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 11
It was during this Parliament that Cromwell is said to have greatly distinguished himself in defence of his master. "There could nothing be spoken," says Cavendish, "against my Lord in the Parliament House, but he would answer it incontinent, or else take unto the next day, against which time he would resort to my Lord, to know what answer he should make in his behalf; insomuch that there was no matter alleged against my Lord, but that he was ever ready furnished with a sufficient answer; so that at length, for his honest behaviour in his master's cause, he grew into such estimation in every man's opinion, that he was esteemed to be the most faithful servant to his master of all others, wherein he was of all men greatly commended." (fn. 1)
As this is a turning point in the life of a minister who was hereafter to exercise so important an influence on the reign, I stay for a moment to review his past career. He had been employed for the last six years in the Cardinal's service, chiefly in the erection of his two colleges, and in the management of the legal business connected with them. His knowledge of the law, his activity, and his acquaintance with financial matters, recommended him greatly to the Cardinal. Intently occupied during these latter years with political affairs, and absorbed with the King's divorce, Wolsey was compelled to leave all the details connected with his colleges to Cromwell and Dr. John Allen, afterwards promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin. From very early years Cromwell had led the life of an adventurer, if we may trust to common report. Pliant by nature, gracious and insinuating, he had improved these natural advantages by foreign travel, and experience of mankind acquired by his habits of business and his various occupations. Tossed about the world, the sport of fortune, whatever else he may have learnt, he had learnt how to discover the weaker side of human nature, and turn its infirmities to his own advantage. It was an education uncommon among Englishmen in those days. His occupation as a scrivener, half lawyer, half moneylender, had given him considerable knowledge of that branch of his profession which related to property and conveyancing. A thriving usurer, wool-stapler, and merchant, with a small capital painfully accumulated, he had by various loans obliged the needy scions of nobility and the poorer gentry, who, in the extravagant days of Henry VIII., often found themselves in difficulties, and were glad of his assistance at any cost. In the civil wars of the last century a great part of the nobility had been cut off. Those who remained, and had contrived to preserve their estates, were restrained by the policy of the Tudors from regaining their influence. Many were deeply in debt to the Crown; many, during the reign of Henry VII. and his successor, had incurred heavy penalties. If the reader will turn to the list of recognisances in this and the previous volumes, he will see how large a portion of the nobility and gentry were hopelessly plunged in debt; how many names were inscribed in the royal ledgers of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. for large sums, which the Crown had no hope of recovering. Efforts had been made, from time to time during the administration of cardinal Wolsey, to bring these debtors to account; but, if we may judge from the lists of insolvents, such efforts were attended with very little success. It will be at once perceived that such a state of things greatly increased the influence of the Crown. It proved a powerful check on the nobility and gentry, who at any time were liable, if they showed signs of insubordination, to be brought to their account, and suffer the extreme rigor of the law. The fact is, that in the reign of Henry VII., as is often seen at the close of a civil war, money more than arms had become the great power of the State; and no one understood this power more perfectly or cultivated it more carefully than did the founder of the Tudor dynasty. To a parsimonious reign had succeeded one of great splendour and magnificence; a Court of gay, ambitious, brilliant young courtiers, to a grave and sombre court of ecclesiastics, brought up in the older school of frugality and discipline. In the costly revels and entertainments which distinguished the early years of Henry VIII. no one could take part unless he was prepared to lavish on his dress, his armour, and his masking habits, the same reckless expenditure as that of which the King and those around him set the example. Lands were pawned, estates were wasted, in providing the richest arms of the latest fashion, the most dazzling jewels and fantastic disguises, without which no young man of any pretensions could hope to distinguish himself from the throng, or take part in these courtly amusements. Nor was serious war, if serious it could be called, less ruinous in this respect than were these pastimes. To needy men whose incomes had not advanced in proportion to their wants, even small sums of ready money, and inferior employments under the Crown, small fees and offices in the gift of lay patrons and guardians of religious houses, were an object of solicitude. The minor nobility and gentry of England condescended to various means of recruiting their exhausted finances, and thus constituted a large body of royal retainers, grateful for 4d. or 6d. a day.
His aptitude for business.
It will be seen how much this state of things was advantageous to a man of great aptitude for business like Cromwell, not unwilling to make the necessities of others subservient to his own advantage. In managing the monastic estates appropriated to the new collegiate foundations of his master, he had many opportunities of enriching himself, not only in the regular way of professional employment, but by less regular and reputable means. In drawing out leases for the new tenants, in transferring estates, in the expences really or ostensibly incurred on such occasions, he was able to secure ample remuneration from a master who was far too deeply engrossed in the business of the State to scrutinise very narrowly the proceedings of his subordinates. But there were other means less justifiable of enriching himself, in which Cromwell did not scruple to indulge, which more than once brought great odium upon himself, and even upon the Cardinal. Loud outcries reached the King's ears of the exactions and peculations of Wolsey's officers, in which the name of Cromwell was most frequently repeated; and more than once the King had to express his grave displeasure at the conduct of a man who was soon after destined to occupy the highest place in his favor.
This result is not to be attributed exclusively, as has been done by some, and as Cavendish seems to insinuate, to Cromwell's self-denying fidelity to his master. The narrative of Cavendish himself supplies the corrective of this supposition. "It chanced me," says this biographer, "upon Allhallowenday (1st November), to come there into the great chamber at Asher in the morning to give mine attendance, where I found Master Cromwell leaning in the great window, with a primer in his hand, saying of Our Lady's matins; which had been since a very strange sight (meaning that at that time he was not a Protestant). (fn. 2) He prayed not more earnestly than the tears distilled from his eyes." When Cavendish, far more concerned for his master's misfortunes than his own, inquired, "Is my Lord in any danger, for whom you lament thus?" the reply of Cromwell is significant of his character. His tears were not flowing for Wolsey, but for himself. "It is my unhappy adventure," he replied, "that I am like to lose all I have travailed for all the days of my life, for doing of my master true and diligent service." And on Cavendish expressing a hope that he had done nothing in Wolsey's service that would bring him into danger, Cromwell answered, "I understand right well that I am in disdain with most men for my master's sake, and surely without just cause." He then expressed his resolution after dinner of riding to the Court, and, in his own language, "to make or mar" (fn. 3) before he returned again to Esher.
He was not a man easily daunted by disappointment, or too sensitive to insult and contempt. He was by no means in good odour at Court; not, indeed, as he stated, for his too faithful service to his master, but for his irregularities in that service. Yet now that Wolsey had fallen under the King's displeasure, it is clear from his own expressions and the testimony of others, that, "instead of being courted by those who feared him when "his master was powerful, he was in disdain with most men." "You are more hated," writes his friend Vaughan to him, "for your master's sake, than for anything which I think you have wrongfully done against any man." (fn. 4) And this ill report is confirmed by another letter from his friend, Thomas Russhe, who sat in the same Parliament with him. (fn. 5)
Causes of his success.
How he succeeded, and with what great rapidity he rose, we learn by a better authority than Cavendish. For Vaughan tells him from the Low Countries, on the 3rd February, that he had received Cromwell's letters a few days ago, and was glad to learn how well he was progressing. "You now sail," he says, "in a sure haven;" meaning that Cromwell had escaped the dangers to which his old master was still exposed, and had obtained the favour at Court which he sought for. He adds as a caution, "a merry semblance of weather often thrusteth men into the dangerous seas, not thinking to be suddenly oppressed with tempest, when unawares they be prevented and brought in great jeopardy." He concludes by saying that he has heard of lord Rochford's (Sir Thomas Boleyn's) departure from England towards the Emperor, and would have been glad if Cromwell were to go with him, as was reported. So within an incredibly short period, from being in the greatest disdain at Court, and regarded as an enemy to the Boleyns, in consequence of his connection with Wolsey, he had contrived so far to ingratiate himself with their party, as to be marked out by common report for the attendant upon lord Rochford in his embassy to Bologna. By what dexterity he managed this remarkable feat, how he succeeded in ingratiating himself at Court, without losing the friendship of Wolsey, who still looked upon him as his "sole refuge and aid" in his necessity, I have now to explain. If it was due, as Cavendish and others surmise, to his faithful adherence "and honest behaviour" in his master's cause, such a rapid rise from disgrace to favor, from obloquy to honor, speaks more highly for the Court of Henry VIII. and those who were now in the ascendant there, than can be said of Courts in general.
His mode of operation was simple enough, and he seldom departed from it. Clever, facile, if not unprincipled, yet troubled by no stern dogmatic faith or unbending integrity, his experience in the suppression of monastic houses had given him no exalted idea of the sanctity of churchmen, and still less of church property. "Our abbeys and our priories shall pay," an unreal boast in the mouth of King John, was by no means an unreality to Cromwell. He had found it successful already. He was destined, under more favorable circumstances, to give it a wider application. His accession to power marks a great change in the policy of Henry VIII. which was regarded by many with little satisfaction. But at present it was his first concern to obtain some provision for those attendants who still remained faithful to Wolsey; and his mode of proceeding on this occasion furnishes a striking exemplification of his character, and of the policy adopted by him under a more powerful master. The veracity of Cavendish, to whom we are indebted for the anecdote, cannot be doubted. The surrender by the Cardinal of all his goods and chattels upon his indictment in the Præmunire, and the sentence passed upon him in the King's Bench, by which he forfeited all his possessions to the Crown, left him wholly unprovided. Either from carelessness, indignation, or a persuasion that he was possessed of certain hidden riches, the King had made no provision for him of any kind; and in his retirement at Esher, the Cardinal and his household continued for the space of three or four weeks without "beds, sheets, tablecloths, cups and dishes, to eat, or to lie in." Of the bishop of Carlisle and Sir Thomas Arundel he was compelled to borrow plate and linen, and whatever else was required for his commonest personal necessities. To procure the wages due to his attendants was out of his power. To dismiss them at a moment's warning, and send them home to their wives and families in the country without their wages or hope of future advancement, was too painful for Wolsey to contemplate. In this dilemma he was advised by Cromwell to call them together, and address a few words to them on his present necessity. To a lofty and generous spirit such an act as this was doubly distasteful, from the contrast which it offered of his present misery to his former affluence and greatness when he had the means of rewarding their fidelity. And so it was felt to be by Wolsey, the most liberal and magnificent of masters. "Nothing hath no savour," he said in desponding tones, "and I do lament the want of substance to distribute amongst them." "Why, Sir," added Cromwell, "have you not a number of chaplains on whom ye have bestowed very liberally spiritual promotions? There is not one of the least who by your preferment cannot spend three hundred marks a year, whilst your yeomen and gentlemen, who have done much more for you, have received no advantage. If they will not frankly consider your liberality, and assist you in your present necessity, it is a pity they should be allowed to live."
As no other alternative presented itself, the Cardinal, more than ever deferential to his ready-witted adviser, consented; and, assembling his attendants, he explained to them his inability to requite them for their services, expressing his hope that better times would come, when the King would relent, and he should be able to reward them. He begged them in the meantime to take their pleasures for a month, and "at the end of the period he would use his influence in procuring them admission into the King's service, or elsewhere, wherever his interest extended." "But, Sir," said Cromwell, "there are divers of your yeomen would be glad to see their friends; but they lack money, and here are divers of your chaplains who have received great benefits from you; let them now show their humanity. Though for my part I have not received a penny from you towards the increase of my yearly (fn. 6) living, yet I am willing to part with this towards the expences of your servants;" and therewith delivered the Cardinal 5l. in gold. "Now," added he, "let us see what your chaplains will do, who are much more able to give a pound than I am able to spend a penny."
The suddenness of the appeal, the presence of all the household who were assembled upon the occasion, the grief and necessity of the Cardinal himself, who was entirely overcome by the violence of his emotions, produced the necessary effect. His chaplains among them offered sums of such amount as enabled Wolsey to pay all the wages of his household, and advance them money for their journey.
It was on the same principle that he proceeded to secure for himself, and for his master, friends at Court, and take off the animosity of his enemies. Accustomed to deal with men in the mass, and in great political combinations, no one understood men individually less than the Cardinal. The idea of propitiating the malice of his enemies by gifts or pensions out of his bishopric never seems to have entered his head. Even when the King, whose favor it was most important for him to propitiate, was anxious to have the Cardinal's house at Westminster, intending to turn it into a palace, Wolsey was little inclined to surrender possession, although the Judges had declared their opinion that the right of it rested in the King. (fn. 7) Now, however, unable to stand up in his own defence, and surrendering himself entirely to the adroit management of his adviser, who, in promoting the interest of the Cardinal, was also promoting his own, we find him adopting Cromwell's policy. To George Boleyn, Anne Boleyn's brother, he granted an annuity of 200l. out of the revenues of Winchester, and 200 marks out of the lands of St. Alban's. (fn. 8) For Sir Henry Norris, another favorite, he made an increase of his fee to 100l. To Lord Sands, the comptroller of the Household, 40l. To Sir John Russell, 20l. He would like the last, he says, to be 40l. or 50l.; and will do this with all his heart, and more, if Cromwell thinks it expedient. Shortly after he writes to Cromwell to say, that he has always loved Norris for the service he has done to the King, and is willing to increase his fee to 200l., and will enlarge the fee of Fitzwilliam, the King's treasurer. Similar gifts, judiciously bestowed, at Cromwell's advice and suggestion, though they did not suffice to restore him to favor, had the effect, for the time, of softening the bitterness of his enemies.
In these proceedings it must be remembered that the advantage was not the Cardinal's exclusively. Perhaps it was less his than his minister's; for Cromwell thus found the means of making personal application to those on whom these gratuities were bestowed, and, insinuating himself into their favor whom it was most important for him to propitiate. Confined to Esher, entirely at the mercy of his shrewd adviser, unable to judge for himself what was necessary to procure his pardon,—for all this time the King had most ungenerously kept the penalty of the law hanging suspended over Wolsey's head,—whatever Cromwell advised, that the Cardinal felt himself bound implicitly to follow. It is clear from the correspondence between them that whenever he ventured to act upon his own responsibility, it was resented by his active but now somewhat imperious agent, and drew from his humiliated master, on more than one occasion, an abject apology. (fn. 9) He had obtained completely the upper hand of the downtrodden Cardinal. It was no small advantage, therefore, to Cromwell to have this opportunity of obliging a powerful faction at Court, and of serving himself whilst he was serving Wolsey. He could approach them with offers of pensions and employments. He could arrange the amount, ostensibly in the Cardinal's behalf, and purchase their favor and protection, by these means, without offending their sensibility or their pride by the grosser offer of a bribe. And though it might be thought that any grants of the kind, so long as the Cardinal still laboured under the sentence of a Præmunire, would be worthless and invalid, these grants by some legal quibble were pronounced by the Judges to be valid and permanent; whilst all the Cardinal's acts for twenty years before, and all the endowments which he had laboriously collected for his colleges, were declared by the same Judges to be illegal and forfeited to the Crown. The same men who had maintained the King's absolute right to York House, now also maintained the necessity of obtaining Wolsey's recognisance of that right, even before he had received his pardon. So law and judgment followed the King's pleasure, and were obedient to his will as the shadow to the dial. (fn. 10) What was done in this instance was imitated in others. In all these traffickings, so entirely inconsistent with modern notions, and derogatory to men of rank and station, Cromwell's particular knowledge of the law, and his experience of business, gave him no small advantage. I do not mean to insinuate that his fidelity to his master may not have recommended him to notice; at the same time, if such fidelity had been empty-handed, it is not very probable that it would have been so speedily and amply rewarded. (fn. 11)
His services in Parliament.
The services which he rendered in this Parliament are as much misunderstood as the proceedings of Parliament itself. Cavendish tells us that a Bill of Articles was brought "into Parliament House to have my Lord (Wolsey) condemned of treason; against which Bill Master Cromwell inveighed so discretely, with such witty persuasions and deep reasons, that the same Bill could take there no effect." Although in all the proceedings connected with the Cardinal strange informalities prevailed, it would have been wholly irreconcilable with all notions of justice for a Bill of attainder to be introduced into the House, when the Cardinal was already indicted and condemned for the same offence in the Court of King's Bench. Nor is it at all likely that Cromwell, a man of little influence at the time, exposed, as he himself admits, "to the disdain of all men," would have been able to resist a Bill which was acceptable to the King or the majority of the House of Commons; and without the King's express permission, it is certain that no such Bill would have been introduced into the Lower House. It was not a Bill of attainder that the House proposed, but only a Bill for disabling the Cardinal from being restored to his former dignities and place in the King's councils;—not unlike the disqualifications inflicted in the case of lord Bacon. It was part of the policy pursued by a hostile faction in the Lords, who stood in constant dread of Wolsey's restoration to favor, and therefore wished to obtain an Act to make such a restoration impossible. That the King would have consented to have his hands tied by such a measure, had he felt inclined to act otherwise, is not very probable. These proceedings were of no real importance, beyond the attempt to cast an additional stigma upon the Cardinal, and popularize the charges on which he was condemned, many of which were frivolous, and many false. Parliament was a useful auxiliary in giving effect to the King's wishes. It enabled the King to appeal to its decisions whenever he wished to make it appear that his actions were determined by the voice of his people, and not by his own arbitrary will, for the Tudors shunned responsibility as much as the Stuarts courted it. (fn. 12)
This Bill passed the Lords on the 1st of December, and was signed by seventeen of the Upper House, among whom we find the names of Sir Thomas More, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the lords Northumberland, Darcy, and Rochford, all of them, with the exception perhaps of More, distinguished for their animosity to the Cardinal. It was framed, in the main, from certain articles found in the handwriting of Darcy, drawn up as far back as July: (fn. 13) So long had the malice of his enemies been waiting for Wolsey's ruin. In this paper (fn. 14) the plot is devised for proceeding against the Cardinal. His real or supposed offences are minutely registered; and it is boldly suggested that the Cardinal's personal property should be seized before he had any opportunity of preparing for his defence, and that all who had complained against him for his "inordinate pomp, vainglory, and hypocrisy" should bring their complaints before the Council. (fn. 15)
The Bill, or the "Book of Articles," (fn. 16) as Hall calls them, "which the Lords had put to the King against the Cardinal," and passed on the 1st of December, was sent down to the Commons. Whether it provoked any discussion is uncertain. As the House was prorogued by the King on the 17th of December, it is not probable that Cromwell had any necessity to exert himself much in opposing it, or to ride backwards and forwards from Blackfriars to Esher to take Wolsey's opinion upon it. The Bill dropped, and no notice of it appears in the Rolls of Parliament. It had produced the effect intended; and nothing more was to be gained by it. It is certain that Cromwell, who now steered his course in the House as the King and Norfolk dictated, would not go beyond their instructions.
All this time Wolsey continued at Esher in the greatest distress and agony of mind, uncertain of the fate that awaited him. From that luxury and splendor, which had once made him an object of envy to all mankind, he had now fallen into comparative poverty. At the advice and suggestions of others, he had been induced to surrender his whole estate unconditionally into the King's hands. "As God is my judge," he writes to Cromwell, "I never thought, and so I was assured at the making of my submission, that I should have to part with any of my promotions. For the rigor of the law, for any offence that can be arrected unto (charged upon) me, deserveth no such punishment." (fn. 17) He trusts that this will be duly considered; for these noblemen, at whose persuasion he had been induced to submit, without using any effort to defend himself, had pledged their honor that upon his making a final gift of his whole estate to the Crown, he should be leniently dealt with, but hitherto he had received only fair words instead of comfortable deeds. (fn. 18) To augment his anguish he was kept in a state of continual alarm by visits and contradictory messages. At one time the King would command Sir John Russell to take him a ring, desiring the Cardinal to be of good cheer, as the King loved him as well as ever he did, and was not a little disquieted at his troubles. At another time he would be visited by the duke of Norfolk, and be treated with the most ceremonious respect, as if he had still been "my good lord Cardinal," and higher than "any duke in the realm." (fn. 19) On other occasions the King would insist that he should part with some of the temporalties of his archbishopric, or resign the best livings in his gift. (fn. 20) "Thus continued my Lord," says Cavendish, "at Asher, who received daily messages from the Court, whereof some were not so good as some were bad, yet much more evil than good. For his enemies, perceiving the great affection that the King bore always towards him, devised a mean to disquiet and disturb his patience ... Therefore they took this order among them in their matters, that daily they would send him something, or do something against him, wherein they thought that they might give him a cause of heaviness or lamentation. At some day they would cause the King to send for four or five of his gentlemen from him to serve the King; and some other day they would lay matters newly invented against him. Another day they would take from him some of his promotions; or of their promotions whom he had preferred before. Then would they fetch from him some of his yeomen, insomuch as the King took into his service sixteen of them at once, and at one time put them into his guard. This order of life he led continually, that there was no one day, or ever he went to bed, that he had not an occasion greatly to chafe or fret the heart out of his belly; but that he was a wise man, and bore all their malice in patience." (fn. 21)
Whatever might be the motives which prompted this treatment, as mean and paltry as it was ungracious, it broke down the Cardinal's feeble frame, already shattered by violent grief, and hope of pardon long deferred. The King had promised, at the prorogation of Parliament, 17th December, to make arrangement for the Cardinal's support and his future course of living. But, either charmed with the splendor and beauty of the Cardinal's houses, furniture, plate, and pictures, which had now become the property of the Crown, or entangled in the fascinations of Anne Boleyn, to whom he had now devoted himself more exclusively than ever, he was wholly oblivious of his promises. (fn. 22) Of all Wolsey's former friends and dependents who were able to serve him, none remained faithful, with the exception of Cromwell; for though Gardiner was ostensibly civil, it is to be feared that he was not really hearty in his desire to help his ancient patron and master. "I went to Mr. Secretary," writes Sadleyr to Cromwell, then at Esher, "who said he knew nothing at all about my Lord's grace (Wolsey). I think he will do little or nothing to my Lord's avail, or to that of any of his friends, more than he may not choose for very shame, considering the advancements and promotion that he hath had at my Lord's hand. I have small trust in him." (fn. 23) Helpless, forlorn, a prey to racking memories, disappointed hopes, and vain regrets, the unhappy Cardinal fell, at Christmas, into a dangerous sickness. At this time he wrote the following affecting letter to Cromwell. "The furthering and putting over of your coming hither hath so increased my sorrow, and put me in such anxiety of mind, that this night my breath and wind, by sighing, was so short, that I was, by the space of three hours, (fn. 24) as one that should have died. Wherefore, if ye love my life, break away this evening and come hither, to the intent I may open my mind unto you. If this time be put over, it shall not be in your power to provide the remedy. If I might (could) I would not fail, rather than this my speaking with you shall be put over and delayed, to come on my foot to you. At the reverence of God, take some pain now for me, and forsake me not in this mine extreme need; and whereas I cannot, God shall reward you. Now is the time to show whether ye love me or not ... ye shall not tarry here long. In the which your coming I shall show you my mind, in all such things as ye have written to me, for I am now in no good point (condition) to write at the length anything, nor shall be able if I continue in this case, nam dies mei finientur. ... Pray speak with Norris afore your coming, of whom you may learn some specialties. If the displeasure of my lady Anne be somewhat assuaged, as I pray God the same may be, then should it be well that by some convenient mean she be further labored with; for this is the only help and remedy. All possible means must be employed for attaining of her favour." He concludes with a sentence, unfortunately mutilated, that he had none left him now to show charity and pity in his misfortunes, and was entirely dependent on Cromwell's counsel and exertions. (fn. 25)
Falls sick from anxiety.
The sickness increased so rapidly that Augustine, his Italian attendant, (De Augustinis,) in whom he reposed implicit confidence, now became alarmed, and desired that Dr. Butts, the King's physician, or Dr. Walter Cromer, a Scotch physician of great eminence, should be immediately sent for. As the case was urgent, he added that no time must be lost. (fn. 26) And now for the first time since Wolsey's disgrace the King began to think with some remorse upon the sick man, whose only crime it was to have served Majesty too faithfully, and too feebly have opposed its imperious wishes. "The King being advertised," says Cavendish, "was very sorry therefor, and sent Dr. Butts, his Grace's physician unto him, to see in what estate he was. Dr. Butts came unto him, and finding him very sick, lying in his bed, and perceiving the danger he was in, repaired again unto the King. Of whom the King demanded, saying, 'How doth yonder man? Have you seen Him?' 'Yea, Sir,' quoth he. 'How do you like him?' quoth the King. 'Forsooth, Sir,' quoth he, 'if you will have him dead, I warrant your Grace he will be dead within these four days, if he receive no comfort from you shortly, and Mistress Anne.' 'Marry,' quoth the King, 'God forbid that he should die, for I would not lose him for 20,000l.' 'Then must your Grace,' quoth Master Butts, 'send him first some comfortable message as shortly as is possible.' 'E'en so will I,' quoth the King, 'by you, and therefore make speed to him again, and ye shall deliver to him this ring, for a token of our goodwill and favor towards him.' In the which ring was engraved the King's visage within a ruby, as lively counterfeit as was possible to be devised. 'This ring he knoweth very well; for he gave me the same ... therefore bid him be of good cheer.' Then spake he to Mistress Anne, saying, 'Good sweetheart, I pray you, at this my instance, as ye love us, to send the Cardinal a token, with comfortable words, and in so doing ye shall do us a loving pleasure.' She being not minded to disobey the King's earnest request, whatsoever she intended in her heart towards the Cardinal, took incontinent her tablet of gold, hanging at her girdle, and delivered it to Master Butts, with very gentle and comfortable words and commendations to the Cardinal." (fn. 27)
Is pardoned, and a small part of his livelihood restored.
This anecdote of the Cardinal's biographer is better attested than such anecdotes are in general. Chapuys states in a letter to Charles V. that a cousin of the Cardinal's physician, meaning probably this Augustine, told him that Anne Boleyn had sent to visit Wolsey during his sickness, and represented herself as favoring Wolsey with the King. "This," remarks Chapuys, is difficult to be believed, considering the hatred she has always borne him. She must have thought he was dying, or shown her dissimulation and love of intrigue, of which she is an accomplished mistress." (fn. 28) Through the able treatment of his physicians, aided by these comfortable messages from the King, the Cardinal recovered. At Candlemas Day (2nd February) he was further gratified by a present from the King of plate and rich hangings for his chapel. On the 12th of the same month, (fn. 29) he received a full pardon; and on the 14th he was restored to the archbishopric of York, with all its possessions, except York Place, in Westminster, consisting of a house, two gardens, and three acres of land. He received in ready money at the same time 3,000l., 9,565¾ oz. of plate, valued at 3s. 8d. the ounce; household linen, hangings, bedding, and napery, to the amount of 800l.; eighty horses, four saddle mules, six for his carriage, with their furniture, salt fish of various kinds, to the amount of 90l.; kitchen implements and pewter vessels, valued at 80l.; fifty-two oxen, seventy sheep, and wearing apparel, to the amount of 300l. The sum total was estimated at 6,374l. 3s. 7½d. Whether all these items were delivered to the Cardinal exactly as they appear in the schedule, or officially embezzled, may be questioned. Further, when they are spoken of as the King's gift, it must be remembered that they were a gift in no other sense than as they were a restoration of a small portion of the Cardinal's property, which he had surrendered at his fall to the King, on the promise, as he himself states, that in so doing he should be leniently dealt with. He had been anxious to retain his other promotions of Winchester and St. Alban's, and for some time he entertained hopes that his wish would be gratified. Finding it was the King's pleasure he should retain only the administration of York, reserving to himself five or six of his best benefices, he writes to Gardiner: "If it is the King's pleasure that I should leave Winchester and St. Alban's, I am bound to submit; but if he will reflect how little time I have to live, the decay of the archbishopric by the sum of 800 marks, and my long services, considering also that I am to lose Winchester and St. Alban's, which I do not deserve to have lost, and did not expect to lose at my submission, as I had done no offence to the King, I trust a convenient pension will be granted me." (fn. 30) He urges this again with additional earnestness upon Gardiner, who was either not very forward or not able to help him, insisting on his miserable condition and continued sickness, increased by the moist and corrupt air of Esher, and an attack of the dropsy, with loss of appetite and lack of sleep. "I cannot live," he says; "wherefore of necessity I must be removed to some other drier air and place where I may have commodity of physicians. Secondly, having but York, which is now decayed by 800l. by the year, I cannot tell how to live, and keep the poor number of folks which I now have, my houses there being decayed, and of everything meet for a household unprovided and unfurnished. I have none apparel (furniture) for my houses there, nor money to bring me thither, nor to live with, till the propice time of the year shall come to remove thither. These things considered, Mr. Secretary, must needs make me in agony and heaviness, mine age therewith and sickness considered. Alas! Mr. Secretary, ye, with other my Lords, showed me that I should otherwise have been furnished and seen unto. Ye know in your learning and conscience whether I should forfeit my spiritualities of Winchester or no. Alas! the qualities of mine offences considered, with the great punishment and loss of goods that I have sustained, ought to move pitiful hearts." (fn. 31) But apparently pitiful hearts were few.
His promotions taken from him.
The King greedy for his wealth.
He returns to the same subject in a letter to Cromwell, begging him to continue the practices he has commenced for the bishopric of Winchester, and not to abandon them, though he has been warned to forbear speaking to the King in Wolsey's behalf;—undoubtedly by Norfolk, who had no wish that the Cardinal should have any excuse for remaining in such close proximity to the King. It is not unlikely also that the same thought was in the Cardinal's mind, and his desire to retain Winchester was prompted as much by the hope of an opportunity for reinstating himself in the King's favor, as by any wish for its revenues. But the more he strove to retain these promotions, the more resolved were his enemies to oppose him. Assisted by Anne Boleyn, they prevailed. On the 17th of February he was compelled to resign Winchester and St. Alban's, (fn. 32) but he received some compensation for the loss in the shape of a beggarly pen- sion of 1,000 marks. He remitted at the same time into the King's hands "the resignation of such benefices" as were under his jurisdiction at York, hoping that by these acts of submission it might now "please his Majesty to show his pity, compassion, and bounteous goodness" towards him, and not suffer him to lie any longer languishing and consuming away through extreme sorrow and heaviness. (fn. 33) He was utterly wearied and worn out by the continual vexations to which he was exposed. The promises of relief were offered, and then dashed away from his lips, as if with no other purpose than that of protracting his agony. Those who seemed to vie with each other in commiserating his misfortunes, and promising assistance, failed to make good their engagements. It is not surprising if in his grief and his sickness expressions of impatience escaped him; or that one who had been so long accustomed to years of prosperity, the favor of the King, high place and unlimited authority, should find it difficult all at once to contract his wants and conform himself to adverse circumstances. He had not yet learned to descend to his new condition of life, and no opportunity of preparing himself for the change had yet been afforded him. But if we blame Wolsey for these occasional outbursts of impatience, nothing can excuse the caprice, ingratitude, and neglect of the King, or the ignoble intrigues of his enemies. What can excuse the infatuation of a monarch who thus suffered himself to be swayed from his better judgment by the arts of a woman; or the avarice that could stoop to such petty devices for obtaining possession of the Cardinal's wealth? The King spent his time in passing from York House to Hampton Court, which had come into his possession by Wolsey's forfeiture. The latter had been enriched and decorated by the Cardinal's skill, and in it he had collected all that could contribute to gratify the eye or please the taste. "The King," says Chapuys, after referring to the coming of the French agent, John Joachim, into England, to reinstate Wolsey, as it was supposed, in the King's favor, (fn. 34) "is not thought to entertain any ill will to the Cardinal; and to reinstate him in the King's favor would not be difficult, if it were not for the lady (Anne Boleyn). His only wish is for the Cardinal's goods; and he is not very far wrong; for the Cardinal has spent very large sums of money, and said that all he accumulated was for the King. (fn. 35) To "take administration of it before the time, is no such very great offence after all, considering that when the Cardinal began to suspect his fall, and since, he has always said that the King could not do him a greater favor than help himself to all that he had. As a proof that the King has no ill will to him, I am told that he did not wish the Cardinal's case to be determined by Parliament; for if it had been decided against him, the King could not have pardoned him. The said Joachim lodges at a house of one of the Cardinal's servants, (fn. 36) and soon after his arrival the Cardinal, though unwell, sent his physician (Augustinus, a Venetian), in whom he has much confidence, and who stayed with Joachim four or five days. The French would spare no pains to reinstate the Cardinal, for, whatever they pretend, they have no confidence in the duke of Norfolk."
"The Cardinal has been ill, and, some say, feigned illness, in the hope that the King might visit him. He has not done so, but sent him instead a promise of pardon; on the news of which the Cardinal recovered. He will receive his patent (for pardon) today, retain the archbishopric of York, and a pension of 3,000 angels on the see of Winchester, for which he is to resign all his other benefices. Besides 10,000 angels, the King has given him tapestry and plate for five rooms. All the rest the King retains. His house in town has been taken by the King, who gives another in place of it to the see of York. Russell told me that in consequence of some words he had spoken to the King in favor of the Cardinal, the lady (Anne Boleyn) had been very angry, and refused to speak with him. Norfolk told him of her displeasure, and that she was irritated against himself, because he had not done against the Cardinal as much as he might. After this he asked Russell, whether he thought the Cardinal had any expectation of returning to favor; and Russell told him that such was the Cardinal's ambition and courage, that he would not fail, if he saw a favorable opportunity. Nor was this unlikely, if the King should require his advice. Then the Duke began to swear very loudly, that, rather than suffer this, he would cat him up alive. To prevent such a contingency the Car- dinal has been forbidden to approach the Court within ten miles." (fn. 37)
His enemies resolve on his removal.
Apprehensive of any alteration in his favor, Norfolk and his associates were now resolved to get him away. He had obtained licence of the King to remove to Richmond, and wrote to Cromwell to express his delight at the change. And where ye would I should this day remove to Richmond Lodge, it is not possible for me so to do, not having any provision there. Wherefore I most heartily beseech that likewise as ye were determined this night to [come] to me with your wholesome medicine (the money), so ye would take the pain to bring the same hither this night, which [will] be to the inestimable consolation of me and all my folks." (fn. 38) This was the first letter he had written, since his fall, in which he had recovered any portion of his former spirits. So he came and lodged, according to Cavendish, (fn. 39) in the great park at Richmond, where there was "a very pretty house and a neat, lacking no necessary rooms that to so small a house was convenient and necessary; where was to the same a very proper garden, with divers pleasant walks and alleys." At Richmond the Cardinal remained until the middle of Lent, which began in that year on the 24th of February, waiting until the ways were passable; for at that time no one ventured to travel, especially towards the North, whilst the roads were still clogged with the snow. His diocesan manor houses had been left untenanted ever since his appointment to the province of York. There was no provision for himself or his retinue; and in the season of Lent, when salt fish of different kinds formed the staple food of the whole community, it was not possible to procure it, on an emergency, in any sufficient abundance for a numerous family. The markets were held only at stated intervals, and consequently in all large households a sufficient store was provided before the winter. In addition to this, when Wolsey surrendered his houses and goods to the King, he reserved nothing for himself, or for the daily support of his household. In a paroxysm of confidence he had left all such minor considerations to the King's generosity. For the payment of all his necessary expences, his ready money, at the time, consisted of a thousand marks, or about 600l.; and though the King, on the seizure of his property, had consented to liquidate Wolsey's debts, either from the reluctance of the King's officers, or the unwillingness of Wolsey himself, or his inability to realise the exact state of his finances, many claimants remained unsatisfied. In the Cardinal's fall, all who had advanced him money, or who had been employed on his numerous works, at his colleges or elsewhere, now became importunate in their claims, and raised loud outcries against him. So the thousand marks which the King had granted him proved wholly inadequate for his present necessities. (fn. 40)
Is greatly distressed for money.
In a letter from Thomas Runcorn, his chaplain, detailing an account of the writer's interview with Gardiner, we learn that the greatest part of the thousand marks appointed for his journey to the North had been expended already in the payment of the Cardinal's debts previous to his leaving London. Not more than 100l. remained for the immediate support of himself and his household. He had been so thoroughly stript of all profits and places by the greedy courtiers of Henry VIII., that it was not easy for him to borrow money on any security, even if any of his numerous creditors had been willing to lend it. The reply of Gardiner to his application, requesting him to use his interest with the King and obtain some immediate relief of Wolsey's necessities, is characteristic both of himself and the Cardinal. He told Wolsey's messenger that he was perfectly willing to do anything that would contribute to the Cardinal's interest and his pleasure; but though he had such favor with the King that he might come to his speech at all times, "he had no such trade,"—such was his phrase,—that he could in all cases bring the King to his purpose. "And, secondly," says the messenger, "he told me that if you had not sufficient to live withal, it was your own fault, for you might have taken sufficient, but you would not do so, in order that the show of your wealth might be the greater when it should be presented to the sight of the King. He said further, that you did not confess all your debts, but concealed very many, so as the King had paid four times more than it was thought he should have done." Probably there was more truth than grace in this remark. (fn. 41)
Takes his journey to the North.
The Cardinal's departure was hastened by the importunities of the duke of Norfolk, who felt the utmost uneasiness until Wolsey was banished to the North, pretending, if Cavendish may be believed, that by his residence there "he should be a good stay for the county;" (fn. 42) thus retaliating upon Wolsey his own policy. The biographer adds that in a communication of the Duke with Cromwell, the Duke uttered the following threat, which, however incredible it may appear to the reader, has so strong an affinity with the previous statement of Chapuys, as to leave little doubt of its correctness. "Your master, the Cardinal," said the Duke, "makes no great haste for the North. Tell him, if he does not go shortly, rather than he should tarry here I will tear him to pieces with my teeth." (fn. 43)
When this bitter observation was reported to Wolsey, the Cardinal replied, "Marry! Thomas, then it is time to be going, if my lord of Norfolk take it so. Therefore repair to the King, and tell him that I would gladly depart, but for want of money. The last that I received of his Majesty has been too little to pay my debts to which I have been compelled by the King's Council."
He removed from the lodge in Richmond Park to the Charterhouse, built there by Colet, dean of St. Paul's, and attended the services of the Carthusians, who still practised their original austerities. Reducing the number of his attendants to 160, he began his journey at the commencement of Passion week. His first stage was at Hendon; next day he removed to the Rye, (fn. 44) then to Royston; on the fourth day he reached Huntingdon. On Palm Sunday (the 10th of April) he arrived at the abbey of Peterborough, and lodged there with his whole train. There he remained until the Thursday in Easter week. On Maundy Thursday, in accordance with the custom of the day, he washed in the Lady's Chapel, and wiped and kissed, the feet of 59 poor men, in allusion to the 59 years of his life. To each of them he gave 12d. in money, three ells of canvas for a shirt, a pair of new shoes, a east of bread, three red and three white herrings. From Peterborough he removed to a house of Sir William Fitzwilliam, where he continued till the Monday following, when he left for Stamford. The next day he arrived at Grantham, and was entertained by Francis Hall, the member for that borough. The day after he reached Newark, and the next day Southwell. But as the manor-house of the diocese was under repair, (fn. 45) he was compelled to take up his lodgings in the house of one of the prebendaries, apparently Dr. Magnus. Like others who owed their promotion to the Cardinal, Magnus felt no little reluctance at receiving his former benefactor at Sibthorpe. Apologising for his backwardness, he tells the Cardinal that his house has only three chambers suitable for his reception, the rest he used for storing his corn; but if Wolsey pleases, he is willing to let him have the hall, kitchen, buttery, and pantry all in one, the cellar, a little dining chamber, and the chapel. (fn. 46) At Whitsuntide (5th June) he removed to his own house at Southwell, and here he received the visits of the gentry. But even in his retirement into the North, he could not escape the distrust and jealousy of his enemies. "It has been reported in the Court," writes Sir John Gage, the King's vice-chamberlain, and a friend of the duke of Norfolk, that the Cardinal rode in such a sumptuous fashion on his departure towards the North, that some men thought he was of as good courage as in times past, and wanted no impediment but lack of authority." When certain people had come to him for payment of their debts or restitution of their goods, the Cardinal had answered that all his goods were in the King's hands, he could neither pay for them, nor yet restore them. "I think it would be wisdom in him," says this sour retailer of small-talk, to have himself "in godde a vatte vatte wordeys passeys hyme" (in good await what words pass him), and specially in the fore-mentioned case." (fn. 47)
Censoriousness still pursues him.
Even the necessary repairs of his manor-houses could not escape censure. In his inability to procure suitable workmen for the repairs required at Southwell, his surveyor (fn. 48) had sent for one of the King's glaziers to glaze the Cardinal's lodgings; and we may judge of the want of skill in the workmen of those parts, that not a man could be found who could plaster the walls with lime and hair. (fn. 49) Such primitive and innocent attempts as these to render apartments tenantable to one who was aged and sickly, long accustomed to the splendid and luxurious hangings and galleries of Hampton Court and York House, were represented by his enemies as a proof that his pride was not yet sufficiently abated, nor his wings clipped close enough to prevent him from taking a higher flight whenever the opportunity was offered. "Would to God," writes one of his correspondents from London, (fn. 50) on Wolsey urging his usual plea of necessity, "that your Grace would content yourself with that you have"—(viz. the niggardly pittance of 1,000 marks),—"and there is no doubt that the King will be good and gracious to your Grace." "It is said," he continues in the same anxious tone, "that your Grace makes much more building there than you do, because you have men from London; and though we deny it, we are not believed."
Writes to the King of his necessities.
It was at this time, or perhaps a few days later, that the Cardinal, in his distress, wrote to the King explaining the difficulties under which he was labouring, and requesting some relief. Until now the King's bounty does not seem to have extended beyond the pitiful sum of 1,000 marks, which he had advanced to the Cardinal out of all his property. "According to your pleasure," says Wolsey, "I have come into my diocess unfurnished, to my extreme heaviness, of everything that I and my poor folks should be entertained with; for the 1,000 marks which it pleased your Highness of your abundant charity to advance unto me beforehand of the pension assigned to me out of the bishopric of Winchester, with all that I could borrow besides, is already gone and spent. I have neither corn, nor cattle, nor any other thing to keep household with, nor know not where to borrow anything in these parts towards the provision of the same. It will be Lammas (August) or I can receive any part of my rents in these parts which shall be the least to defray such expences as I shall sustain in the meantime. My houses be, by the oversight, despoil, and evil behaviour of such as I did trust, in such ruin and decay, as well in the roofs and floors, which be almost ready to fall down, as in all other implements of household, that the whole or a great party of the portion assigned unto me to live with for one year will scantily in a very base and mean fashion repair and make the same meet to be inhabited." He adds that his creditors were importunate, and could not be satisfied; that he is wrapt in misery and need on every side, and knows not where to obtain relief. Yet, with the firm trust he ever had in the King, he cannot believe that he will be allowed to perish for lack of succour, considering how entirely he has obeyed and loved the King, doing unto him such long and painful service and such poor pleasures as were within his little power. (fn. 51)
This pathetic appeal produced no effect. Absorbed in his own pleasures, or, what is equally probable, indurated by the malice of his enemies, the King took no notice of his former minister. Every method was employed by Anne Boleyn and her friends to extinguish whatever feelings of kindness or symptoms of relenting they perceived or imagined they perceived in the King. It was impossible, after twenty years' perpetual service, that the old habit of intimacy should not occasionally regain its ascendancy over the mind of Henry. Even if he had lost all his former affection for the Cardinal, he could not at times fail to contrast the superior aptitude of Wolsey, his long experience of business, his masterly genius, with the inexperience and inability of those who succeeded him. The relations between the Emperor and the King were every day becoming less satisfactory, and needed more able heads to adjust them than such as Norfolk or Suffolk possessed. "My "Lord Cardinal is communed of," writes one of his correspondents to Dr. Bonner, afterwards the notorious Bishop of London, "and among the Lords of the "Council especially. They are afraid they shall be "compelled of necessity to recall him." (fn. 52) Against such an ignominious result Norfolk and his party were resolved to venture all hazards. They had not been scrupulous in the means they had hitherto employed to supplant the Cardinal; they were less scrupulous still in the means they employed to consummate his ruin.
His new mode of life.
At the end of the hunting season, or grease time as it was called, the Cardinal removed to Scroby, to the great regret of the inhabitants of Southwell, whose favor he had completely propitiated. On his way he passed by Welbeck, thence to Rufford, sleeping at Blythe abbey, and reaching Scroby the next day, where he continued until Michaelmas. Here he persevered, according to Cavendish, in the same unostentatious mode of life which he had observed at Southwell. It was his custom during his progress to enter some parish church, hear or sing mass, or cause one of his chaplains to preach to the people. That done, he would go to dinner in the same unostentatious way at a house in the town, and distribute alms and food to the poor. These notices, which convey so favorable an impression of his new mode of life, are not to be attributed to the imagination of his biographer. They are attested by one who cannot be suspected of partiality. In a pamphlet published in 1536, long after Wolsey's death, and from a quarter that was not likely to be swayed by affection to his memory, we have the following statement, which must outweigh the malicious representations of historians like Hall, Foxe, and their heedless imitators. "Who was less beloved in the North," says the author, "than my lord Cardinal—God have his soul!—before he was amongst them? Who better beloved after he had been there awhile? We (fn. 53) hate oftimes whom we have good cause to love. It is a wonder to see how they were turned, how of utter enemies they became his dear friends. He gave bishops a right good example how they might win men's hearts. There was few holy days but he would ride five or six miles from his house, now to this parish church, now to that, and there cause one or other of his doctors to make a sermon unto the people. He sat amongst them, and said mass before all the parish—(unlike the bishops of the time)—he saw why churches were made. He began to restore them to their right and proper use. He brought his dinner with him, and bade divers of the parish to it. He inquired whether there was any debate or grudge between any of them. If there were, after dinner he sent for the parties to the church, and made them all one. Men say well that do well. God's laws shall never be so set by as they ought before they be well known." (fn. 54)
Subjected to constant annoyance for his supposed wealth.
When the Cardinal had been prevailed upon to plead guilty to the Præmunire, and surrender all his possessions and promotions to the King, he had evidently been lead to believe that he would be relieved from all further molestation. In that respect he was greatly deceived. From his fall to his death, scarcely a week was suffered to pass in which he was not subjected to some kind of alarm or interruption. The courtiers about the King were unwilling to allow such an excellent opportunity to escape them of enriching themselves with the spoils of the Church. There had been no such instance within the memory of man of a prelate being attainted for high treason, whose property offered so great a temptation to the needy and the covetous. His wealth was the envy of all men. His houses, his furniture, the magnificence of his plate, exceeded by far those of any subject, and were scarcely, if at all, inferior to those of royalty; for his taste was magnificent, and in the arts of building and decoration he surpassed all his con- temporaries. Greenwich and Windsor showed as nothing beside the glories of Hampton Court and York House. Contemporary evidence, which is wholly silent as to the royal palaces, is lavish in its praise of the spendour and beauty of the Cardinal's two great residences; and even his smaller houses at the More and at Tittenhanger were objects of Henry's cupidity. Magdalen tower in Oxford confirms the verdict of Wolsey's own age; and if Christ Church falls short of the beauty and grandeur of the design which he intended for it, that is owing to the fact that his work was marred, crippled, and disfigured by the avarice of the King and the flattery of those to whom Henry lent a willing ear. Besides the archbishopric of York, he held Winchester and St. Alban's; though from Winchester, for which he had given up Durham, he had at his fall received no emoluments except the 1000 marks already mentioned, while his revenues from St. Alban's were inconsiderable. Much of his wealth had been expended in providing for his two colleges at Oxford and Ipswich, in purchasing for their endowments houses and estates of the minor monasteries, and in the liberal provision set apart for both of these foundations. He was, in fact, reputed to be much richer than he was; for the purchase of this monastic property, the legal expenses incidental to such purchases, both in the ecclesiastical and the civil courts, and the necessity of providing for the religious inmates whose houses were suppressed, and of satisfying all claimants, had exhausted the greater part of his revenue. The exaggerated notion of his wealth was more perilous to him than its reality; for it not only brought together an importunate horde of hungry claimants, but those who sought to benefit by his fall could never be satisfied. They persuaded themselves, and they persuaded the King, that the Cardinal must have concealed his wealth; that he had hoarded his treasures, and they had only to search diligently enough, and worry him enough, to have their search rewarded. So in this spirit they ceased not to torment and alarm him in his distant exile; and in this spirit the King turned a deaf and obdurate ear to all his supplications for relief.
Why he pleaded guilty to the Præmunire.
Talking the matter over on one occasion with Cavendish, who had remarked to him that people wondered how one of "so excellent a wit and high discretion" would so simply confess himself guilty in the Præmunire, when he might well have stood the trial, Wolsey explained his motives. He told his querist, that, finding his enemies had induced the King to make the cause his own, and by occasion thereof to seize his property, he was persuaded that, sooner than restore it, the King would procure his "utter undoing and destruction," or at least condemn him to perpetual imprisonment; and rather than be exposed to this fate, he deemed it better to confess and throw himself on the King's mercy, "living at large like a poor vicar," than languishing in prison with all his goods and honors. "And in my submission," he added, "the King, I doubt not, had a great remorse of conscience, wherein he would rather pity me than malign me. And also there was a continual serpentine enemy about the King, that would, I am well assured, if I had been found stiff-necked, have called continually upon the King in his ear (I mean the night crow (fn. 55) ) with such a vehemency that I should, with the help of her assistance, have obtained sooner the King's indignation than his lawful favour." Therefore, he said, he preferred the chance of being restored to the King's good opinion—a hope he never entirely abandoned until the last scene of his life—than retain his possessions without it; quia indignatio principis mors est,—a truth of which he himself was shortly after destined to be a most conspicuous example.
Subjected to a new process.
Cromwell's advice and consolation.
Although a free pardon had been granted him, and he had been secured in the possession of his diocese of York on condition of surrendering all his other spiritual promotions, he was not left in undisturbed enjoyment of his solitary dignity. According to the clumsy technicalities of the law, it was thought necessary to take out a process against him, and consequently commissions were issued to the sheriff of Yorkshire to find "certain offices," as it was called; in other words, to make inquisitions of the lands belonging to the see of York. Though he had been for many years Lord Chancellor, and had introduced many important reforms into the practice and proceedings of Chancery, either he was so much alarmed, or so little acquainted with this branch of the law, that he wrote to the Chief Baron, (fn. 56) expressing his fears of the result. Sir Richard Lyster assured him that it was a mere brutum fulmen, and might have been dispensed with, adding that though the writ might "import hard words," it was no more than a common writ for the King; and he advised the Cardinal to think no more about it. Wolsey, however, did not recover his composure on this assurance; for though the bite of the law is worse than its bark—and both are bad enough—he knew too well how the judges of that time were slavishly dependent on the Crown, and how readily at its bidding harmless words might be converted into deadly weapons. It was the curse of the age that antiquated statutes and sleeping enactments might be suddenly roused up into bristling activity; especially whenever the judges thought that the interests of the Crown were concerned in their verdict. His own impeachment in the Præmunire, and that of the whole body of the clergy,—hundreds of whom had never purchased or dreamt of purchasing bulls from Rome,—was a flagrant instance of judicial iniquity. A letter from Cromwell two months after shows how deep and lasting was the Cardinal's anxiety. In reply to a letter from the Cardinal, dated from Southwell, the 10th of August, he refers to Wolsey's apprehension of these proceedings, "the finding whereof, as I perceive, ye do suppose should be much to your dishonor and detriment." He assures Wolsey that though in the preamble of the Bill his conviction in the Præmunire is touched upon, his pardon and restitution are nowise affected. "Wherefore it may please your Grace to quiet yourself, and to take the finding of these offices patiently; and upon return of the same, there shall be such order taken, that your Grace shall not be interrupted in the receiving of your revenues, or otherwise be molested in any manner case for any new suit." Then, after comforting the Cardinal with better news of his colleges, he proceeds to tell him how much is bound to God, who has suffered him so to behave in his diocese that he has gained the hearts of the people there, "the report whereof in the Court, and elsewhere in these parts (London), is and has been to the acquiring and augmenting the good opinions of many persons towards your Grace ... And, notwithstanding your good, virtuous, and charitable demeaning and using yourself in those parts, is not by your enemies interpreted after the best fashion, yet always follow and persevere ye attemperately in such things as, your worldly affections set apart, shall seem to stand best with the pleasure of God and the King." He then cautions him against the report that he kept too great a house and retinue, and was continually building: "therefore, as oftentimes I have done, I most heartily beseech your Grace to have respect to everything, and, considering the time, to refrain yourself for a season from all manner buildings, more than mere necessity requireth, which, I assure your Grace, shall cease and put to silence some persons that much speaketh of the same." (fn. 57)
These remarks are followed by a passage which might have furnished Shakespeare with more than one suggestion in the remarkable dialogue put by the poet into the mouths of the great Cardinal and his scarcely less great servant; only that in history the speakers are changed, and instead of the master and ecclesiastic preaching contentment and resignation to the inferior and the layman, the parts are reversed. Yet are they not less significant of human character. For though men in misfortune are apt to sermonize, rising and prosperous men have a much greater faculty and aptitude for warning others from the paths of ambition. No morality is so cheap or so easy as where the moralist believes he has no need of his own prescription. None, therefore, is more freely offered, as it was on this occasion. "I do reckon your Grace," says Cromwell, "right happy that ye be now at liberty to serve God, and to learn to experiment how ye shall banish and exile the vain desires of this unstable world, which undoubtedly doth nothing else but allure every person therein, and specially such as our Lord hath most endowed with his gifts, to desire the affections of their mind to be satisfied; in studying and seeking whereof, besides the great travails and afflictions that men suffer daily, most persons ben driven to extreme repentance, and searching for pleasure and felicity find nothing but trouble, sorrow, anxiety, and adversity. Wherefore, in mine opinion, your Grace being as ye are, I suppose ye would not be as ye were to win a hundred times as much as ever ye were possessed of." (fn. 58)
His colleges seized.
The troubles apprehended by Wolsey on this occasion were not realised. The process had probably no other object than to secure the King's legal rights, and those of his favorites, to whom leases and pensions had been granted out of Wolsey's possessions. And though their validity might be questioned, and such grants at least, strictly speaking, lasted only for Wolsey's life, and ought not to have prejudiced his successors, the interpreters and dispensers of the law found a method of evading the law. So far the interests of others made it necessary that Wolsey's rights to the spiritual promotions he now held, or had held when these grants were made, should not be questioned. But whilst the exercise of his legatine authority was regarded as no bar to any of his actions when the interests of the King and his courtiers were involved, it was, as I have said, very different with his colleges. Ipswich was totally suppressed; its lands and revenues were forfeited to the Crown. Christ Church, after narrowly escaping the hands of the spoiler, emerged from the fire grievously shorn of its original proportions, and deprived of a great part of its endowments. Ipswich was the first to suffer. Its estates were sequestrated by the King's command, and the tenants refused to pay rent. The income of the college was reduced at a blow to 300l. a year. Three months after, Capon, the provost, writes to Wolsey that he and the subdean had repaired to London, and retained the ablest counsel they could find; but they were all of opinion that as the lands of the college had been granted to Wolsey and his heirs for ever in fee simple, when he was still under the præmunire, they had reverted to the King. (fn. 59) The King's Council, he adds, "have made books to find offices upon all the premises "(i.e., have made inquisitions on the lands previous to seizing them), and we have no remedy except to petition the King, which we have done, but with little comfort ... I cannot but perceive the King intends to take all the rents to his own use." (fn. 60) Eleven days after he writes again that the King had resolved to dissolve the college, and seize it to his own use before Michaelmas next. Dr. Stevens (Gardiner) has spoken in its behalf, but the King will not hear him. The Commissioners have made an inventory of the books, plate, and ornaments. (fn. 61) This ruthless determination was carried out: the college was swept away, and thus one of the noblest foundations for education, so much needed for the Eastern counties, was brought to desolation by the avarice of the King and the greed of his favorites. (fn. 62)
His college at Oxford was less harshly treated. On the 29th of April Dr. Tresham, at Wolsey's desire, had an interview with the King, beseeching him to be gracious to the college, because it was begun by him-self as the chief benefactor, and the foundation was greatly to the honor of God and the good of his realm. The King said, in reply to the petition, that none of the lands were assured to the college except by his sufferance. When one of the deputation alleged that they were his faithful subjects, he complained that several members of it had opposed his matter at Oxford. A few only, he said, had taken his part; alluding to the opposition made to the propositions submitted to the university for the King's divorce. (fn. 63) Already part of the chapel furniture had been given away; for, on a request being made to Henry by Tresham for "white copes" for the high days of Our Lady, the King told him they had all been disposed of, and not one of them was left. (fn. 64)
As he had determined to find offices on the college site and its lands, (fn. 65) some attempt was made by the authorities to anticipate the evil. Active searches were prosecuted into the college muniments, both at Oxford and in London, but the result was not more favorable than before. All the grants were found to be void in law; and the judges were unanimous in their opinion, that as Wolsey had used his legatine authority and infringed the statute of Provisors before his donations were made to the college, all such donations were void, and were now at the King's pleasure. "As the King was at Windsor," writes John Higden, the dean of Christ-Church, "I, the Dean, and Robert Carter, spake with my Lord of Norfolk, who at first called us into his privy chamber, and declared we should have no more lands than such as belonged to the priory of Frideswide." The college was to be dissolved, the buildings to be taken down and reduced to an extent conformable with the lands of the priory. But after they had shown the Duke that a loss of revenue would accrue to the King if the college were dissolved, he mused awhile, and then went straight to the King. In the meantime they were advised by Norris to attend at the King's closet, and speak with his Majesty as he went to mass. Whilst they were waiting, Gardiner came in, and promised faithfully to do the best he could to second their petition. "As soon as the King entered, I, the Dean, delivered him the college letters, which he graciously accepted; and calling me, Carter and Tresham, apart, said, submissa voce, 'I understand that ye are come unto us, as suitors for your college, and have brought with you a letter of attorney to commune with our Council, and to take some good way for the behoof of your house. Surely we propose to have an honorable college there, but not so great and of such magnificence as my Lord Cardinal intended to have, for it is not thought meet for the common weal of our realm; yet will we have a college honorably to maintain the service of God and literature. And as touching communication to be held with our Council, there are few of our learned counsel present at this time. We will that ye continue as ye have done. Until Michaelmas next coming, receive your rents, and then repair to us.'
"As the King went he called my Lords of Norfolk and Wiltshire. These two are now favorable to the college; for Norfolk came afterwards, and said to us: 'Sirs, albeit I have spoken hardly to you at the beginning, yet will I be a helper in your matter, for the King is very gracious Lord unto you, and purposes that ye shall have a great deal more lands than I spake of. Move not the King contrary to his pleasure in no case, for he is minded to be very beneficial unto you; and as for the commissions, labour not to stay them, nor care not for them.'" (fn. 66)
The great object of the Dean and his followers was, if possible, to stay the commission, and obtain a supersedeas for the college lands in general. They had already managed, by the help of Gardiner, to have the site and circuit of the college exempt from all interference by the commissioners. To obtain more than this was by no means easy. On the 6th October they had an interview with Sir Thomas More, then Chancellor, at his house in Chelsea, and delivered to him Wolsey's letters. "He entertained us very gently," says Tresham to Wolsey, "but a supersedeas we could not obtain, for he said the King's Council had sent him word to the contrary." For some reason, not clearly explained, the supersedeas obtained by Gardiner was either revoked, or was not sufficient. "I fear," says the writer, "that no supersedeas will be granted, and the college will be taken from your Grace, to its no little hindrance. As touching the land and appropriation, they will escheat to the King. I exhort your Grace to patience." (fn. 67)
On More's advice they resolved to make suit to the King, who was then at Hampton Court, and on the 10th had an interview with the duke of Norfolk. He told them that the King had granted no supersedeas, and the earl of Wiltshire (Sir Thomas Boleyn), who had at first affirmed it, afterwards denied it in Norfolk's presence. On the 11th their suit was more successful. "I have got a supersedeas sealed in the Chancery, and allowed by the King's council," writes Tresham on the 11th of October. "The chancellor (More) is very good in this matter; he entertained me very lovingly, and showed me that Master Stevens (Gardiner) is especially good to the college ... I hope to obtain Mr. Baynton (fn. 68) by the promise of a fee, and so consequently my lord of Norfolk, for that is the chief way, after the counsel of Mr. Butts, the which, with Mr. Chambre, most humbly recommend them to your Grace, and say that they will do what they may (can) ... My Lord Chancellor fears that the "King will in conclusion have your Grace's college "for all the supersedeas, but he added that Mr. Secretary (Gardiner) was active for its continuance, and he thought the King could not make it less than you intended. I trust," he adds, "it shall continue, as we shall now be impartially heard by the Chief Justice." (fn. 69)
Wolsey greatly troubled.
The destruction of his colleges was regarded by Wolsey with inexpressible anguish and dismay. They had formed for years the darling project of his life. The old feeling of founder and benefactor-scorned and ridiculed by hebdomadal philosophers in these days-had not yet died out in an age when munificence was still regarded as a virtue. Amidst the transitory glory and demoralizing occupations of this life, men still craved for a permanent resting-place, where their memories should be associated with the pure and uncorrupted affections of the young, and thoughts of themselves should rise to Heaven in prayers and orisons uttered by lips as yet untarnished by the world. Perhaps in the old Church, a sense of a common Christendom, a communion in which the living and the dead alike formed one society, did something to maintain sentiments of this kind, which grew weaker when men ceased to care for any but their own individual faith and salvation, and a live dog was more highly valued than a dead lion. But, whatever it was, these colleges, with which his name should for ever be associated when his other deeds were pardoned or forgotten, were the cherished objects of Wolsey's thoughts. For them he had incurred vast expense and ceaseless trouble in England and in Rome. The bulls required before any monastic house could be suppressed and converted to secular uses were numerous and costly, whilst the cumbrous legal proceedings involved in the transfer of property, the cancelling and renewal of leases, were enormous. The legal procedure of two courts, the secular and ecclesiastical, with their minute and endless technicalities, would have dismayed one of less courage and determination than Wolsey. But now all the hopes and labours of many years were to be given to the winds—for a hard construction of the law—for a mere flaw, which no lawyer of the time, however astute, could possibly have foreseen. One single expression in the transfer of these collegiate estates might have saved them,—would save them even now, if the King, instead of taking advantage of the error, and insisting upon the strict letter of the law, had been willing to accept a moral and equitable construction. But the temptation was too strong for him, and he hardened himself against all sentiments of generosity. The easy acquisition of Wolsey's houses, manors, property, plate, and furniture, instead of satisfying, excited still more the cupidity of his master. The old failing, of which indications were visible in earlier times, now began to display itself in a more unmistakeable manner. The exactions from the clergy, the seizure of Church property, the suppression of religious foundations, are traceable to that spirit of greed, which he had inherited from his father. The example thus set by the King was followed, as it was recommended by the nobility. Schemes of Church spoliation, after the fall of Wolsey, are among the most frequent and the most popular devices of the age.
By Wolsey himself the loss of power, the forfeiture of his estates, and even his exile to York, were regarded with indifference, compared with the ruin of his colleges. For recovery of the former he made little or no effort; for the preservation of his colleges he bestirred himself with ceaseless and untiring energy, employing all the little influence he still possessed, or believed he possessed, with men in power, to rescue them from the hands of the spoiler. When the news of the King's intention to insist on their forfeiture reached the unfortunate prelate, he wrote to Cromwell:—"I am in such indisposition of body and mind by the reason of such great heaviness as I am in, being put from my sleep and meat for such advertisements as I have had from you of the dissolution of my colleges; with the small comfort and appearance that I have to be relieved by the King's highness in this mine extreme need, maketh me that I cannot write unto you, for weeping and sorrow. Wherefore, these shall be not only to give unto you my most effectual thanks for such great pains as ye have taken in all my causes ... but also to recommend my poor estate and colleges to your and other good friends' help and relief, beseeching God to inspire in the King's heart more pity and compassion." (fn. 70)
On a subsequent occasion he informs Cromwell how greatly desirous he is to understand how affairs proceed concerning his colleges. "Surely," he adds, "if you knew what heaviness of mind I am in presently, and that the same daily more and more do increase, I have no doubt your gentle heart would have compassion thereof." Even when his mind was more set at rest by the assurance that the lands belonging to his see were not to be seized, he could not help complaining to the same faithful adviser: "Such bruits and opinions have sprungen thereof in these parts that I am weary of hearing them. There is nothing here but lamentation and mourning, not knowing certainly what will follow. I pray God that I may be once in repose, and regard may be had to my poor estate and old service." He begs Cromwell "to use his dexterity to bring the duke of Norfolk to reason." (fn. 71)
Employs all his energies to save his college at Oxford.
As all hope of preserving his new foundation at Ipswich had failed, his utmost efforts were now directed to the preservation of his college at Oxford. It is mournful to think that such ceaseless importunities should have been needed; that Henry, who professed to be an admirer and patron of learning, should have required such repeated solicitations before he could be induced to forego any portion of the endowments, and comply with so reasonable a request. It is true that the Crown lawyers, with that servility which, with a few honorable exceptions, distinguished or rather degraded the Bench during this reign, had advised the King that all the lands and livings appropriated to the college had reverted to the Crown by the Cardinal's attainder; but it is questionable whether, if Wolsey had anticipated treatment so severe, and such utter forgetfulness of his past services, he would have so easily admitted his guilt, and made no effort to defend himself. Certainly no sovereign of any generosity, who had employed and trusted such a minister as Wolsey, and had approved all his proceedings in this matter, would have availed himself of an error for which the King was no less responsible than his minister. Though Henry had taken little active part in the foundation of these colleges, he had more than once expressed his satisfaction at their erection. Now, however, when the chance was offered him of converting their property to his own use, Wolsey's design was deemed too magnificent; a more meagre provision was considered sufficient for all purposes of education.
In this critical state of his foundation at Oxford, Wolsey in the last hope addressed the following pathetic letter to the King. "Most gracious sovereign Lord and merciful Prince! Prostrate at your Majesty's feet, with weeping tears, these shall be in most reverent and humble manner to recommend unto your excellent charity and goodness the poor college of Oxford, which, for the great zeal and affection that your Grace beareth to good letters and nourishing of learning, and in consideration of my painful and long continued service, your Grace was contented that I should erect, found, and establish. And where, notwithstanding my conviction in the Præmunire ... it has pleased "your Highness, to your perpetual merit, honor, and renown, to impart your mercy, liberality, and bountifulness unto me ... so it may please you to have pity on the Dean and Canons of the said college, who are coming to know your pleasure concerning their establishment." (fn. 72)
His enemies contrive his total ruin.
He was not destined to learn the result of all these earnest entreaties and efforts. Matters were fast drawing to a close. Towards the end of September he left Scroby for Cawood Castle, a few miles distant from York, confirming many children that were brought to him, both at St. Oswald's Abbey and at Ferrybridge. More than six months had now elapsed since he had left London,—a period unusually long, even in those days,—and he had not yet reached his metropolitan city; nor, so far as it appears, had he yet visited his cathedral. The reason for this delay is to be found in the fact that it was not usual for the archbishop to enter his metropolitan church until after his installation,—a ceremony of some magnificence, followed by a sumptuous feast, of which archbishop Neville, one of his predecessors, had set an extraordinary example. Stript of all his property, and reduced to great distress, it is clear that the Cardinal had not the means of providing what was considered necessary for the occasion, and he waited consequently until his rents had been received, in order that his installation feast might not be wholly unworthy of his fame and dignity. A list of the debts incurred by him during his residence at Cawood may be seen in this volume, (fn. 73) and of the provisions received by his officers against the proposed ceremony. In this manner the whole month of October passed away without any event of importance. On a visit from Dr. Higden, the dean of York, and the prebendaries, who had given him to understand that, according to precedent, he could not enter the choir, nor have even a stall there, until after his installation, he ordered it to take place on Monday, the 7th of November. When the event became generally known in the diocese, many presents of wild fowl, venison, and other provisions, were offered by the gentlemen and the religious houses of the county; all of whom, equally with the Cardinal himself, had not the least anticipation of the event that was so soon to follow.
His arrest determined.
It will be seen by what has been already stated, that his enemies had not ceased to keep a watchful eye upon his movements. Prompted by jealousy and suspicion, they had contrived to gain intelligence of all his words and actions, far removed as he was from the Court. Messengers passing continually to and fro, and keeping the Cardinal in a continual ferment of agitation and alarm, had not failed to carry back to their employers exaggerated accounts of his doings. It had never been expected that he would apply himself so heartily to the spiritual duties of his province, or gain so rapidly the affections of those with whom he was now for the first time associated. The popularity of the Cardinal in his new position no less alarmed them on its own account, than from the dread it inspired of his possible return to the King's favor, and the restoration of his former influence. Among the most implacable of his enemies, and the least scrupulous, were the duke of Norfolk and Anne Boleyn; both of whom were resolved to take every measure to alienate the King from his former minister, by exciting suspicious in his mind of the Cardinal's loyalty, and by suggestions partly true, partly misrepresented, and partly fictitious. The true and the false were so artfully blended as to give plausibility enough to both, and arouse the anger of the King, who now determined on the Cardinal's arrest. The plot had evidently been in preparation some days before the blow fell. It was carried on with the utmost secresy, lest it should reach Wolsey's ears, and give him an opportunity of defending himself, or explaining his conduct to the King. In an account of an interview between Thomas Arundel and the duke of Norfolk, certain particulars have been preserved, showing the implacable animosity with which the Duke still continued to persecute the fallen minister, notwithstanding all the efforts Wolsey had made to soften his resentment. The writer informs the Cardinal that he had delivered his letters to the Duke at Hampton Court, "with as lowly recommendations as he could devise;" and in conversation with him had enlarged upon Wolsey's good fashions and manner of living, trying to persuade him how little the Cardinal aspired to the renewal of his authority. At these words the Duke burst into a violent rage, and exclaimed, that no man should make him believe that; and the more Arundel spake to the contrary, the more irritated the Duke became. "After many contradictions on both sides," continues Arundel, "he showed me, though I list to be blinded, I should blind no man here; for he said he had both your Grace's hand to the contrary, and knew of three messages, sent by three divers persons from your Grace to the King, whereby it might well appear that ye desired as much authority as ever." These messengers were Brierton, Leyton, and a third, whose name Arundel had forgotten; but it was, in all probability, Wriothesley, then of little account, but who afterwards played such a conspicuous part in the history of the reign. Wolsey had reminded each of these messengers of the benefits he had conferred on them and their families, all of which they had evidently servilely reported to Norfolk, who had put an unfavorable construction on their reports. (fn. 74) What the Duke meant by the proofs he had received in Wolsey's handwriting, and how he had obtained them, must now be explained.
It will be remembered that just a year before Wolsey's fall, he had earnestly entreated the French ambassador, Du Bellay, to induce his master, the French king, to write a letter in the Cardinal's favor to Henry VIII., and express his regret that Wolsey had incurred the King's displeasure. He was desired to signify his hopes that the King would moderate his displeasure out of consideration to Wolsey's eminent services. In making this request to Du Bellay, Wolsey had expressed a wish that no hint of it should be allowed to transpire, as he apprehended that his enemies would make use of it for his destruction. (fn. 75) The message was sent to the French ambassador by one whom the Cardinal implicitly trusted and employed on the most secret occasions, Augustine, an Italian physician. He was ignorant, at the time when he made this request, that the French king, notwithstanding his earnest profession of gratitude and attachment, had already basely betrayed him, and had insinuated to Suffolk that Wolsey held a secret correspondence with Rome unfavorable to the King's divorce. Du Bellay was succeeded in his mission by John Joachim de Vaux, (fn. 76) at the commencement of the year 1530. His mission, according to the Imperial ambassador, though, of course, not ostensibly acknowledged, was to reinstate the Cardinal in the King's favor. "The said Joachim," says Chapuys, "lodges at a house of one of the Cardinal's servants; and soon after his arrival, the Cardinal, though unwell, sent his physician, a Venetian, in whom he has much confidence, who re- mained with De Vaux for four or five days." Chapuys imagined that the object of their conference was the restoration of the Cardinal to his former dignity, as the French distrusted the duke of Norfolk. The true purpose of it, however, is explained in a letter by De Vaux to Francis I., on the 15th of March, in which he states that the Cardinal, who was then at Richmond, not only hoped but fully expected the assistance he had desired of the French king, and that the demonstration of their bounty towards him, would be in proportion to the greatness of his fall. It is clear that Augustine was employed in this confidential transaction, and his care of Wolsey in his sickness at the commencement of the year had augmented still more the implicit confidence reposed in him by his master. This man was a traitor of the deepest die. (fn. 77) He was necessitous, as we learn by his numerous letters and importunities for money. He had been bribed by Norfolk to betray and accuse his master. On the 8th of November De Vaux wrote to the constable Montmorenci, stating that he had delayed his despatch in order to learn more about the "poor Cardinal," in regard to whom the King and the Lords of the Council had assured him, upon oath, that they had no shadow of suspicion against him (De Vaux), but looked upon him as their good servant. Norfolk and Suffolk had begged him, with great earnestness, to accept this assurance. "But as to the Cardinal," continues De Vaux, "I fear there are no hopes. They say that they have many and grave proofs against him; and the King has told me that he has intrigued against his Majesty, both in and out of the kingdom, telling me where and how, and that one, and perhaps more than one, of his servants have discovered and accused him." He concludes by assuring Montmorenci that he is much grieved at the Cardinal's danger. (fn. 78)
Little doubt, I think, can exist that Augustine betrayed to Norfolk Wolsey's communications with the French court, giving them a turn that would suit Norfolk's purposes, and best earn a traitor's wages. Any how, such a communication, however innocent, was sufficient to rouse Henry's rage, as Wolsey anticipated. The accusation, based upon such unsatisfactory evidence, soon took, as was usual in those days, a definite and official shape; and the Cardinal's guilt was considered established, although there was no proof whatever that he had corresponded with the Court of Rome, and no probability in the charge. This had, doubtless, been contrived between Norfolk and the Cardinal's unprincipled physician; and it would look as if a Nemesis had overtaken Wolsey for his share in the duke of Buckingham's condemnation, though he was only the King's instrument on that occasion; for the Duke also was betrayed in the same way, and brought to his execution by the treachery of one of his servants. It could not be denied by De Vaux that Wolsey had employed Augustine, as already stated, in negociating with the French court, and this gave probability to whatever falsehood his betrayer might invent to serve himself and ruin his master, by pretending that Wolsey had intrigued with the Pope and other courts against the King. De Vaux, though professing so much commiseration for the Cardinal, was scarcely more honest than the rest. He joined in the outcry of those who had betrayed the Cardinal, though he had paid assiduous court to Wolsey in the days of his prosperity. "I received at Blois," writes Bryan to Henry VIII., "your letters under signet, dated York Place (Wolsey's former residence), November 11th, thereby perceiving the right detestable practices and conspiracies, newly confessed (fn. 79) and set forth by the lord Cardinal archbishop of York, as well to the Court of Rome, as within your realm, expressly against your most noble estate and royal dignity. According to the tenor thereof, I resorted to the Court, desiring to speak with the Great Master (Montmorenci), and who, immediately after he saw me, demanded if news out of England lately I had not heard. I then, desiring to know what should move him to inquire, had for answer of him, that the King his master was advertised from his ambassador there (De Vaux) that the lord Cardinal was by your Highness' commandment in hold; but what offences he had made was to him utterly unknown; notwithstanding, he said, the King your brother was of the opinion that he thought he had well merited his said imprisonment." To this Bryan replied that he had been sent to prevent all untrue surmises that might arise respecting this event; "showing him if the particularities which I said did chiefly concern presumptuous (presumptive) sinister practices made to the Court of Rome for reducing him (Wolsey) to his former estate and dignity, contrary to his allegiance, were as much known to the French king and my Lady as they were to your Highness, there was no doubt they would much abhor the same. He made answer that though the French king had no knowledge of such seditious and traitorous misbehavior, they judged that so just a prince as Henry would not have punished the Cardinal without his heinous deserts." After dinner Bryan was introduced to Francis, and repeated what he had already told Montmorenci. The King replied that nothing would ever have induced him to listen to any tales reflecting on the King's honor, and demanded the particulars of Wolsey's offences; which Bryan said he knew not, but they should be sent him speedily; "which answer he accepted very well, saying he perceived much faithful kindness in the King, and thought ever that so pompous and ambitious a heart, sprung out of so vile a stock, would once (one day) show forth the baseness of his nature, and most commonly against him that hath raised him from low degree to high dignity, as ye have done; and he said he thought by his outrageous misbehaviour (fn. 80) he had well merited either a life worse than death, or else of all deaths the most cruel. Sir, as far as I can perceive, the relation made unto the King your brother by M. De Vaux, his ambassador, was of very good sort in disclosing the misdemeanor of the said Cardinal." (fn. 81)
Details of the plot.
On the spirit and tone of this interview I leave my readers to their own reflections. Its baseness must be shared between the servile minister, the treacherous sovereign, the ungrateful master. I pass on to the further revelation of the scheme now set on foot by the Cardinal's unscrupulous and unrelenting enemies, who, noble as they were by birth, and the chief advisers of the King, had committed themselves to a course of treachery, falsehood, and deceit unknown to all historians. The ordinary chroniclers of the day accepted the official account of Wolsey's crimes without examination, probably without suspicion. That account has been repeated since with little variation to the present time; and popular misconceptions have borne as hardly and unjustly on Wolsey's memory in this respect, as the ingratitude of his sovereign and the malice of his enemies could have desired. No compunction was felt for his wretchedness—no respite was allowed to his sufferings. Month after month they harrassed him as we have seen, broken as he was in health and fortune, and worn out by labors such as no statesman had ever endured. In a letter from the Imperial ambassador to the emperor Charles V., we come upon minute and authentic details of the plot laid against the Cardinal's life, and of the profound cunning and dissimulation with which it was carried on. "Eight days ago," he writes, "the King gave orders for the Cardinal to be brought here, on which the Cardinal remained for some days without food, hoping rather to finish his life in this way (fn. 82) than in a more shameful one, of which he had some fears. He has been taken ill on the road, and has not yet arrived. It is said he is to be lodged in the same chamber in the Tower where the duke of Buckingham was detained. The cause of his arrest is a mere conjecture. A gentleman told me that a short time ago the King was complaining to his Council of something that was not done according to his liking, and said in a rage that the Cardinal was a better man than any of them for managing matters; and, repeating this twice, he flung himself out of the room. Since then the Duke (Norfolk), the Lady and her father, have not ceased to plot against the Cardinal, especially the Lady, who does not give over weeping and lamenting her lost time and her honor, threatening the King that she will leave him, in such sort that the King has had much trouble to pacify her, and though he prayed her most affectionately, with tears in his eyes, that she would not speak of leaving him, nothing would satisfy her except the Cardinal's arrest. It is pretended that he had written to Rome to be reinstated in his possessions, and to France for its favor; and was returning to his ancient pomp, and corrupting the people. But since they have had the Cardinal's physician (Augustine) in their hands, they have found what they sought for. Since he has been here, the same physician has lived in the duke of Norfolk's house like a prince. He is singing the tune as they wished him !
"Joachim (De Vaux) would not say a word about it to the Papal nuncio, but he told the Venetian ambassador that, according to the confession of the Cardinal's physician, the Cardinal had solicited the Pope to excommunicate the King, if he did not banish the Lady from Court, and treat the Queen with due respect. He hoped by this to raise the country, and obtain the management. De Vaux protested against the malice of the Cardinal, but I do not know from what motive ... They might have summoned the person who was the go-between, to whom the physician wrote, and who sent him the answers; but up to this time not a word has been said about it. (fn. 83) Were the physician to confess all that has passed between us, he could not do anything to impugn me." (fn. 84)