wound more fatal to the Papal supremacy, by those who professed their desire to uphold it, than any formal repudiation of it by Parliament or Convocation.
It might have been supposed that when the commission was granted, the King and his minister would require nothing more. By it Wolsey was appointed supreme judge, without appeal. It enabled him, by himself, or in conjunction with an assessor, to proceed summarily; and if satisfied as to the invalidity of the Papal dispensation—a point on which Wolsey had satisfied himself already—he might dissolve the marriage contract. What more was necessary? If sentence was given in conformity with his anticipations, Henry might contract a second marriage, either with Anne Boleyn, or any other lady. What was to prevent him from following his inclinations? Yet in the directions sent to Casale, as to others employed in this suit, a clause was slipped in, unobtrusively, as though it were of no importance: I send you," says the Cardinal, "a dispensation also drawn out in due form of a brief, to be expedited by his Holiness affixing to it his signature and seal. And though the King does not fear any consequences that might possibly ensue, yet, remembering from the example of past times what fictitious claims have been put forward, to cut off all controversy for the time to come, he requests this of the Pope, as a thing absolutely necessary." (fn. 54) What, then, it may be asked, was this dispensation? What disputes as to the succession could possibly arise from his marriage with Anne Boleyn? She had neither royal blood in her veins, nor, except for her pre-contract with Ossory or Percy, was there any legal impediment to her marriage. Had none existed more valid than these, they might easily have been removed by a provision of the simplest kind. But the dispensation demanded and submitted to the Pope was of a more comprehensive nature. It included a number of extraordinary clauses, as will be seen by the following version:—
"As the steward and dispenser of the Lord's household is bound to listen to the prayers of the Faithful, especially to one who, like Henry VIII., has distinguished himself in defence of the Church, and by his accession to the crown of England has reconciled the conflicting claims of Yorkist and Lancastrian,—whose succession, therefore, ought to be protected against the designs of the ambitious:—We, in order to take away all occasion from evil-doers, do hereby, in the plenitude of our power, and exercising supreme and absolute authority, suspend, hac vice, all canons forbidding marriage in the fourth degree; also all canons, de impedimento publicœ honestatis, preventing marriage in consequence of espousals clandestinely contracted, and vitiating such contract. Further, we suspend hereby all canons relating to any precontracts clandestinely made, but not consummated, but tending to prevent or invalidate a subsequent marriage; also all canons touching any impediment caused by affinity, arising from any illicit connection, in any degree whatsoever, even in the first; so far as the marriage to be contracted by you, the petitioner, can be objected to, or anywise be impugned by the same.
"Furthermore, to avoid all canonical objections on the side of the woman, by reason of any former contract clandestinely made, or impediment of public honesty and justice arising from such clandestine contract, or of any affinity contracted in any degree, even in the first, ex illicito coitu, and in the event that it has proceeded beyond the second or third degree of consanguinity, whereby otherwise you, the petitioner, would not be allowed by the canons to contract marriage, we hereby license you to take such woman to wife, and suffer you and the woman to marry, free from all ecclesiastical objections and censures."
Further, by this dispensation the Pope removes all possible objections, ex certa scientia et motu suo. He legitimises the children against all objections, frees the King's conscience from all scruples, and declares all objections to be frivolous and inefficacious that might hereafter arise on the ground that this dispensation was granted during his captivity.
This extraordinary document could have in view no other contract than the King's marriage with Anne Boleyn. It must have been intended to remove certain impediments to her union with King, and anticipate objections which might hereafter arise as to the validity of their union. The numerous corrections and additions made in the draft show with what care and consideration it was drawn up, and how fully it was intended by its framers to over-rule all canonical flaws and defects. The commission was intended to dissolve the King's marriage with Katharine; the dispensation, to remove all obstacles to his marriage with Anne Boleyn. What those obstacles were, real or supposed, I need not detail. They are startling enough; nor can it be supposed that provisions, so minute and circumstantial, would have found a place in this document, had not certain objections against the King's union, in this instance, existed in fact or common report. (fn. 55)
"When you have expounded all this to his Holiness," continued the Cardinal, "it is not to be doubted that the Pope will freely at once consent to the King's request, and grant the commission without making any one privy to it. But if this cannot be done, you are to urge the Pope not to refuse to make the concessions required, by briefs or bulls, in the most ample form; taking care that it does not come to the ears of those who can interpose any impediment. Rather than that, you shall be satisfied with his simple signature to the afore- said drafts, which he may afterwards confirm by subsequent instruments."
As it might so happen that the Pope would object to the appointment of Wolsey, as one of the King's subjects, and refuse to allow him to pronounce judgment in the cause, Casale was to make strenuous efforts to remove this objection. "You shall," he says, "urge my appointment strongly, assuring the Pope that I will do nothing contrary to my duty as a Christian and a cardinal." If these arguments proved ineffectual, Casale was to require that the commission should be directed to Stafileo, dean of the Rota, whom Wolsey had already converted to his own views. If the Pope proposed to add to the Dean any other assessor than Wolsey, Casale was to refuse his consent, and contrive that no assessor should be appointed. With these instructions the Cardinal inclosed a private letter, to be shown to the Pope, in which he insisted upon the importance of his request, representing that his own life depended upon the result. He urged that in event of refusal the Pope would forfeit the friendship of the King, which was of the utmost importance to him in his present necessities; that it was of no use for him to indulge in the hope that the dissolution of the marriage with Katharine could be prevented or deferred. "There are," he says, "secret reasons, which cannot be committed to writing, which make this concession imperative,—certain diseases in the Queen defying all remedy, for which, as well as for other causes, the King will never again live with her as his wife." "Considering the premises, I am a humble suitor to the Pope to grant this request, not so much as an English subject, but as one who has certain knowledge what the result must be. Therefore, I urge him, by obliging the King, to bind him to the protection of the Holy See." (fn. 56)
It was not till after the Pope's escape that these instructions reached Casale, then resident at Florence. He found Clement at Orvieto, on the 22nd of December, "miserable and alone," irresolute and dispirited. But before his arrival another method of procedure had been resolved upon, and Casale received a second commission, evidently suggested by the fear that the Queen might appeal against the Cardinal's decision. It was, therefore, thought advisable to add increased "gravity to the process," by asking for Campeggio, Trani, or Farnese to be sent into England, with sufficient commission to determine the cause; "so," writes Wolsey, "all objection which might be urged by the Queen against me as the King's subject, and all evil surmises, may be avoided." (fn. 57) To anticipate any proposal on the part of the Pope of revoking the suit to Rome, he insisted that the King would never consent, nor could, in equity, be compelled, to have the cause tried out of his dominions, where his continual presence was required; still more, as the proofs to be adduced must depend upon witnesses who would have to be examined in England. If Casale found any delay on the part of the Pope or the Cardinals, or any intention to send a legate or a judge who was not known to be favorable to the King's cause, he was to drop the second commission and obtain the first. He was to urge speed at all hazards, as speed was of the utmost importance, and delays were dangerous. (fn. 58)
Though Wolsey never declined responsibility where the King's wishes or interests were concerned, it is not improbable that he was willing to share the odium of pronouncing the divorce with a legate to be sent immediately from Rome. He could not be ignorant of the danger to which he was exposed, and the increasing unpopularity of the whole proceeding. In vulgar estimation Katharine's divorce was connected with the French alliance; and that was hated in England on commercial and religious grounds. How could Wolsey be assured that the King's new attachment might not be superseded by another? Nor, on the other hand, was the King himself unwilling that the supremacy of the judge should be diminished by this division of authority.
On the last day of December, the Pope, after great importunity, granted the second commission, as corrected by St. Quatuor, and he delivered it to Knight with profound sighs and many tears. He protested that if it were divulged, it would cause his ruin. His life was at the mercy of the Emperor, and he was now "in the power of the dogs;" for though he had escaped immediate danger, the Spaniards were still upon his track, and his restoration to the Vatican was more hopeless than ever. (fn. 59) Engaged in making terms with the Emperor, unknown to the King or the Cardinal, he was not unwilling to take advantage of their friendship. The union of the French and English sovereigns, who had now declared war, and set a large army on foot in Italy, under the command of Lautrec, would, so Clement thought, make the Emperor less willing to alienate the Pope by needless harshness. It was his policy, therefore, to continue at present on good terms with Henry, and concede his demands, so far as they could be conceded without committing himself to an irrevocable decision, and involving himself in a direct quarrel with the Emperor.