Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3, 1519-1523. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1867.
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THE Emperor Maximilian died on the 12th of January 1519. The latter days of his life had been employed in endeavoring to secure for his grandson the reversion of the imperial crown. He prosecuted this object with greater consistency and firmness than he did most of his schemes, forged by a brain unusually fertile in expedients, and as rapidly abandoned by his easy and fickle temperament. Through dint of bribery, entreaty, perseverance, and boundless promises, he had succeeded in obtaining assurances of support from four out of the seven electors. The patriotism or avarice of the elector of Cologne was propitiated by the promise of 20,000 florins in ready money, and a pension of 6,000 florins. Thirty thousand florins and the hand of the infanta Katharine, a lady whose "great beauty and virtue" were enhanced by a dowry of 70,000 florins, payable on the day of the election, secured the marquis of Brandenburg. His brother the archbishop of Mayence was contented with 52,000 florins, a handsome credence, a service of silver, to be selected by himself, and the most exquisite tapestry from the looms of Flanders. The better to confirm him in his allegiance, a pension of 8,000 florins was promised to each of his two brothers. As for the king of Bohemia, a boy of fifteen, Maximilian had no cause of solicitude; his vote was determined already by his marriage with Mary, sister of the king of Castile. Three other members of the electoral College remained undecided; the count Palatine, the archbishop of Treves, and the elector of Saxony. The last two were inflexible. The enemies of the House of Hapsburg had chosen to congratulate themselves that the last sparks of virtue and patriotism were not extinguished in the breasts of the noblest,—in the chiefs of their people. Some few were yet to be found in the hierarchy of German feudality, to whom national independence and the sancity of an oath, were something more than empty names. "I swear on these gospels here open "before me"—such was the oath repeated after the archbishop of Mayence by every one of the electors—that "my voice, vote, and my suffrage shall be given unbiassed by any pact, price, pledge or engagement under any pretence whatsoever. So help me God, and all His holy saints and angels!"
Yet the archbishop of Treves could not behold with complacency the dangerous neighborhood and restless aggrandizement of the House of Hapsburg. The elector of Saxony had reasons of his own for disliking Maximilian. The prince Palatine kept aloof, but from different motives. He was brother to that count Frederick mentioned in the last volume, who had formed a secret attachment to Elianor, sister of Charles, afterwards queen of Portugal. For this unwarrantable presumption the Count had been coldly and haughtily dismissed—n to employ his influence, as might naturally have been expected, with his brother the Elector, in advancing the pretensions of Francis I. But affection for the sister outweighed the insult received from the brother. The Count readily complied with the summons of Maximilian. He even undertook, for a pension of 20,000 florins, to bring over his brother to the Emperor's views. The negociation was costly; the Palatine demanded no less than 100,000 florins as the price of his vote, and certain other concessions, not needful here to be insisted on. At the cost of half a million of gold florins, in the shape of presents, and 70,000 or something more, by way of annuities, Maximilian had contrived to secure or corrupt the highest nobility in Germany. He had fixed, as he thought, the imperial crown in the House of Hapsburg for ever. The price of the Holy Roman Empire, everything considered, was not so exorbitant after all.
Such of my readers as have pursued with me, through the last volume, the fortunes of "the penniless Emperor," will naturally inquire how Maximilian could obtain the funds required for so costly a purchase. Of his own, he had nothing to bestow; he could only pledge his grandson's credit; and German electors were too well acquainted with the value of royal and imperial engagements to barter their votes for empty promises. More than once the imperial broker had to urge upon his grandson his need of remittances;—more than once was the empire in danger of falling into the hands of Francis I., who, more wealthy and less scrupulous than his rival, squandered his treasures without present or after thought of the consequences. Cautious and penurious, even where great advantages were to be gained, Charles doled out his gold in proportions more suited to a village than an empire. Already at the age of nineteen, unlike his contemporaries, he possessed the virtue of prudence in perfection. He insisted that his agents should incur no expenses in the election, unless they were certain of success; that no elector should receive for his vote more than 4,000 florins. With bitter pangs and ill-concealed reluctance he placed to the credit of Maximilian first 100,000 and then 200,000 ducats, (fn. 1) obtained from the bankers of Genoa and Augsburg. From personal experience, better versed in the ways of the world, more alive than most of his contemporaries to the influence of bribery, Maximilian remonstrated. "If," said he, "you wish to gain mankind, you must play at a high stake. Either then follow my counsel and adopt my suggestions, or abandon the chance of bringing this affair to a termination satisfactory to our wishes, and creditable to our fame. It would be lamentable if, after so much pain and labor to aggrandize and exalt our house and our posterity, we should now lose all through some pitiful omission or penurious neglect."
In the midst of all this happiness and bustle, scheming, intriguing and corrupting, Maximilian died suddenly at Welz in Upper Austria, "vanquished with sickness, which was first a catarrh, and sithence a flux and a fever continual." (fn. 2)
The new world, under younger masters, with new notions and untrained energies, was now rapidly drifting away from the old. The grasp of the old, destined to fade away, became every day feebler. Time, the greatest of innovators, had altered the relative positions of the three rulers of Christendom. At the death of Maximilian, Henry VIII. was in his 30th year, Francis I. in his 26th, Charles in his 19th. All were equally ambitious, all nearly equally powerful, and all equally, though in different ways, greedy of personal distinction. Yet to command the applause of the age it was still indispensable that they should be, or seem to be, the champions of the Church. Francis I. was its dearest and its eldest son. Who more ready than he to draw the sword in its defence ? Was it to pursue the heretic and the infidel to the furthest verge of Ind,—was it to sluice out his blood and treasure at the bidding of his Holiness,—none more prompt than he, even when he was invading the patrimony of the Church, or turning a wistful eye to an alliance with the Turk. As for Charles, it had always been the special glory of the kings of Castile to maintain the honor and orthodoxy of the Church, with a devotion that knew no doubts, and a zeal which overlooked all difficulties. The maintenance of the Faith was as essentially associated in the minds of all men with the imperial dignity, as the iron crown of the Lombards or the coronation robe of Charlemagne. Yet, when his interests required it, the Catholic King was unable to distinguish heretics from Catholics, though they sprang up like tares among the wheat, in every corner of his Flemish dominions. More zealous and devout than either, with something of English earnestness and sincerity, and something perhaps of the narrow and impetuous energy of English prejudice, Henry signalized his attachment to the Faith by drawing his pen in its defence. If his arguments were mean, his Latin was kinglike. It was so far above the level of royal Latinity, that people gave out—(I shall have to consider with what degree of justice)—that whilst the King furnished the arguments, Fisher and Pace supplied or furbished up the Latin. Whatever honors, as conquerors or crusaders, the kings of England might have achieved, they had never attained the proud eminence of being styled "Most Christian" or "Most Catholic." They had never yet attained the standard of zeal and ability in defence of the Faith, when Popes and Cardinals could acknowledge their services, and reward them with corresponding distinc- tion and gratitude. That achievement was reserved for Henry VIII. Of his own spontaneous and mere motion, unsolicited by popes or nuncios, he overwhelmed the new Titan of heresy; buried him under a mountain of royal theology and invective, never to rise again;—so at least popes and bishops assured him, and he was willing to believe. The joy of Leo was unbounded; for he was at that time in hope (vain hope!) of recruiting an exhausted exchequer by a new loan from England. Latin dictionaries, Ciceronian vocabularies, styles and titles, were diligently examined; various epithets proposed and rejected. After months spent in deliberation, Henry, the new candidate for spiritual honors, was admitted into the narrow and exclusive orbit of the Church's patrons. "Defender of the Faith" was nearly as superlative, if not quite, as "Catholic" and "Most "Christian," and was regarded with jealousy by the monopolists and admirers of the earlier distinctions.
To an inexperienced eye, judging by the extent of his dominions, Charles would have appeared the most powerful and the most considerable monarch in Christendom. At the death of Maximilian he held the Low Countries, Burgundy, Naples, Sardinia, and the archduchy of Austria. By the discoveries of Columbus and of others, the New World was now pouring into his lap, as king of Spain, its unsunned and exhaustless treasures. One sister was married to the king of Hungary, another to the king of Portugal, and a third to the king of Denmark. To his enormous possessions he was soon to annex the Crown of the Empire. But overgrown empires, like overgrown men, more for show than for use, are not easily moved; and by a kindly law of nature the mischief they are most capable of doing is counteracted by their habitual inertness, not to say insensibility. The cataracts and earthquakes of the world are not half so dangerous as the dripping water, the narrow crevice, or the sightless Lilliputian of the coral reef. So, with all his diffluent, sinewless, and ill-jointed dominions, Charles was more formidable in appearance than reality. National jealousies prevented unity of action. Favors shown to Flanders were resented by Spain; residence in one part of his dominions was a signal for mutiny and discontent in another. Had he attempted in his youth to have made all the clocks of the 16th century strike in unison he would not have found it a more difficult task than to insure harmonious co-operation between Spaniard, German, Fleming, and Italian. So the restless activity of Francis I., backed by his compact dominions, was always a match for Charles;—would have been more than a match, had Francis not despised his sallow, gouty and phlegmatic rival,—slow as fate, but like fate pertinacious. With territory less extensive, the king of England possessed more available treasures than either of his rivals. For years the precious metals had flowed into our shores in a steady current, which had never ebbed. As no plate or coin was permitted to pass the English ports,—as the industry and frugality of the people had always been unintermittent,—as they had for centuries escaped the storm of foreign invasion,—money and money's worth were abundant. Then, as now, foreigners regarded with envy and amazement the well stored goldsmiths' and jewellers' shops in the city of London; then, as now, if foreign states wanted a loan, their eyes were turned towards England. Lanceknights, men at arms, Swiss volunteers, Flemish and German artillerymen, the most experienced freebooters and captain adventurers, rose to the sight of English gold. "Only promise to pay," said the Italian or Almain banker to the English agent; and his promise was better than the bond of an Emperor.
When Maximilian died, and open competition for the imperial crown was no longer restrained by affectation of reserve, "the attention of all Europe," in the words of a modern historian, was fixed upon the contest. In the grand indefiniteness of the phrase we are apt to lose sight of the special significance of the fact. All Europe proceeded not merely to fix its attention, but if possible to fill its pockets and reap its advantage from the coming struggle. Happily, by the late alliance between France and England, no war was then on foot to gratify the cupidity of those roving adventurers, who, in their thirst for plunder, sold their blood for drachmas, and hacked out a precarious subsistence by the sword. Swiss and lanceknight, hunger-starved for some new scene of action, turned their eyes and their footsteps to Germany. For these soldiers of fortune the imperial election was a Camacho's wedding, where money and provisions abounded, and claims for service were not too narrowly scrutinised. Thither flocked the maimed, the halt, and the blind,—in character, conduct, and principles. Itinerant chieftains like Sickingen, commanding a handful of resolute and not over-scrupulous followers,—undaunted negociators not too delicate or too squeamish,—thriftless patriots eager for the freedom and independence of election,—there found what they never would have found in purer and more peaceable times,—corruption and employment. Impartial in their favors, the electors took bribes from both candidates, made the same promises to both, and broke them to both with magnanimous indifference. To secure them the unbiassed exercise of their important functions, Charles had raised a considerable body of Swabians. He had contrived to detach Sickingen from the service of his rival by a pension of 3,000 florins. With six hundred cavaliers in the pay of the King Catholic, this daring adventurer advanced towards Wurtemberg, and, uniting his forces with the League, was ready at any moment, if need were, to secure the impartiality of the distressed electors by falling sword in hand on the partizans of the French monarch. The approaches leading to Frankfort were crowded with expectant couriers, anxious canvassers, disinterested soldiers. Troops of rival negociators, followed by brilliant escorts, hurried to and fro; trains of sumpter mules, laden with coin stuffed in their pack-saddles, plunged and struggled along the dusty roads. Supple agents, with obsequious looks, haunted the chambers, mounted the barges, and watched the countenances of the electors. Retailers of small gossip found a ready welcome, and reaped a rich harvest from the idle credulity of their listeners. Charles and Francis were alike determined to obtain possession of the imperial crown; both had resolved to spare no cost in securing their object. Never had there been so much animation in Germany.
As a consequence of this obstinate competition, the cost of the imperial crown rose in the market. The archbishop of Mayence, formerly content with 52,000 florins and a few trifles in addition, now demanded 120,000. The elector of Brandenburg, "the father of all "greediness," as the Austrians called him, would accept nothing less than 100,000 gold crowns, with the hand of the infanta Katharine, 30,000 crowns for his vote, "and "a good round sum besides," (fn. 3) The archbishop of Cologne and the count Palatine followed in the steps of the archbishop of Mayence. The projects of Maximilian were scattered to the winds. The stipulations he had exacted were disregarded. The Electors pretended that they were absolved from their promises by the death of the Emperor. It was requisite to commence de novo.
Francis I., as I have said, determined to spare no efforts to win over the electors. He told Sir Thomas Boleyn, the English ambassador, that his realm was worth six millions yearly, "and he would spend three "millions of gold but he would be Emperor." (fn. 4) More prudent and old-fashioned than his master, the president Guillart appealed to that chivalrous sense of magnanimity which, notwithstanding his numerous failings, still lurked in the breast of the French monarch. It would be his glory and honor, he told the King, to abstain from force or bribery in gaining the empire: it was more noble to rely on the brilliant attractions of his power and the merits of his person. "If," replied Francis, "I had to deal only with the virtuous, or with "those who even pretended to a shadow of virtue, your "advice would be expedient and honest; but in times "like the present, whatever a man sets his heart upon, "be it the papacy, be it the empire, or anything else, "he has no means of obtaining his object, except by "force or corruption. The men with whom I have to "deal don't mince mouths in this matter. Long since, "had Maximilian been alive, the money demanded for "the bargain would have been ready for delivery at all "the banks of Germany." (fn. 5)
Fully alive to the sentiments of their master, and armed with plenary authority, the agents of Francis spared no expense, no promises, no labor, in accomplishing his wishes. The electors were to be gained at any cost. Four of the number listened readily to his flattering proposals, offering to abandon their previous engagements, and pledge their votes and interest to France. The hand of the princess Rénée, a dowry of 200,000 crowns and an annuity of 12,000 florins, secured the elector of Brandenburg. More moderate than his brother, the archbishop of Mayence was content with 120,000 florins, payable in two moieties the same year, the erection of a church at Halle, a perpetual legateship, and the effectual support of the future Emperor in all his claims and privileges. Soft and irresolute, the elector of Cologne was open to terms, but would make no promises. The count Palatine avowedly reserved himself for the highest bidder. Francis was not so far from the attainment of his hopes as his opponents wished to have it believed.
The agents of Charles began to despair. The Spaniards were as slow as the French were energetic. Would it not be better, they said, for the King Catholic to end the dispute by waiving his claim in favor of his brother Ferdinand ? Charles never hesitated for a moment: his pride was touched by this allusion to his brother; no stronger incentive, perhaps, could have been suggested for rousing him to unusual energy. He replied with dignity, and with some animation, that such a course would be ruinous to his brother's interests and his own. It would, he said, dismember the countries and seignories of Austria, sow disunion between them, sever into its component elements the mighty trunk of that power which both of them had derived from their ancestors. Their union, like arrows in the quiver, was their strength; disunited, the shafts would be broken, and their combined authority destroyed.
Fortunately for Charles, he possessed two active and subtle negociators, whom no difficulties could daunt, no repulses dismay,—De Berghes and Armestorff. "If," said the former to lady Margaret, "I and Renner had served God as we have served the King, we might have hoped for a good place in Paradise." De Berghes was indefatigable;—nothing escaped him, no disappointments soured him. He saw it was not the time to be scrupulous, letting I dare not wait upon I would. "If something be not done, and done speedily," he writes on one occasion to lady Margaret, "this Bastard of Savoy—(an agent for Francis)—will come down upon us with a full purse and a pompous train, and, preaching up the faith of Antichrist, will turn away many from the orthodox to the French creed. The plague of avarice is as dominant here as elsewhere." A week after he hints to her that if a thousand horse were sent to the League, it would prove a great security to the electors on the Rhine, who were desirous of knowing what aid they should have if they were attacked by Francis. The danger was little else than imaginary; not so the effect of such a demonstration on the minds of the electors. "If," he adds, "the king of France should resort to violence, Charles could make use of the League to further his election, bon gré, mal gré, as has been done on other occasions." With a keen perception of the decorous conventionalities to be observed in these delicate negociations, and as bold a determination to violate them if necessary, De Berghes informed her: "Those who are sent to the electors, especially to the churchmen, must on no account insist on the bonds and promises given by them to the late Emperor. These birds are not to be caught in that fashion; for the election is free. On the contrary, they must say that they trust that messieurs the electors will bear in mind the arrangements made at the last diet by the Emperor, and continue their good wishes to the King Catholic, who will in no wise fail to keep his word."—"But on no account must any attempt be made to obtain written pledges from the electors; for they wish to have it publicly believed that they are wholly un-fettered in their choice." It may be doubted whether four centuries of hard practice in electioneering have much improved on the principles or procedure of De Berghes in this respect. "Money (he says) must be had from the Welzers (the Rothschilds of the Middle Ages); hard cash in gold at the diet." "In this affair of the empire we must not haggle at any fixed sums. Fresh disbursements of money will constantly be required, as these devils of Frenchmen scatter gold in all directions." (fn. 6)
On the other side Armestorff was not less dexterous and assiduous than De Berghes. The hinge of the negociation evidently turned on the archbishop of Mayence;—if he could be secured, the elector of Cologne would offer no obstacle. "If we can get these three," wrote Armestorff to Charles, "(Mayence, Cologne and Pala-tine,) in good trim, the fourth (the marquis of Bran-denburg) will not abandon them, for fear of forfeiting his share of the spoils." So night and day he set all his faculties to work to gain the archbishop of Mayence; as if, to use his own expression, "the salvation of his soul depended upon it." On the 27th of February he arrived at Mayence.
But the Archbishop—Luther's primate, it will be remembered—was not easily gained. He knew his own value; he knew also that he could dictate his own terms to France, however exorbitant. It was in vain that Armestorff besought him to renew his ancient engage- ments made with Maximilian; the Elector replied that, as the requisite stipulations had not been observed by Maximilian, these obligations had ceased to be binding. To every offer from Armestorff he turned a deaf ear; he undervalued the power and popularity of Charles. His efforts to obtain the imperial crown, he asserted, would be fruitless.
Undaunted by this frigid reception, and the ill success of his mission, Armestorff begged permission to speak unreservedly. (fn. 7) "I see," he said to the Archbishop, "that our opponents have made you more advantageous offers than we have done, and for that reason you wish to break your engagements. Such a course will entail infamy on you and your brother, and inflict irreparable injury on the empire and the whole Germanic nation." The Archbishop coldly admitted that he had received much more tempting offers from the other side, and made no scruple of avowing his intention to be sure of his bargain before he gave his vote. The choice of the Emperor rested, he said, exclusively with himself; for his colleagues would adopt his counsels, and follow his example. If Charles wished to succeed, he must add 100,000 florins to those already promised, (fn. 8) or take the consequences if he refused.
Armestorff started with astonishment at the enormity of this new demand. In a fit of resentment, real or affected, he flung himself out of the chamber. The Elector and his brother, he exclaimed, were binding a rod for their own backs, and the vengeance of Heaven would overtake them. His remonstrance was not without effect. Though fond of money, like most of his German contemporaries, and unwilling to let so excellent an opportunity escape him, the Archbishop considered that a smaller sum, with Charles for his sovereign, was a safer and more eligible investment than a larger sum from Francis, coupled with the indignation of his countrymen. Next morning, sending his valet de chambre to Armestorff, he offered to abate his demand, first to 80,000, and, when that was refused, to 60,000, and finally to 50,000 florins. Armestorff replied, he had no power to accept the offer, but he would write to his master for further instructions. The Archbishop, however, declined to wait; the rest of the electors, he said, as well as himself, were determined to come at once to a final decision, and he did not intend to fall between two stools. Driven to bay, Armestorff ventured to exceed his authority; he promised the Archbishop an augmentation of the original bargain, provided that he would keep the negociation secret, and induce the other electors to adhere to their original arrangements. After an obstinate debate of three days this additional douceur was settled at 20,000 florins.
The Archbishop had, probably from the first, contemplated a great reduction in his original demand. For whatever might have been his personal wishes, or however for the sake of his own interests he might intrigue with France, he must have been convinced that the people of Germany would never consent to accept Francis for their Emperor. "It was declared here" (that is, by the Spaniards at Cologne), says Pace, (fn. 9) "that as far as the sun doth exceed all other stars in glory, so far their king (Charles) doth excel all other princes; and for that cause he was meet to be Emperor." To which, "answer was made here, that the sun was not always above the earth, but below it." "The electors," he adds, "are in great perplexity; for this nation will have no French Emperor." In fact, had the election been declared in favour of the French monarch, it is probable that the Swiss, the Swabian League, and a large portion of the population would have been prepared to decide the question by arms, in a manner more agreeable to their own views and wishes. (fn. 10)
When the Archbishop had thus eased his breast, he was not merely as good as his word; he was far better. He unlocked his cabinet; he showed Armestorff all the letters he had received from the opposite party, and the advantageous offers contained in them. In the excess of his candor, he discovered to the imperial agent the practices of Francis with the other electors, of which he was the prime confidant and depository. As if this exhibition of good will had not been sufficient, with the zeal and ardor of a new convert he employed his most urgent endeavors to bring over the elector of Brandenburg to his own views. He besought him to consider the danger and disgrace they should both incur if they suffered the imperial crown to fall into the hands of an alien. He pretended the most disinterested motives for his late conversion, resolved that no other elector should reap the same benefit as himself of a private arrangement. But, in his efforts to convert the marquis of Brandenburg, he was in danger of being reconverted himself to the cause he had so recently abandoned. The Marquis refused to entertain the Archbishop's notions of devotion to German interests; he had pledged himself, he said, to Francis, and could not in honor recede. When Armestorff returned to Mayence at the end of March, for a final ratification of their arrangement, he found the fickle Archbishop half-inclined to abandon it. (fn. 11) Once again he had the same difficulties to surmount, the same demands to combat. In the end the Archbishop was a considerable gainer. "I have no "faith in that archbishop of Mayence," said Louise of Savoy to Boleyn, the English ambassador; and most men will agree in her estimate of his consistency.
In the midst of these intrigues a new competitor appeared upon the stage in the person of Henry VIII. But for the evidence furnished by the letters and instructions of Pace, who was employed on this occasion, it would have seemed incredible that Henry VIII. could have ever seriously entertained a design so chimerical and so impolitic; still less that all his actions in relation to it should have been characterized with unusual feebleness, delay and vacillation. The news of Maximilian's death was known in England a month after. As early as the 9th of February, (fn. 12) Boleyn, then in France, wrote to the King of the intention of Francis to become a competitor for the imperial crown. "He bade me," says Boleyn, "lean out at the window with him, and he "would tell me what he had done in it, and his whole "mind." Francis then proceeded to inform the ambassador that he had received invitations from several electors; had been promised the votes of four of them, and was overjoyed at the aid offered him by England, especially as his brother, the king of England, was not inclined to enter the lists. Again, in that month, and in the next, Charles had earnestly requested the King's interposition with the Pope, who was supposed to encourage the interests of the French king. Yet it was not until the second week in May, when the election was already virtually decided, that Pace was dispatched into Germany to advance the pretensions of his royal master. Was it from hesitation, divided counsels, or ill advice that Henry adopted a line of conduct so foreign to his character, so unlike the resolution of his great minister ?
It will be remembered that, on various occasions mentioned in the last volume, Maximilian had offered to secure the imperial crown for the king of England. Keen observers like Tunstal, regarding his offer at its true worth, denounced it as chimerical; even supposing that Maximilian had influence sufficient to fulfil his promise, they insisted on its impolicy and imprudence. In this, as in most other political questions, Tunstal echoed the sentiments of Wolsey. But to the King the project did not appear so wild or so undesirable as their cooler heads would have wished or imagined. Nor is it surprising that Henry, in the vigor of his youth and the pride of his power, should have been fired with the ambition of attaining "the monarchy of Christendom." The Papacy excepted, the empire was the highest honor to which any potentate could aspire. Though little better than an empty title,—though scarcely more than the shadow of a great name, destined speedily to become more visionary than ever,—its ancient traditions made a deep impression on the romantic heart of the Middle Ages. (fn. 13) Its half sacred, half secular dignity, shrouded by a mysterious and unsubstantial grandeur; its position as the military headship and supremacy of Christendom; its imperial bishops and regal princes; its sacred knights and Teutonic brotherhoods; its haunted forests and weird mountains; had all combined to captivate the imaginations of men. (fn. 14) Hoary with the frost of ages, it towered in gigantic proportions above all the monarchies of the world, and its head was lost among the clouds of Heaven. Nor can it be doubted that Pace himself, who had frequently visited Italy and Germany, and knew both countries well, had fostered these feelings in the mind of the King, with whom he had now grown a favorite. Wolsey, suffering from dysentery, was often absent. Pace, the King's secretary, always at court, a pleasant and versatile companion,—a wit, a scholar, a traveller of no small observation and experience,—was acquainted with all the distinguished men and potentates of the time, and had visited every scene of the drama on which the attention of the world was just then fixed. By the brilliancy and charms of his conversation—qualities reflected in his correspondence—he had made his society agreeable to More and Erasmus. He was, besides, a man "of the new learning;" not so strict or so rigid as the grey-headed ecclesiastics whose rank or office held them about the court. Was it surprising that he should have risen rapidly into favor, that he should have been suspected, though unjustly, of treading to closely on the heels of the great minister ?
If it were so, it was not the only time in which Pace appears to have countenanced the King's wishes, in oppo- sition to the judgment of Wolsey. But, whatever that judgment might be, the King's wishes must be obeyed. At that time Campeggio the Legate, supposed to be intimately acquainted with the Pope's sentiments, was residing in England. To discover the Pope's sentiments, to secure if possible his co-operation, was indispensable to success. He was supposed to be unfavorable to the pretensions of Charles, had even instructed his nuncio in Germany to oppose his election as illegal and uncanonical. (fn. 15) He might be secretly inclined to Francis, but he had been heard to declare that it was not desirable for the good of Christendom that either of these princes should succeed. (fn. 16)
A letter addressed by Wolsey to the bishop of Worcester, the King's ambassador in Rome, preserved in the Vatican, and published by Martene, (fn. 17) throws some light on this obscure transaction. It appears that already some secret communication of the King's wishes in regard to the imperial election had been made to the Pope by cardinal Campeggio. What was the exact nature of that communication, or how it came to the ears of Worcester, we are left to guess. As it did not suit Wolsey's purpose to assume that his correspondent was wholly unacquainted with what had passed, or reveal too much, his expressions are studiously ambiguous. He tells Worcester that, in consequence of the new alliance between France and England, neither he nor the King thought it safe to communicate their wishes to his Holiness until they had first clearly ascertained his inclinations. It had been given out that Leo favored the French; and the rumor had been amply confirmed by the conduct of the papal nuncio in Germany. "Until we had discovered," continues Wolsey, "to which of the two candidates his Holiness inclined, we could trust no letter and no messenger; for if it so happened that the Pope favored the king of the French, our designs would have been betrayed, and occasion might have arisen for impairing the present peace between the two kingdoms, to the grievous injury of Christendom." Now, he adds, as the Pope and the King are of one mind touching this election, they can open their minds more freely, and the negociation will be carried on in the usual channel. (fn. 18)
He then proceeds to point out to Worcester the dangers that would arise if Francis should succeed in his pretensions. Not content with his own dominions, he would, argues Wolsey, aspire to the monarchy of the world, and trample the Papacy under foot. The danger would scarcely be less if Charles became Emperor, for his vast powers and overgrown possessions would occasion many troubles in Christendom. Therefore he advises the Pope to keep an even hand between the two competitors; and if, as probably would be the case, either demanded of him letters in their favor, which could not be refused, he should have recourse to dissimulation, and let it be known among all people that his recommendations were merely formal, Charles being out of the way. If the king of France could be persuaded to desist from his pretensions, England and the Pope might then combine and fix upon some third person equally agreeable to all parties. In making these suggestions Worcester was instructed to watch narrowly the Pope's countenance, to weigh his answers, and discover, if possible, his real inclinations.
Up to this point, Wolsey had breathed no hint of this third unexceptionable candidate. It was dangerous ground, and demanded careful and cautious handling. Then, as if the suggestion had proceeded from another, and not from himself, he continues: "My most reverend lord Campeggio has submitted to me, that possibly our most serene lord the King might not be disinclined to see some regard had to his own elevation (honoris). He thinks some means might be devised, by which both the king of the French and his Catholic Majesty might be prevented from obtaining the election. I can draw only one meaning from these words of his. I suppose the Legate thinks that the election might possibly be secured in favor of our King. If then, you wish to do a service agreeable to his most serene Majesty and to me, you will take occasion to broach this matter to his Holiness, but in such a way as if you were entirely ignorant of our wishes. When you have more clearly discovered the intentions of his Holiness, if you find any firm foundation to go upon, it will not be inappropriate in you to remark, that you think it would be highly conducive to the interests of Christendom and of the Holy See, if his Majesty could be prevailed upon to undertake so responsible a dignity, for all the King's endeavors would be concentrated on universal tranquillity and the good of mankind. But you must say, it is much to be feared that his foresaid Majesty will in no wise be prevailed upon to meddle in this affair, seeing that he absolutely refused the imperial crown when it was formerly offered him by Maximilian. You may then suggest, that possibly, if his Holiness would write to me (Wolsey) very earnestly about the matter, I might, without any great labor, exhort and encourage the King to consent to his election, purely out of his desire to promote the welfare of others. In handling this matter, marvellous dexterity and skill will be required. Therefore, I beg your reverend Lordship will give your best attention "to what I have said, and send me an explicit answer "to every point."
The letter is dated 25th March. Before any answer could arrive, a communication had been received from Worcester, dated some days after, stating that Francis was straining every nerve to secure the election; that the Pope found it difficult to decide between both candidates, but was strongly urged to support the French king. He adds in a postscript, that letters had just come from Campeggio, long after date, signifying the King's wish that Francis should not be elected, but the Pope thought it too perilous to interfere openly. (fn. 19)
March ended, April passed away, and no answer from the Papal Court. At last about the middle of May a communication was received from Worcester. If he ever followed Wolsey's instructions, the Pope held out no expectations that he would, openly or otherwise, further the project so cautiously suggested by the Cardinal. He affected not to see it, but made a merit of supporting the interest of Charles, as if in so doing he had sacrificed his own inclinations out of deference to the King and Wolsey.
Meanwhile, the King and Wolsey had determined to send Pace into Germany, furnished with letters and instructions suitable to the occasion. He was ordered, in the first instance, to discover the temper of the electors, and their various inclinations. Whenever "he speaketh with the favorers of the French King," so run his instructions, (fn. 20) "he may use words to show the King's inclination to that party; ... and in semblable manner he is to use himself to such of the electors "as incline to the king of Castile's party; so that the King's highness be not noted to favor or advance the "one party more than the other." But on these and all other occasions he is to insinuate objections to the prejudice of both, and find means "by provident and circumspect drifts" to drive the electors to choose Henry, "which is of the Germany tongue," or, failing that, one of themselves, "and not to translate the empire, which has been in Germany seven hundred years, to a strange nation; for if it were eftsoons so translated, it should never return to them again." That the English envoy should be instructed to enlarge on the manifold gifts "of grace, fortune and nature which be in the King," and his fitness for so great a dignity, is no more than we should be prepared to expect; but the other articles of his commission betray either a penuriousness in money matters little to be expected, or a most extraordinary ignorance of the true state of the imperial negociations. Though his instructions are unfortunately mutilated, enough remains to make it clear that he was forbidden to pledge the King's credit without adequate security. Provided the electors would do the King's grace so much pleasure as to prefer him above all other competitors, they should be "rewarded and recompensed for their gratitude," so it exceed not the sum of ... "But it is the King's pleasure that no communication, writing or instrument whatever shall pass his said ambassador but only conditionally; that is to say, should the King's highness be elected to that dignity, and really attain thereto, then to pay such a sum as shall be agreed betwixt them." (fn. 21)
Had Pace started on his mission three months earlier, had persuasion "sweeter than honey" sate upon his lips, what hopes could he have entertained of gaining over the electors on such conditions ? What arguments could counterbalance the solid coin of France or Spain, the plate and tapestry, the golden ducats and substantial advantages with which the two continental monarchs had for many weeks dazed the eyes and enslaved the wills of these guardians of the imperial crown ? "The English angels, says Fleuranges, in mockery of Pace's embassy, could not work greater miracles than the crowns of the sun." But the golden angels to which he refers never imped their wings, or displayed a feather of their lustrous plumage.
So Pace's mission fared exactly as might have been expected. He was courteously but coldly received. The electors were evidently indifferent to the cause of his master, especially as that cause came recommended with empty hands. Pace flattered the King with hopes of success. He relied on the contradictory rumors sedulously disseminated by interested parties. "No manner of certainty can be gathered out of them after my "judgment," he remarks to Wolsey; (fn. 22) "but he that shall come last, after the great practices passed, shall be in as good and peradventure better case than they that came long afore." He built his strongest hope on the great delay which some Fleming had assured him must take place before the election was concluded, and was disappointed in both his expectations.
On the 1st of June he obtained an audience with the archbishop of Cologne, (fn. 23) just before the Elector was starting for Frankfort. Between the 1st and 9th he had an interview, at Mayence, with the Cardinal and his brother the marquis of Brandenburg, "ready to go in the morning to Frankfort;" on the 9th, with the archbishop of Treves, who told him that Henry was not excluded from the election, and that the late Emperor had gone about to promote him. This remark gave Pace an opportunity of enlarging upon the King's qualities, as expressed in his instructions. Though he is reputed "all French," says Pace, (fn. 24) he behaved himself "like a wise and noble man." The interview finished, in conformity with the ancient rule, Pace, with all other strangers, was ordered to withdraw from Frankfort. Five of the electors had arrived already. The duke of Saxony was expected hourly. He had declined the empire, which he might have had if the would, says Pace; so great was the reputation of "his virtuous and godly living, as of his singular wisdom." Next day, Pace wrote again, insisting on the great dissension among the electors: the indignation of the commonalty against the French was incredible; they would spend life and goods, he said, against that King if he were elected. They would have preferred Don Ferdinand to his brother, had their wishes been consulted, because they felt assured of his residing among them. But, less careful of men's opinions, if not more scrupulous, than his rival, Charles had provided against contingencies. An army of 40,000 foot and 6,000 horse by his own and the late Emperor's adherents, in the Rhine Provinces, was ready to march and coerce the refractory electors. (fn. 25) Pace confirms this statement on the 14th, adding that Charles's deputies openly gave out that if they could not gain the election by fair means, they would have it by the sword. The electors protested against this apparent coercion of their freedom, and the army was moved into the duchy of Wurtemberg. (fn. 26) The election approached its termination; the utmost excitement prevailed; the wildest rumors were afloat. Francis promised double as much as any other Christian prince would give for the empire. The agents of Charles, not to be outdone, increased their biddings; hundreds, thousands, of florins yearly to each of the electors, in addition to the pensions already granted, on security of the Spanish ecclesiastics and nobility. "Here is," says Pace, "the most dearest merchandise that ever was sold; and after mine opinion, "it shall be the worst that ever was bought, to him "that shall obtain it." (fn. 27)
Yet, in spite of the opinion thus sensibly recorded, even Pace could not resist the general infection. If he had but come some fifteen days sooner! If, like the king of Castile, he had brought 420,000 gold florins to Frankfort, or sufficient security, Wolsey by this time, he says, might have sung a Te Deum laudamus for the election of King Henry VIII. in imperatorem omnium Christianorum!" (fn. 28) The King, he goes on to say, will certainly be proposed at the election; (fn. 29) and the question had been asked him, whether he had authority to accept the empire eo nomine. He must have betrayed his excitement, and left himself open to this caustic joke. It is needless to say, that no such intention was ever once entertained by any one of the electors.
The atmosphere was impregnated with trickery, deceit and corruption; and the most veteran craftsmen in these arts were incessantly employed in pursuing their ignoble vocation. Application had been made by Henry to the Pope to interpose and delay the election. It appears from one of Pace's letters, written in June, but of which the precise date is uncertain, that his Holiness had consented to the King's request, (fn. 30) and commanded his nuncio, Carracciolo, to act accordingly. But the nuncio, better informed of the Pope's wishes, turned a deaf ear to Pace's entreaties; (fn. 31) —worse than all, the Pope a few days after, commanded his agent to desist from all further opposition, set on foot a secret negociation for a good understanding with the Catholic King, (fn. 32) and, instead of interposing delay, as he had promised, hurried on the election. (fn. 33) The electors entered the consistory on the 18th of June. It soon became manifest that the choice would fall on the king of Castile. Sickingen, the most powerful and unscrupu- lous of his partizans, established himself with his army at Höchst, a few miles distant from Frankfort, ready to commence operations at the earliest notice. "There," writes Pace on the 24th, "they cry open war against the French king, and say they will have no emperor but king Charles of Spain." The count of Nassau, one of their number, armed with the King's great seal, distributed places and offices broadcast to all whose influence could in any way, direct or indirect, conduce to success. These measures were seconded by threats of personal violence. Bonnivet, the most skilful and active of the French king's agents, was warned to desist from canvassing any longer for his master, on pain of his life. (fn. 34) "The nation is up in arms," says Pace, "and furious to fight for the King Catholic." The day before the count of Nassau had told him he had so much money, and so many men, that no Frenchman should enter the country "but upon spearis and swerdis poyntes."
As the electors had long since made up their minds, delay was useless. The impatience of Charles's partizans, the dread of the plague, (fn. 35) now beginning to make its appearance at Frankfort, personal considerations of various kinds, induced the electors gladly to lay hold of the pretext furnished them by the Pope, and resolve on an immediate decision. To preserve the forms, though the essentials had disappeared, the two sovereigns were solemnly put in nomination. Their respective claims were urged with all the eloquence of their respective representatives; those of Charles by the archbishop of Mayence, those of Francis by the archbishop of Treves. To create a diversion in the ranks of the imperialists, Frederick the elector of Saxony was put forward. He may have declined the honor from patriotic feelings, but any man of ordinary sense and virtue would have hesitated to accept a position he could not hope to maintain without drawing down upon himself the hostility of the three greatest powers of Christendom. The Duke rose to decline the honor. He proffered his vote in favor of Charles, and the great event was over.
However Pace or even Wolsey might have flattered themsevles that their recent negociations in Germany had been veiled in impenetrable secrecy, they had not escaped the keen and vigilant eye of Francis I. It is evident, from the hints dropped by that King and his mother, that both were perfectly well acquainted with the intrigues set on foot at the English court to impede his election. (fn. 36) Had Francis succeeded, he would undoubtedly have shown his resentment. But the friendship of England had now become more indispensable to him than ever. His reckless extravagance had rendered him very unpopular. The expenses incurred in his late canvass had exhausted his treasury. He was compelled to resort to unusual imposts. On that head the evidence of the Venetian ambassador, Giustinian, who was just then returning from his mission to England, is unimpeachable. He states that the French King and his mother Louise were more unpopular all over France than words could express; (fn. 37) that whilst his subjects were suffering under these oppressions, Louise was accused of hoarding money to aid her son on any sudden emergency. Stern punishment followed, though it could not stifle the murmurs of discontent, or the accents of fear goaded into frenzy. The people, says a French correspondent, (fn. 38) are much enraged at the King's exactions; of those who remonstrated he has whipped one, and put to death two. The royal demesnes were heavily mortgaged, the church plate pillaged, the nobility and gentry crushed by loans and benevolences. From the success of Charles, Francis had reason to anticipate that all the disputes in Italy, Navarre and elsewhere would be settled in favor of the Emperor; the Pope, would side with the strongest; except for the friendship of England, the whole of Europe would be confederated against him.
To the Venetian, Giustinian, he did not scruple to betray his real feelings towards Henry and his minister. Inquiring one day of the ambassador "what sort of a statesman king Henry made, Giustinian endeavored to evade the question; for (he says), to bestow praise on that score is impossible, whilst to censure appeared to him unbecoming. After a while, his Majesty still pressing him repeatedly on the subject, he replied that king Henry devoted himself to pleasure and solace, and left the cares of state to the Cardinal. 'By my faith,' rejoined Francis, 'the Cardinal must 'bear him little good will; for it is not the office of a 'good servant to filch his master's honor.'" (fn. 39)
But to Boleyn, the English ambassador at his court, his language, dictated by policy or suggested by his necessities, wore a different aspect. If Wolsey would aspire to the popedom, Francis would secure it for him on the first opportunity. He commanded, he said, the voices of fourteen cardinals, and of the whole Orsini faction at Rome. Let but the king of England and himself remain at one, and they would make popes and emperors at their pleasure. (fn. 40) His ministers re-echoed the same sentiments. It had never been seen or heard "that one man, being a cardinal, had so great esteem, trust, and reputation" with both kings, of France and England, as fell to the fortune of Wolsey. (fn. 41) And though, after the untoward event of the election, these flattering expressions of regard were not quite so numerous or so cordial as before, Francis continued from time to time to assure the Cardinal of his undiminished confidence, and the sense he entertained of Wolsey's services. (fn. 42)
Nor, on the other hand, could England very well afford, at this delicate conjuncture, to neglect an ally with whom it was so recently connected by the strictest ties of amity. The marriage contract between Mary and the Dauphin still continued intact. As an earnest of their indissoluble union, Henry, in the person of Boleyn, had stood sponsor to the second son of Francis I., called after his royal godfather. (fn. 43) From the spring of the year to its close, a succession of proposals and negociations for a personal interview had passed on both sides; as early as the month of March, a list of persons appointed to attend the king of England at the interview had been submitted to the king of France. (fn. 44) When the season was so far advanced that it became necessary to defer the arrangements for the present, Boleyn informed Francis that his master had resolved to wear his beard until their meeting, as a proof of his unabated desire for the interview. "And I," said Francis, laying his hand upon his beard, in recognition of this token of affection, "protest I will never put off mine until I "have seen the king of England. (fn. 45) " After such repeated demonstrations of unalterable attachment, any sudden rupture was out of the question. In the opinion of Christendom, it would have brought down on the head of its author indelible disgrace; an opinion not to be hastily or harmlessly defied. It would have softened the mutual antagonism of Francis and the Emperor, and defeated the objects of Wolsey's policy.
For, notwithstanding the rivalry between the two continental monarchs, it was by no means certain that they might not consent to arrange their differences, and coalesce for their mutual interests. Of the real disposition of Charles little was known at that time in England, and that little did not warrant Wolsey in supposing that he would set any great value on an English alliance. Influenced wholly by his Flemish minister, Chièvres, who was by extraction a Frenchman, and warmly devoted to French interests, what reason could there be for anticipating that a prince so cold and taciturn would break through the traditional policy he had hitherto consistently maintained ? In passing from one of his dominions to another by sea, Charles might occasionally find it advantageous to enter an English harbour; beyond this,—an advantage not needed if he were on friendly terms with France,—it was hard to discover what temptation the friendship of England could offer him.
So the two powers continued to maintain outwardly the most friendly relations, as if nothing had occurred to interrupt their cordiality. Henry, at least if Wolsey may be considered as an adequate exponent of the King's sentiments, still professed to feel the deepest interest in the welfare of his French ally; he volunteered the most disinterested advice, not always indifferent whether Francis followed or refused it. On the other side Francis and his minister, with the most candid desire of removing all causes of suspicion and misunderstanding between the two crowns, did not fail to call the attention of Wolsey and his master to every instance of bad faith, real or supposed, into which their double policy was sometimes liable to betray them. To make his own king the mediator of Europe,—more than Emperor in reality, as himself was more than Pope,—to continue friends with the two great rival powers without offending either,—to keep both asunder by filling their heads with mutual suspicions,—this was the chief object of Wolsey's policy. It required considerably dexterity, to give it no worse name. How it was pursued, and how it succeeded, I have now to consider. (fn. 46)
Negociations for a personal interview between the kings of France and England, so often proposed, discussed, postponed, in 1519, (fn. 47) were resumed in 1520 with more apparent earnestness than before. The state of queen Claude's health, who was expecting her delivery at the end of July, made it desirable that the meeting should take place as early as April or May. (fn. 48) Alarmed also at the news of the growing intimacy between Henry and the new Emperor, who was now seeking the friendship of England, Francis was anxious to hurry on the interview.
As both kings had consented to appoint Wolsey for their proctor, the arrangements were pushed forward with his usual vigor. Precedents of chivalry were diligently scanned,—lists determined,—names put in and out,—all the interminable minutiæ incidental to such an occasion duly sifted, discussed, arranged and rearranged. Christendom on both sides of the Channel was plunged up to the ears in the entrancing study of pageants and ceremonials. The orthodox arrangement of shields and banners, the places of the combatants, their entry and their exit from the lists, the arming and barbing of their horses, the dimension and weight of their swords, lances, and battle-axes, vexed the brains and contracted the brows of grey-haired veterans. Ancient knights, who had fought and flourished in the brilliant days of Edward IV., deeply read in Mallory's translation of the Gests of Arthur, or the pages of Froissart, resumed their former importance. The greatness of the event appeared to demand new agents. Sir Richard Wingfield was appointed to succeed Sir Thomas Boleyn at the court of Francis, with instructions to make himself agreeable to all parties. Sir Thomas was uncourtly, plodding, business-like, and niggardly; Sir Richard, free, open and liberal. Though not so chivalrous or enthusiastic as his brother Sir Robert, he was a Wingfield, and his name was a passport to favor.
The instructions carried by the new envoy (fn. 49) were marked by a warmth and cordiality of expression singularly at variance with the lukewarmness hitherto shown by the English monarch in all his negociations with his royal brother. Sir Richard was to express, in the first instance, the extreme desire felt by his master "to hear continually" of the prosperity of his ally. Sensible as the king of England was of the services rendered him by Sir Thomas Boleyn, yet—so Wingfield was instructed to say—in consideration of their ancient amity, his love could not be satisfied without sending "one of his trusty and near familiars, to the intent that by renovelling of ambassadors new testimonies might be found, as well of the perseverance of fraternal love on both parts, as also by such means to further the augmentation thereof from time to time." This, duly delivered with all the grace and emphasis of which Wingfield was master, "with other pleasaunt devices (conversation) of the King's grace, my lady Princess," and my lord Legate by no means forgotten, with "semblable amiable communications," as he presented their letters, was to "suffice for the first audience." He was to follow up on some future occasion the correspondence thus auspiciously commenced, by arguments of a highe strain, levelled at those frank and romantic sentiments which still lingered in the breast of the French king, who, in spite of his many failings, retained some sparks of that chivalrous spirit which contemporary monarchs neither valued nor possessed. It was not the verbal obligations of a nuptial alliance,—the vulgar security of hostages, or the stipulations of treaties,—so Wingfield was to urge,—which formed the strongest ties of friendship, and "knit the assured knot of perseverant amity betwixt them," but the love they bore to each other in their hearts. "For remembering the noble and excellent gifts, as well of nature, touching their goodly statures and activeness,—and of grace, concerning their wondrous wisdoms and other princely virtues,—as also of for-tune, depending upon their substances and puissaunce, given unto them by Almighty God, and wherein more conformity is betwixt them than in or amongst all other Christian princes, it is not to be marvelled though (if) this agreeable consonance of semblable properties and affections do vehemently excite and stir them both, not only to love and tenderly favor each other, but also personally to visit, see and speak together, whereby that thing, which as yet standing upon reports is covered with a shadow, shall be brought to the light, face to face, if it proceed; and finally make such impression of entire love in their hearts that the same shall be always permanent and never be dissolved, to the pleasure of God, their both comforts, and the weal of all Christendom." To grace his negociations, Wingfield carried a new sword as a present to the French king; the secret handling of which it was reserved to the English monarch to divulge. (fn. 50)
Let not my readers curl their lips in scorn at such extravagant protestations, or denounce them with fierce, uncomplimentary epithets, proud of their greater simplicity of speech and clearness of vision. Let them not be mistaken. If we except the flattering allusion to Henry VIII.,—evidently intended for his own eye,—the style of Wingfield's instructions is wholly unlike the general staidness and sobriety of those times. It had its purpose,—one that was not to be too plainly expressed, or approached too rudely. It required to be smothered under a multiplicity of details, and hidden in those half-lights in which the diplomatists of those days sometimes delighted to indulge. The real purport of this rhetoric oozes out in a subsequent letter written by Wingfield some days after. (fn. 51) In some moment of unguarded gaiety or confidence, Wingfield was to extort a promise from Francis not to condescend to any other meeting,—prevent him, in other words, from playing off upon England the same manœuvre that England was then putting into operation against himself. The task was not easy; it must have seemed almost impossible.
To understand this more clearly, it will be necessary to turn back to the negociations then going on between the English court and the new emperor, Charles V. Like most other rulers of his times, Charles was alternately swayed by a French and an English party. The influence of Chièvres, who supported the former, was now apparently on the decline;—had been so since the meeting at Montpellier in 1519;—and the bishop of Elna, the consistent advocate of the opposite policy, (fn. 52) was now appointed to manage the negociations in England. In the month of August after his election, the Emperor, with a condescension as unusual as it was unexpected, sent his favorite, John de la Sauch, into England, instructing him to join with the Bishop in expressing the Emperor's gratitude to the King for the services rendered him by Pace in obtaining the imperial crown. (fn. 53) As the English court had signified a wish that the alliance between the two sovereigns should be preserved and increased, the imperial ambassadors were directed to assure the King that Charles reciprocated the wish, and intended to oblige his Majesty in all things. They were to add that the Emperor was gratified with the King's invitation, and would take the earliest opportunity of visiting England on his way to Spain. Among other ambiguous expressions, there is one which especially deserves attention:—if, Charles said, Henry proposes "to do any feat," he must make sure of the Swiss, and take care that they are not employed against him; for that (said the Emperor) "is "the secret of secrets." What could this hint mean ? Had the King of England already entertained some secret intention of invading France, at the very time when negociations for the interview were going on; or was it the suggestion of the tempter ? What was the feat here alluded to ? By whom were the Swiss to be employed ?
The proposal for a more intimate alliance thus candidly proposed and accepted by Charles had ulterior objects of the most secret nature, which it was not deemed safe should be committed to writing. On the arrival of the ambassadors in London, (fn. 54) Hesdin, the Flemish resident, wrote to the Cardinal, requesting an immediate audience with the King. To enforce his application, he told Wolsey that the ambassadors brought with them "agreeable proposals"; and that De la Sauch had communications to make touching "the marriage, of which the Cardinal knew." "The matter," he added, "will be easily colored;" and he concluded by saying that Francis was making every effort to induce Charles to pass through France, and had offered his queen and his children as hostages;—an assertion which, true or false, would not be without its effect on the King and the Cardinal.
As this letter was written in September 1519, negociations for transferring the hand of the princess Mary to the Emperor—for that was the marriage thus obscurely alluded to—must have been under consideration at least as early as the summer of that year. Yet, no longer back than the winter of 1518, Mary had been solemnly betrothed to the Dauphin. What was the reason for this change ? Who was the author of it ? Hesdin seems to attribute it to Wolsey. But he may have paid the Cardinal this compliment only in the hope of securing his attention. Was then that union of a princess of England with the Emperor, on whose dominions the sun never set, more tempting and dazzling than the hand of the Dauphin ? Was it simply the ambition of a more magnificent alliance which induced Henry to break faith so easily, or some offence on the part of Francis ? If what in private life would be termed duplicity were not in diplomacy colored with the name of political dexterity, it would be hard to justify the conduct of the Cardinal or his master in this intricate affair.
For reasons not adequately explained,—perhaps out of some displeasure at the terms proposed,—or suspicion of Wolsey's sincerity,—or dissatisfaction, not improbably, at the ostensible amity between this country and France, of which he was doubtless kept well informed by French agents,—this auspicious commencement was not followed up by corresponding ardor. Charles's subsequent instructions to his ambassadors were cold and distant. (fn. 55) He approved of Wolsey's proposal for a personal interview between himself and the king of England, but he would not undertake to visit England for that purpose exclusively. He contradicted the rumor that he had been treating secretly for a marriage with Rénée, the sister of the French king, unknown to the King and the Cardinal; but he cautiously avoided committing himself to the proposed union with Mary. With great appearance of communicativeness, he communicated nothing of the least importance. It required no great penetration to discover that the new Emperor, young as he was, fully understood his own interests, and was not to be cajoled or intimidated. Free from every tinge of romance, of sentiment, or of enthusiasm, unlike his French rival, he kept his feelings under absolute control. Appeals to his generosity, his honor or his candor were idle; cold, bland, clear-headed and imperturbable, he estimated such appeals at their full worth. His was an old, very old head, on very young shoulders.
Yet he could not afford to neglect this opportunity of a closer alliance with England. He could not regard without some degree of uneasiness the growing intimacy of the French and English monarchs, now ostentatiously paraded before the world. He knew,—no one better,—as Francis had said more than once, that if France and England were brothers in arms they would become absolute, and dictate the law to Christendom. As they led, the Pope would follow. His possessions in Italy would be rent irrecoverably from Charles, and all his claims disputed. D'Albret would recover Navarre; a focus for disaffection, growing hotter and more dangerous every day by the accession of his discontented Spanish subjects, would be established on the very skirts of his dominions. Symptoms of disaffection, not to be disregarded, had shown themselves already. A union of France and England was tantamount to the dismemberment of half his imperial dominions.
Therefore, although he assumed an air of indifference, in the hope of securing more favorable terms, especially when the interview between Henry and the French king had been abandoned in 1519, Charles had no real intention of rejecting the proposals of England. In the spring of 1520, when the French interview was resumed with greater activity and earnestness than before, he thought it wiser to adopt a more conciliatory tone. As if his last instructions had been too cold and off-handed, he directed his ambassadors (fn. 56) to say that he had never meant in his previous instructions to retract his engagements, or violate his promise of a personal interview. Though time was pressing, and affairs were urgent, he was most anxious to enjoy the society of the king and queen of England. He offered to land at some convenient English port, and gave ample powers to his ambassadors to arrange the preliminaries. They were to insist, if possible, on having the interview in the Isle of Wight. If that was refused, and the King preferred Southampton, as more convenient for the usual festivities, they were to say that the presence of the King and Queen was a greater feast to the Emperor than any that could be offered him. If the King insisted on having his own way, they were to consent.
These concessions were ample; more ample than we should be apt at first sight to consider. The punctiliousness of that age demanded that the King should meet the Emperor on his own territory,—the inferior attend on his superior. Had the Pope descended from his throne to visit an ordinary bishop in partibus infidelium, such an unusual act of condescension might have been attributed to pious motives not unbecoming his spiritual functions. But for the Emperor to go out of his way and visit England was regarded as an act of extraordinary condescension, little short indeed of degradation. The world saw with astonishment the greatest monarch of the earth vailing his bonnet to a King who was scarcely considered as a member of the great triumvirate of Christendom. Even the Pope could not conceal his indignation and surprise. Had the Emperor sustained a defeat on the field of battle, had he experienced a more real but less ostensible diminution of his power and authority, the event would have been regarded with less astonishment. But the necessities of Charles were urgent. He consented not only to waive his own wishes as to the place of meeting, but he engaged also to hold no interview with any other power. He conceded freely more than Wingfield had ever ventured to propose to the French King, and what now he had no occasion for proposing. Short of any substantial advantages there was, in fact, no concession which Charles was not prepared to make to secure the friendship of Henry.
As the Emperor was too far away at Burgos, it was left to his aunt, the lady Margaret, regent of the Netherlands, to settle the arrangements for the interview. Her instructions to De la Sauch testify her own and her nephew's anxiety to comply with the conditions offered them by England. Rather than risk any failure, she consented on her own responsibility to waive all dispute as to the place of meeting. (fn. 57) To hide the necessity they were under of securing this alliance, to make England believe that Francis was at that time soliciting their friendship, she had recourse to the unusual precaution of garbling the Emperor's own letters, and suppressing such parts of them as seemed to her too candid or too imprudent.
As quick and decisive in her movements as the Emperor's Spanish ministers were slow, formal and deliberate, the arrangements in her hands advanced rapidly towards a successful termination. Her wishes on this oc- Casino found a warm partizan in queen Katharine. Long as she had been in England, Katharine still retained her Spanish predilections. News from the Spanish court were as welcome to her as tidings of friends and relations to the solitary in distant worlds. A knowledge of the Spanish tongue was an unfailing recommendation to her favor. It was not often that she took an active part in the amusements or politics of the times; and when she consented to share in either, it was chiefly against her own inclination, and to please the more buoyant temper of her husband. I do not find that in all the intrigues for the imperial election she ever interfered, or ever employed the little influence she possessed in promoting the interests of her nephew. But on this occasion she took not merely an active, but, for her, an obtrusive part. The political was merged in the personal aspect of the question,—the queen in the aunt. An officiousness that would have scarcely been allowed, or, if allowed, been distasteful to herself, seemed fully justified in the affectionate solicitude of a woman anxious to welcome her youthful and illustrious relative.
Arrangements proceeded rapidly. More lively, more cordial than her nephew, better versed in matters of this nature, Margaret, with the ready tact of her sex, broke at once through the icy formality with which the ministers of Charles had contrived to invest them. Her interposition was agreeable to all parties, to the English court especially, where, deservedly or not, she was certainly a favorite. She humored the great Cardinal; she agreed to accept Southampton, or any other place, even Sandwich, if he required it, for the place of meeting. This Sandwich, the ambassadors were careful to inform the Emperor, "is two leagues from Dover, in the English Downs, as you go towards Zea- land." Great vessels, they add, cannot come alongside, but can anchor two leagues off at the turn of the Downs, without danger from tempest. Small or middle-sized ships can be moored to the very walls of the town, which is about as large as Vilvorden, only better built. (fn. 58)
Wolsey was radiant with good humor. He expressed, with less than his usual reserve, his satisfaction at the turn which events had taken. Sandwich was the best place that could have been fixed upon, considering the state of the arrangements between France and England. He was willing that this auspicious result should be attributed to nothing less than the inspiration of St. Thomas, his patron saint, and the providential interference of the Almighty. His exultation was pardonable. By the sheer force of his genius the two greatest monarchs of the West had become his humble servants; the one was as anxious to outbid the other for his favor as both had been zealous in their contest for the imperial crown; and now, even as then, the one cordially detested the other. The only conjunction which he had reason to apprehend, or which could have proved a serious obstacle to his policy, had been entirely prevented. The recent determination of Charles had placed once more the key of Christendom in the hands of the great Cardinal. Long since had the keys of St. Peter grown idle and rusty. They had ceased to open anything, or to shut; and the guardian of them, a poor "blind old man,"—such was the language of Wolsey himself,—had no function on earth, except to employ them at the dictation of the stronger. Terrors of the Papacy! With such examples before him, the sorriest and most contemptible wight might have bearded the grim phantom with impunity. It was formidable to those only in whose bosoms there still lingered some sparks of faith and reverence.
In this happy frame of mind, Wolsey was willing to submit to almost any conditions the imperial ambassadors wished to impose. Upon their informing him that they had injunctions from lady Margaret to adjust various points for their mutual understanding, until the arrival of their colleagues, Wolsey replied gaily, "Come, and you shall be welcome; ask, and you shall have; speak openly and freely, and we shall say Amen to whatever you require." On Sunday morning, he carried them to the King at Greenwich.
The ambassadors waited for his Majesty as he came out of his chamber to go to mass, when De la Sauch presented him with Margaret's letters. Service over, they proceeded with the King to the Queen's apartments. Here a long conversation ensued between the King, Katharine and the Cardinal, about their projected visit to France. Turning to the ambassadors, the King said, "Well, I am very glad that affairs are in such good train, and I think all will go well." Then addressing himself to the Queen he said, "Madam, the Emperor, my brother and your nephew, will come hither this time. I hope we shall see him before we visit the king of France; but if we do not, it will not be my fault, for I could do no more. To give the Emperor more time, I have written to the king of France to defer the interview; but I have taken good care not to tell him the reason, and therefore I am in hopes of receiving from him a favorable answer. He cannot yet know the state in which matters now stand between me and the Emperor; for if he did, he would never grant my request; therefore, the thing must be kept as secret as possible. On this the Queen, clasping her hands, and raising her eyes to Heaven, gave laud unto God for the grace she hoped He would do her, that she might behold her nephew,—saying it was her greatest desire in the world. So saying, she thanked the King, and made him a very low curtsey. The King, removing his bonnet, assured her that he would do all on his part that was possible. Then addressing himself to the ambassadors, he said, with a smiling countenance, As to what the king of France has said to the Emperor, my good brother and nephew, I make little account of that; for I am very sure he will not venture to violate the treaties. If you do not want war, he wants it still less. I have also told him frankly, that it will be of no use for us to have an interview, if he is to begin war on the morrow; for I must abide by my engagement, and protect the invaded against the invader. I will do all that I can to smooth the difficulties between the two sovereigns; for if it be not done now, I have very little hope of its being done hereafter. However, I trust that God, who knows my good intentions, will further our wishes. I desire to establish peace in Christendom, and gain some opportunity of doing honor to God, and promoting the Faith by turning our united arms against the Infidel."
Matters had already advanced so far that nothing now was required for completing the negociations, except the arrival of the commissioners with the imperial ratification. The King, the Queen, the omnipotent Cardinal were so well disposed, that De la Sauch wrote to Charles, that if one only of their colleagues had arrived everything might have been settled to their wishes. Speed was of the utmost importance. Aware of what was passing, Francis, in his anxiety to forestall and outdo his rival, had condescended to yield the pas d'honneur, and meet the English monarch on his own territory. Whilst he was to be at Arde on 31st of May, Henry on the same day was to enter Guisnes. Yet, in spite of this concession, so agreeable to their pride, the English more than half repented of the advantage they had gained. In the dazzling prospect of an imperial alliance, they were ready to abandon the French interview. Happily, they were saved from the consequences of such a step by the slow and dilatory proceedings of the Spaniards. Notwithstanding their opportunity, notwithstanding the activity and importunity of the French king, the Spaniards courted failure by their usual formality and tediousness. Never were there worse negociators. Days and weeks slipped away; yet their commissioners came not. It was of the utmost importance to the Emperor, as De la Sauch wrote to Chièvres (fn. 59) to keep Wolsey in good humor, to flatter the king, and by liberal demonstrations of candor and confidence counteract the subtle insinuations of Francis at the ensuing interview. Not less needful was it to keep up appearances, and make the world believe that Henry was wholly devoted to the Emperor; for as England led, the Pope and the smaller potentates of Christendom (fn. 60) would follow. When the agents of Charles expressed some apprehensions as to the intentions of his Holiness, Wolsey readily undertook to mould the Pope entirely to their wishes. Blind men, he said, needed a guide; (fn. 61) and he made no doubt of his ability to lead him. Arrogant as the sarcasm may appear, it was not wholly destitute of foundation. Hating and suspecting the French and German protectorate alike, Leo would have grasped at any method for eluding both. Yet the commissioners came not. With the pride of haughty and exclusive men, locked up in a rigid peninsula, whose introspection never turns itself outward to watch the motives and meanings of others, then, as always, the Spaniard was behind the occasion. Too much accustomed to flatter his own self-complacency, he would not condescend to the weakness of other men, or advance one foot towards any object, however important, beyond his usual and measured pace. When we have to deal with men of the world, observes La Sauch, in his secret despatch to the prime minister of Charles, we give them fair words and promise wonders, but all is forgotten when our object is attained. The French give and talk, and make liberal promises. "If you think," he continues, "that the English here will labor for us, out of pure love for our smiles and our good looks, and turn a deaf ear to others, certes, Monsieur, you will find yourself very much mistaken." Agree with the master (Wolsey), he adds, and you need not trouble yourself about the men. So he suggests that if any preferment fell vacant before the Emperor's arrival, it should be offered to the Cardinal; "but it must not be less than 5,000 or 6,000 ducats a year, or he will not esteem it." In a similar strain, half bantering, half serious, he turns into ridicule the solemn and transparent manœuvres of his antiquated coadjutor, the Spanish bishop of Elna. The Bishop, in the fulness of his condescension, had made some promise to Wolsey of a gratuity in reversion, when the other numerous obligations of the Emperor had been satisfied, and his engagements fulfilled to the many great personages who had done him service at the late election. "Fancy," says De la Sauch to Chièvres, "what a value the Cardinal set upon such a promise! He never uttered a word, any more than if he had been dumb. This is not the way to deal with great men. The Bishop had much better have held his tongue. It only makes them suspect that we take them pour bêtes, and expect them to do what we want on the faith of a promise to be kept some ten or twenty years hence. Thank you for nothing! As the old song says, 'Faictes moy ung chandeau quand je suis mort!'"