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 5.
Sir Thomas, the father of Anne Boleyn, was born in 1477. He was the son of Sir William Boleyn of Blickling, Norfolk, and of Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Butler, earl of Ormond. Margaret's sister Anne, from whom Anne Boleyn received her name, was married to Sir George St. Leger. (fn. 1) The estate at Blickling descended to Sir James, (fn. 2) who died without male issue. As he was still living in 1534, Anne Boleyn could never have resided on the estate at Blickling. It is probable that Sir Thomas was married before the death of his father, Sir William, in 1505; but what was the connection of his family with the Howards, or what could induce the premier and proudest duke of England to match his daughter with a commoner of no distinction and of little wealth, must be left to conjecture. It is not easier to discover by what influence Sir Thomas was brought forward into public life, or to whom he owed his advancement.
By lady Elizabeth, Sir Thomas had one son, George, lord Rochford, married to Jane Parker, daughter of lord Morley, and two daughters, Mary and Anne. Lady Rochford accused her husband of improper familiarities with his sister, then queen of Henry VIII., for which both perished on the scaffold; and she herself was afterwards implicated in the guilt of her relative, Katharine Howard, and met the same fate. Of the two surviving daughters—for Sir Thomas had apparently other children—Anne, according to the herald and antiquarian Camden, a competent authority on such subjects, was Born in 1507. As her sister Mary was already married before her in 1520 to Sir Wm. Cary, we must infer that Mary was the elder sister. Any doubt on that head is entirely dispelled by the petition presented to lord Burghley in 1597, by Mary's grandson, the second lord Hunsdon, claiming the earldom of Ormond in virtue of Mary's right as the elder daughter. (fn. 3) It is inconceivable that lord Hunsdon could have been mistaken in so familiar a fact; still less that he should have ventured to prefer a petition to the Queen, in which her mother was described as the younger sister, if she had in truth been the elder. Mary's first husband died of the sweating sickness in 1528, and in 1534 she married a second time, far below her rank and expectations, to the great displeasure of Henry, and of her sister Anne, then queen of England. Her husband, Sir William Stafford, appears among the gentlemen ushers of the King; was a spearman at Calais; poor, but of a good family. She had not only the excuse of marrying for love, but, in the more brilliant advancement of her sister, she seems to have been eclipsed and neglected. Sir Thomas, notoriously penurious, notwithstanding his lucrative appointments, had cast her off in the first year of her widowhood; and it was not until he had been pressed by the King that he was willing to receive her, or make some provision for her maintenance. "As touching your sister's matter"—writes the King to Anne Boleyn—"I have caused Walter Walshe to write to my lord (Rochford) my mind therein; whereby I trust that Eve shall not have power to deceive Adam; (fn. 4) for surely whatsoever is said, it cannot so stand with his honor, but that he must needs take her his natural daughter, now in her extreme necessity." In a letter addressed by Mary to Mr. Secretary Cromwell, three months after her second marriage, she desires him to interpose with the King in favor of her husband: "I am sure," she says, "it is not unknown to you the high displeasure that both he and I have both of the King's highness and the Queen's grace by the reason of our marriage, without their knowledge, wherein we both do yield ourselves faulty, and do knowledge that we did not well to be so hasty, nor so bold, without their knowledge. But one thing, good Master Secretary, consider, that he was young, and love overcame reason; and for my part I saw so much honesty in him that I loved him as well as he did me; and was in bondage; (fn. 5) and glad I was to be at liberty. So that for my part I saw that all the world did set so little by me, and he so much, that I thought I could take no better way but to take him, and to forsake all other ways, and live a poor honest life with him. And so I do put no doubt but we should, if we might once be so happy to recover the King's gracious favor and the Queen's. For well I might a' had a greater man of birth, and a higher; but I assure you I could never a' had one that should a' loved me so well, nor a more honest man. And besides that, he is both come of an ancient stock; and, again, as meet (if it were his Grace's pleasure) to do the King service as any young gentleman in his court." She then asks Cromwell to sue the King's highness, "which ever was wont to take pity, to have pity on us; and that it would please his Grace, of his goodness, to speak to the Queen's grace for us; for, as far as I can perceive, her Grace is so highly displeased with us both, that, without the King be so good lord to us as to withdraw his rigor, and sue for us, we are never like to recover her Grace's favor;—which is too heavy to bear. And seeing there is no remedy, for God's sake help us; for we have been now a quarter of a year married, I thank God, and too late now to call it again But if I were at liberty, and might choose, I assure you, Master Secretary, for my little time, I have spied so much honesty to be in him, that I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen christened. And I believe verily he is in the same case with me; for I believe verily a' would not for- sake me to be a king." Then, a little further on, she adds, "I pray you, good Master Secretary, pray my Lord my father, and my Lady (my mother), to be good to us, and to let us have their blessings, and my husband their good will, and I will never desire more of them. Also, I pray you, desire my lord of Norfolk (her uncle), and my Lord my brother (lord Rochford), to be good to us. I dare not write to them, they are so cruel against us ... I most heartily beseech you to be good unto [my husband], which, for my sake, is a poor banished man, for an honest and goodly cause. And seeing I have read in old books that some, for as just causes, have by kings and queens been pardoned by the suit of good folk, I trust it shall be our chance, through your good help, to come to the same." (fn. 6)
At the ripe age of thirty, and after six years of widowhood, Mary threw herself away for love, on a gentleman holding a very subordinate situation in the household of her royal brother-in-law. Touching as is the simple faith and the earnestness of her epistle, it is not that of a woman of strong character or decided principles. In this respect she affords a feeble reflection of her more illustrious but less happy sister, brought by circumstances into a more dangerous and dazzling position than was ever the lot of Mary; pushed forward by a great party for their own interests only; sacrificed by thoughtless and greedy parents; and requiring greater firmness and a clearer sense of duty than Mary to guide her safely through her perilous career. Her father, Sir Thomas, from the very commencement of the reign, had been employed in various negociations. We first hear of him in arms with his father against the Cornish rebels in the reign of Henry VII. (fn. 7) In. 1511 he was created governor of Norwich Castle in conjunction with Sir Henry Wyatt. Next year he was sent ambassador to the Low Countries; in 1514, to France; in 1516, to the Emperor. In 1518 and 1519 he accompanied the earl of Worcester to France; in 1521 he attended Cardinal Wolsey to the congress at Calais. Notices of him are frequent, and his letters numerous, yet from none of them is it possible to glean the slightest insight into his character. In one thing all accounts of him concur. His besetting vice was avarice: he could not resist the temptation of money. Married when a young man, above his rank, burthened with a numerous and increasing family, the habit of parsimony forced upon him by hard circumstances in earlier years still clung to him in later and more prosperous times. (fn. 8) He outlived his unhappy daughter two years at least, yet not a word escaped him from which posterity can infer how far he bewailed her fate and his own infatuation. The only salient circumstance in his whole life, in which he ventured to show his independence, was his refusal to kiss the Pope's toe in 1529, if Rapin may be trusted. (fn. 9) But as the King his master had been already defying and bearding the Pope in his own lair, for declining to pronounce the divorce, such an act of independence carried no peril with it. Erasmus praises him for his piety, his study of the Scriptures, and his love of learning; and, in the year immediately following the execution of Queen Anne, dedicated to him, then earl of Wiltshire, a short commentary on the 23rd Psalm, at Boleyn's own desire. It would be interesting to discover what were the thoughts and afflictions of a man upon whom the heaviest misfortune had descended that could possibly befal a father,—who had lost his only son and his magnificent daughter under circumstances of so much sorrow, guilt, and infamy. The Psalm he selected for his meditations begins with the verse, "The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing." And, considering the many places of emolument which the King had lavished upon him, and suffered him still to retain after his daughter's guilt and condemnation, we can well understand the application of the fifth verse to his own condition: "Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full." Evidently he was a man of no very deep joys or corroding sorrows. Endowed with a faculty of getting on in the world, and possessing that main requisite for success, a quiet and easy selfishness, unruffled by enthusiasm of any kind, he never courted opposition, or needlessly provoked the resentment, even of the fallen. The Reformers in after times claimed both him and his daughter as the champions of a purer faith and favorers of the Gospel. But, except this act of declining to kiss the Pope's toe, it is not easy to discover any expression or deed in his whole career to justify this presumption, beyond what was perfectly natural in his antagonism to Papal authority, which stood in the way of his daughter's advancement. Both in him and in his royal master such opposition was erroneously regarded by their sycophants as zeal for the Gospel. In 1533 he was chosen with Cranmer to sit in judgment on John Frith, the martyr, and he joined the Archbishop in condemning the prisoner to death for holding an opinion "so notably erroneous," that there is no "corporal presence of Christ within the Host and Sacrament of the altar." (fn. 10) Why he should have acted on such a commission, except it was through the influence of his former chaplain, the primate, it is not easy to divine. But certainly neither this, nor any other action of his life, with the exception just mentioned, can justify us in ranking him among the Reformers of the age. The last notice of him occurs in 1536, shortly after his daughter's death and the outbreak of the Northern Rebellion. It needs no comment. "For my lord of Wiltshire," writes Wriothesly to Cromwell, "he (the King) is very glad you remembered him, and also that you wrote for so good a sum; for his Grace being very merry said, there was a servant of king Edward's, his grandfather, which made once a suit unto him for 1,000 marks, that he might only obtain 20; and so he trusted your request to my lord of Wiltshire should purchase 500l. on such a matter, by the reason it was so great; which, being less, would else percase have wrought nothing with him." (fn. 11) It must be remembered that poor Mary Boleyn had solicited Master Secretary's powerful influence in her favour, "for the love that well I know you do bear to all my blood." But the great statesman understood the difference between a Queen regnant and a Queen deposed. He was not indebted for his rise to needless generosity and kindness, nor by acts of needless generosity did he intend to keep it.
Such was Anne Boleyn's father, stripped of the false glare with which courtiers in the time of Elizabeth, out of complaisance to her vanity, endeavored to invest her grandfather. Of her mother nothing personally is known beyond the calumny propagated by Saunders. (fn. 12) She was fully cognizant of the advances made by Henry to her daughter; of whom I now proceed to speak. (fn. 13)
Anne Boleyn was born in 1507. The supposition, founded on the list of queen Mary's attendants, that she, and not her sister Mary, is the person alluded to as "M. Boleyn," (fn. 14) is worthy of no credit, long as it has maintained its place in popular histories. The mistake has arisen from the habit of confounding one sister with the other; a blunder from which even the late editors of the State Papers of Henry VIII. have not entirely escaped. No one acquainted with the manners of those times will suppose that a child of seven years old would be taken from the nursery, and her name be inserted in an official list of gentlewomen, appointed to attend on the Princess of England at her approaching marriage with Louis XIII., "to do service to the Queen." (fn. 15) Cavendish, who wrote in queen Mary's reign, states merely that "mistress Anne Boleyn, being very young, was sent into the realm of France, and there made one of the French queen's women." (fn. 16) But the French queen there mentioned is Claude, not Mary, who during her life went by the same title. Saunders assigns Anne's first visit to France to the fifteenth year of her age. At whatever period of her life she was taken there by her father, she certainly returned to England in the beginning of the year 1522, (fn. 17) and in March the same year was present at one of those revels at Court, in which Henry delighted. The entry is remarkable: "These things remain with the French queen (Mary), the countess of Devonshire, Mistress Ann Boleyn, Mistress Kare (Miss Carey, related to Mary Boleyn's husband), Mistress Parker," and others-eight in number —"a silk caul of divers colours at 2s. 8d." (each). (fn. 18) The lady here mentioned is, no doubt, Jane Parker, daughter of lord Morley, afterwards married to George Boleyn, and better known as the infamous lady Rochford. The reference enables us to date a letter written by Anne to her father Sir Thomas, in French, in the most puzzling and extraordinary orthography conceivable. (fn. 19) Sir Thomas had sent his daughter word of his desire that she should visit the Court, stating that the queen (Mary) would take the trouble of talking French with her. Anne replies, it will give her great pleasure to converse with one of so much worth and nobility (tante sage et onnete), in order that she may continue to speak French correctly (bene). She proceeds, "Monsieur, I beg of you to excuse me, if my letter is inaccurately written; for I assure you that it is entirely my own; whereas the others I sent you were not done by me, but were only copied with my own hand; and Semmonet (her French master ?) dictates the letter to me, but waits for me to do it myself, for fear that otherwise you would not understand what I send you." Apparently she intends to say—for her meaning is not very clear—that in her previous letters written to her father she had merely transcribed the copy, composed for her by her French teacher, but on this occasion, whilst he dictated the letter, she wrote it after his dictation, and spelled it herself. And a very remarkable specimen of French spelling it is, even for a young lady of the 16th century. (fn. 20) The phraseology is correct enough. The formal expressions in it, very unlike those of a girl of sixteen, betray the hand of the master, whilst the "ottografie" (orthography) displays utter ignorance of French spelling, and was undoubtedly due to herself. That it is not the letter of a mere child is presumable from the statements, to say nothing of the whole tenor of the letter. She had written frequently to Sir Thomas; had been in the habit of speaking French; desires to continue the practice; will find great pleasure in conversing with such a lady of distinction as the Queen,—who, in her turn, it may be presumed, would not feel any great anxiety to improve her knowledge of French by conversing with a mere child of six or seven years old. The letter then must have been composed after she had resided in France, and returned to England.
This is the only authentic specimen we possess of Anne Boleyn's intellectual accomplishments. The genuineness of the letter cannot be disputed. It was bequeathed by archbishop Parker, her chaplain when Queen, to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and must therefore have been preserved with great care by Sir Thomas as a memorial of his daughter's abilities; on whom, if we may believe historians and biographers, he had bestowed great care and attention. Of her personal attractions, contemporary notices by eyewitnesses are not infrequent. The blood of the Ormonds ran in her veins. From her Irish descent she inherited
And, like the Irish Isolt of the great poet, Anne Boleyn was remarkable for the exquisite turn of her neck and her glossy throat. (fn. 21) She was a little, lively, sparkling brunette, with fascinating eyes and long black hair, which, contrary to the sombre fashion of those days, she wore coquettishly floating loosely down her back, interlaced with jewels. The beauty of her eyes and hair struck all beholders alike,—grave ecclesiastics and spruce young sprigs of nobility. "Sitting in her hair on a litter" is the feature at her coronation which seems to have made the deepest impression upon archbishop Cranmer. (fn. 22) "On Sunday morning (1st Sept. 1532), solemnly and in public, Madame Anne being then at Windsor, con li capilli sparsi, completely covered with the most costly jewels, was created by the King countess of Pembroke." (fn. 23) George Wyatt, grandson of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the poet, one of her admirers, describes her, in the fantastic language of the 16th. century, as having "a beauty not so whitely as clear and fresh above all we may esteem, which appeared much more excellent by her favour passing sweet and cheerful. There was found, indeed, upon the side of her nail upon one of her fingers some little show of a nail, which yet was so small, by the report of those that have seen her, as the work-master seemed to leave it an occasion of greater grace to her hand, which, with the tip of one of her other fingers, might be and was usually by her hidden, without any least blemish to it." (fn. 24)
Such was Anne Boleyn when she appeared at the Court of Henry VIII. in the spring of 1522. She was at that time in her sixteenth year, and already, whilst absent in France, had been the subject of a communication between the King and Wolsey. A dispute of long standing had existed between the Butlers of Ireland and the Boleyns respecting the right to the earldom of Ormond. The Butlers had been loyal and important allies of the English sovereign, in their unhappy disputes with their Irish subjects. They were too powerful to be offended, and Henry thought the dispute might easily be adjusted by marrying Anne to Sir Piers Butler. Accordingly he wrote to Surrey, her uncle, (afterwards duke of Norfolk,) then in Ireland, to inquire whether the earl of Ormond, the father of Sir Piers, would consent to the match. In October the Earl, in a letter to Wolsey, gave a favourable reply to the overture. For some reason not known, the proposal lingered, but was not broken off, for in November 1521 Wolsey wrote to the King from Calais to say that when he returned to England he would talk with his Grace on the subject, and bring the match to good effect. At the end of the year Ann had left France, and returned to England; partly, no doubt, in consequence of this project, of which no mention occurs again. (fn. 25)
That a young lady highly connected, the object of some solicitude to the King and the Cardinal, having powerful friends and relatives among the King's chief favourites, should have created a sensation upon her first appearance at Court was natural enough. The knowledge of the French tongue was at that time by no means common among our insular and isolated countrywomen. To be able to speak French, if it was no better written French than Anne Boleyn's, was a powerful recommendation at all courtly festivities, where it was the fashion to pair off an English lady with a French or Italian gentleman to dance and to mask with. (fn. 26) The reputation of her accomplishments was enhanced by the fact that she was selected by the King's sister, Mary, the French Queen, to take part in a small and select circle with whom royalty conversed, and who clearly formed at that time an exclusive party at Court, regarded with some jealousy and disfavour by its older and more Anglican habitués. (fn. 27) Without literally accepting all the confused and inaccurate stories afterwards circulated of her early years, it may well be believed that in a gay and lively court, where amusements were so much in vogue, a young girl freshly returned from France and its fashions would not long pine for admirers. Intercourse between the two sexes was but little restricted. Flirtations, prompted partly by idleness and sentiment, partly by an affected gallantry, and fostered by imitations of the old romances and Arthurian legends, furnished a pretext for equivocal passion, which might be merely poetical, were sometimes prosaically perilous. In Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry earl of Surrey we have poets of ripe age and growing families devoured by the pangs of love, and devoting themselves to the celebration of the charms of a youthful mistress,—their own woes, hopes, and despondency,—with all the imaginary ardour of young lovers not yet arrived at the age of discretion. To this day it is impossible to decide whether the fair Geraldine, in the case of the latter, was the object of a real or mythical attachment; and in the former, whether "his love called Anna," a word "that changeth not, though it be turned and made in twain," was a substantial incorporation of flesh and blood, or only an incorporeal quibble. To a woman possessed of any firmness of character, and brought up in the rigid severity of the old Faith, an ordeal such as this would have proved comparatively harmless. No dangerous sentimentalism, perhaps no lively imagination, had yet been developed in the female sex, to tinge with its own colours, and invest with its own meaning, the artificial gallantry of the tilt yard and the masque. But times were hard at hand when the old Faith was fast losing its influence. A new Faith, apparently less rigid and severe, denouncing the ancient strictness as needless and ungodly, was making rapid advances, especially among the gay and cultivated votaries of the Court. Protestantism found two sets of partizans,—those who rejected the formalities of fasts and the legal observances of the old Church, as unsatisfactory to their sense of righteousness, as the thin leaves of mortal superstition" overshadowing the real fruit of immortal truth,—and those who hated restraints of every kind, disguising their animosity to truth and righteousness by bitter invectives against the shortcomings of those who professed both. So, for opposite reasons, whilst Protestantism had acceptance with the godly, it was equally acceptable to the scoffer and the licentious. The greatest favourers of the Reformation in France, from which Anne Boleyn had just returned, were the King himself and his darling sister Marguerite; and the writings of the one are scarcely less licentious and offensive than the actions of the other, or more inconsistent with purity. Gallantry was the fashion. It was not, therefore, to be expected that a young girl who had been accustomed to see it thus exemplified in the highest quarters should severely renounce it when directed to herself.
To the dangerous indulgence in this fantastic fashion we may probably refer the following anecdote, told in Anne's praise, strangely enough, by George Wyatt, her admirer and apologist:—"Among these (choice spirits) two were observed to be of principal mark: the one was Sir Thomas Wiat, the elder; the other was the King himself. The knight, in the beginning, coming to behold the sudden appearance of this new beauty, came to be holden and surprised somewhat with the sight thereof; after, much more with her witty and graceful speech his ear also had him chained unto her; so as finally his heart seemed to say, I could gladly yield to be tied for ever with the knot of her love, as somewhere in his verses hath been thought his meaning was to express. She, on the other part, finding him to be then married, and in the knot to have been tied then ten years, rejected all his speech of love; but yet in such sort as whatsoever tended to regard of her honor, she showed not to scorn, for the general favor and good will she perceived all men to bear him." He then proceeds to tell how Sir Thomas on one occasion snatched from her a small jewel, "hanging by a lace out of her pocket," which he thrust into his bosom, and refused to return; and that the King at the same time, after less honorable solicitations, fell to win her by treaty of marriage; "and in his talk took from her a ring, and that wore upon his little finger. ...Within a few days after it happened that the King, sporting himself at bowls, had in his company ... the duke of Suffolk, Sir F. Bryan, and Sir T. Wiat, himself being more than ordinarily pleasantly disposed; and in his game taking an occasion to affirm a cast to be his that plainly appeared to be otherwise, those on the other side said, with his Grace's leave, they thought not; and yet still he, pointing with his finger whereon he wore her ring, replied often it was his; and specially to the knight he said, 'Wiat, I tell thee it is mine,' smiling upon him withal. Sir Thomas, at length, casting his eye upon the King's finger, perceived that the King meant the lady whose ring that was, which he well knew, and pausing a little, and finding the King bent to pleasure, after the words repeated again by the King, the knight replied, 'And if it may like your Majesty to give me leave to measure it, I hope it will be mine,' and withal took from his neck the lace whereat hung the tablet (miniature), and therewith stooped to measure the cast; which the King espying, knew, and had seen her wear, and therewithal spurned away the bowl, and said, 'It may be so, but then I am deceived,' and so broke up the game." (fn. 28)
Now, if this story had come down to us from an enemy, we might have rejected it as a mere calumny; but, strangely enough, we owe it to Anne Boleyn's warmest apologist, the grandson of Sir Thomas, who evidently narrates it for the purpose of clearing the memory of both from popular scandal! But here, as in other anecdotes of the reign, there is a difficulty which shakes the credit of the narrator. Sir Thomas Wiat, by all accounts, was born in 1503, and is said to have been married and had a son, the celebrated Sir Thomas, as early as 1521. How could he have been married ten years, as his grandson affirms more than once, at Anne Boleyn's appearance in the English Court? Or must we think that the anecdote refers to a later period in her history, when the King's attachment to her was known to all the world; and that even then she allowed herself to be approached on terms of fashionable gallantry by the other sex, inconsistent with her expected exaltation? Unquestionably, after she became Queen she permitted herself to be addressed by her inferiors with a freedom of language repugnant to the dignity of her sex; and she even interchanged jests with them when they ventured to express their regard for her in terms more expressive of admiration than respect. Lively and attractive as she might be, she had not the qualities required to inspire awe. In the estimation of those about her, she never at any time rose above the mistress; and her own equivocal position with the King lowered the whole moral tone of the circle in which she moved, and lent encouragement to laxity and to licentiousness no English Court had witnessed before. How, indeed, could it be otherwise?
Granting that the King was troubled with thoughts of his succession, and doubts of the legitimacy of his marriage with Katharine, can any one imagine that a pure and scrupulous conscience would have adopted such a method as this for removing his perplexities? Would a king of any magnanimity and self-respect have condescended to mix himself up with such intrigues, still less have entered into competition with the hangers-on of his own Court for the favours of a young coquette, who had nothing but her lively airs and thoughtless gaiety to recommend her? Could such a connection be considered as the best method for extinguishing pretensions to his throne, in the event of his decease? Whether it was the contrast between her and Katharine that piqued his fancy, or whether from idle gallantry he fell into a more serious passion, the fascination Anne exercised over him was complete. He awoke from it as from a dream; but only to visit with a terrible Nemesis all who had opposed and all who had been instrumental in furthering his wishes,—a Nemesis equally terrible and equally unjust, considering the influence of his own conduct and his own example. In her excuse, it may be said that she was young and thoughtless—was thrown into temptations unawares,—was put forward by sycophants, who despised the instrument of their own selfish purposes, and in her highest exaltation never forgot the means by which she had risen. For it was not merely the Cardinal whom they wished to pull down, but the whole hierarchy, of whose wealth and influence many of them were envious, and whose employments as statesmen and diplomatists they regarded partly with jealousy, and partly disliked from a better motive, as detrimental to the morals of the clergy, and destructive of their spiritual character and functions. The whole party who now gathered round Anne Boleyn were anticlerical. They had their own reasons for disliking the Church and churchmen. They were joined by Reformers, actuated by purer motives, who believed, like Cranmer, that good might spring out of evil, and saw in this union of Henry and Anne Boleyn, as they thought, a better omen for the inauguration of the Gospel. But none of them, whatever their principles, had a word of pity for her at her fall, or, before it, a word of warning against the dangerous courses into which she was now drifting.
It was in April 1522 that honors and emoluments began to fall thickly upon Sir Thomas Boleyn. On the 24th of April he was made treasurer of the household; on the 29th April, steward of Tunbridge, master of the hunt there, constable of the castle and chamberlain of Tunbridge, receiver and bailiff of Bradsted, and keeper of the manor of Penshurst; in 1523, keeper of the park of Thundersley, in Essex; in the same year, keeper of Westwood Park, Notts; in 1524, steward of Swaffham, Norfolk. In 1525 he alone, of all the commoners of England, was made a baron at the creation of the duke of Richmond. In 1529 he was appointed Lord Privy Seal, with a salary of 20s. a day during pleasure; that is, an annuity between 4,000l. and 5,000l. Dignities and emoluments continued to be showered upon him until the spring of 1536, when, on his daughter's disgrace and death, he retired from public life, and is heard of no more.
What were Henry's intentions in the first instance, however eventually they shaped themselves, we know not. An idle gallantry betrayed him into an incontrollable passion. It is clear that he felt piqued and uneasy at the attentions paid by others to Anne Boleyn, and endeavoured to thwart them; but he had not yet discovered his intentions to herself, still less to others; and it is certain that he had only revealed them partially to Wolsey. Though the Cardinal knew of the King's inclinations to Anne, he was unconscious at first of the serious form they were destined to take; and if the report be true, that he had turned his eyes on the duchess of Alençon,—a report of which we have no authoritative confirmation,—it was not until 1525 that Wolsey became aware of the real state of the King's mind. Unquestionably, in 1526 matters had so far advanced that Clerk was only watching his opportunity to urge the divorce at the Court of Rome. Cavendish reports, and I think truly, that when the King first disclosed his intentions to Wolsey, the latter fell upon his knees, and endeavored, without effect, to dissuade him. (fn. 29) We have, however, a very singular piece of intelligence, preserved in one of Wolsey's letters to the King, which clearly shows that he differed from his master on this important matter, and from the very first was suspected of being unfavorable to the King's intentions,—a notion which rankled long in Henry's breast, and, fanned into a flame by the suggestions of Anne Boleyn and her friends, ended at last in the Cardinal's ruin. The letter runs as follows:
"Sire, After my most lowly and humble recommendations: It may please your Highness to understand that the message sent unto me this morning from the same, by Master Wolman, hath not a little troubled my mind, considering that your Highness should think or conject upon such a message as I sent unto your Highness by Master Sampson, that I should either doubt or should [seek to hinder] your secret matter. For I take God to record that there is nothing earthly that I covet so much as the advancing thereof; not doubting, for anything that I have heard, [that] this overture (proposal for the divorce) hath come to the Queen's knowledge [by]_ (fn. 30) than I have done before. And, as I said unto Master Sampson, if your brother had never known her, by reason whereof there was no affinity contracted, yet in that she was married in facie ecclesiæ, and contracted per verba de præsenti, there did arise impedimentum publicæ honestatis, which is no less impedimentum ad dirimendum matrimonium than affinity; whereof (of which impediment) the bull maketh no express mention; and the words that I said unto Master Sampson imported no doubt in me, for those following were my very words." That is to say, the King had secretly determined to disavow his marriage with Katharine on the ground that she was "carnally known" to his brother, which she always steadfastly denied, and regard his marriage as a nullity. But Wolsey, on the contrary, without insisting on this, the King's favorite argument, was content to rest the impediment upon the more tenable and ostensible ground, that as she had been married in the face of the Church, the presumption was that the marriage with Arthur must be considered valid; and, without entering into any minute inquiry as to the truth or falsehood of Katharine's allegation, the marriage ceremonies, contracted openly and in the face of the Church, constituted a sufficient impediment to her marriage with Henry. By them she was his brother's wife, and she must in the eye of the law be so reputed. Whilst, therefore, the dipensation removed all other impediments, it left this impediment untouched, and never mentioned it. In other words, none, as Wolsey thought, could dispute this objection, as they might and did question the other, urged by the King and his advisers. He then proceeds: "When Sampson showed unto me that the Queen was very stiff and obstinate, affirming that your brother did never know her carnally, and that she desired counsel, as well of your subjects as of strangers, I said this devise could never come of her head, but of some that were learned, and these were the worst points that could be imagined for the impeaching of this matter (for hindering the divorce); for [if it were] that she would resort unto the counsel of strangers or of [others], she intended to make all the counsel of the world, France except, as a party against it (the divorce); wherefore I [thought] it convenient, till it were known what should succeed of the Pope, and to what point the French king might be brought, your Grace should handle her both gently and doulcely, as I instructed the said Master Sampson. This was, in effect, the whole substance of my charge committed unto him; at the declaration whereof was the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk present.
At the reverence of God, Sir, and most humbly prostrate at your feet, I beseech your Grace, whatsoever report shall be made unto the same, to conceive none opinion of me but that in this matter, and in all other things that may touch your honor and surety, I shall be as constant as any living creature, not letting (stopping) for any danger, obloquy, displeasure, or persecution. Yea, and if all men did fail and swerve, your Highness shall find me fast and constant, according to my most bounden duty, assuredly trusting that your Highness, of your high virtue, will defend the cause of your most humble servant and subject against all those that will anything speak or allege to the contrary; like as Master Wolman shall show unto your Highness, unto whom I most humbly beseech the same to give no less credence than to myself, praying our Lord to preserve your most noble and royal estate, giving unto the same the accomplishment of your desires, to the attaining whereof I shall stick with your Highness usque ad mortem. At my place besides Westminster, the first day of July, (fn. 31) by your most humble chaplain. T. CARDlis EBOR." (fn. 32)
It seems to me that there are several conclusions fairly deducible from this extraordinary letter. It is, I think, obvious that in the first instance Henry had resolved to cut the knot of his difficulties, after his own trenchant and arbitrary fashion, by declaring his own marriage null and void, in the first instance, without any formal trial. As Katharine was devout, obedient, fatherless, and friendless, and any interposition by the Emperor in her behalf was to be dreaded, Henry made no doubt that she might be flattered or frightened into compliance with his wishes; still more, if, as he evidently expected, a bull could be procured from Rome declaring the dispensation illegal or invalid,—an authority to which Katharine would implicitly submit. The Cardinal, not quite so certain of success with the Pope, not sure of the French king's policy,—and his conjunction with the Emperor would have proved a formidable obstacle to the King's designs,—recommended Henry to treat the Queen "gently and tenderly," expecting, probably, more would be gained by mildness than by violence. Perhaps also he was not sorry for a pretext of moderating the impatience of the King, and sheltering a victim, whose only sin it was that she was an innocent obstacle to her husband's impetuous desires. He must have known also, as a churchman, that her cause was his cause, and the triumph of her enemies his own eventual downfall. He had far too much penetration not to see that a cordial union between himself and the Boleyns was impossible, even though he was not so deadly an enemy to the Reformation as More, or Fisher, or Lee, or many others. This moderate advice, interpreted by his previous opposition to the King's project, which no protestations on his part, however vehement, could entirely remove, only exposed him to greater danger and obloquy from his enemies, all of whom, seeing his ruin in the advancement of Anne Boleyn, misrepresented every delay and every measure, even of prudence and precaution, on his part, as an impediment to the King's project, and a betrayal of the Royal cause.
But for the present his advice and management were indispensable. The Pope was in captivity, and all expectation from him of a favorable sentence was more distant than ever. The alliance with France was unsettled, and it was by no means certain how its King would take Henry's determination on a divorce, and perhaps a new marriage, by which the interests of his own son or of himself would be seriously compromised. Besides, with all the King's impatience he was governed by one strong passion, the love of popularity. Bold as he was, he was not prepared to face the indignation of his subjects, and the outcry of all Europe. Finally, a new and unexpected difficulty had arisen. Katharine, from whom entire submission was expected, had resolved to defend her own cause, and desired counsel. She must be heard. It was monstrous to suppose that she, who was queen of England, daughter of a king, and niece of an emperor, could be debarred from that justice which was readily accorded to the meanest of the King's subjects. It was not a civil but an ecclesiastical suit, and the Pope was the last appeal. The Defender of the Faith, the great champion of Papal authority against Lutheranism, must abandon all his former principles and sacrifice his renown, if he flaunted his opposition in the face of the Spiritual Ruler of Christendom, and set in his own person the most flagrant example of disobedience. For this Henry was not prepared. Was it not possible to induce the Pope to see things in the light that the King himself saw them?
Till within a short period of the date of Wolsey's letter, it is clear that Katharine was not aware of the full extent of her misfortunes. The whole affair was carried on with such profound secresy, that, with the exception of the Imperial ambassador, Mendoza, it is not once alluded to in the despatches of the foreign ambassadors, nor does the name of Anne Boleyn ever occur. In 1527 it was buzzed about in every ear, and every tongue was talking of it. If Katharine was aware of the attentions paid by her consort to Anne, her suspicions were lulled, or her remonstrances disregarded. If she complained that after twenty years of married life, without dispute on one side or the other, the legality of her union with the King was now called in question, and the legitimacy of her only daughter imperilled, she was boldly answered that no divorce was intended. It was, she was assured, a mere discussion of an abstract question, which would probably be determined in her favor. On his part, the King himself was not certain of his mistress. He had not at first been able to obtain from her any distinct avowal of her sentiments. In the hottest fit of expectation she would suddenly withdraw from Court, and leave him to mourn her absence. "I have been in great agony," he writes to her on one occasion, "about the contents of your letters, not knowing whether to construe them to my disadvantage, as in some others of them, or to my advantage. I beg to know expressly your intentions touching the love between us. Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail, or find a place in your affection. This has prevented me from naming you my mistress. ... But if it please you to do the office of a true, loyal mistress, and give yourself, body and heart, to me who have been and mean to be your loyal servant, I promise you not only the name, but that I shall make you my sole mistress, remove all others from my affection, and serve you only. Give me a full answer on which I can rely; and if you do not like to reply by letter, appoint some place where I can have it by word of mouth." (fn. 33)
It is obvious that the promise of making her his sole mistress, and removing all others from his affection, had not been given until some considerable time after the commencement of their intimacy; and when thus given some months must have elapsed before he could ascertain her intentions, and give effect to his promise. She was not a woman of any high principle; but, like her father, she was not deficient in worldly wisdom and ambition. That she loved the King, at any time, is questionable,—that she would stoop to his advances, as others had done, and throw away her chances of an honorable marriage, was not to be expected. She had been already proposed by the King himself for the son and heir of the earl of Ormond. But if the King's intentions were honorable, how were they to be fulfilled? How was Katharine to be removed, and herself bear the King's name, and be installed the sole mistress in his affections? Till that was assured he could not expect that she should give up all other suitors, and bind herself to him. The very promise thus made by him would augment her own value in her own esteem, and raise expectations not to be satisfied except by the fulfillment of his word.
Whether but for this letter the King would ever have thought of a divorce, it is needless to speculate. Having once resolved upon it, it was necessary to carry his resolution into effect. Passion blinded him to its difficulties; blinded him also, for the time, to all consideration for the rights and feelings of others,—to all means, however vile, however degrading, for carrying his wishes into effect. I would gladly have passed over in silence this dark and revolting page of history, could it have been done with justice. It is not pleasant to have to chronicle the artifices, the dissimulation, the fraud, the intimidation employed to hunt down a forlorn and defenceless woman; still less to see her natural protector at the head of her persecutors, armed with the whole power and wealth of his kingdom, and employing them to gain his end;—unscrupulous in his animosity against those who questioned or opposed his wishes, as he was unscrupulous in rewarding those who advanced them. That a grand divorce suit, in which the King figured as the principal actor, should be the sole theme of conversation and discussion for many years,—that the sanctity and secrecy of the marriage bed should be laid bare in its most minute details,—that roving commissions should be appointed to gather up the loose gossip that passed in prince Arthur's chamber,—that the martial relations between the King and Katharine should be the common talk at every corner, and on every ale-bench,—was odious enough. But it was far worse, when long before any sentence of separation was pronounced, when the illegality of his marriage with Katharine had not yet been determined, as if in contempt of the law which he had evoked, the King openly paraded Anne Boleyn as his wife, and lodged her sumptuously and even ostentatiously in one wing of his palace, while Katharine remained neglected in the other. Had the King been fully convinced of the nullity of his marriage, neither he, nor any other man in his position, who regarded the honor and respect of his future wife and queen, would have indulged in the unreserved familiarities with which he treated Anne Boleyn. Nor would any woman of purity or delicacy have permitted them.
In May 1527 (fn. 34) a collusive suit was instituted with the greatest secrecy, in which the King was summoned to appear before Wolsey as legate, at his house in Westminster, to answer to the objection alleged against him—as in an ordinary court of divorce—for cohabiting with Katharine, his brother Arthur's wife, during eighteen years. The Cardinal, addressing the King, then sitting on his right hand, explained the reason of the summons. As legate of the Holy See it was his duty to correct offences against the marriage law, and therefore, out of consideration for his office, and regard for his Majesty's spiritual welfare, he had, in conjunction with the archbishop of Canterbury, visited his Majesty at Greenwich, and requested the King to appear on a certain day before him, that he might take cognizance of the cause. But as it was not fit that a subject should cite his sovereign to appear before him, he begged to hear from the King's own lips whether he consented to these proceedings, and was content that the Archbishop should act as assessor. On receiving from the King an answer in the affirmative, Wolsey proceeded to inform his Majesty of the complaint made against him for his marriage with Katharine; that though a dispensation had been granted him, yet as the validity of it was questioned, the King ought to feel some scruples of conscience on the subject, and dread the vengeance of the Almighty, which sooner or later overtakes those who disobey Him. He then demanded from the King what he had to say in justification of this conduct. The King read his reply from a written paper, requesting, as he could not always appear in person, that Dr. John Bell might be received as his proctor. After some formal proceedings Wolsey prorogued the court until 20th May, when Dr. Bell appeared and put in a paper containing the King's justification, but admitting the marriage and the impediment. After several prorogations Wolman, the promoter of the suit, produced his objections, of which Bell demanded a copy; and as the case was very difficult of decision, the Cardinal determined that the most learned theologians and civilians should be summoned,—among others, the bishops of Rochester, Lincoln, and London,—to give their opinion on the matter. (fn. 35) The proceedings were never resumed. It may be, for their obvious absurdity. It may be that as an appeal would always lie from the Papal legate to the Pope himself, Katharine would demur to Wolsey's jurisdiction. More probable still, it was feared that Wolsey and the Archbishop, by sitting as judges in an inferior court, would incapacitate themselves from sitting in the Legatine Court. Hence the extreme secrecy observed in these proceedings, which have escaped the notice of all historians. Had they been known, they would have effectually excluded Wolsey from being joined with Campeggio in the Papal Commission. If the Pope had remained at liberty, he might possibly have confirmed the sentence of the Court below, and refused all appeal. He was now a captive; worse still, he was in the power of the Emperor. Some other course must be taken.
The King was resolved upon a divorce at all hazards. His letter to Anne Boleyn admits of no other meaning. No otherwise could he have fulfilled his promise that he would remove all others from his affections, and that she alone should bear his name. He did not at this time urge the plea of conscientious scruples, or the dread of a disputed succession. How could he? It would have been absurd and inconsistent, for he had himself only a few weeks before declared that Mary was his heiress, and he had heightened the terms of his late agreement with the French king, on the plea that she would undoubtedly succeed him, and then whoever married her would become king of England. Moreover any such plea, though it might serve to deceive the Pope, had no weight with his own subjects. Their objection to Mary's marriage with a French prince was founded on the fear that by such a match they might hereafter have a foreigner for their sovereign; a fear utterly groundless, if there ever had been any doubt of a female succession. Whatever might be the King's persuasion afterwards, by dint of controversy and frequent repetition, his conscientious scruples at this time had no strong basis of reality; no stronger than his assertion to Charles and other potentates, that his proceedings in this matter were not influenced by any other motive than a conscientious desire to have certain doubts and scruples determined by the judgment of the learned. That judgment he had anticipated already; he had taken every precaution to have it decided in his favor, by the appointment of a court selected by himself, and by securing the Pope's consent to his wishes beforehand. It had been his intention, in the first instance, to have managed the whole affair with such complete secrecy that Katharine should know nothing of what was going on until all opportunity for appeal and remonstrance should be shut out. She was to become the victim of legal proceedings in which no plea on her part should be heard, and be condemned by a tribunal of the King's own choosing, which she could neither challenge nor decline,—not unlike the process by which she was afterwards condemned by Cranmer. (fn. 36) The Pope's captivity, as we have seen, threw insuperable difficulties in the way. Further, Katharine, to the consternation of the King and his advisers, had received intimation of the King's real intentions. Contrary to her nature, she had shown herself "very obstinate,"—in other words, she had resolved to maintain her rights by the legal means allowed in such cases. For this purpose she had demanded counsel.
The demand could not be refused, at least not with safety, until the assent of France had been fully secured, and the knot between the two kingdoms had been so indissolubly tied that no means should be left to the Emperor for dissolving it. Two other precautions were requisite: first, that Katharine should have no opportunity of communicating with her nephew, or that all such communication should be ineffectual; next, that, if possible, her appeal to Rome should not pass beyond England; and that the Pope, by delegating her cause from himself to an English court, should be precluded from interfering. To obtain these results there was need of a skilful negociator, who was perfectly well acquainted with all the minute and delicate points of this odious business. For that purpose no one was so fit an instrument as Wolsey. Yet the King had secrets he did not communicate even to his great minister, and meant to take his own way, when he saw his opportunity, without regarding the Cardinal's advice. Nihil est supra malitiam mulieris, he had been heard to say in the recent discussions; and he was destined to experience the truth of his own words.
So Wolsey started on his mission,—ostensibly to settle the particulars of the late treaty—really to divulge to Francis so much of the King's purpose as might be confided to his ears without danger. But his mission embraced other matters of a more difficult and delicate nature, which he was only to press as opportunity allowed him. (fn. 37) He was to feel, if possible, the pulse of the nation,—to discover how the bishops stood affected towards the King's purpose—especially Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, whose fearless, outspoken opposition, and high reputation for sanctity, the King dreaded, and whom he suspected of corresponding secretly with Katharine. Above all, he was to ascertain the best means of communicating with the Pope, and manipulating His Holiness in conformity with the King's wishes. If the Pope leaned to the Imperialists, and was refractory, he was to be coerced by a declaration from Wolsey and the French cardinals that all his acts during his captivity would be held as invalid. If he showed himself more towardly, he should be asked to delegate his authority to Wolsey for a time; if not as the Pope's vicegerent, yet at least as clothed with all his spiritual jurisdiction for determining the King's cause as irrevocably and infallibly as the Pope himself.
The Cardinal's train consisted of 900 horsemen, (fn. 38) and included in it certain lords spiritual and temporal, besides Sir Thos. More, Sir Henry Guildford, Sir Francis Bryan, Stephen Gardiner, and other persons of note. He was attended by Cavendish, his gentleman usher, who has left by far the most minute and interesting account of this embassy, although his name is not mentioned in the official list of Wolsey's attendants. (fn. 39) To the rising party of the extreme Reformers, now rapidly becoming popular, such pomp and such magnificence appeared inconsistent with his spiritual character, and furnished another instance of his ambition to eclipse royalty itself, by assuming the insignia of royalty. They knew little of the inner feelings of the man, or the real purposes of his visit. Like vulgar observers, they judged by the outside alone; and thoughtless historians have been implicitly guided by their judgment. It has not been sufficiently considered that so large and imposing a train was necessary for protection as well as for display, both in crossing the sea and in passing the Imperial borders, at a time when the disposition of the Emperor was unknown, and with whom the Cardinal was no special favorite; (fn. 40) that in descending to the seacoast he had to travel through the county of Kent, not wholly recovered from the disaffection caused by the Amicable Grant, and such a display was far more likely to impress its inhabitants with a sense of the power and majesty of the administration than any law or individual punish- ment could effect. More than all, Wolsey was invested with unusual powers, as "the King's lieutenant, and not as an ordinary ambassador, combining for the time in his own person the highest spiritual and temporal dignity of the realm." (fn. 41) Cavendish has transmitted an amusing account of the Cardinal's estimate of his novel functions, and the necessity he was under of schooling "his noblemen and gentlemen," and giving them lessons for their behavior on this occasion;—lessons which had not been necessary if he had been the proud and imperious prelate he is often represented to have been. After calling them into his privy chamber, and commending their diligence in his service, he proceeded to explain to them more precisely the nature of his authority: "Ye shall understand that the King's majesty, upon certain weighty considerations, hath, for the more advancement of his royal dignity, assigned me in this journey to be his lieutenant-general; and what reverence belongeth to the same I will tell you. For my part, I must, by virtue of my commission, assume and take upon me, in all honors and degrees, to have all such service and reverence as to his Highness' presence is meet and due. And for my part ye shall see me that I will not omit one jot thereof." (fn. 42) After impressing upon them the necessity of strict attention, he proceeded: "Now to the point of the Frenchmen's nature. Ye shall understand that their disposition is such that they will be at the first meeting as familiar with you as (if) they had been acquainted with you long before, and commune with you in the French tongue, as though ye understood every word they spake; therefore, in like manner, be ye as familiar with them again as they be with you. If they speak to you in the French tongue, speak you to them in the English tongue; for if you understand not them, they shall no more understand you. (fn. 43) And my Lord, speaking merrily to one of the gentlemen there, being a Welshman, 'Rice,' (fn. 44) quoth he, 'speak thou Welsh to him, 'and I am well assured that thy Welsh shall be 'more diffuse (difficult) to him than his French shall 'be to thee;' and so, urging them in all their behavior to study 'gentleness and humanity,' he dismissed them." (fn. 45)
He started on his journey from Westminster, 3rd July 1527, passing through London, and over London Bridge, instead of taking the usual way by water. A description of the cavalcade will be found in Cavendish. (fn. 46) The Cardinal himself, as usual, rode with stirrups of copper gilt, on a mule trapped with crimson velvet upon velvet. Before him were borne two crosses of silver, two pillars of the same metal, the Great Seal of England, and his Cardinal's hat. He lodged the first night two miles beyond Deptford, at the house of Sir Richard Wiltshire. Here he was met by the Archbishop. Next day he rode to Rochester, and was entertained by the Bishop. The third day he reached Faversham, and was lodged in the abbey. From Faversham he wrote to the King, informing him of the particulars of his journey, and stating that this portion of the realm was never in better order; "clear without any such talkings, rumours, or seditious speakings, as was reported and noysed." (fn. 47) He goes on: "The first night of this my journey I lodged at Sir John Wiltshire's house, where met me my lord of Canterbury; with whom, after communication had of your secret matter (the divorce), and such other things as have been hitherto done therein, I showed him how the knowledge thereof is come to the Queen's grace, and how displeasantly she taketh it, and what your Highness hath done for the staying and pacification of her; declaring unto her that your Grace hath hitherto nothing intended, ne done, but only for the searching and trying out of the truth, proceeding upon occasion given by the French party, and doubts moved therein by the bishop of Tarbes. Which fashion and manner liked my said lord of Canterbury very well. And noting his countenance, gesture, and manner,—although he somewhat marvelled how the Queen should come to the knowledge thereof, and by whom, thinking that your Grace might constrain and cause her to show the discoverers thereof unto your Highness,—yet, as I perceive, he is not much altered or turned from his first fashion, expressly affirming that however displeasantly the Queen took this matter, yet the truth and judgment of the law must have place and be followed. And so proceeding further with him in communication, I have sufficiently instructed him how he shall order himself in case the Queen do demand his counsel in the said matter; which mine advertisement (advice) he doth not only like, but also hath promised me to follow the same accordingly." (fn. 48) Then, to dissipate any suspicions that Warham (who does not appear to have possessed much penetration or firmness) might have entertained of Wolsey's mission, he tells the Archbishop that he was sent into France to concert means for the Pope's delivery;—a confidential communication, at which his Grace was "much rejoiced." (fn. 49)
The Archbishop was easily disposed of; a harder task remained at Rochester, where the Cardinal fell into communication with its bishop, the celebrated Fisher. He was now closely verging on threescore years and ten. (fn. 50) Entirely withdrawn from the world, unlike most other bishops of those days, he had devoted himself to a life of prayer and fasting. Calumny, busy against the rest of the hierarchy, never wagged its tongue in disparagement of Fisher, except for his excessive study and protracted austerities. His favourable opinion of the King's divorce would weigh with many,—undoubtedly with his great friend More, whose assistance in the cause the King had not yet abandoned all hopes of securing. Wolsey approached him warily, on his weak side. He enlarged on the calamities of the Church, and what things were devised, as well in prayer and fasting as other good deeds, and at your Grace's commandment by me indicted for the redress of the same. After which communication I asked him, whether he had heard lately any tidings from the Court, and whether any man had been sent unto him from the Queen's grace. At which question he somewhat stayed and paused; nevertheless, in conclusion he answered, how truth it is, that of late one was sent unto him from the Queen's Grace, who brought him a message only by mouth, without disclosure of any particularity, that certain matters there were between your Grace and her lately chanced, wherein she would be glad to have his counsel, alleging that your Highness was content she should so have; whereunto, as he saith, he made answer like-wise by mouth, that he was ready and prone to give unto her his counsel in anything that concerned or touched only herself, but in matters concerning your Highness and her, he would nothing do, without knowledge of your pleasure and express commandment;—and herewith dismissed the messenger. After declaration whereof, I replied and said, `My Lord, ye and I have been of an old acquaintance, and the one hath loved and trusted the other; wherefore, postponing all doubt and fear, ye may be frank and plain with me, like as I, for my part, will be with you.' And so I demanded of him whether he had any special conjecture or knowledge what the matter should be wherein the Queen desired to have his advice. Where-unto he answered, that by certain report and relation he knew nothing; howbeit, upon conjecture arising upon such things as he had heard, he thinketh it was for a divorce to be had between your Highness and the Queen; which to conject he was specially moved, upon a tale brought unto him by his brother from London, who showed him, that, being there in a certain company, he heard say that things were set forth, sounding to such a purpose; whereupon, and then calling to remembrance the question I moved unto him by your Grace's commandment, with the message sent unto him from the Queen, he verily supposed such a matter to be in hand. And this was all he knoweth therein, as he constantly affirmeth, without that that ever he sent any word or knowledge thereof, by his faith, to the Queen's grace, or any other living person."
When he had thus probed the old man's confidence to the bottom, Wolsey began in appearance to be very confidential. After telling Fisher that the King, for excellent reasons, had not intended to disclose this secret, except to very few, yet, seeing that his motives were so grossly misrepresented, Wolsey had been commissioned by the King to discover the whole affair to Fisher, first taking an oath of him to keep it secret, and communicate his opinions about it to Wolsey. He then proceeded to explain how, at the late negociations for marrying the French king to the princess Mary, the bishop of Tarbes had desired to know what had been done "for taking away the impediment of that marriage whereof my lady Princess cometh;" and on perusing the bull of dispensation he had said that though he supposed the bull was not sufficient, as the Pope could not dispense in a matter de jure divino, yet he agreed that all further discussion upon it should be postponed until Wolsey's visit to France,—where, it may be remarked by the way, it never was moved. For this reason the Cardinal said he had gathered many opinions of the "learned, who had right clerkly handled the same, so as the books excrescunt in magna volumina." ... "And thus declaring the whole matter unto him at length, as was devised with your Highness at York Place, I added that, by what means it was not yet deprehended, an inkling of this matter is come to the Queen's knowledge; who being suspicious, and casting further doubts than was meant or intended, hath broken with your Grace thereof, after a very displeasant manner, saying that by my procurement and setting forth a divorce was purposed between her and your Highness; and by her manner, behaviour, words, and messages, sent to divers, hath published, divulged and opened the same, (fn. 51) and what your Highness hath said unto her therein, to the purging of the matter; how and after what sort your Grace hath used yourself to attain to the knowledge of him, that should be author of that tale unto her. And I assure your Grace, my lord of Rochester, hearing the process of the matter after this sort, did arrect (attribute) great blame unto the Queen, as well for giving so light credence in so weighty a matter, as also, when she heard it, to handle the same in such fashion as rumor and bruit should spread thereof, which might not only be some stay and let to the universal peace ... but also to the great danger and peril of your Grace's succession, if the same should be further spread and divulged; and [he] doubted not, but that if he might speak with her, and disclose unto her all the circumstances of the matter as afore, he should cause her greatly to repent, humble, and submit herself unto your Highness; considering that the thing done by your Grace in this matter was so necessary and expedient, and the Queen's act herein so perilous and dangerous."
Thus Fisher was persuaded that the sole object of the King was, not to insist upon the objections to his marriage with Katharine, but rather to find reasons, by the advice of skilful doctors and casuists, to satisfy the world that it was good and lawful, whilst Wolsey contrived to make him believe that Katharine in her impatience was hindering the King's thoughtful and benevolent intentions. A wiser man than Fisher might have been deceived by so plausible a story, which shifted the blame from the guilty to the innocent, and contrived to make the worse appear the better cause. In his attempt, however, to represent Katharine as the author of all this scandal, the Cardinal had advanced to the extreme verge of discretion. Fisher in his simplicity was desirous of expostulating with Katharine for her wilfulness and disobedience. Such an endeavor would have discovered all. "Howbeit," writes the Cardinal, "I have so persuaded him that he will nothing speak or do therein, or anything counsel her, but as shall stand with your pleasure; for, he saith, although she be Queen of this realm, yet he knowledgeth you for his High Sovereign Lord and King, and will not therefore otherwise behave himself in all matters concerning or touching your person than as he shall be by your Grace expressly commanded." Thus Wolsey contrived to alienate from the unhappy Queen the only adviser on whose sincerity and honesty she could implicitly rely. Fox, the bishop of Winchester, was old and blind, and had long retired from public life; Clerk, the bishop of Bath, was in Paris; Tunstal, bishop of London, was in Wolsey's train; West, the bishop of Ely, was confined to his diocese by a sore leg; Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, had been already prejudiced against her. The only prelate, Fisher, whose learning and honesty could have availed her in her troubles, was now possessed with a belief that she was acting against her own interests, and imperilling the succession of her daughter by opposing the investigation of those doubts which the King, in his generosity, was anxious to remove! How was Katharine to extricate herself, and her cause, from such a wilderness of misrepresentation and perplexity? How was she, without friends and without advisers, ignorant of all the necessary forms, and still more uncertain whom she might trust, to vindicate her rights, and fight single-handed against so many opponents?
With a skill and dissimulation worthy of a better cause, Wolsey then endeavored to insinuate doubts into Fisher's mind of the validity of the Papal dispensation, by weakly combating the doubts that had been raised, as if they had proceeded from the French. But here he was not so successful. He could only wring from Fisher an acknowledgment that there were points in the bull which seemed to him doubtful, and he wondered that another had not been "purchased than that, being so slenderly couched, and against which so many things might be objected." He would not, however, argue the question, says Wolsey;—whether he began to suspect the matter or not, and saw through the Cardinal's purpose,—or whether he had other reasons for remaining silent. So Wolsey departed, taking his journey the next day to Faversham. On Saturday, the 6th of July, he arrived at Canterbury, and lodged in the abbey of Christ Church, in the prior's lodging. Here he remained three or four days. At this time was held the great jubilee and fair in honor of the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury. (fn. 52) "In which day of the said feast, within the abbey, there was made a solemn procession, and my lord Cardinal went presently in the same, apparelled in his legatine ornaments, with his Cardinal's hat on his head; who commanded the monks and all their quire to sing the Litany after this sort, Sancta Maria ora pro Papa nostro Clemente, and so perused the Litany through, my lord Cardinal kneeling at the quire door, at a form covered with carpets and cushions, the monks and all the quire standing all that while in the midst of the body of the Church. At which time I saw the lord Cardinal weep very tenderly, which was, as we supposed, for heaviness that the Pope was at that present in such calamity and great danger of the lanceknights. (fn. 53) Probably the cause was much deeper than Cavendish supposed.
On the 10th he reached Dover, and embarked for Calais the next day, between three and four in the morning, reaching his destination at nine. He found the town in great disorder, and the soldiers unpaid. He lodged here at "a house called the Checker, where he lay and kept his house as long as he stayed in the town, going immediately to his naked bed, because he was somewhat troubled with sickness in his passage upon the seas." (fn. 54)
During the Cardinal's stay at Calais he received a letter from Dr. Knight, the King's secretary, disclosing the profound dissimulation to which the King was now stooping in his infatuation, and the demoralization, like a fatal epidemic, rapidly infecting all who were concerned in this affair. Katharine, who had in the first instance remonstrated with the King on his cruel intentions, now either professing to be satisfied with his explanations, or finding her expostulations useless, ceased to exhibit any further symptoms of displeasure. In a letter of a little later date from Dr. Sampson, a time-serving ecclesiastic, (fn. 55) we learn that "the great matter (the divorce) is in very good train; good countenance (meaning the Queen's); much better than was, in mine opinion; less suspicion or little; the merry visage is returned, not less than was wont;"—this was a noticeable feature in Katharine's behaviour, frequently mentioned by contemporaries.—"The other party (meaning the King), as your Grace knoweth, lacketh no wit, and so showeth highly in this matter." The King, in fact, had followed Wolsey's advice; and, contrary to his nature when his wishes were opposed, had treated Katharine "gently and doulcely," hoping to lull her suspicions. He had even shown her more than usual courtesy, for Sampson notices it as an extraordinary circumstance, that on leaving Hunsdon for Beaulieu, though the King was ready to depart "a good space," he tarried for the Queen, and so they rode forth together.
In this apparent reconciliation a sewer and confidant of the Queen, named Francis Phillip, (fn. 56) a Spaniard, often mentioned in the list of her attendants, requested licence to go to Spain, "forasmuch, as he sayeth, he would visit his mother, which is very sore sick." The Queen refused her consent, and used her influence with the King to prevent him. The King, suspecting "collusion and dissimulation," resolved also to dissemble; "feigning," says Knight, "that Phillip's desire is made upon good ground and consideration; and easily hath persuaded the Queen to be content with his going. And because it was thought dangerous for him to pass through France, or at this season by the seas, the King hath said that in case Phillip be taken by enemies, his Highness will redeem him and pay his ransom; and this policy the King useth to bring Phillip in more firm confidence. But his pleasure is, and also he desireth and prayeth your Grace to use such policy, as, notwithstanding any safe-conduct that the said Phillip shall obtain, either by your Grace's means, or any other, of the French king, ... he may be detained in some quarter of France, so that it be not in anywise known that the said ... deprehension should come by the King, by your Grace, or any of the King's subjects. The King's highness doth perceive that the Queen is the only cause of this man's going into Spain, as he that is and hath been always privy unto the Queen's affairs and secrets." (fn. 57) Wolsey, who was still at Calais, acknowledged this letter on the 19th of July, and commending the King's prudence, added that it was more than necessary for the Queen's sewer to be stopped; for if the "matter should come to the Emperor's knowledge" it would prove no little hindrance to the King's affair. As, however, Phillip might pass by sea (which eventually he did), it would be better, he thought, for the King to provide against such an emergency, or give instructions to his ambassadors in Spain "for inducing all that shall speak any thing of your secret matter to take all your proceedings and doings, in that behalf, in good and agreeable part." (fn. 58)
The suspicions of the King and his minister were partly false, and partly well-founded. They might have spared themselves an act of meanness and duplicity, which was not even attended with the advantage they expected from it, and would have proved unavailing, even if it had succeeded. At the very time when the King and Wolsey imagined that the secret had not transpired, Charles was in possession of the whole affair. He had known it some months already. His ambassador, Don Inigo Mendoza, whose despatches have now for the first time been made public by the labors of Don Pascual de Gayangos, has admitted us into the secret history of his communications with Katharine and his correspondence with Charles on this occasion. He had been sent to England in 1526; was detained in his passage through France; and, owing to various obstacles, did not reach his destination until the 26th of December. (fn. 59) On the 28th of March 1527 he informed the Emperor, that since his arrival in England he had never been allowed to speak with Katharine alone, though she greatly desired it, and had at various times endeavoured to appoint him an interview. More than once the Queen had sent him her confessor, a bishop (Fisher ?), assuring Mendoza he would never succeed in obtaining an audience except through the intervention of the Cardinal; that he must not let it appear he had brought her any political intelligence—(for the Cardinal dreaded her opposition to the French marriage proposed for Mary), (fn. 60) —but only messages and congratulations from her friends in Spain. Mendoza on this suggestion visited the Cardinal. He had been formerly in attendance on the Queen herself, as he told Wolsey, and her mother Isabella; and as he had many personal matters to communicate, in which Katharine was interested, and messages from old friends, he desired to be informed when he might wait upon her. The Cardinal promised to send the ambassador word, and on the Sunday following Mendoza was admitted to speak with the Queen in the Cardinal's presence, taking care not to touch on forbidden or dangerous topics. Their conversation, however, was suddenly interrupted by the Cardinal, who, turning to Mendoza, said, "The King has many things to tell you. Her Highness will, perhaps, excuse us if we take our leave and depart. You shall have an audience at another time." The ambassador thought that the interruption was a preconcerted plan to prevent further communication with the Queen,—an inference not likely to be questioned. Nor was the Queen of a different opinion. She foresaw that, without the Cardinal's consent, it would be impossible for him to converse with her in future; and if he did, whatever he might suggest to her in her present difficulties would be more hurtful than otherwise. "As far as I can judge," he writes, "the Queen desires to learn what are the Emperor's real intentions and wishes respecting this matter of the general and private peace—(then under discussion),—and what directions have been brought by his ambassador to England to prevent any unfavourable determination on the part of the King, her husband, because her suspicions are roused, and she sees they do not tell her the truth in these and other matters. She would like to speak to me on the subject, and would do anything in her power to preserve the old alliance between Spain and England; but though her wishes are strong, her means for carrying them into effect are small." (fn. 61)
These wishes were, of course, communicated to the ambassador by a third person, certainly not at the interview when Wolsey was present. Naturally, as a Spaniard, and intimately related to the Emperor, Katharine was anxious to promote the good understanding between her native and her adopted country. But we do her no harm in supposing that she saw in the continuance of that alliance the best security for her own union with the King, which, notwithstanding all the efforts to keep her in the dark, she was now beginning to suspect was about to be called in question.
On the 18th of May Mendoza is more explicit. He has heard on reliable authority that the Legate, as the finishing stroke to all his iniquities, has been scheming to bring about the Queen's divorce; alluding, no doubt, to the collusive proceedings at Wolsey's house, which had taken place the day before. (fn. 62) No doubt also he had obtained this information from Katharine herself, who had fallen into the common mistake of supposing that Wolsey was the principal agent and not a mere instrument in these proceedings; ignorant also of the exact relations between Anne Boleyn and the King, which up to this date had been veiled in the most impenetrable secrecy. "The Queen," he continues, "is so full of apprehension on this account that she has not ventured to speak with me. ... The King is so bent on this divorce, that he has secretly assembled certain bishops and lawyers that they may sign a declaration to the effect that his marriage with the Queen is null and void on account of her having been his brother's wife. It is therefore to be feared that either the Pope will be induced by some false statement to side against the Queen—(Mendoza did not then know that the Pope was in the hands of the Imperialists)—or that the Cardinal, by virtue of his legatine authority, may take some step fatal to her marriage. I am perfectly aware, though the Queen herself has not ventured, and does not venture, to speak to me on the subject, that all her hope rests, after God, upon your Imperial Highness. ... It would be very advisable, if, with all possible secrecy, the Pope were put upon his guard in case any application should be made to Rome unfavorable to the marriage; also that his Holiness should tie the Legate's hands, and, by having the cause referred entirely to himself, prevent the Legate from taking part in it, or appointing judges for it in this kingdom. .... Should the King see that he cannot succeed, he will not run the risk of any preliminary steps being known. But should he insist on pursuing the course he has begun, some great popular disturbance must ensue; for the Queen is much beloved in this kingdom, and the people are also greatly excited at the rumors of war. The Queen desires perfect secrecy to be kept in this matter, at least for the present; so much so that the above wish of hers has been communicated by a third person, who pretended not to come from her, though I suspect he came with her consent." (fn. 63) So, long before Wolsey had even started on his mission, the Emperor had derived his knowledge of the King's intentions from the best authority. He was able to appreciate at their true worth the instructions sent to Henry's ambassadors in the Spanish court desiring him to take "the King's proceedings and doings in that behalf in good and agreeable part."
In consequence of the absence of Wolsey in his embassy to France, the intercourse between Mendoza and the Queen seems to have been less jealously guarded. Absorbed in his own pursuits and pleasures, of which Anne Boleyn now formed not the least portion,—secure in his belief that Katharine would not venture on displeasing him,—the King was less concerned with watching her movements. It is clear from his letter to the Cardinal he had fully pursuaded himself, that, even if she were conscious of his secret, she had never divulged it to any mortal, except perhaps to Francis Phillip, whom she was now devising how to send to the Emperor. As he was already disposed of, or would be in due time, there was little cause for apprehension in that quarter.
To return to the ambassador. "I wrote by the last post," he says in his letter to the Emperor, (fn. 64) "how the King and his ministers were trying to dissolve the marriage between the Queen and himself, alleging that the Pope had no power to grant a dispensation for marrying two brothers in succession, as he has done. ... Up to that date no intimation or summons had been made to the Queen; but on the 22nd of last month (June) the King virtually separated himself from the Queen, telling her they had been living in mortal sin all the years they had been together; and that as this was the opinion of many canonists and theologians whom he had consulted on the subject, he had come to the resolution, as he was much troubled in his conscience, to separate himself from her a mensa et thoro, and he desired her to choose a place into which she would retire. The Queen, bursting into tears, and being too much agitated to reply, the King said to her, by way of consolation, that all should be done for the best, and begged her not to divulge what he had told her. The King must have said this, as it is generally thought, to inspire her with confidence, and prevent her from seeking the redress she is entitled to by right, and also to keep the intelligence from the public; for so great is the attachment of the English people to the Queen, that some demonstration would probably take place in her household. Not that the people of England are ignorant of the King's intentions, for the affair is as notorious as if it had been proclaimed by the town crier; but they cannot believe that he will ever carry so wicked a project into effect. However this may be, and however much people may asseverate that such iniquity cannot be tolerated, I attach no faith to such assurances, as the people have no leader to guide them. If, therefore, the King should carry his design into execution, and the suit now commenced go on, this people will probably content themselves only with grumbling. As the Queen has no one to come to her aid, she would despatch a special messenger to Spain, if she could; but the English are so suspicious at this time, that no courier from her would be allowed to pass. Nor, at this point of the negociations, would such a step be advisable. I have therefore given her to understand that it would be better for her to write a letter than despatch one of her household as a messenger."
It was the Queen's desire that every possible effort should be made to induce the Pope to deprive Wolsey of his legatine authority; and this measure, the ambassador thought, would be highly popular, as the Cardinal was in great disfavour, in consequence of the divorce, and his opposition to the Emperor, who was much esteemed by all classes of Englishmen, especially by the citizens of London. (fn. 65) The impediments thrown in the way of their intercourse with the Low Countries, and the Cardinal's resolution to divert all commerce to Calais, had been very unacceptable to the English traders, and especially to the Hanse merchants,—a wealthy body, who had vast influence in the city, and to whom Mendoza was probably indebted for much of his information. Further, he was of opinion that the popular feeling against the divorce was so strong, not only on the Queen's account, but on that of her daughter, who would thus be bastardised, that if six or seven thousand men were to land on the coast of Cornwall, prepared to espouse her cause, they would at once be joined by 40,000 Englishmen. He adds sagaciously, "though popular favour often fails when put to the test". The fears, then, of a rising in England were not entirely groundless.
In opposition to his advice, the Queen, oppressed with fears, and deprived of counsellors, determined to send Phillip (Felipo) to Spain with a letter to the Emperor, explaining her position. She wished Mendoza to speak with the King upon the subject; but he prudently forbore, thinking that any interference on his part in such a matter would produce no good effect. And thus at the very time when the Cardinal was revealing the King's intentions to Fisher as a profound secret, and justly dreading the consequences of their disclosure on the Emperor and the Pope, to whom they would be represented in the most unfavourable light by the Imperialists, they were fully known to Charles and his ambassador, and both were laying their heads together how the whole project might be turned to the Cardinal's destruction.
With the exception, perhaps, of Cavendish and some few of his immediate household, Wolsey had not a friend on whom he could rely, or whose advice he could trust. Dragged into the divorce against his will, compelled in consequence to prefer a French to an Imperial alliance, he was obliged, at all hazards, to follow a policy discountenanced by many of the Council, and encounter its unpopularity alone. It is explicitly stated by Mendoza that in all his interviews with Henry, whenever the Emperor's name was mentioned, the King exhibited much greater symptoms of resentment than were shown by the Cardinal. (fn. 66) He was far more anxious to break with Charles, and scarcely made any secret of his wishes. The Cardinal's enemies saw the difficulty in which he was placed, and determined to take their advantage. To hold back was destruction; to forfeit the King's favour was to expose himself unarmed to the malice of his enemies. To go forward was no better. He might stave off for a time the danger that awaited him. He might, possibly, by superhuman efforts, prevail upon the Pope to satisfy the King, and thus secure the gratitude, or at least the protection of his Sovereign,—perhaps shelter himself from the malice of a woman, whom he could never expect to make his friend. Possibly he might blind himself at times to the perils on which an inevitable fate was driving him, but he could never be wholly free from apprehension. "I have tried," says Mendoza, (fn. 67) "to ascertain the names of those who opposed the Legate in this late declaration of the King's. I have been assured that his greatest enemies—(the party of the Boleyns)—are those who are now supporting him in this matter—(the alliance with France),—hoping thereby to bring him to destruction; knowing, as they do, that the indignation of the whole country is roused against him, and that if he should carry out his warlike plans—(against the Emperor),—of which he has lately given so many indications, there will be an outbreak and rebellion whenever men and money can be raised for the purpose. Therefore these pretended friends of the Legate are urging him on as much as they can, for they would not be satisfied with turning him out of office, but they seek his entire ruin; and so, though unwillingly, they conceal their hatred of him, and favour his politics. Those who, but for the Legate, would be entirely on the Emperor's side, are the duke of Norfolk, and, among ecclesiastics, the bishop of London (Tunstal). (fn. 68) The archbishop of Canterbury never comes to Court, unless compelled, on account of the Legate." These statements may be exaggerated; they may be coloured by the prejudices of the writer; but there was sufficient truth in them to shake the courage, even of one so stout-hearted as the Cardinal. In his romantic notions of loyalty he had sacrificed everything for the King;—and the King was no better than a reed, ready to pierce the hand of those who presumed too much upon his support. Like an ugly apparition in the distance, the axe which took off the head of Buckingham, awaited Wolsey also, in case of failure. Perhaps then he had deeper cause for tears than the captivity of Clement, as Cavendish imagined.
But neither the sorrows of Katharine, nor the anxieties of his minister, affected Henry's serenity. He had disburthened his conscience, and was free to pursue the course his inclination dictated, without further molestations from the reproaches of the one, or the remonstrances of the other. He estranged himself further than ever from public business; and further than ever in his distant progresses he withdrew himself from "the prying eyes and active tongues of the metropolis." In this "pensive and dolorous life," from which the Cardinal was now straining every nerve to deliver him, he found consolation in writing letters to Anne Boleyn, more remarkable for their freedom than their refinement. Throughout the summer of this year he occupied himself in hunting. He was exclusively engrossed with his own amusements, as if to justify the reproach of Cardinal Pole that his reign, long as it was, and prosperous, was never once signalised by any public act of munificence or liberality. "The King," says Fitzwilliam, writing to Wolsey from Beaulieu, "is keeping a very great and expensive house, for there are lodged here the duke of Norfolk and his wife, the duke of Suffolk, the marquis of Exeter, the earls of Oxford, Essex, and Rutland, viscounts Fitzwalter, and Rochford (Anne Boleyn's father)." As comptroller it had been the writer's intention, in conformity with Wolsey's advice, to reduce the immoderate expenditure of the King's household this summer; but he adds, in a tone of despondency, "I don't see how it is to be done. The King is merry and in good health, and hunts daily." (fn. 69)
On Monday, the 22nd of July, the Cardinal resumed his journey, marching out of Calais with a splendid retinue. (fn. 70) At Sandingfield, on the Imperial frontier, he found the Comte Brion, captain of Picardy, with a great number of men-at-arms, "standing in array in a great piece of oats," mounted on light horses. These acted as a guard until he reached Boulogne. "For my lord somewhat doubted the Emperor, lest he should lay an ambush to betray him; for which cause the French king commanded them to await upon my lord for the assurance of his person." At Boulogne he was received by Du Bies, and accompanied to church. In different parts of the town three pageants were devised in his honor,—"the stories whereof," he tells the King, "though I cannot, by these my letters so hastily despatched, describe unto your Highness, yet I beseech the same not to impute it to my negligence, but only to the obstinacy of my mule, which by the terrible noise of the gun-shot was drawn to such a melancholy that I had enough to do to keep myself upon her back." The next morning he arrived at Montreuil, where he was received with similar acclamations. (fn. 71) Here he was empowered by Francis to set prisoners at liberty during his journey. On the 24th he reached Abbeville, and was lodged in the same house at which Louis XIII. had married lady Mary, the King's sister. At Abbeville he waited until the 3rd August, expecting news from the French king, who either was, or affected to be, detained by urgent business in Paris. (fn. 72)