« AnteriorContinuar »
modern notions of the deportment becoming a judge and a clergyman. The reader, accustomed to the plain attire and dignified simplicity of bearing of our Eldons and Broughams and Tenterdens, as they wend their way, generally on foot, to Westminster Hall, and unattended, will be amused by the contrast afforded by Wolsey's love of pageantry. We shall quote the narrative of Cavendish, for its minute and graphic fidelity:
"Now will I declare unto you his order in going to Westminster Hall, daily, in the term season. First, before his coming out of his privy chamber, he heard most commonly every day two masses in his privy closet; and there then said his daily service with his chaplain': and as I heard his chaplain say, being a man of credence and of excellent learning, that the cardinal, what business or weighty matters soever he had in the day, he never went to his bed with any part of his divine service unsaid, yea, not so much as one collect; wherein I doubt not but he deceived the opinion of divers persons. And after mass he would return in his privy chamber again, and being advertised of the furniture of his chambers without, with noblemen, gentlemen, and other persons, would issue out into them, appareled all in red, in the habit of a cardinal; which was either of fine scarlet, or else of crimson satin, taffety, damask, or caffa, the best that he could get for money; and upon his head a round pillion, with a noble of black velvet set to the same in the inner side; he had also a tippet of fine sables about his neck; holding in his hand a very fair orange, whereof the meat or substance within was taken out, and filled up again with the part of a sponge, wherein was vinegar, and other confections against the pestilent airs; the which he most commonly smelt unto, passing among the press, or else when he was pestered with many suitors. There was also borne before him, first, the great seal of England, and then his cardinal's hat, by a nobleman or some worthy gentleman, right solemnly, barehead. And as soon as he was entered into his chamber of presence, where there was attending his coming to await upon him to Westminster Hall, as well noblemen and other worthy gentlemen, as noblemen and gentlemen of his own family; thus passing forth with two great crosses of silver borne before him; with also two great pillars of silver, and his pursuivant at arms with a great mace of silver gilt. Then his gentlemen ushers cried, and said, "On, my lords and masters, on before; make way for my lord's grace!" Thus passed he down from his chamber through the hall; and when he came to the hall door, there was attendant for him his mule, trapped all together in crimson velvet, and gilt stirrups. When he was mounted, with his cross bearers, and pillar bearers, also upon great horses trapped with [fine] scarlet. Then marched he forward, with his train and furniture in manner as I have declared, having about him four footmen, with gilt pollaxes in their hands;
and thus he went until he came to Westminster Hall door. And there alighted, and went after this manner, up through the hall into the chancery; howbeit he would most commonly stay awhile at a bar, made for him, a little beneath the chancery [on the right hand], and there commune some time with the judges, and some time with other persons. And that done he would repair into the chancery, sitting there till eleven of the clock, hearing suitors, and determining of divers matters. And from thence he would divers times go into the star-chamber, as occasion did serve; where he spared neither high nor low, but judged every estate according to their merits and deserts."
Cavendish, whose style warms when he has a pageant to describe, next proceeds to give us an account of the mode in which the "king's majesty" was wont to amuse himself at the mansion of the cardinal. The passage is curiously illustrative of the chivalrous manner of the monarch and the age:
"And when it pleased the king's majesty, for his recreation, to repair unto the cardinal's house, as he did divers times in the year, at which time there wanted no preparations, or goodly furniture, with viands of the finest sort that might be provided for money or friendship. Such pleasures were then devised for the king's comfort and consolation, as might be invented, or by man's wit imagined. The banquets were set forth, with masks and mummeries, in so gorgeous a sort, and costly manner, that it was a heaven to behold. There wanted no dames, or damsels, meet or apt to dance with the maskers, or to garnish the place for the time, with other goodly disports. Then was there all kind of music and harmony set forth, with excellent voices both of men and children. I have seen the king suddenly come in thither in a mask, with a dozen of other maskers, all in garments like shepherds, made of fine cloth of gold and fine crimson satin paned, and caps of the same, with visors of good proportion of visnomy; their hairs, and beards, either of fine gold wire, or else of silver, and some being of black silk; having sixteen torch bearers, besides their drums, and other persons attending upon them, with visors, and clothed all in satin, of the same colours. And at his coming, and before he came into the hall, ye shall understand, that he came by water to the water gate, without any noise; where, against his coming, were laid charged many chambers, and at his landing they were all shot off, which made such a rumble in the air that it was like thunder. It made all the noblemen, ladies, and gentlewomen to muse what it should mean coming so suddenly, they sitting quietly at a solemn banquet; under this sort: First, ye shall perceive that the tables were set in the chamber of presence, banquet-wise covered, my lord cardinal sitting under the cloth of estate, and there having his service all alone; and then was there set a lady and nobleman, or a gentleman and gentlewoman, throughout all
the tables in the chamber on the one side, which were made and joined as it were but one table. All which order and device was done and devised by the lord Sands, lord chamberlain to the king; and also by sir Henry Guilford, comptroller to the king. Then immediately after this great shot of guns, the cardinal desired the lord chamberlain, and comptroller, to look what this sudden shot should mean, as though he knew nothing of the matter. They thereupon looking out of the windows into Thames, returned again, and showed him, that it seemed to them there should be some noblemen and strangers arrived at his bridge, as ambassadors from some foreign prince. With that, quoth the cardinal, 'I shall desire you, because ye can speak French, to take the pains to go down into the hall to encounter and to receive them, according to their estates, and to conduct them into this chamber, where they shall see us, and all these noble personages sitting merrily at our banquet, desiring them to sit down with us, and to take part of our fare and pastime.' Then [they] went incontinent down into the hall, where they received them with twenty new torches, and conveyed them up into the chamber, with such a number of drums and fiftes as I have seldom seen together at one time in any masque. At their arrival into the chamber, two and two together, they went directly before the cardinal where he sat, saluting him very reverently; to whom the lord chamberlain for them said, 'Sir, for as much as they be strangers, and can speak no English, they have desired me to declare unto your grace thus: they, having understanding of this your triumphant banquet, where was assembled such a number of excellent fair dames, could do no less, under the supportation of your good grace, but to repair hither to view as well their incomparable beauty, as for to accompany them at mumchance, and then after to dance with them, and so to have of them acquaintance. And, sir, they furthermore require of your grace licence to accomplish the cause of their repair.' To whom the cardinal answered that he was very well contented they should so do. Then the maskers went first and saluted all the dames as they sat, and then returned to the most worthiest, and there opened a cup full of gold, with crowns, and other pieces of coin, to whom they set divers pieces to cast at. Thus in this manner perusing all the ladies and gentlewomen, and to some they lost, and of some they won. And thus done, they returned unto the cardinal, with great reverence, pouring down all the crowns in the cup, which was about two hundred crowns. 'At all,' quoth the cardinal, and so cast the dice, and won them all at a cast; whereat was great joy made. Then quoth the cardinal to my lord chamberlain, 'I pray you,' quoth he, 'show them that it seemeth me that there should be among them some noble man, whom I suppose to be much more worthy of honour to sit and occupy this room and place than I; to whom I would most gladly, if I knew
him, surrender my place according to my duty.' Then spake my lord chamberlain unto them in French, declaring my lord cardinal's mind, and they rounding him again in the ear, my lord chamberlain said to my lord cardinal, 'Sir, they confess,' quoth he, 'that among them there is such a noble personage, whom, if your grace can appoint him from the other, he is contented to disclose himself, and to accept your place most worthily. With that the cardinal, taking a good advisement among them, at the last, quoth he, 'Me seemeth the gentleman with the black beard should be even he.' And with that he arose out of his chair, and offered the same to the gentleman in the black beard, with his cap in his hand. The person to whom he offered then his chair was sir Edward Neville,a comely knight of a goodly personage, that much more resembled the king's person in that mask than any other. The king, hearing and perceiving the cardinal so deceived in his estimation and choice, could not forbear laughing; but plucked down his visor, and master Neville's also, and dashed out with such a pleasant countenance and cheer, that all noble estates there assembled, seeing the king to be there amongst them, rejoiced very much. The cardinal eftsoons desired his highness to take the place of estate, to whom the king answered, that he would go first and shift his apparel; and so departed, and went straight into my lord's bedchamber, where was a great fire made and prepared for him; and there new apparelled him with rich and princely garments. And in the time of the king's absence, the dishes of the banquet were clean taken up, and the tables spread again with new and sweet perfumed cloths; every man sitting still until the king and his maskers came in among them again, every man being newly apparelled.Then the king took his seat under the cloth of estate, commanding no man to remove, but sit still as they did before. Then in came a new banquet before the king's majesty, and to all the rest through the tables, wherein, I suppose, were served two hundred dishes or above, of wondrous costly meats and devices, subtilly devised. Thus passed they forth the whole night with banqueting, dancing, and other triumphant devices, to the great comfort of the king, and pleasant regard of the nobility there assembled."
In 1516, Leo X. despatched cardinal Campeggio to England, as his legate, for the purpose of procuring a tithe from the clergy to the prosecuting the war against the Turks, the great enemy of the Christian name. The pride of Wolsey took alarm at this appointment: he could brook no brother near the throne. As representative of the pope, the legate was armed with almost absolute authority over the clergy in the country of his mission. The idea that any one invested with greater ecclesiastical power than himself should openly exercise that power in England, was therefore equally offensive to Wolsey's pride and vanity;
and accordingly, through his means, Campeggio was delayed on his route in Paris, till the pope had also formally invested himself with the legatine authority. Having obtained this new dignity, Wolsey made an extraordinary display of the state and parade to which he was so much addicted. He affected a rank superior to any ever claimed by a churchman in England, not excepting the haughty Thomas à Becket; and celebrated mass after the manner of the pope as sovereign pontiff. Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury, having at this time written him a letter in which he subscribed himself, in the usual phraseology of clergymen," your loving brother," Wolsey complained of his presumption in thus challenging an equality with "the lord cardinal legate.” "* Warham,
when informed of the offence which he had thus unintentionally given, made light of the matter, and said, "Know ye not that this man is drunk with too much prosperity ?"
But the humble deportment, plain habits, and narrow income of the Italian cardinal ill suited with the pomp and parade which his colleague considered essential to the dignity of the legatine office. Wolsey therefore despatched a quantity of scarlet cloth, richly embroidered, of which Campeggio's attendants are represented to have stood in great need, for the purpose of enabling them to make a showy appearance. He also sent twelve mules with baggage, to swell the Italian cardinal's train. An accident which occurred on this occasion throws curious, indeed ludicrous, light upon Wolsey's vanity. The chests of which the baggage was composed were supposed to contain the jewellery, plate, and costly garments of the Italian legate; but, unhappily for the credit of Campeggio, one of the mules fell, and the coffer which it carried being burst open by the fall, old habiliments, and pieces of broken bread and meat, put into the chest as ballast, were exposed to the laughter of the spectators. It is not improbable that prudence induced Wolsey to thus shun the reflections which the contrast of his own ostentatious magnificence with his colleague's plainness of appearance must naturally have given birth to ; though it is much more in keeping with his temper-fond of pomp, and too arrogant to be calculating to ascribe the transaction wholly to the workings of vanity. Such conduct strangely
The importance which Wolsey attached to his office of legate is evident from what he says to Cavendish on his fall: - -"My authority and dignity legatine is gone, wherein consisted ail my high honour."
This would appear the more probable from the ludicrous anxiety displayed by Wolsey in the escorting of his cardinal's hat to England. He seems to have had lofty notions of the dignity of this "hat," and was chagrined by the pope's having forwarded it to him "in a varlet's budget." The "varlet" was, therefore, detained in France till his appearance was, at the cardinal's expense, made more worthy of the treasure of which he was the ignoble guardián. On its landing, "the hat" was met by a great procession at Blackheath, and conducted in solemn triumph to
contrasts with the vigour and intellect evinced in his able administration of affairs both at home and abroad; but is by no means inconsistent with what we know of the workings of human nature, as they manifest themselves even in the strongest minds. If not generated, it was much fostered by the genius of the catholic worship—so imposing from its numerous ceremonies, magnificent processions, and rigid enforcement of respect to rank. One effect of it, however, was, to render Wolsey an object of odium to the nation at large, and to lessen his master in the eyes of all Europe.
Wolsey had now attained a height of grandeur, power*, and wealth, far beyond that ever before or since reached by an English subject; and it might be supposed, would confine his future exertions to retaining himself securely in his lofty station. But ambition, like the air we breathe, expands as we ascend above the ordinary level of humanity, and continues, at a rapidly increasing ratio, to enlarge its dimensions, till its victim reaches a region-a moral Mont Blanc-cold, barren, and cut off from human sympathies, where he perishes heart-frozen, and unmourned of his fellows. So it was with Wolsey. There was one, and but one step higher, which he possibly could reach, and to it were all his thoughts and aspirations henceforth directed with a feverish and concentrated energy. A change now comes over the spirit of the "foreign relations" of England. From this period till the death of Wolsey, their history is but the narrative of the schemes
Westminster Abbey. When it had reached the abbey, it "was placed in state on a table, with tapers round it, before an empty suit, and the greatest duke of the land was compelled to make a curtsey to it." -Tyndal, quoted by Wordsworth, Eccl. Biog. The hat appears to have acted a very distinguished part in all the cardinal's processions and state exhibitions, and conducted itself, we presume, with becoming dignity and discretion.
"Erasmus observes (Ep. 1151,), that Wolsey 'visibly reigned more truly than the king.' He was uniformly addressed by foreign powers as a sort of comonarch. Thus Dr. Taylor writes, that Francis would not perform any part of the treaty of Madrid without the king and cardinal's advice;' and that the papal and Venetian ambassadors told him, they had letters from the pope to give thanks to the king and cardinal for furthering the holy league.' His own language, indeed, implied the co-equal power; hence the well-known phrase, one of the charges against him on his fall, the king and I.' Thus writing, in 1524, to Pace and others, Wolsey says,' His highness and I give unto you hearty thanks.' • Neither the king's highness nor I will advise him.' 'Much it is to the king's and my comfort.' 'The king's highness and I abide daily knowledge.' 'Arrived here the a.chbishop of Capua, whom the king's highness and I like.' The king's highness and I be always of the same mind that the emperor is.' The king's highness and I gave my own lodging and chambers to him.'"-Turner, from MS. Letters in the British Museum.
We take leave once for all to state here, that our quotations from letters to and from Wolsey are, unless otherwise specified, taken from the original MS. in the British Museum.
and struggles-tortuous, wily, and double dealing-for the chair of St. Peter of an aspiring mind, which, unsatisfied with the absolute rule of a great empire, felt all it had achieved valueless while there was one station of still more extensive authority filled by another.
Francis I. had offended Wolsey by his tardiness in silencing a claimant upon the revenues of the see of Tournay, who for some time had been troublesome to the cardinal; and well knew that, till he had regained his favour, he could have no hope of the alliance of England in his wars with the emperor. His ambassador, accordingly, was desired to express his master's deep regret, that, by mistakes and misapprehensions, he had been so unfortunate as to lose the friendship of one whom he so valued as the cardinal; and that nothing could afford him more unfeigned pleasure than to convince his eminence of the respect and admiration which he entertained for him. Francis confirmed the favourable impression which these advances made, by consulting Wolsey on his most secret and difficult affairs, and receiving his opinions with implicit deference as those of an oracle of wisdom. By thus paying flattering homage to Wolsey's vanity, and by the grant of the large pension of which we have already made mention, Henry was persuaded to yield Tournay to France, to conclude a treaty of marriage between his daughter Mary and the dauphin; that city, for the sake of appearance, being laid down as part of the princess's dowry. We have the assertion of one (Polydore Virgil) who was malevolently disposed towards Wolsey, and whose evidence therefore should be received with suspicion, that Wolsey moreover negotiated with the French king for the delivery of Calais; but was dissuaded, by the general unpopularity of the proposition, from bringing it formally before the council.
Through the influence of Wolsey, Henry consented to an interview with the French monarch, who trusted to an address, the fascination of which was owned by all that approached him, to win the friendship and confidence of his English "dear brother." The particulars of this celebrated interview at the field of the cloth of gold,— "When those suns of glory, those two lights of men, Met in the vale of Ardres,'
are too well known to be now recapitulated. It was sought with avidity by the two youthful, handsome, and chivalrous princes, as an occasion of displaying their magnificence and knightly accomplishments; and by the cardinal as one for exhibiting, in the presence of two courts, his riches, splendour, and unbounded influence over both monarchs. So far as Francis was concerned, Wolsey had no other immediate design in this display of his influence than its publicity; his friendly offices had been secretly anticipated by the French king's great rival, the emperor Charles; so that the impression which Francis's winning manners, and the generous confidence with which
he treated Henry, and the congeniality of their dispositions, must have made on the English monarch, was soon effaced by the treacherous artifices of his favourite. To explain this deceitful conduct, it should be premised, that of the two great factions or influences in the college of cardinals, the French and the imperial, the latter was much the preponderating; and it had been promised to Wolsey (Francis had before assured him of his) in the interval between the appointment and the holding of the interview at Ardres. When Charles found that he could not prevent the meeting of the two monarchs, he applied himself, with his usual finesse, to counteracting its probable effects; and, by a master-stroke of policy, secured Wolsey's friendship, by placing him in immediate possession of the revenues of the sees of Badajos and Placentia in Castile, and promising him his most zealous aid in procuring the papal dignity. Henry was at Canterbury, on his way to France, when the emperor, to the surprise of every body in the nation (except Wolsey, who had secretly planned the visit), landed at Dover; and in the short space of four days had the address to make Henry believe favourably of his character and intentions, and promise to visit him in the Low Countries, after he had taken leave of the French king.
War, as had been anticipated, was soon declared between Francis and the emperor, and both parties earnestly courted the alliance of England. Henry at first affected the office of mediator; but, entirely estranged from the interests of France by the artifices of Wolsey, who, bent on the triple crown, was ready to sacrifice every consideration to ensure the imperial influence in the next conclave, he took advantage of the first pretext to join his arms to those of the emperor. The war which was now waged against France with more steadiness than the other foreign wars of Henry, but with as little regard to his own and his people's interests, only terminated with the captivity of Francis at the memorable battle of Pavia. It ended as it had begun, in subserviency to the cardinal's passions and ambition of the popedom, which were the sole actuating principle, as far as he was concerned, of the subsequent alliance with France, and declaration of hostilities against Charles.
The first trial of the sincerity of the emperor's friendship took place in 1522, on the election of a successor to Leo X., who died, in the vigour of his age, in the preceding December. It is not easy to determine the degree of the faithlessness of Charles's promises to Wolsey of his zealous influence in the conclave in his favour. The result, and our knowledge of Charles's skill in the art of dissimulation, and readiness to employ the most immoral means to the attainment of his end, would induce us to believe that his promises were given without the remotest intention of fulfilling them; while the fact of Wolsey's having received twenty votes in his favour (twenty-six would have sufficed) would go far to show that the emperor's let
ter* to his ambassador at Rome, enjoining him to urge the cardinals to elect Wolsey to the papal chair, was not written in a spirit of entire faithlessness. Be this, however, as it may, after a struggle of unusual duration, the imperial influence in the conclave prevailed, and cardinal Adrian, the emperor's tutor, was raised to the popedom under the title of Adrian VI.
The resentment which the pride of Wolsey, mortified by this disappointment of his hopes, was likely to engender was dreaded by Charles, who knew full well that his alliance with England depended wholly on his standing well in the good graces of its haughty minister. To prevent, therefore, the loss of so powerful an ally, he visited England for the second time, shortly after Adrian had been elected, and, after augmenting his pension, renewed his promise of aiding the cardinal's pretensions to the popedom at the next vacancy; an event which, from Adrian's extreme age and infirmities, both knew could not be far distant. Wolsey thought it prudent to stifle his resentment, and endeavour, by new services, to ensure the imperial interest in the next conclave. Pope Adrian died in about a year and a half after his election, and Wolsey again entered the lists with his characteristic zeal and increased hopes of success. At his request, Henry wrote to the emperor, reminding him of his promises, and urging him to fulfil them as he valued his friendship; the English ambassadors and agents at Rome being at the same time instructed to spare, among the members of the sacred college, neither bribes nor promises. But Charles again deceived him ; and cardinal de' Medici, with the support of the imperial party, was elected pope, under the title of Clement VII. From that hour his study was how he could revenge himself on the emperor: a close alliance was soon after entered into with Francef, and war declared by England against her recent imperial ally.
While Wolsey was thus pursuing his ambitious schemes for the attainment of the papal dignity, and moved kings and nations like so many chess pawns in hostility against each other, according to his views of his own personal aggrandisement, his administration at home was conducted with great firmness and ability, but with an arbitrariness alien from the genius of the constitution. The continental wars and alliances in which Henry was more constantly involved than any of his immediate predecessors, joined with his own lavish habits of expenditure, rendered his demands upon his subjects' money oppressively urgent and frequent; the immense treasure left him by his
father being so rapidly dissipated that he had recourse to his parliament for assistance in the very first year of his reign. We have already mentioned the trying circumstances in which Wolsey's arrogance induced him to take upon himself the difficult duties of lord treasurer on the resignation of the duke of Norfolk, who too well knew, as the cardinal soon experienced, that oppressive taxation was the only grievance which the people of England, during the reign of the first two Tudors, complained of and openly resisted. So extremely tenacious were they of their money, that the same people who saw arbitrary outrages on their national privileges pass without remonstrance, and who saw innocent men of all ranks led to the scaffold without a murmur, actually broke out twice in rebellion against the king's commissioners for levying loans and benevolences.
Wolsey, nothing daunted by this temper of the public mind, proceeded to raise money by loans, impositions, benevolences, and every other form of exaction. His first act was one of great prudence: he applied himself to the ascertaining the capability of the people to bear taxation, and for this purpose caused a general survey to be made of the whole kingdom; or, to speak in modern parliamentary language, he caused returns of the number of men, their ages, profession, capital, revenue, and clear income in England and Wales, to be minutely and accurately made out. These returns afforded a very cheering picture of the opulence of the kingdom, and induced him to issue privy seals, demanding particular sums, by way of "loans" (a mode of taxation, though irregular and despotic, not without precedent) from the more wealthy. The success of this measure misled Henry in the next year, 1523, to publish an edict for a general tax, also called a "loan," from his subjects, by which he levied five shillings in the pound from the clergy, and two shillings from the laity. A parliament and a convocation were summoned soon after in 1524. With the hope of inducing the commons to imitate the example of the clergy, Wolsey first addressed himself to the convocation, over whom his legatine authority had made him irresistible, and demanded the entire half of the ecclesiastical revenues to be levied in five years, at the rate of two shillings in the pound during that time. There was an appearance of opposition; but he promptly overawed it, haughtily reprimanding the refractory members, and descanting on the general wealth and luxury of the clergy and of the nation at large, "as though he had repined," says the Chronicler, "or disclaimed that any man should fare well or be well clothed but himself."
Elated by his success in the convocation, Wolsey came down to the commons, and in the same imperious tone demanded 800,0001. (equal, all things considered, to from seven to eight millions of our present coin) to be raised in four years by a tax of one fifth (four shillings in the pound) on