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 4.
For reasons which had now become more pressing than ever, Wolsey had been anxious, during the last and at the commencement of the present year, to prevent any closer conjunction between Francis and the Emperor. But how to proceed securely was the question, for he had not yet been able to fathom the exact significance of the treaty of Madrid, and the precise nature of the negociations for the marriage of the French king with the Emperor's sister. In this uncertainty he adopted a temporizing policy, maintaining a good understanding with Francis without committing himself to an open rupture with Charles V. The wisdom of this resolve was justified by the conduct of the two monarchs. Though Francis professed the greatest friendship for England, and entire submission to Wolsey's advice, he had entered into secret negotiations with the Emperor for the delivery of his children. So long as the war in Italy remained undecided, and there was any chance that the operations of his army might be unfortunate, or the Pope alienated by hope of reinforcements from France, the Emperor showed a more accommodating temper. To obtain peace he was willing to consent to reasonable conditions; and for that purpose, with the view of amusing and deceiving both Courts, he had sent an ambassador to England, ostensibly to entertain proposals agreeable alike to all parties, secretly to protract negociations as long as possible by various expedients, and prevent any conclusion until the turn of affairs in Italy should leave it in his power to dictate his own terms. During the course of this intrigue, whatever offers were made by Wolsey to Francis were betrayed by the latter to Charles, with a view of enhancing the importance of his own alliance, and weakening the union of the Emperor with England.
But whilst he professed to listen to the French king's proposals for the delivery of his children, and seemed ready to moderate the articles of the treaty of Madrid, Charles was secretly resolved to insist on the surrender of Burgundy. No sooner then was his success in Italy apparent, than he threw off the mask, and flatly refused to make any concessions. (fn. 1)
It was necessary for Wolsey to feel his way with caution. Openly to advise Francis to repudiate Eleanor, and offer him, in this state of things, a closer alliance with England, was out of the question. When, in the first transports of his delivery, Francis, a year before, was profuse in his gratitude to Henry and the Cardinal for their good offices, Wolsey had suggested to Taylor and Cheyne, (fn. 2) the ambassadors with the French king, that they should enlarge on the obvious advantages of amity between the two Princes, "after which peace might be "concluded at a friendly and personal interview." They were to add, as from himself, that "he was of opinion that a lady of more tender years and nature, and of better education, beauty, and other virtues," than Eleanor, would be a more suitable match for the French king, "wherein, if at any time I may know his desire, I shall be a broker and a mediator for him to the best of my power." (fn. 3) The young lady in question was the princess Mary, then only ten years old. Nothing apparently came of this proposal until five months after, when Clerk, then ambassador at the French court, was informed by Francis that he had received letters out of England from his ambassador, "that the king of England, his entire beloved brother and best friend, would have him now become and wax a good man." "What he should mean thereby," says Clerk, "we cannot tell." (fn. 4) As Francis and his mother were engaged at the time in attending the funeral of the late queen Claude, no further notice was taken of this suggestion until the 14th of October, when, in reply to a letter from Wolsey, Clerk said that he thought the words of the king of France "sounded to such an intent, and I deemed verily that the practice had been somewhat set forwards; notwithstanding, because your Grace, at that time, had not written unto me thereof. ... I thought it best that I myself should not be too busy, ne with my Lady therein, ne with none other of the Council; but that it should suffice that by other I did procure that those men have been put in remembrance of their necessity of friends, and of that thing that should so much make for their surety and weal, not doubting but they should see and feel themselves a-cold, and, so doing, they would themself come running to blow the coal. (fn. 5)
The affair lingered unaccountably. The French king, desirous of making the easiest terms he could with the Emperor, avoided committing himself to any act which should render such accommodation more difficult. Under one pretence or another he kept out of the way of the English ambassadors, and avoided the necessity of giving them an answer. At length, on All Souls' Day (2nd Nov. 1526), Clerk succeeded in obtaining an interview. "I pressed him, then, on two points," he says in his account of their conversation, "one was to stir him to the wars,"—meaning the war of the confederates in Italy,—"another to prepare himself for this most desired peace," which the Emperor had apparently consented should be arranged in England:—"finally, that he would let us know his resolution for the redemption of his children. He was very sore at this; said he could not do otherwise than he had done. I said it was needful to enlarge the sum (the ransom), and that the King would mediate for him better with the Emperor if Wolsey knew his resolution. He made no satisfactory answer. I urged that he had good cause to trust the King, for he was ready to give unto him, in marriage, his daughter, the pearl of the world, and the jewel that his Highness esteemed more than anything on earth. He said, 'By the faith of a gentleman, not only now of late, but also of a long season before his going into Italy (meaning before the battle of Pavia), he had a mind to marry his brother's daughter of England.'" That is, a child of ten years old. "I said to him, 'Sir, whereat stick you then? It stondeth only by you that the thing is not performed. I know well that she is offered unto you under such conditions as in manner ye cannot wish them better. Besides that,' said I, 'she is of that beauty and virtue;'— and herewith me willing to speak somewhat largely in the laud and praise of my lady Princess, he said, 'I pray you repeat to me none of all these matters; I know well enough her education, her form and fashion, her beauty and virtue, and what father and mother she cometh of, and how expedient and necessary it shall be for me and my realm that I marry her. And I assure you for the same causes I have as great a mind to her as ever I had to any woman; but I must do my things, as near as I can, without displeasure of God and reproach of the world.' And here he told us he had promised to marry Madame Eleanora, but he thought the Emperor would refuse her. 'But,' said Clerk, 'suppose the Emperor do not? I am of opinion that he will be very glad if you will have her. For what should he do with her? Where can he bestow her so well as upon you? Wherefore, Sir, I think verily, if ye axe her according to the treaty (of Madrid) ye shall have her.' He said, if the Emperor consented he would be advised before he took her; but he was sure the Emperor would refuse." (fn. 6)
It is not difficult to catch the drift of all these complimentary excuses. The defeat of the Hungarians by the Turks was not so calamitous to all the powers of Christendom as might have been surmised. Those who professed to lament it most, secretly consoled themselves with the persuasion that it must moderate the ambitious designs of the Emperor. In proportion as he was bound to avenge it, provide for the safety of his sister, the widowed queen of Hungary, and support the pretensions of Ferdinand, the less would he be able to attend to his own aggrandisement. Every one, except the Emperor himself, had an interest in expressing their horror of the event in the most exaggerated terms; and policy concurred with pity in fomenting the popular odium against the man who had shown so little concern for the misfortunes of his sister. It was then partly the hope of finding the Emperor more pliable, partly the expectation of inducing Henry to moderate the conditions attached to the offer of Mary's hand—for he demanded no less than the surrender of Boulogne—that induced the French king, in the presence of Clerk, to insist so strictly upon his honor, and the necessity of fulfilling the promise he had made to the Emperor. That necessity had never occurred to him so vividly before. (fn. 7)
To cheapen the value of Mary's hand by openly dissuading his marriage with Eleanor was no part of Wolsey's policy. He affected the character of a dis-interested friend and adviser. In averting a union that could not tend to the French king's happiness, he was only consulting the King's best interests. If Francis desired a matrimonial alliance with England he must sue for it himself, and be ready to show his sense of the obligation by liberal offers. Secure in his island home, undisturbed by the wars of Christendom, possessing "a jewel" which an Emperor might envy—did envy in fact, and deplore the hard necessity which compelled him to decline it—Wolsey's master was not so straitly pushed that he should throw away his daughter for nothing, or contract alliance with a king who had nothing to offer in return. Why should he, whose wealth was sufficient for all purposes, whose prosperity was undiminished, seek one for a son-in-law whose children were hostages in a foreign land, and himself only one remove from a prisoner? If Francis preferred the hand of Eleanor, the domineering sister of a domineering Emperor, to wealth, liberty, alliance with England, and the recovery of his children upon favorable conditions, that was his own concern. His friends might deplore, but were not bound to prevent, such infatuation. So when Clerk presented himself to Louise, ostensibly to discuss indifferent subjects, really to fathom her and her son's intentions, the two wary diplomatists fenced and manœuvred with one another, under the mask of the most engaging sincerity. "They proposed," she told Clerk, "to send a nobleman into Spain to demand Madame Eleanora"—(in reality to make propositions she had no mind that Clerk should discover)—"if she is denied them they will protest that the King claims liberty to marry whom he likes." But in this and in all other matters she affected to be guided implicitly by England. Clerk suggested that under present circumstances the Emperor might possibly not insist upon Burgundy, but he satisfied if Francis paid the ransom, and espoused his sister. "In that case," continued Clerk, "intend you to accept the marriage?" Louise replied that her son's mind had long been set upon the daughter of England, "as upon that thing that should be most profitable to both realms, and also, considering her age and her virtues, most pleasant and delectable to himself; that Madame Eleanora being now of the age of 30 years, and far other qualities, to take and buy her so dear, Clerk might be well assured that the King her son, if he might choose, should not gladly set his mind that way, were she never so much the Emperor's sister." She adroitly added, with a little spice of maliciousness, that Francis could never expect any help from Charles, seeing how he had treated his other sister (the queen of Hungary), and how devoid he was of natural affection. Then, suddenly turning the conversation, she demanded of Clerk what Henry would have them do in this case to end these interminable wars. "Hereat," says the ambassador, "to be plain with your Grace, I somewhat staggered. For to repeat unto her such reasons as should dissuade the marriage of Madame Eleanor, I thought it no time, she had rehearsed them so clearly already. But I urged for her consideration that Madame Eleanora was now of that age that there should not be found, peradventure, so much good nature and humility in her as in my lady Princess, whom now in this age and after this education she might bring, fashion, forge up, and make of her what she would herself, assuring her that my said lady Princess should be as loving, lowly, and humble unto her as she should be to her own father and mother." At these words Louise lifted up her hands, and said, with tears in her eyes, that Clerk spoke the truth; adding that if the Princess became her son's wife, she would be as loving and humble unto her as to her own son. (fn. 8)
The result was not very satisfactory. Urge what reasons he would, it was clear that Francis was determined on the recovery of his children at all hazards. It was equally clear that the Emperor had solemnly declared1 that the children should never be released without the consummation of the King's marriage with his sister, and the surrender of Burgundy. Louise, at a subsequent interview, urged that means might be found for knitting the two kingdoms by a marriage between the children. "The Dauphin," she said, "should not be meet, as England ought to have a ruler of its own." She proposed the duke of Orleans, "whose name was Henry, and resembled the King's highness in name, face, and all his gests and manners." Clerk received the proposition coldly. He had no instructions to that effect. (fn. 9)
Time wore on. The probabilities of Mary's marriage became more uncertain than ever. "The French king," writes Clerk on the 12th of December, (fn. 10) "pretends he is sending into Spain only to demand Madame Eleanora. Doubtless he intends to treat for peace. If he restores Bourbon, marries Eleanora, pays the ransom, and the Emperor, in dread of the Turk, forbears his demand of Burgundy, they are in good train for it. I have told the Italian ambassadors here," who were then urging upon Francis the more energetic prosecution of the war in Italy, "that they must consider the Frenchmen's nature—how little inclined they would be to a new war, and unlikely to stay with them; but, for aught I can say, they remain still in their good opinion. (fn. 11) I pray God they be not deceived. I assure your Grace it is greatly to be feared. I was told by the Legate that when Francis was in Spain he seemed to have great pleasure in Madame Eleanora's company; who had now cast off her widow's weeds, and called herself the French queen; and to this day Francis speaks now and then very good and pleasant words of her. This is a sign that he sets more by her than he would have us know."
The report from Ghinucci, (fn. 12) then in France, was not more hopeful. He told Wolsey that though he could not perceive any signs of regard for Eleanora in Francis or his mother, there was no probability of any marriage with Mary so long as Francis entertained the least hope of an arrangement with the Emperor. So resolved were they on the restoration of the children, that all their actions were exclusively directed to this end; and as they thought there were no other means of compassing it except by a Spanish marriage, Francis would consent not to marry Eleanor only, but any woman, though she were a hundred years old,—"even Cæsar's mule," to use their own phrase, if that were necessary. To disguise his intentions from his confederates, to whose ill successes in Italy Francis was wholly indifferent, was now their main concern. If, therefore, Wolsey's proposal was to take effect, it would be necessary to modify the conditions of Mary's marriage. So all demands for the surrender of Boulogne were abandoned, and Fitzwilliam was sent to offer the hand of the Princess on easier terms. (fn. 13)
On arriving at Poissi the 19th Dec. he found the King hunting as usual,—his ordinary device for avoiding disagreeable business. Returning on Saturday the 22nd, Francis sent word to Fitzwilliam and Clerk that if they liked to visit him on Sunday he would wait dinner. On their admission into his chamber, he observed to them that though he did not consider himself bound by the treaty of Madrid, yet he was afraid that when he came to treat, the Emperor, seeing how friendless he was, would insist upon his espousing Eleanor. Hereupon Fitzwilliam remarked that he had been sent by the King his master "to speak plainly the bottom of his heart and mind." Francis replied he would hear him gladly; for "round, plain, and open language was a language that pleased him best of all." Then Fitzwilliam added that he had come to offer the princess Mary on easy terms; and if the proposition were accepted, Henry would join him and his confederates. The proposal was received by the King "with a glad and very merry countenance," and the ambassadors were at once referred to his mother. (fn. 14) Delighted to find that no further demand was made for the cession of Boulogne, Louise profferred her best efforts in advancing the match with her son, who had long been anxious, she said, to marry the Princess "for her manifold virtues and other gay qualities." "For all this," says Fitzwilliam, "we think it very hard to say what they now think, and what they will do." Unknown to them, Francis was at that very moment deep in negotiations with the Emperor; doomed to be deceived in his turn as he was deceiving others. But to the Spanish court he held a very different language in respect to this offer of my lady Princess, from that which he used to the English ambassador, notwithstanding his love "of round, plain, and open language."
At last matters fell into a better train. For, despairing of finding the Emperor in a more accommodating humor, Francis turned his thoughts to these matrimonial proposals of England. The first month of the new year was spent in arranging the preliminaries, and settling the bases on which negotiations should proceed. They consisted, as usual, in the endeavors of each side to outwit the other. Francis was, or at least appeared to be, more gracious and liberal than his ministers,—more anxious to accept the demands of his "best beloved friend and brother." It is probable that at the moment he expressed no more than he felt; for he was not accustomed to reserve, and his affairs with the Emperor were beginning to look desperate. The aid of England was indispensable; still more, if he seriously intended to carry the war into Spain, and compel the Emperor to surrender his children. Nor was this intention so improbable as it might be thought. He was certainly anxious that his alliance with Henry should take the form of an offensive league; and to avenge himself on the Emperor was one of his objects throughout the coming year. But, in the words of Ghinucci, "I do not understand these mysteries, and have resolved to dismiss them from my thoughts, as I am not likely to fathom them." (fn. 15)
After many tedious formalities, Grammont bishop of Tarbes, François viscomte Turenne, and La Viste, the president of Paris, were sent into England at the latter end of February, to arrange for a marriage in due form. A minute account of their proceedings has been preserved in a diary kept by Dodieu, the secretary of the embassy. (fn. 16)
I make the less excuse for entering into these details because they present the Cardinal to my readers on his stronger side, and in his appropriate element. It was not in domestic affairs or local politics that the genius of Wolsey displayed itself to the best advantage, but in diplomacy and statesmanship. Unaided by fleets or armies, ill supported by his master, and by colleagues of very moderate abilities, he contrived by his individual energy to raise this country from a third-rate State into the highest circle of European politics. Englishmen have been so long accustomed to this supremacy, are so sensi- tive to any diminution of their reputation and influence abroad, that they cannot recognize the difficulty of Wolsey's task, or the merits of the man who first conceived and realised this conception of his country's greatness. Gasping and enfeebled from the wounds of the civil wars, content to purchase internal tranquillity at the price of obscurity,—menaced by Scotland on one side, by Ireland on the other,—without fleets or armies, or a foot of colonial ground,—it required all the proud originality of genius to overlook the material disproportion of England, and contend for the palm with the greatest and most ancient kingdoms of the world. (fn. 17) It was not merely, as foreign statesmen said of the Cardinal, that he have moved heaven and earth sooner than any man would should be thought greater than his master; but he brought to his master's feet, popes, kings, and emperors, when popes and emperors were powerful entities, and kingship something more than a shadow. There are indications enough in these papers to show that this was no common feeling among the English statesmen of his days, whatever it may be now, when English representatives at home or abroad speak with an influence wholly independent of their individual worth and ability. Unused to foreign politics, unequal to cope with the subtle and dexterous diplomatists of the Continent, im- perfect linguists, and shy from their insular isolation, Englishmen in those days felt themselves little fitted to maintain that proud and independent position which has since become habitual and familiar. It was the genius of Wolsey that led the way; as it was his genius that determined the foreign policy, not only of this but of subsequent reigns; and though in this conference he stood alone, it will be seen that he was more than a match for the most accomplished diplomatists that Francis could select.
The commissioners reached Dover at one o'clock on the 26th Feb., and were received at their landing by the notorious John Joachim. They were admitted to their first audience with the Cardinal at Westminster on the 3rd of March. De Tarbes, in a formal Latin speech, thanked his Grace for the services he had rendered in promoting the marriage and advancing the King's deliverance. Then, retiring with Wolsey into his closet, he repeated his thanks in French, announcing that he had brought powers to conclude the marriage and to treat for a universal peace, but it was his master's wish that they should make their first application to the Cardinal, and be ruled by his advice. After a few brief protestations of his unalterable affection for the French king, Wolsey, waving all compliments, plunged at once into business. He admonished the ambassadors that no proffer had been made of Mary's hand, nor had any one been empowered to make one. She must be asked for, and not offered. For his part he had desired, and still desired, the restitution of the two Princes, and for that reason he had suggested an offensive league in consideration of the marriage; but before either proposition could be entertained, he intended to establish a treaty for perpetual peace between the two nations, that there might be no further contention between them. Unprepared for this announcement, the ambassadors urged that the present alliance between the two sovereigns was sufficient. But, deaf to all arguments, Wolsey insisted that the Princess could not be given to a man of whose perpetual friendship they were not fully assured. On this point he remained firm, and would listen to none of their overtures. It was in vain that they urged they had no instructions. "How could that be ?" he retaliated instantaneously, "seeing that Brinon and Robertet have been commissioned by the King your master to hear the proposals for perpetual peace, and, by Madame's advice, he has consented to our demand for Ardres, Boulogne, a tribute of salt, and a pension of 50,000 crowns." Whether this was true, or not, he spoke with such consummate assurance that they did not even dare to question his assertion. The marriage, he insisted, was of the utmost importance to Francis. It was the only way for extricating him out of his difficulties; but the indispensable preliminaries, without which it would be useless to proceed, were a perpetual peace, an annual tribute of salt, and a pension for his master of 50,000 crowns. In vain they remonstrated that this was buying marriage too dear,—that the honor of France could not suffer it to become tributary to any nation. Wolsey affected to treat their objections as frivolous. He was as much concerned as themselves to maintain the honor of their master, and had kept it steadily in view in drawing up these arrangements. It was no use to dissemble; he was certain they had received the necessary instructions. Then, taking the bishop of Tarbes aside, he expatiated on the trouble he had undergone in obtaining his master's consent to these terms, and the opposition he had encountered,—alluding to the duke of Norfolk, and probably to the Queen. These discussions took place on the Sunday.
A second audience was appointed for Shrove Tuesday. On that day Wolsey began with informing the commissioners that he had apprized the King of their coming; that his Majesty was much pleased at the intelligence, and had asked for the conditions of the peace, but was greatly surprised on being informed that they had brought none. He reiterated his former arguments. He urged that it was useless sending ambassadors unless his demands were granted. As for the pension, it was a mere bagatelle. He would rather pay it out of his own pocket than sacrifice the alliance for such a trifle. If they refused, they were only deceiving him; and, under the pretext of negociating with his master, Francis was in reality attempting to conceal his intention of concluding the match with dame Eleanor. "Be it so," he continued, with exasperating coolness; "let him only be candid, and I will willingly assist him to bring it about." Never was there a more peremptory negociator. Firm as a rock, he would make no concessions.
On Thursday they were presented to the King in his arrière salle at Greenwich. They found him surrounded by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Sir Thomas More, lord Rochford, and Fitzwilliam, and other great officers of State. On presenting their credentials to the King he expressed the great obligations he felt to his brother of France for condescending to take his little daughter, who did not deserve such an honor. He had long entertained great affection for their master, such as one gentleman might feel for another, and, if his state allowed it, would not be without his company for a single day. "Their alliance," he said, "was so firm that there was no need to strengthen it by any additional treaty; still, he was astonished to find that nothing was said in their credence of a perpetual peace." They excused themselves as well as they could, urging that peace was so well established already between the two Kings for their lives, that it was not likely to be broken by their successors. Then he desired to know the exact state of their master's engagements with Madame Eleanor; for he could not think of bestowing his heiress on a man, about whose capacity to marry any doubts might exist. They replied that this doubt was already removed by their appearance on this occasion; that their master would never do anything contrary to his honor and conscience, and he would think it strange if this difficulty were raised afresh, when he had given his word that he was free. On this Henry stepped aside, and, after consulting his ministers, told them that if Francis had been a simple gentleman he would readily have offered him his daughter's hand, but his councillors advised him not to risk the chance of their being afterwards separated—(strange language, considering from whose lips it came !),— and his capacity of contracting marriage must be placed beyond all dispute. Then, taking Turenne aside, he remarked that such great matters as these could not be arranged without difficulties. A truth of which he was soon after to make painful experience in his own person.
The commissioners met again by appointment at Wolsey's house, on Friday the 8th. The discussion still turned on the French king's engagement to Eleanor. This was followed by another audience, of no moment, on the 9th. On Monday 11th, De Tarbes and Turenne received an invitation through lord Rochford to visit the King at Greenwich. After dinner Henry sent for them to the Queen's chamber, where they talked much of his prosperity, and the friendship of the two monarchs. When Katharine inquired whether they did not intend to treat for a universal peace, (fn. 18) De Tarbes replied that such a peace must be preceded by the object of their visit; not venturing to state it explicitly, as he was still uncertain whether it had been communicated to the Queen. The King said to her, smiling, that they were referring to the marriage of her daughter, the Princess. On this they requested her approval of the match. She consented, but characteristically added that the interests of two Princes ought not to obstruct the welfare of Christendom. When she insinuated that this alliance might shake the good understanding existing between the King and her nephew, they added, somewhat abruptly, that as the two Kings would thus become powerful they might dictate their own terms to the Emperor. The interview ended by the King showing them his furniture and his riches. He talked much of the great things he had done for France, and how much he had exhorted the Emperor to treat his captive with generosity.
Whilst De Tarbes and Turenne were thus engaged with the King, the others were closeted with Wolsey at Westminster. He insisted, as before, on a new treaty of perpetual peace, the salt, and the pension. Observing, in the course of his argument, that no treaty could be ratified without the consent of the Estates of England, and that their consent would not be given without some corresponding advantage, and the least he could think of were the salt and the pension, La Viste inquired of their manner of proceeding, and their powers. Wolsey replied, that the Estates were summoned by the King, and deliberated on matters proposed by him, the result of which was always in accordance with the King's wishes; and their decisions, he said, were inviolable. La Viste remarked that there was no such necessity in France; for there the King is the soul of the law, and can do whatever he chooses for the good of his kingdom, and when any decree is registered in the Court of Parliament it is rigidly enforced. They were then invited to dine with the Cardinal on Friday, the 15th. On that day D'Ouarty arrived from Francis with fresh instructions, empowering them to offer 15,000 cr. worth of salt every year, at the current price, but demanding in return the delivery of the Princess within a month after the ratification of the treaty. They found Wolsey in his gallery. As they begged him to withdraw his demands, and advise his master to do the same, he listened to their remonstrances with significant gestures of displeasure. He reproached them with not understanding their business, or wilfully departing from their instructions; he had learned from Clerk, the ambassador at the French court, that they were empowered to grant his demands, and had been instructed by Francis to that effect. In proof of this assertion he read to them a Latin translation of Clerk's letter. After dinner he returned to the charge, telling them that he had advised this alliance contrary to the opinion of many of the Council; that he could never have anticipated they would have made any difficulty; and as to advising his master to abandon his demands, he would rather die than offer such advice, for he would be thought a fool or a traitor if he did, and be in danger of his life. Francis, he said, should consider his services, and not urge him to do what might cause him to be murdered in his bed. (fn. 19)
To this angry remonstrance the Commissioners calmly replied, insisting on the impossibility of the conditions proposed, but they offered as a token of friendship a tribute of salt to the amount of 15,000 crowns annually during the life of the King and the Queen. They might just as well, says Dodieu, have offered him a pair of gloves. He would abate nothing, saying they would spoil everything by their unreasonable refusals and mismanagement. Next day D'Ouarty visited the King at Greenwich. He was graciously received; but found the King as resolute as his minister. For the salt, he said, it was no more than 15,000 crowns, and he had often lost as much at play. As for the pension of 50,000 crowns, his people would not be] contented that he should abandon his claims on France, and give Francis his only daughter, without some equivalent. "My master," replied D'Ouarty, with the gallantry of a Frenchman, "does not ask for the hand of the Princess because she is an heiress, but if your Majesty had a dozen daughters he would ask for the hand of one of them, from his affection and gratitude to your person. He will not forget kindness, as the Emperor has done." The King was pleased at the reply, and putting his hands on D'Ouarty's shoulders, said he would ask Wolsey to be reasonable, and they must be reasonable also. He then conducted the ambassador to the Queen's apartment, where D'Ouarty delivered his message from Louise and Marguerite of Navarre, then newly married, but, in obedience to Wolsey's injunctions, said nothing of his charge before Katharine.
The discussions were resumed on Monday and Tuesday with no happier result. Wolsey still persisted in negociating the treaty upon his own terms and in his own way. He refused to deliver Mary until she was of marriageable age, that is, fourteen; but he dropped a hint that she might be married to the duke of Orleans, or a French princess be contracted to the duke of Richmond. At this unexpected change the ambassadors were thrown into greater perplexity than ever. At last on Friday the 22nd, after disputing all the morning, De Tarbes and Joachim contrived to arrive at the basis of a common arrangement. The Cardinal proposed that if Francis refused the Princess she should be married to the duke of Orleans, then a prisoner in Spain, who should be brought up with her in the English court; and that Henry should not offer her hand to any other, unless when the Duke came of age he refused it. It was further arranged that the two Kings should endeavour to recover the French children by peaceable means, and if the attempt failed they should jointly make war on the Emperor. It was further agreed that a perpetual peace should be made between the two Kings and their successors, on condition of a tribute of salt from France, and an annual pension of 50,000 crowns. These arrangements were dependent on certain stipulations not necessary to be mentioned here. (fn. 20)
It will be seen that the terms were so arranged as to leave the Cardinal in effect master of the situation. He had fairly won the field, by his firmness and dexterity, against the most accomplished diplomatists of the age, and he was resolved to keep it. The measures to be adopted for recovering the French king's children were studiously ambiguous, and left it at the Cardinal's option to decide when and how he would exchange peaceful remonstrances for armed defiance. He could at his pleasure employ either method as best served his purposes with the Emperor. His demand for the salt and the pension are intelligible enough; not so his obstinate resolve that a perpetual peace between the two crowns should take precedence of all other arrangements. He was well aware that by the treaty of the More, passed during the captivity of the French king, provision had already been made for perpetual amity during the lives of the two sovereigns; and he must have been too well acquainted with the nature of princes to suppose that such treaties would last any longer than suited their own inclinations and their interests, or those of their successors. If, therefore, his intense anxiety on his part had any other motive than that of securing his master's profit at the expence of France, or disengaging Francis irretrievably from the Emperor, it must be sought in some hidden reason which history has not revealed. (fn. 21) He had obtained the consent of the Emperor that negociations for a universal peace, embracing the Pope and the Venetians, then unsuccessful in their encounters with the Imperial troops in Italy, should be conducted in England. The management of such a peace by himself would in effect have brought the Pope to his wishes,—would have enabled him to dictate to Christendom,—at a time when the Pope's compliance was becoming indispensable for the course to which Wolsey was now unhappily committed, and for the permanence of his own authority. It must not be forgotten, that throughout these long and tortuous discussions not a hint transpired of Henry's intentions;—not a whisper escaped, not a doubt was expressed, of Mary's legitimacy, by the French commissioners. Repeatedly and emphatically the King spoke of his daughter as his successor and his heiress. (fn. 22) His scruples of conscience, if at that time he felt any, were effectually buried in his own bosom. Had any doubt arisen of the legitimacy of his marriage with Katharine, had it occurred to La Viste or De Tarbes, it is impossible that they should not have turned it to good account, or have failed to avail themselves of it for securing better terms, if not for rejecting the match altogether. Yet the King had already been actively engaged in promoting his divorce. Either Katharine was unconscious of the ruin which hung over her, or, in the respect publicly paid to her by the King, who smiled and talked with all the suavity and affection of a most faithful and devoted husband, she was led to hope for the best, and put the best construction on her fears. In the alternative proposed by Wolsey of marrying Mary to the duke of Orleans, that is, a child of ten to a child of six years, instead of an old debauchee, it would be pleasing to think that he was influenced by some better feeling than base and rotten policy. Considering the life that Francis had led, and was then leading, nature revolts against so odious and frightful a union. It seems more probable that the Cardinal, unable to ascertain exactly the relations between the French king and the Spanish princess, thought it a wiser and safer course to take the son in place of the father. Engaged already in an endeavour to obtain from the Pope a divorce for his master, by one or more of those legal fictions to which the canonists of those days freely resorted for dissolving the marriage vow, and bringing this sacrament, as it was then held, into confusion, if not into contempt, he must have been doubly anxious that no oversight on his part should hereafter afford an opportunity to Mary's husband for following the steps of Mary's father. The objection to her legitimacy by the bishop of Tarbes, afterwards set up as an excuse for Henry's scruples, was not then entertained even by himself; and most certainly, as I have said, did not originate with the French ambassador. Anticipation of Henry's divorce could not have been the reason why Wolsey rejected the king of France in favor of his second son, preferring an inferior match to the superior. Nor had he at that time any reason to suppose, when that divorce was known, that Francis, in his own behalf, would resent the imputation of Mary's illegitimacy. For the Pope, though driven to the last necessity, insulted by the Viceroy, and besieged in his own capital, was not yet a prisoner; nor was so terrible a calamity as the fall of Rome anticipated. As he was indebted for peace and exemption from fear to the efforts of Henry and of Wolsey, who intended to chain up his greatest enemy, or only so far let him loose as might be necessary to frighten his Holiness into compliance, both of them made sure that the Pope would be obedient and grateful. He would have nothing to fear in complying with the King's wishes; and fear was the predominant motive of his actions. So, though Katharine might be divorced, the right and legitimacy of Mary would remain unchallenged, and there was no fear that the French king's indignation hereafter would disturb these arrangements.
On Monday, the 25th March, the ambassadors dined with the Lord Mayor. The next day they visited the King at Hampton Court, "a handsome house, built by Wolsey, and presented by him to the King." After his Majesty had heard mass, they were ushered into the hall, and presented by Wolsey to the King. On that day they dined with the Cardinal, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and the marquis of Exeter. After dinner they rejoined the King in the Queen's apartment. Whilst the Queen and Wolsey entertained De Tarbes, the King displayed his learning by conversing with La Viste on the Lutheran heresy and his own book against the Reformer. Retiring with the Cardinal to his room, they found him still anxious to proceed with the negociations. He insisted on the old topics,—urged that haste was necessary in order to make preparations against the Emperor,—that if the Emperor remained intractable Henry would meet Francis at Boulogne a fortnight before Pentecost, decide the alternative marriage, and satisfy the wishes of their master for an offensive league and the delivery of the Princess. They excused themselves from further proceeding on one plea or another; continued to fight over each article three days longer; pretended to advance when they meant to recede; and, like wary combatants, disputed every inch of ground with one who was as wary and watchful as themselves. The main dispute now turned on the delivery of the Princess, whom the French had determined to claim for the King, and not for his son the duke of Orleans. To their utter amazement Wolsey informed them that the King and his Council advised Francis to marry the Spanish princess for the sake of peace, if the Emperor would not otherwise restore the two Princes; and if Francis refused to comply his master would decline to make war on the Emperor. The French commis sioners were taken aback at a proposal so completely at variance with his previous language, and abruptly broke up the conference. "We have to do," says Turenne, in a letter to Francis I., "with the most rascally beggar (fn. 23) in the world, and one who is wholly devoted to his master's interest." He was always on the alert, always ready to take an advantage. "You may be sure," says Turenne in a subsequent letter, (fn. 24) "we have to deal with a man as difficult to manage as can be, as you will see by what I and my fellows write to the King ... The bargain made by the Pope with the Emperor has caused him to augment a certain article to his advantage, which he had already agreed upon with De Tarbes." Subsequently the Cardinal consented to waive all mention of Eleanor; and matters proceeded more smoothly.
On the 10th of April the treaties were drawn up, and copies exchanged. On the 14th Wolsey left them to obtain the King's assent. He returned on Friday the 15th, and promised that all should be settled by Wednesday the 20th, but was attacked the next day by a tertian fever. In the interval the French commissioners, without giving him notice, had endeavoured to procure certain modifications of the terms to their own advantage. Ill as he was, Wolsey sent for Joachim and De Tarbes on the 22nd. He insisted much on his services to Francis and Madame, and his endeavours to settle the treaty; he had heard that they were not well pleased with the variations he had made from his previous offer; this, he said, was very unpleasant to him; it had done him more harm than all his illness, caused, in part, by the opposition he had encountered from Nor- folk and others in the Council. (fn. 25) With the Duke he assured them that he had had high words in the presence of the King, and his opponents were urgent to break off the match. "The Emperor," remarks Dodieu, "has many friends in England. He has tried all means in his power to dissuade the King from this alliance, even by means of women who are in favour with the King, as he thinks; but Wolsey has done what he could to hinder them. (fn. 26) Whether the writer intended to include Katharine in the number, it is impossible to say.
The end was reached at last, though not by the shortest or the simplest route, and the victory in all points rested with the Cardinal. An annual tribute of salt, 50,000 crowns by way of pension, and some two millions of gold crowns to be paid by convenient instalments, could not be considered as an insignificant set-off for the hand of Mary and an alliance with England; especially as that alliance involved no exertion and no sacrifice on the part of this nation, except at its own time and pleasure. The money lent to the Emperor was a desperate debt. It was clear that he could not or would not pay; and he was rapidly becoming far too powerful to be intimidated. He was not likely to be more compliant when the fate then in prospect for Katharine should come to his knowledge. To transfer the debt from a bad and unwilling to an obliging and less refractory debtor, was a stroke of policy which Henry, at all events, was not likely to condemn. Such haggling over Mary's hand may sound strange to modern ears, and stranger still this commercial and mercantile spirit displaying its front unabashed among the chivalrous pageants and Arthurian aspirations of Henry's court.
But the chivalry of the times had a greedy and a grovelling side. It was a coarse and vulgar inheritance bequeathed to the nation by the selfish and turbulent passions of the civil wars. It might not be exactly true, as urged by the King and the Cardinal, that the Commons would never be brought to consent to the exchange of an Imperial for a French alliance without some pecuniary equivalent; yet it is undeniable that the power and temptation of money were then beginning to be felt as they had never been felt before. Though Henry VIII. inherited from his mother the reckless profusion and voluptuous habits of the Yorkists, he inherited also from his father the suspicious temper and the money-loving tendencies of the Lancastrian; and the latter were now rapidly gaining the ascendant, not in him alone, but in the nation generally. (fn. 27) However powerful a minister might be in reality or in supposition, he could not afford to overlook this temper of the times. He could not prevent it from modifying his measures. Least of all could Wolsey. It was for him to find the means for carrying on the government without burthening the people, and procure the sums required for the King's increasing expenditure without augmenting taxation. Every year the task became more difficult. The luxurious habits of the Court and the people, the greater costliness of the government, the declining value of money, increased the burthen. But it is also true that the old spiritual life of the people had died out: the world had become more alluring and more attractive; the harder and more frugal discipline of earlier times, more irksome and repulsive. Already Henry's favourites were beginning to suggest that the Church was rich, and bore no proportionate share of the burthens of the State. Already they were beginning to instil into the King's ears the ungrateful return made by churchmen for the blessings of his gracious government; whilst Lollardism among the lower orders then, as ever, confined its sympathy and applause to Evangelical poverty, and stigmatised riches as a sign of spiritual pride. Amicable loans were out of the question. Wolsey then must find the means for meeting the exigencies of the times, either by anticipating the example of his successor Cromwell, or by his foreign diplomacy. He chose the latter, and staved off the difficulty for a season.
The 23rd of April, the feast of St. George, was always observed at the Court of Henry VIII. with extraordinary splendor. On that day the commissioners dined with the King at Greenwich. After dinner he led them into the hall, where the Queen, the Princess Mary, the French Queen, and a large company, were assembled. He desired them to address the Princess, then twelve years old, in French, Latin, and Italian. She answered them all in the same languages. She then performed on the spinet, "and is," says Dodieu, "the most accomplished person of her age." (fn. 28) During their conversation with the King on this occasion an expression escaped him of the greatest significance. Whilst speaking of his desire to induce the Pope to rejoin the League, and humble the Emperor, he complained that his affairs had always been hampered by the delay of his ministers in talking of war, and that he intended to visit the French king, and settle his difficulties with him in person. The ambassador replied that he might entrust everything to the Cardinal; but, answered the King, "I have some 'things to communicate to your master, of which Wolsey knows nothing." That secret could have had nothing to do with war, or peace, or foreign policy, for in all these topics he implicitly trusted the Cardinal. Henry was already entertaining designs of a totally different nature,—designs he had not yet ventured to communicate in their fullest extent even to his minister.
On the 30th of April the treaties were signed and sealed, and it was agreed that Poyntz and Clarencieux should be sent with the bishop of Tarbes to defy the Emperor. On the 1st of May the French remained at home for fear of the London apprentices. On Saturday the 4th, they were taken to Greenwich, where they found the King seated on his throne, surrounded by Wolsey, the ambassadors of the Pope, of the Venetians, and the duke of Milan, with many prelates and nobles. After Henry had embraced them they were conducted to a seat in front of the throne, whilst the knights of the Garter were seated behind them. De Tarbes made a complimentary oration in Latin, to which Tunstal, bishop of London, replied, standing bareheaded (fn. 29) at the foot of the throne. The King concluded the interview by complimenting the ambassador, and thanking God that matters were in such a good train. On Sunday the 5th, the bishop of London sung mass in the chapel, Wolsey apparently being too ill to officiate.
The conclusion of these negotiations was followed by the most splendid pageant on record, of which a minute account has been given by Hall and by the Venetian secretary Spinelli, who was present on this occasion. The rejoicings, even in an age remarkable for its love of pageantry and grand ceremonial, surpassed in splendor and magnificence all that had ever been witnessed before. The decorations alone, not including the entertainment itself, exceeded 8,000l. in our modern estimate of money. Among the poets employed to write and translate in English and Latin verse was the celebrated John Rastall, married to Sir Thomas More's sister. (fn. 30) The artists engaged on the decorations were "Master Browne, the King's painter," two Italians, Vincent Vulpe and Ellis Carmyan, who received for their wages 20s. a week,—that is, about 12l. No less a personage than "Master Hans (Holbein) was employed for the painting of the plat of Tirwan, which standeth on the back-side of the great rock," at the cost of 4l. 10s.,—between 50l. and 60l. in modern computation. This work was greatly admired; for, says Hall, "when supper was done, the King, the Queen, and the ambassadors washed, and after talked at their pleasure; and then they rose and went out of the banquet chamber by the foresaid arches; and when they were between the uttermost door and the arches the King caused them to turn back and look on that side of the arches, and then they saw how Terouenne was besieged, and the very manner of every man's camp, very cunningly wrought." (fn. 31) The six antique heads of Hercules, Scipio, Cæsar, and Pompey, and two not named, were modelled by John Demyans (de Maiano), "gilt, silvered, and painted, at 26s. 8d. each,"—or about 14l. Such prices, as compared with Rastall's payment, were liberal, for the poet received "for the writing of the dialogue and making (poetry) in rhyme, both in English and Latin, 3s. 4d.,"—about 2l. (fn. 32)
"On the fourth instant (i.e. of May) all the ambassadors, with the exception of the Emperor's, were summoned to Greenwich; where, in the presence of the King and the chief personages of the Court, the French ambassador, the bishop of Tarbes, delivered an oration, which was answered by the bishop of London; who on the morrow, Cardinal Wolsey being unable to officiate from indisposition, sang mass with the usual ceremonies, after which at the high altar, where the missal was opened by the Cardinal, the French ambassadors swore in his hands to observe the perpetual peace now concluded with the king of England, he on his part swearing in like manner.
"On rising from the table they went to the Queen's apartment, where the Princess danced with the French ambassador, the Viscount of Turenne, who considered her very handsome and admirable by reason of her great and uncommon mental endowments, but so thin, spare, and small as to render it impossible for her to be married for the next three years.
"Then yesterday there was a joust, the challengers at the tilt being four, the competitors being sixteen, each of whom ran six courses; a very delectable sight, by reason of the prowess of the knights. The joust ended with the day, not without rain, which rather impeded the jousting.
"The King and the Queens, with some 200 damsels, then went to the apartments which I informed you in a former letter were being prepared on one side of the tilt yard at Greenwich (fn. 33) for the reception of the French ambassadors, the rest of the company following them. The site adjoined the other chambers, from whence the King and the nobility view the jousts. They were but two halls, about thirty paces in length, and of proportional height and breadth. The centre of the ceiling of the first hall was entirely covered with brocatel, of no great value, but producing a good effect. The walls were hung with the most costly tapestry in England representing the history of David; and there was a row of torches closely set, illuminating the place very brilliantly, being ranged below the windows, which were at no great distance from the roof. The royal table was prepared in front of the hall, with a large canopy of tissue, beneath which was the King, with the Queens, his wife and sister, at the sides. Then came two long tables; at one end of which, on the right-hand side, were seated the French ambassador and the Princess, each pairing with some great lady. At the other table, to the left, the Venetian ambassador and the one from Milan placed themselves, with the rest of the lords and ladies. At no great distance from the two tables were two cupboards, reaching from the floor to the roof, forming a semicircle, on which was a large and varied assortment of vases, all of massive gold, the value of which it would be difficult to estimate; nor were any of them touched; silver-gilt dishes of another sort being used for the viands of meat and fish, which were in such variety and abundance that the banquet lasted a long while.
"The door of this hall was in the form of a very lofty triumphal arch, fashioned after the antique, beneath which were three vaulted entrances. Through one passed the dishes for the table; through the other they were removed; and on each side of the centre one, which was the largest, stood two enormous cupboards bearing the wine to be served at table. Over the triumphal arch was a spacious balcony for the musicians, bearing the arms of the King and Queen, with sundry busts of Emperors, and the King's motto "Dieu et mon droit," and other Greek words. Could never conceive anything so costly and well designed as what was witnessed that night at Greenwich.
"On rising from table all were marshalled, according to their rank, along a corridor of no great length, to the other hall, which was of rather less size than the first. The floor was covered with cloth of silk embroidered with gold lilies. The ceiling, which was well nigh flat, was all painted, representing a map of the world, the names of the principal provinces being legible; there were also the signs of the zodiac and their properties, these paintings being supported by giants. Along the sides of the hall were three tiers of seats, each of which had a beam placed lengthwise for the spectators to lean on, nor did one tier interfere with the other. Above these tiers were in like manner three rows of torches, so well disposed and contrived as not to impede the view.
"Within the space for the spectators, on the right-hand side in the first tier, the ambassadors were placed; in the second, the Princes; in the third, those to whom admission was granted, they being few. On the opposite side, in the same order, were the ladies; whose various styles of beauty and apparel, enhanced by the brilliancy of the lights, caused me to think I was contemplating the choir of angels, they, in like manner, being placed one above the other. Two-thirds of the distance down the hall an arch of a single span had been erected, its depth being five feet and a half [English measure], all gilt with fine gold, the inside of the arch being decorated with a number of beautiful figures in low relief. The magnificence of this arch was such that it was difficult to comprehend how so grand a structure could have been raised in so short a space of time. In the centre to the front stood the royal throne, on which the King sat, the two Queens being seated below at his feet.
"All the spectators being thus methodically placed, without the least noise or confusion, and precisely as pre-arranged, the entertainment commenced. One thing above all others surprised me most, never having witnessed the like anywhere, it being impossible to represent or credit with how much order, regularity, and silence such public entertainments proceed and are conducted in England. First of all, there entered the hall eight singers, forming two wings, and singing certain English songs; in their centre was a very handsome youth alone, clad in skyblue taffety, a number of eyes being scattered over his gown; and having presented themselves before the King, the singers then withdrew in the same order, there remaining by himself the youth, who, in the disguise of Mercury, sent to the King by Jupiter, delivered a learned Latin oration in praise of his Majesty; which panegyric being ended, he announced that Jupiter, having frequently listened to disputes between love and riches, concerning their relative authority, and that being unable to decide the controversy, he appointed his Majesty as judge, and requested him to pronounce and pass sentence on both of them. Thereupon Mercury departed; and next came eight young choristers of the chapel, four on each side; those to the right were all clad in cloth of gold, much ornamented, and the first of them was Cupid; the others to the left were variously arrayed, and their chief was Plutus. In the centre walked one alone in the guise of Justice, who sang.
"In this order they presented themselves to the King, before whom Justice commenced narrating the dispute between the parties in English, and desired Cupid to begin with his defence; to which Plutus replied; each of the choristers on either side defending their leaders by reciting a number of verses. The altercation being ended, Cupid and Plutus determined that judgment should go by battle; and thus, having departed, three men-at-arms in white armour, with three naked swords in their hands, entered from the end of the hall, and having drawn up under the triumphal arch, an opening was made in its centre by some unseen means, and out of the arch fell down a bar, in front of which there appeared three well-armed knights. The combat then commenced valiantly, man to man, some of them dealing such blows that their swords broke. After they had fought some while a second bar was let down, which separated them, the first three having vanquished the others, fighting with great courage; and the dual being thus ended, the combatants quitted the hall in like manner as they had entered it. Thereupon there fell to the ground, at the extremity of the hall, a painted canvas [curtain] from an aperture, in which was seen a most verdant cave, approachable by four steps, each side being guarded by four of the chief gentlemen of the Court, clad in tissue doublets and tall plumes, each of whom carried a torch. Well grouped within the cave were eight damsels, of such rare beauty as to be supposed goddesses rather than human beings. They were arrayed in cloth of gold, their hair gathered into a net, with a very richly jewelled garland, surmounted by a velvet cap, the hanging sleeves of their surcoats being so long that they well nigh touched the ground, and so well and richly wrought as to be no slight ornament to their beauty. They descended gracefully from their seats to the sound of trumpets, the first of them being the Princess, hand in hand with the marchioness of Exeter. Her beauty in this array produced such an effect on everybody that all the other marvellous sights previously witnessed were forgotten, and they gave themselves up solely to contemplation of so fair an angel. On her person were so many precious stones that their splendour and radiance dazzled the sight in such wise as to make one believe that she was decked with all the gems of the eighth sphere. Dancing thus, they presented themselves to the King, their dance being very delightful by reason of its variety, as they formed certain groups and figures most pleasing to the sight. Their dance being finished, they ranged themselves on one side; and in like order the eight youths, leaving their torches, came down from the cave, and after performing their dance, each of them took by the hand one of those beautiful nymphs, and, having led a courant together for a while, returned to their places.
"Six masks then entered. To detail their costume would be but to repeat the words, 'cloth of gold,' 'cloth of silver,' &c. They chose such ladies as they pleased for their partners, and commenced various dances; which being ended, the King appeared. The French ambassador, the marquis of Turenne, was at his side, and behind him four couple of noblemen all masked, and all wearing black velvet slippers on their feet; this being done lest the King should be distinguished from the others; as, from the hurt which he lately received on his left foot when playing at tennis, he wears a black velvet slipper. They were all clad in tissue doublets, over which was a very long and ample gown of black satin, with hoods of the same material, and on their heads caps of tawny velvet. They then took by the hand an equal number of ladies, dancing with great glee, and at the end of the dance unmasked; whereupon the Princess with her companions again descended, and came to the King, who, in the presence of the French ambassadors, took off her cap, and, the net being displaced, a profusion of silver tresses, as beautiful as ever were seen on human head, fell over her shoulders, forming a most agreeable sight. The aforesaid ambassadors then took leave of her; and all departing from that beautiful place returned to the supper hall, where the tables were spread with every sort of confection and choice wines for all who chose to cheer themselves with them. The sun, I believe, greatly hastened his course, having, perhaps, had a hint from Mercury of so rare a sight. So showing himself already on the horizon, warning being thus given of his presence, everybody thought it time to quit the royal chambers, returning to their own with such sleepy eyes that the daylight could not keep them open."
The rejoicings and solemnities in the French court were far less sumptuous. They were, in fact, marked with a parsimony excusable enough in the impoverished state of the French finances, but very unlike the general splendour in which Francis himself, and his subjects, were accustomed to indulge on great State occasions. Viscount Lisle was sent to receive the King's oath, and has left us a description of the ceremonial which took place on Whitsun eve, June 8th. The great hall was hung with fleurs de lys. The King took his seat under "his cloth of estate," dressed in a gown of purple velvet trimmed with sables, and white hose and doublet. During the ambassador's oration, a gentleman usher kneeled at each corner of the dais. But whilst the narrator is struck with this unusual ceremony, he is no less struck with the familiarity allowed by the French king to his courtiers. "About and behind the King were all the great lords temporal; some leaning on the pommels of his chair. Lautrec and the Grand Master stood on either side; the Admiral and others behind, within a space of two yards between the wall and the back of the King's chair. The archbishops and bishops sat on low stools behind the ambassadors. And when the French chancellor replied, he never rose from his chair, nor uncovered his head, nor raised his cap,"—according to the invariable custom in England,—"whether he named the King his master or any other prince." On Whitsunday, the King took his oath in the cathedral of Notre Dame. The most noticeable feature in the ceremony was an enormous cloth of purple velvet, embroidered with gold fleurs de lys, which served for a carpet. After the ceremony dinner was served in one of the canon's houses. "The King was very merry all the dinner time," says Clerk, "and had much communication with the papal Legate, with us, and with divers other lords and gentlemen which stood about him; some leaning upon his chair, and some upon his table, all much more familiarly than is agreeable to our English manners." (fn. 34) At a feast given the Thursday after in the Palace to wind up the rejoicings, the roof and sides of the apartment were merely covered with rich hangings and "rolls of green box with garlands of the same." The devices were not remarkable for splendour or ingenuity. In the first "was a play of shepherds which brought in the Ruin of Rome." After this came another device of two angels, each holding the half of a scutcheon in one hand, and a plane in the other; "and ever they planed those half scutcheons until they had fitted the two halves into one whole, half white and half red. One of the angels held a long branch of rose in his hand, and the word Angleterre written on his breast, and the other France. And so lovingly holding between them the united scutcheon, they made their reverence, and departed." (fn. 35)
As the difficulties in the late negociations could not be entirely removed without a personal interview, Henry had more than once expressed, in warm language, his strong desire to see his brother of France, assuring Turenne, that "if their state allowed, he would not be one single day without his company." (fn. 36) The proposition was received on the part of the French more coldly than might have been anticipated to a proposal so flattering. They held out no encouragement, but preferred the minister to his master. Already Francis had urged his ambassadors to persuade Wolsey to visit France, and obtain his master's sanction for that purpose. He added, as an inducement, that he would do for him "what he would not do for all the cardinals in Rome;" (fn. 37) for he would himself go to Picardy to meet Wolsey and talk privately with him. Evidently he was not prepared for another extravagant display like the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in which English wealth easily outrivalled the more frugal display of the French, sorely crippled in their finances by the events of the last few years. Contemporary historians, as usual, attribute to the Cardinal's ostentation and vanity this mission into France, but there is no indication whatever that he either sought or desired it. Indifferent to the opinions of men, solely influenced by his sense of devotion to the King's service, he never condescended to undeceive those who misinterpreted his actions, or credited him with measures of which he was only the minister, and not the author. It is this reserve which makes all judgment of his motives and conduct so difficult and so perplexing. Except Henry himself, none knew precisely the amount of responsibility due to the Cardinal. No one could tell how far he was a spontaneous agent, or stooped to a necessity he could not avoid, or yielded against his conviction, rather than risk a worse alternative. Those who could have done him justice were too much interested in his ruin, and too much wrapped up in the selfish pursuit of their own interests, to waste their magnanimity in vindicating the memory of a statesman to whose ruin they had contributed, and out of whose fall they had reaped their advantage. Cromwell, busily engrossed with his own advancement, troubled not himself about the honor of a master, on whose disgrace he had risen to credit and importance. Cavendish who, more than any other, has painted the last days of the fallen statesman with unrivalled pathos and fidelity, was clearly unversed in politics, and knew nothing, except by vague report, of Wolsey's earlier and more active years. Reformers and Romanists alike, though for opposite reasons, hated the man who, by his influence over the King, had obstructed the Reformation, and injured the monastic orders by subverting so many of their houses to build his colleges. Both condemned him, without pity or reflection, for suggesting, as they thought, the divorce of queen Katharine, and estranging her husband from the Emperor. Strangely enough, the most conflicting interests and most opposite parties combined in maintaining the Emperor's ascendancy in English politics. The continental trade of the country was carried on at Antwerp and the Flemish ports; and Wolsey's endeavors to transfer it to Calais, and develope our trade with France, encountered bitter opposition. Most of the Hanse merchants, tinctured with Lutheranism, and all of them engaged in the contraband traffic of importing Lutheran books, then eagerly purchased at enormous prices, were especially alarmed at the prospect of losing their trade, and employed all their influence with the Reformers, whose numbers at this time were rapidly increasing, in denouncing the French alliance as inimical to the Gospel. Their opponents, who hated Lutheranism, but associated with Katharine the cause of the Church, turned to the Emperor as the champion of her in whose singular purity, constancy, and devotion the Church seemed to find its most noble and affecting example. From one cause or another, Tyndall and his bitterest opponents, More and Fisher, Norfolk, Darcy, and Northumberland, satirists and theologians, those who hoped to gain by Wolsey's fall, and those who had nothing to expect from it, then and afterwards, misinterpreted his measures and loaded his memory with obloquy. With still greater perversity they distributed justice with inverted hands, attributing whatever was meritorious to the King, whatever was odious to his minister.
Henry VIII. was not the "angel of purity" it has now become a fashion with some to represent him; nor was he the monster of lust and cruelty described by others, at all events in his earlier years, and under Wolsey's administration. He had been carefully and even strictly educated by his father Henry VII., whose stern and sombre court formed a striking contrast to the splendour and magnificence in which his son and successor delighted. The horrors of a civil war, of a disputed succession, of a successful rebellion under some powerful noble, had passed away. The old and staid councillors of his father had died; and, with the exception of Wolsey, their places had been mainly filled by younger men of a very different stamp; by laymen, not by ecclesiastics; by those who could enter into the young King's pursuits and amusements,—were more fitted for the tiltyard than the council table,—loved the tumult, gallantry, pomp, and splendor of the rising generation and the new reign, and served rather to spur than restrain the inclinations of the new monarch. Until the close of the year 1524 the superabundant activity of the King himself and his young courtiers, wasting itself mainly in muscular amusements, or exchanging them for the less justifiable excitement of dice and card-playing, found more wholesome occupation in the war with France, or the expectation of war. But the defeat of Francis at the battle of Pavia left them in utter idleness, without the hope of employment. Men of education, sagacity, and experience, generally ecclesiastics, were at that time engaged in all diplomatic posts, requiring more than usual tact and ability. For such employments the nobility and gentry, who frequented the new court, were either disqualified by ignorance of their own, and still more of the Latin, tongue—the common vehicle of communication,—or declined to qualify themselves by the necessary sacrifices of their time and amusements. In 1525 the King, then 36 years old, was beginning to pay less attention to business. He hated the drudgery of looking over files of despatches, from which the most exciting topic was absent; withdrew himself more and more from the metropolis, and spent his days in hunting. At that time he was in the very vigor of his manhood; then, and for some years after, the admiration of all who beheld him; conspicuous for his clear and ruddy complexion, his strength and agility; towering in stature above all those by whom he was surrounded. Even five years after, when time and indulgence had spared neither his looks nor his fair proportions, the Venetian ambassador, Lodovico Falier, cannot refrain from breaking out into enthusiastic praise of his many graces and personal accomplishments:—"In this Eighth Henry God has combined such corporeal and intellectual beauty as not merely to surprise but astound all men. ... His face is angelic, rather than handsome; his head imperial and bold; and he wears a beard, contrary to English custom. Who would not be amazed when contemplating such singular beauty of person, coupled with such bold address, adapting itself with the greatest ease to every manly exercise. He sits his horse well, manages him yet better. He jousts, wields the spear, throws the quoit, and draws the bow admirably. He plays at tennis most dexterously ... Besides the Latin and his native tongue, he has learned Spanish, French, and Italian." (fn. 38)
Removed more than ever from the personal influence of Wolsey, now wholly engrossed with the public business, Henry was surrounded by favorites, who recommended themselves to his notice by ministering to his pleasures, and fostering his love of profusion. Chief of these were Sir Wm. Compton, Sir Francis Bryan, Sir Gilbert Pickering, Sir Henry Norris, and George Boleyn, of whom the last two perished on the scaffold. To these must be added the duke of Suffolk, exclusively remarkable for his strength and stature,—the duke of Norfolk, a small spare man, of dark complexion, cruel lips, and more cruel temper,—and Sir Thomas Boleyn, advanced to the peerage in 1525 as lord Rochford. Of these, Sir Thomas was the father of Ann Boleyn; Norfolk (Wolsey's great enemy) was her uncle; George Boleyn, her brother; Sir Francis Bryan, her cousin; Norris, her near relative and admirer; Compton, an intimate friend. With them, or some of them, Henry spent the day in hunting, and the night in gambling, losing occasionally large sums of money. In 1525 he had attempted to make a favorite of Sir Thomas More, professing to be delighted with his society, his wit, his modesty, and his learning. (fn. 39) He had not yet forgotten his fondness for theological controversy, in which More was a proficient; and More had defended the King's book by a bitter attack upon Luther. At the death of Sir Richard Wingfield, in July 1525, the King had advanced More to the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster. "And for the pleasure," says Roper, "he took in his company would his Grace suddenly some- times come home to his house at Chelsea to be merry with him, whither, on a time unlooked-for, he came to dinner, and after dinner, in a fair garden of his, walked with him by the space of an hour, holding his arm about his neck. As soon as his Grace was gone, I, rejoicing thereat, said to Sir Thomas More, how happy he was whom the King had so familiarly entertained, as I never had seen him do to any before, except cardinal Wolsey, whom I saw his Grace walk once with arm in arm. (fn. 40) 'I thank our 'Lord, Sir,' quoth More," with mingled pathos and humor, "'I find his Grace my very good lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favor me as any subject within this realm. Howbeit, son Roper, I may tell thee I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would win him a castle in France —(for then there was war between us) (fn. 41)—it should not fail to go.'"
That More, combining the religious fervor and devotion of the recluse with the urbanity, grace, and ready wit of the most cultivated man of the world, a considerate and patient master, a pattern of conjugal purity and fidelity, should not seek to push his fortune among the uncrupulous candidates for royal favor, is no more than might be expected. He knew well what were the King's intentions at that time, and did not approve of them. He knew also how hard it was to contend with one whose arguments he could not admit without peril of his conscience, or contradict without peril of his life. His learning, his reputation, his legal acquirements, were sure to point him out to the King as the one man above all others in his kingdom whose judgment on the question none would venture to impugn, and few would be inclined to dispute. That judgment he had avoided giving, with all the tact and dexterity of which he was master. But the pursuits of the court, and the individuals of which its innermost circle was composed, were scarcely such as could command his sympathy and approbation. There was hardly one of them whose character was not seriously tainted with that vice against which the unsullied purity of More's mind revolted; not one who looked upon the transgression of the marriage vow as deserving reprobation or censure, or at least as worse than a jest. Suffolk had been betrothed to one lady; then married another; then abandoned her, on the plea of his previous contract, for the lady whom he had in the first instance rejected. Norfolk lived with his duchess on the most scandalous terms. Sir William Compton had been cited in the ecclesiastical court, for living in open adultery with a married woman. (fn. 42) The fate of Norris and George Boleyn is too well known to require comment. Sir Francis Bryan, the chief companion in the King's amusements, and the minister of his pleasures, was pointed out by common fame as more dissolute than all the rest.
Unfortunately the Queen had ceased to bear children; and the fact was so notorious as to be made the subject of public comment in the courts of Europe, even by the English ambassadors. She was five years older than the King in age, and more than twice five in temperament and constitution. Short and stout in person, amiable and even cheerful in the midst of all her sorrows and afflictions, beloved and pitied by all, she still retained the King's esteem, and was outwardly treated by him with unfailing respect, (fn. 43) though she had utterly lost his affections. She appeared with him on all public occasions; accompanied him in his progresses; was really or apparently unsuspicious of his intentions. These intentions had been long fostered in his breast before they were revealed to any one. They were only betrayed by degrees; not in their fulness to any,—not even to Wolsey. The common story, propagated by Tyndall, repeated by Roper, reiterated since, that Wolsey requested Longland, the King's confessor, to put "a scruple into his Grace's head" as to the legality of his marriage, is a mere calumny,—one of the many figments propagated by Wolsey's enemies, without dread of contradiction. It was denied by Longland himself; it was denied in open court by the King. "Sir," said the Cardinal, "I most humbly beseech your Highness to declare me, before all this audience, whether I have been the chief inventor or first mover of this matter unto your Majesty; for I am greatly suspected of all men herein." "My lord Cardinal," quoth the King, "I can well excuse you herein. Marry (quoth he) ye have been rather against me in attempting or setting forth thereof." It was not an idle assertion. The truth of it will abundantly appear in the sequel. Longland's protestation is, no doubt, correct, as confirmed by the King's own words. It was the King himself who first broke the matter to his confessor; "and never left urging him until he had won him to give his consent." (fn. 44)
The exact date at which Henry began to entertain these scruples, and their precise shape at the first, can never be determined with accuracy; for the most sufficient of all reasons: they were not known to the King himself. They sprung up unconsciously from a combination of causes, and took definite form and color in his breast by insensible degrees. They must have brooded in his mind some time before he would acknowledge them to himself, still less confess their existence to others. They first became the subject of conversation in the summer of 1527. The ostensible cause of them, carelessly accepted by historians as the real one, and put forth by the King himself, was the "scrupulosity of his conscience, pricked upon divers words that were spoken at a certain time by the bishop of Tarbes, (fn. 45) the French king's ambassador, who had been here long upon the debating for the conclusion of a marriage to be concluded between the Princess our daughter Mary, and the duke of Orleans, the French king's second son." But this was a political figment arranged between the King and Wolsey, when it had become necessary to take fresh action in the matter, and find some justification for their proceedings in the face of Europe. (fn. 46) Not a hint of the kind appears in any of the negociations alluded to, though they have been preserved with the greatest minuteness. Furthermore, the bishop of Tarbes was not in England, nor were any negotiations set on foot for the marriage with Mary until April 1527; and long before that year it is certain that not only was the divorce already entertained, but it had been the subject of secret negociations at the Court of Rome. The bishop of Bath, who had formerly been the King's ambassador with the Pope, and was then at the Court of France, writes on 13 Sept. 1526, announcing to Wolsey the arrival of Sanga, the chief confidant of Clement VII. He tells the Cardinal that there will be great difficulty, circa istud benedictum divortium; reliqua omnia sunt clara. The Pope would make no difficulty about other matters submitted to him by Wolsey; but that "cursed divorce" would not easily be granted; either because Clerk had not yet ventured to broach it to the Pope, or because Sanga, who knew his mind better than any one, held out no hopes of the Pope's compliance. (fn. 47) That divorce could be no other than the King's divorce; for in no other cause would the Pope have refused compliance, considering the difficulties in which he was then placed, and his anxiety to conciliate the friendship of England at all hazards. But if any doubt remains, it is dispelled by a letter from Wolsey, addressed to the King on receiving news of the sack of Rome. "Sir," he says, "if the Pope's Holiness fortune either to be slain or taken, as God forbid, it shall not a little hinder your Grace's affairs, which I have now in hand (the divorce); wherein such good and substantial order and process hath hitherto been made and used, as the like, I suppose, hath not been seen in any time heretofore." (fn. 48) It was this desire to conciliate the Pope's favor that induced Henry to send him in his necessities 30,000 crowns the same year. And if there be any truth in the rumor that Wolsey contemplated a marriage between the King and the duchess of Alençon, it was only in the year 1526 that such a project could have been entertained. For the Duchess, after losing her husband in 1525, visited Francis, then a prisoner in Spain, not returning until the end of the year; and was married already to Henry of Navarre in January 1527. (fn. 49)
But even before the date of Clerk's letter, it is clear that some dreadful secret, which no one dared divulge, least of all commit to paper, was already perplexing the consciences of men. As early as the 30th October 1525, Brinon, the French ambassador, informs Louise, that he had received a very private communication from Wolsey he did not dare intrust to writing. (fn. 50) Vague apprehensions prevail, ambiguous expressions are found, which, taken individually, could hardly be pressed into any direct evidence on the question, but collectively seem to point to the same conclusion; whilst, if we are to trust the King's own assertion, made to Grynæus, (fn. 51) It is to 1524 that we must, in all probability, assign the King's first intention of separating from Katharine. For further evidence it will be needful to look in another direction, and to trace more minutely Anne Boleyn's connection with the English court.