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ing no understanding by your grace's letter of your pleasure therein, have notwithstanding been so bold, upon mine own discretion (perceiving that matter to be very necessary in that behalf), to despatch the same. And, forasmuch as I have exceeded your grace's commission, I most humbly require your gracious remission and pardon." The king, pleased with the whole transaction, gave Wolsey his royal thanks, "for his good and speedy exploit," and commanded him to attend after dinner; when, says his biographer, he reported his embassy to the king in council with such a graceful deportment, and so eloquent language, that he received the utmost applause; all declaring him to be a person of such capacity and diligence that he deserved to be further employed. Henceforth Wolsey was regarded as on the road to power and fortune, being very soon after installed in the deanery of Lincoln, then the most valuable benefice under a bishopric; to which were added the prebends of Stowe, Walton, and Brinhald. The death of Henry at this time (1509) alone prevented his receiving further marks of the royal favour.
Wolsey's introduction to the new king, Henry VIII., then in the bloom and promise of his youth, is usually attributed to his patron bishop Fox's jealousy of his rival, the earl of Surrey, the late king's high treasurer. It is said that the prelate, observing that lord Surrey had totally eclipsed him in favour, introduced Wolsey to the young prince, with the hope that he might rival Surrey in those arts which win and secure the attachment of the youthful heart, and yet be content to act in the cabinet a part subordinate to Fox himself. But he knew little of the workings of Wolsey's proud and aspiring mind when he calculated upon his resting satisfied in a subordinate capacity, while there existed the remotest possibility of his reaching a higher. In a very short time, by his extraordinary address, he not only supplanted Surrey in the royal favour, but also his patron Fox in the youthful monarch's trust and confidence. On the accession of Henry he was appointed king's almoner, an office which kept him in constant attendance upon the person of the monarch in his hours of relaxation, and which thereby enabled him to acquire such an ascendancy over the mind of Henry as was attributed to necromancy, and lasted for many years the wonder of Europe. Within a year after Henry's mounting the throne, he presented his almoner with the splendid mansion and gardens of his father's ravenous but too faithful minister Empson (who had just been most
* In his metrical life of Wolsey, Storer thus speaks of this expedition :"The Argonautic vessel never pass'd
With swifter course along the Colchian main, Than my small bark, with fair and speedy blast, Convey'd me forth, and re-convey'd again: Thrice had Arcturus driven his restless wain, And heaven's bright lamp the day had thrice revived, From first departure till I last arrived."
illegally attainted at the shrine of popularity), which adjoined his own palace of Bridewell, in Fleet Street; and appointed him rector of Turrington, in Exeter, canon of Windsor, registrar and soon after chancellor of the order of the Garter, reporter of the proceedings in the star-chamber, and member of the privy council: the prebend of Bugthorp and deaneries of York and Hereford were added next year.
The means by which Wolsey acquired and retained his extraordinary ascendancy over Henry are such as might be inferred from his quick insight into character, and power of assimilating his discourse and actions accordingly. The language of Cavendish on this point is unusually graphic:
"In whom the king conceived such a loving fantasy, and in especial for that he was the most earnest and readiest among all the council to advance the king's only will and pleasure, without any respect to the case: the king, therefore, perceived him to be a meet instrument for the accomplishment of his devised will and pleasure, called him more near unto him, and esteemed him so highly, that his estimation and favour put all other ancient counsellors out of their accustomed favour that they were in before; insomuch that the king committed all his will and pleasure unto his disposition and order. Who wrought so all his matters, that all his endeavour was only to satisfy the king's mind; knowing right well, that it was the very vein and right course to bring him to high promotion. The king was young and lusty, disposed all to mirth and pleasure, and to follow his desire and appetite, nothing minding to travail in the busy affairs of this realm: the which the almoner perceiving very well, took upon him, therefore, to disburden the king of so weighty a charge and troublesome business; putting the king in comfort that he shall not need to spare any time of his pleasure for any business that necessarily happens in the council, as long as he being there, and having the king's authority and commandment, doubted not to see all things sufficiently furnished and perfected; the which would first make the king privy to all such matters as should pass through their hands, before he would proceed to the finishing or determining of the same, whose mind and pleasure he would fulfil and follow to the uttermost, wherewith the king was wonderly pleased. And whereas the other ancient counsellors would, according to the office of good counsellors, divers times persuade the king to have sometime an intercourse in to the council, there to hear what was done in weighty matters, the which pleased the king nothing at all, for he loved nothing worse than to be constrained to do any thing contrary to his royal will and pleasure; and that knew the almoner very well, having a secret intelligence of the king's natural inclination, and so fast as the other counsellors advised the king to leave his pleasures and to attend to the affairs of his realm, so busily did the almoner persuade him to the contrary; which
delighted him much, and caused him to have the greater affection and love to the almoner."
Henry, owing to his father's jealous care to remove him from the inclination and means of acquiring a knowledge of public business, had spent his youth in the pursuits of literature and scholastic theology, and had acquired a relish for both. In Wolsey he found at once a fellow-student and a master, who encouraged his propensity with a "most filed tongue and ornate eloquence." Henry was prone to frolic, and the usual excesses and amusements of youth and high spirits, and found in his reverend expounder of the subtleties of the Thomists, not a check nor a restraint, but one who took the lead in every entertainment, who sported*, jested, sang, and even danced, unmindful or regardless of the decorum sought for in a clergyman. No doubt this unbecoming pliancy of conduct would, as it eventually did in the king's more adult years, lessen his respect for his favourite; but youth is unsuspicious and confiding, and easily won and deceived by the flattery of apparent sympathy. Wolsey, moreover, was too good a judge of human nature to suppose that Henry's vigorous understanding would be content to while away his time between court revels and Thomas Aquinas; and therefore, in the intervals of amusement, introduced business, and warily insinuated those maxims of conduct which he was desirous his master should adopt. He observed to him, that while he intrusted his affairs to his father's counsellors, he had indeed the advantage of employing men of wisdom and experience, but men who owed not their promotion to his own personal favour, and who scarcely thought themselves accountable to him for the exercise of their authority; that by the factions, and cabals, and jealousies, which had long prevailed among them, they more obstructed the advancement of his affairs than they promoted it by the knowledge which age and practice had conferred upon them; that while he thought proper to pass his time in those pleasures to which his age and royal fortune invited him, and in those studies which would in time enable him to sway the sceptre with absolute authority, his best system of government would be to intrust his authority into the hands of some one person, who was the creature of his will, and who could entertain no view but that of promoting his service; and that if the minister had also the same relish for pleasure with himself, and the same taste for literature, he could more easily, at intervals, account
to him for his whole conduct, and introduce his master gradually into the knowledge of public bu siness; and thus, without tedious restraint or application, initiate him in the science of government.* The bait took; Henry, without perceiving his design, entered into all his views, and Wolsey became sole and absolute minister, with a more uncontrolled authority than any other British subject has ever possessed. This happened in 1512, three years after the accession of Henry.
* "He (Wolsey) came unto the king and waited upon him, and was no man so obsequious and serviceable, and in all games and sports the first and next at hand, and as a captain to courage others, and a gay finder out of new pastimes to obtain favour with all. He spied out the nature and disposition of the king's playfellows, and of all that were great, and whom he spied meet for his purpose him he flattered and made faithful with great purposes."-Tyndale, Prac. Prel. To the same effect writes Polydore Vergil.-See Turner's Modern History of England.
The public life of Wolsey from this time properly belongs to general history; or, rather, we should perhaps be more correct in saying, that the history of England from the year 1512 to 1529 is nothing more than the history of Wolsey's insatiable ambition. He soon constituted himself the sole avenue to Henry's favourt, and suitors of every rank found it expedient to ensure his mediation by flattery and presents, which showered in on him so fast, that, says Cavendish, "he wanted nothing either to please his fantasy or to enrich his coffers, fortune so smiled upon him." The two rival ministers, Surrey, then duke of Norfolk, and Fox, who perceived too late that the servant whom
*Hume's History of England, on the authority of Lord Herbert and Polydore Vergil. The historian is too partial to Wolsey's memory.
† So early as 1513, the queen (Catharine) corresponded with him confidentially. "Maister Almoner, for the payne ye take remembring to write to me so often, I thanke you for it wh al my hert." In 1514, Mary, the sister of Henry, then queen of France, addresses her "lovynge frend the archebischop of Yorke," to use his influence with the king to permit lady Guldeford to reside with her in France. The letter written to Wolsey by Mary on her becoming a widow is worth quoting at length.
"My nanne good Lord, I recommend me to you (sometimes written zou) and thankyng you for yor kynde and lovyng letter, dysyryng you of yor good contenance and good lessones that you hath gyffen to me; my lord, I pray you as my trust ys in you, for to remember me to the king my brother, for sowche causses and bepynes as I have for to do; for as now I have no nother to put my trust in but the kyng my brother and you. And as yt shall ples the kyng my brother and hys counsell, I wil be hordered. And so I pray you, my lord, to show hys grace, seying that the kyng (Louis XII.) my howsbande ys departed to God, of whos sole God pardon. And wher as you avyse me that I shulde macke no promas, my lord, I trust the kyng my brother and you wole not reckon in me soche chyidhode. I trust I have so hordered my selffe so sens that I came better, and so I trust to conteneu. Yff there be any thynge that I may do for you, I wolde be glad for to do yt in thys partes. I shal be glade to do yt for you. No more to you at this time but Jesus
"Wretten at Pares, the x day of January, 1515, "By your lowyng "frende MARY, "Quene of France."
"To my Lorde of Yorke.
In the same tone of respect and confidence Margaret, queen of Scotland, Henry's eldest sister, writes,"My lorde, I thynke ryght longe vyhil I speke vyth you; for next the kyng's grace my most trust is in you, and you may doo me most good of any."-Ellie'e Historical Letters, First Series, vol. i.
he had advanced had become his master, quailed before his ascendancy. The former, not long after, finding that the king's extravagance far outran his revenue, was glad to resign his office of treasurer, and retire from public life. Wolsey immediately took upon himself the vacant office, and, by the most arbitrary aggressions of authority, contrived to supply his master with the means of indulging his prodigality and love of magnificence. Fox too withdrew from court, and thought it prudent to confine himself for the remainder of his days to the care of his diocese. Brandon, the duke of Suffolk, who was married to Henry's sister, "affected also to live in privacy," from disgust at Wolsey's ascendancy. Thus was he left, without a rival, to enjoy the whole power and favour of his sovereign.
It would, however, be an error to impute all this upstart ascendancy to the influence of Wolsey's personal character. Much of it was owing to the political circumstances to which the recent changes in the succession to the throne gave birth. The Tudor dynasty was an usurpation: its founder was an upstart, and therefore regarded with a jealous eye by such of the ancient and more wealthy nobility as had escaped the slaughter of the wars of the Roses. Hence it was the constant purpose —alike congenial with the temper, and suitable to the policy, of the princes of the house of Tudorto restrain the ascendancy, and as much as possible destroy the political influence, of the ancient nobility. As might be expected from the sordid calculating disposition of the first and ablest of these princes, Henry VII. employed, as the chief means to this end, fine and confiscation; by which he at once gratified his ruling passion of avarice, and impoverished and intimidated those great families, of whose restless ambition, hereditary affection to the house of York, or jealousy of his usurped title, he was distrustful. The more arrogant and impetuous, and therefore less cautious and dissembling, temper of his son and successor, made him hesitate less in shedding the blood of his highest and most illustriously descended nobles; and we find that towards the close of his sanguinary reign his jealousy of every great man became so ferocious, that not all the services to the Tudor family of the house of Howard, nor the ties of blood, nor the strong feelings of friendship, could save the life of the high-minded earl of Surrey, whose only crime was the possession of those talents and virtues which have secured him the admiration of posterity; and that nought but the timely death of the tyrant himself snatched from the same scaffold the father of that accomplished nobleman, the duke of Norfolk, notwithstanding his long-tried loyalty, numerous personal claíms upon the gratitude of his sovereign, and, what perhaps should have availed him more, his ignominious servitude to that sovereign's will. A natural result of this policy of depressing the nobles was the placing the management of public
affairs in the hands of those who had no other recommendation to the monarch's favour than their abilities and devoted zeal in his service. To princes so greedy of absolute power as those of the house of Tudor, and so consequently jealous of all who might prove obstacles to their attainment of it, no ministers could be more agreeable than those who were the mere creatures of their will, and who, as such, would not for their own sakes entertain any design not tending to promote the views of him or her to whom they felt they were wholly indebted for their political, and, as it might happen, even natural existence. Previously to the era of the Reformation, such ministers were usually furnished from the ranks of the clergy, who held in their own hands the learning of the times, and who were themselves drawn, without distinction of birth, from all classes of the community.
The church, as we before remarked, was in those days what the bar is at present, the ladder by which the lowly born might ascend to political eminence; of which state of things a more remarkable instance need not be quoted than the fact of sir Thomas More's being distinguished as the first layman who for centuries had filled the office of chancellor. Hence the facilities to Wolsey's elevation, which show that his humble origin was by no means a bar to his advancement.
It is not possible to furnish a consistent narrative of Wolsey's life without touching upon those great political events of the early part of the 16th century which more properly belong to the historian. A rapid glance must, however, suffice.
At the accession of Henry VIII. Italy was the centre of all the wars and negotiations of the European princes; and the great object of these wars and negotiations was the preserving what was then, for the first time, clearly understoodthe balance of power between the great monarchies. Never did this balance seem better secured, nor the general tranquillity more likely to be long maintained, than when Julius II., the most warlike and enterprising of the successors of St. Peter, united the kings of Europe against the republic of Venice by the League of Cambray. Having humbled that proud republic, the ambitious pontiff next directed his energies to the nobler design of freeing Italy from the yoke of the barbarians -the title by which all foreigners were then designated by the Italians.
The expelling the French out of their new conquest of Milan was the first object of his ambition; and for that purpose he solicited the military aid of England, by sending Henry a sacred rose, perfumed with musk, with a letter stating that it had been blessed by his own hands, and anointed with holy oil; and by holding out hopes to him that the title of Most Christian King, considered the most precious jewel in the crown of France, should be the reward of his services. Julius obtain
ed in Henry a willing ally; for he was then in the bright morning of his youth,-sanguine, inexperienced, sincere, chivalrous, and inspired at the same time with an earnest zeal to protect the pope against the "sacrilegious aggression" of the king of France, and to assert his own claims upon that kingdom; and thus indulge the national enmity of his subjects, and his own passion for military renown. War having been duly declared against Louis, Henry, surrounded by the martial portion of his subjects, who were eager to display their valour on a foreign soil*, and thus emulate the fame of their ancestors' continental victories, and attended by Wolsey, as victualler of the forces, set sail from Dover in June, 1512. The victory of Guingette, better known by the name of the "battle of spurs," and the successful sieges of Terouenne and Tournay, though of little utility to England, gratified the warlike ardour of its monarch and his subjects, and confirmed the idea entertained of his power by the contemporary princes of Europe. The first opportunity that presented itself during the campaign of rewarding his favourite was eagerly embraced by Henry. When Tournay had surrendered to his arms, he found the bishopric not entirely filled up. The bishop had lately died; a new one had been elected by the chapter, but not installed. The king bestowed the administration of the see on Wolsey, and put him in immediate possession of its revenues. The new pastor immediately tendered, on the part of his flock, an oath of allegiance to the king of England. On his return to England, the see of Lincoln, just vacant by the death of bishop Smith, was added to Wolsey's honours and revenues.
Wolsey's talents, as he rose in power, unfolded themselves in all their native splendour and versatility; but in a still greater degree did prosperity devolve and mature the vices of his character. Each step in his ascent to power seemed but to swell his arrogance, while each addition to his large revenues but made him more rapacious. Scarcely was the ceremony of his consecration at Lincoln over than he laid hold of the goods belonging to his predecessor; and Cavendish tells us, that he has frequently seen, with shame, some of the stolen furniture of the late bishop in the house of his master. As might be supposed, such conduct, aggravated by his haughty deportment, made him many enemies †; but their ill-will was
construed as envy of his sudden elevation, or as an insolent reflection upon the discrimination of the king, and served, in either case, but to rivet him faster in Henry's confidence. Wolsey himself was too well acquainted with the king's temper, and, as we have before observed, too artful, not to conceal the absolute ascendant he had acquired; and while he secretly directed all public councils, he ever pretended a blind submission to the will and authority of his sovereign. In the same year that he was promoted to the see of Lincoln, Bambridge, archbishop of York, died, and the vacant see was at once made over to Wolsey. Nor was he content with the honour of the archbishopric of York; for, besides the rich see of Tournay, he farmed on his own terms the bishoprics of Bath, Worcester, and Hereford, filled by foreigners, who gladly compounded for the indulgence of residing abroad, by yielding up a large share of their English incomes. He held in commendam the abbey of St. Albans and many other church preferments, and was even allowed to unite with the see of York, first, that of Even Durham, and next that of Winchester. this is not the list of his new sources of wealth and influence. Wolsey was promoted to the archbishopric of York in October, 1514. In the ensuing September he was, with a view to purchasing his influence with the king, created a cardinal by pope Leo X.; and in three months after, upon the resignation of archbishop Norham, made lord high chancellor of England. "In fact," says the historian," there seemed to be no end to his acquisitions." Neither was his influence nor were his revenues, great as they were, confined to these numerous and munificent proofs of the favour of his sovereign. He was courted with incredible attention and obsequiousness by the great monarchs of Europe who sought the friendship and alliance of the court of England.* The youthful,
Erasmus speaks of him as "non passim comis aut facilis." In a letter published in Fidde's Collection from a sir T. Allen, a priest to the earl of Shrewsbury, we have a striking instance of his haughty insolence of deportment. "I delivered your letter with
the examination to my lord cardinal at Guildford, when he commanded me to wait on him to the court. I followed him to the court, and there gave attendance, and could have no answer. Upon Friday last he came thence to Hampton Court, where he lieth. The morrow after I besought his grace that I might know his pleasure. I could have no answer. Upon Monday last, as he walked in the park at Hampton, I besought his grace I might know if he would command me any service. He was not content with me that 1 spoke to him. The Sunday before I delivered the letter which R. Leid brought. I can have no answer to neither of the letters; so that who shall be suitor to him may have no business but to attend upon' pleysure. He that shall do so has needful to be a wiser man than I am. I had rather your lordship comanded me to Rome than deliver him letters and bring answer to the same. When he walks in the park, he will suffer no servant to come nigh unto him, but commands them away as far as one may well shoot an arrow."-Fiddes' Lord Herbert's Life of Henry VIII.
* Even the doge of Venice addressed him as an integral portion of the royal power. See Fiddes. And Bellay speaks as an eye-witness, when he tells us that" in all things the cardinal was honoured like the king's person, and sat always at his right hand. In all places where the king's arms were put the car.
enterprising, and chivalrous Francis I., and his great rival the emperor Charles V., vied with each other by bribes and flattery to work upon his growing avarice and ambition. The former employed Bonnivet, the most skilful of his courtiers, to win him over to his interest; and, besides settling on him a yearly pension of 12,000 livres, laboured with incessant assiduity to secure his friendship by every mark of respect and confidence, and by every possible expression of regard, bestowing on him, in all his letters, the honourable appellations of father, tutor, and governor. Charles, on the other hand, soon after his accession to the throne of Castile, sought to ingratiate himself with Wolsey, by settling on him a pension of 3000 livres; to which he added 7000 ducats more on his visit to England, for the purpose of detaching his "good friend" and his "most dear friend" (as he designated the cardinal) from the interests of Francis.
Great as was the revenue which Wolsey derived from these exorbitant acquisitions, it did not keep pace with the magnificence of his household, and the ostentatious state and pomp with which, under colour of exacting respect to religion and the legal tribunals, he supported his dignity as cardinal and lord chancellor. His domestic establishments were on a royal scale, his train consisting of not less than 500 servants*, of whom many, according to the usage of the times, were knights and gentlemen, and sons of noblemen. Three great tables were daily laid out in the cardinal's hall for this numerous retinue, each presided over by a dignitary bearing a white staff of office. Conformably with the custom of the age, many of the nobility placed their children in his family as a place of education; and, for the purpose of winning his favour, allowed them to act as his servants. They boarded, however, at a separate table, then called mess of lords," and had numerous menials to the " attend them; the earl of Derby and lord Henry Percy (the lover of Anne Boleyn) having five each, and the other young noble inmates not less than two. The kitchen of the cardinal was on the same magnificent scale, being ruled over by a master cook, "who went about daily in garments of damask satin, wearing a chain of gold round his neck," as an emblem of his authority and importance. There was a regular master of the horse presiding over the stable department, with a suitable revenue of
dinal's had the same rank, so that in every honour they were equal." Mem. v. 18. p. 42. quoted by Turner. But it was reserved for the university of Oxford to outstrip all precedent in its base obsequiousness, by repeatedly addressing Wolsey as " your majesty:" "Consultissma tua majestas;-reverendissima majestas;-inaudita majestatis tuæ benignitas;-vestra illa sublimis et longe reverendissima majestas."
*Lord Burghley, in a state paper to queen ElizaDeth about favourites, says of Wolsey, that he had a family equal to that of a great prince. There were in it, he says, one carl, nine barons, and about a thousand knights. Burnet gives the same number; but we follow Cavendish in the text.
yeomen, grooms, sumpter-men, muleteers, saddlers, and farriers. The barges, gardens, larder, scalding-house, wafery, bakehouse, scullery, buttery, pantry, ewery, chandlery, cellar, laundry, and wardrobe of beds, had each their distinct grooms, yeomen, and pages, in suitable numbers. The personal servants of the cardinal amounted to forty-six, and formed, with his chaplains and attendants upon the ceremony of the mass, a body of not less than 143 persons. His procession in public was still more imposing, and more indicative of that love of the externals, and parade of the trappings of dignity," the tailor's heraldry," as it has been quaintly characterised, remarkable in men of lowly origin. It would appear to have been his aim to dazzle the eyes of the populace by the gorgeous lustre of his garments, and the splen did costly embroidery of his equipage and liveries, and thereby reconcile them to his newly acquired but unlimited authority. He was the first clergyman in England that wore silk and gold, not only on his habit, but also on his saddles and the trappings of his horses. A priest, the tallest and most comely he could find, carried before him a pillar of silver, on whose top was placed a cross: but not satisfied with this parade, to which he thought himself entitled as cardinal, he provided another priest of equal stature and beauty, who marched along, bearing the cross of York* even in the diocese of Canterbury. It is in allusion to this circumstance that Cavendish, in his metrical piece of autobiography, makes Wolsey say:—
*The people, in that spirit which so much accelerated the Reformation, on this occasion made merry with the cardinal's ostentation; saying, they were now sensible that not less than two crucifixes would be sufficient for the expiation of his sins and offences.
† Mr. Hume and others err in supposing that Wolsey's taking precedency of the archbishop of Canterbury was an usurpation dictated by his arrogance. As cardinal, he had the right of usage to precede him; the point having been mooted in the case of a cardinal Kemp, also archbishop of York, preceding the then archbishop of Canterbury, and decided by the pope in favour of the cardinal.