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Reign of Henry the Eighth. - (Continued) page 2


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We have had frequent occasion already to introduce the name of Wolsey; we shall for a long period yet, have still more frequent and more surprising occasion to repeat that name: and it is therefore necessary to take a complete view of the man who was now rapidly rising into a prominence before Europe and all the world, such as has few examples in history, in one whose origin was as mean as his ascent was dazzling, and his fall sudden and irrevocable.

In the reign of Henry VII. we find first the name of Thomas Wolsey coming to public view as the private secretary of the king at the time of the forced visit of the Archduke Philip to the English Court. This originally obscure clergyman was the son of a butcher of Ipswich, who appears to have been wealthy, and, therefore, could afford to give his son an education at the university. Probably the worthy butcher was induced to this step by a perception of the lad's uncommon cleverness, for at Oxford he displayed so much talent that he was soon distinguished by the title of the Boy Bachelor. He became teacher of the grammar-school adjoining Magdalen College, and amongst his pupils had the sons of the Marquis of Dorset, on whom he so far won, that he gave him the somewhat valuable living of Limington, in Somersetshire. This might seem substantial promotion for the butcher's son, but an eagle, though hatched in the nest of a barn-door fowl, is sure to soar up toward the sun. Thomas Wolsey was not destined to the obscurity of a country parish. The same abilities and address which won him the favour of the marquis were capable of attracting far higher patrons. The spirit and genius of Wolsey were as clearly made for the atmosphere of courts and the guidance of kingdoms, as the eagle's wings are for soaring and its claws for clutching royal prey. There was a polarity in his nature which drew him inevitably toward courts. He united in his nature the highest talents for pleasure, talents for yielding grateful homage to his superiors, and for commanding all below him. In a word, he was a great man, not particular about the means of greatness, as sure to rise to the surface of affairs as a cork to the surface of a flood, and of sailing on to glory there, as the most august man-of-war that ever trod down proudly the waves that bore it.

Wolsey was all gravity and discretion in the presence of the grave, and all attention to business with a man of official habits whom it was his interest to please; but he could throw off that with the same ease as he threw off his cloak, and come out amongst the genial and the pleasure-seeking one of the most jolly, merry, roystering, and amusing comrades. In his earliest career he is said to have been not so careful of appearances as he ought; and was noted for his unclerical licence of conduct, and his indulgence in the most riotous and sensual dissipations. For his degrading behaviour in his living at Limington, Sir Amias Paulet confined him in the stocks - a disgrace of so flagrant a kind to a clergyman in his own parish, that it was not likely ever to be forgotten; and accordingly, when he rose to power, he took care to avenge himself on the unfortunate Amias by a long course of the severest persecution.

Leaving his country parish where he had been thus disgraced, he seems to have been introduced by Sir John Nanfan to Fox, the Bishop of Winchester, and minister to Henry VII., who introduced him to the king, who was so much satisfied with him that he made him one of the royal chaplains. In this position the extraordinary talents and court aptitude of Wolsey soon became apparent to the cautious old king. He employed him in sundry matters requiring secrecy and address. He was soon advanced to the deanery of Lincoln, and office of the king's almoner. Wolsey was Henry VII.'s envoy to the Duchess of Savoy when that loving monarch had fallen in love with her fortune.

On the accession of Henry VIII, Wolsey rose still higher in the favour of the youthful monarch. Henry was but nineteen, Wolsey was forty; yet not a young gallant about the Court could so completely adapt himself to the fancy of the young pleasure-loving and power-loving king. In a very few months he was Henry's bosom friend - the associate in all his gaieties, the repository of all his secrets, the dispenser of all his T favours, and, in reality, his only confidential minister. Henry seemed wrapped in admiration at the union of intellect and courtly accomplishment in the wonderful man. He gave him a grant of all deodands and forfeitures of felony, and went on continually adding to these other offices, benefices, and grants. In November, 1510, he was admitted a member of the Privy Council, and from that time he was really Prime Minister. Henry could move nowhere without his great friend and counsellor. He took him with him on his expedition to France in 1513, there conferred on him the wealthy bishopric of Tournay, and on his return made him Bishop of Lincoln, and gave him the opulent Abbey of St. Alban's in commendam.

The ascent of Wolsey was now rapid. From the very commencement of his career at Court no man had been able to stand before him. Bishop Fox had first recommended his introduction into the Privy Council because growing old himself, he perceived that the Earl of Surrey, afterwards conqueror of Flodden, and Duke of Norfolk, was winning higher favour with the king than the ancient bishop; because his martial tastes and more courtly character were more attractive to Henry. Wolsey soon showed himself so successful that he not only cast Surrey, but his own patron, into the shade. In everything Wolsey could participate in the monarch's pursuits and amusements. Henry had already an ambition of literary and polemic distinction. He had studied the school divinity, and was an ardent admirer of Thomas Aquinas. Here Wolsey was quite at home; for he was extensively read, and would, as a matter of course, soon refresh himself on any learned topic which was his master's hobby. While he flattered the young king's vanity, he was ready to contribute to his whims and his pleasures.

The churchman was not the less ready at the feast and in affairs of gallantry. He soon perceived Henry's fondness for pageants and expensive Court entertainments, and he at once showed himself the most accomplished master of revels and contriver of decorations and devices that had ever appeared. Fox hitherto had been the "arbiter elegantiarum," but his genius paled at once before the more resplendent one of Wolsey. Wolsey flattered Henry in all his follies to the top of his bent, and soon was seen the ruling power at Court, whether in the hours of business or merriment. With all his deep-lying cunning, and boundless ambition, he had an air of honest bluntness which, above all things, charmed the young king, who delighted in the title of Bluff Harry. At that early period when Henry, says one of the writers of the time, had "as little inclination to trouble himself with business as a wild ox has to be yoked to the plough," Wolsey took care that the business should not be neglected. It was his advice that "the king should hawk and hunt, and, as much as him list, use honest recreations. If so be he should at any time desire suddenly to become an old man, by

intermeddling in old men's cares, he should not want those (meaning himself) that would in the evening, in one or two words, relate the effect of a whole day's consultations." And thus the butcher's son was in brief time become the real ruler of the nation, the master of the monarch.

On the 14th of July, 1514, Leo X. addressed a letter to Henry, informing him that his ambassador, Cardinal Bambridge, the Archbishop of York, had died that day; and that, at the request of the deceased, he had promised not to appoint a successor till he had learnt the pleasure of His Majesty. This pleasure, there can be no doubt, was already known; and that the Pope, like every one now, perceiving the power of the favourite, was ready to conciliate him. The king at once named Wolsey to his Holiness, and showed that he was quite satisfied that that nomination would be confirmed, by at once placing the archbishopric and all its revenues in the custody of the favourite. Thus was this great son of fortune at once possessed of the Archbishopric of York, the Bishoprics of Tournay and Lincoln, the administration, of the Bishoprics of Worcester, Hereford, and Bath, the possessors of which were Italians, who resided abroad, and were glad to secure a portion of their revenues by resigning to the great native prelate the rest. Henry even allowed Wolsey, with the See of York, to unite that of Durham, as he afterwards did that of Winchester. The Pope, seeing more and more the marvellous influence of the man, before this year was out made him a cardinal. "For," says Hall, "when he was once archbishop, he studied day and night how to be a cardinal, and caused the king and the French king to write to Rome for him." Leo found a strong opposition amongst the cardinals to this promotion; but, desirous to oblige both Henry and Francis, he declared him a cardinal in full consistory, on September 11th. Francis was, at the moment, in Italy, and was in haste to be the first to give Wolsey the joyful news. Wolsey pretended to be unwilling to accept so high a dignity; but Henry settled all his feigned modesty by saluting him as "My lord cardinal."

My Lord Cardinal Wolsey almost immediately received a fresh favour from the Pope, who appointed him legate in England. This commission was originally limited to two years, but Wolsey never relinquished the office again. He obtained from succeeding Popes a continuation of the post, asking from time to time even fresh powers, till he at length exercised within the realm, almost all the prerogatives of the Pontiff. The only step above him now was the Papacy itself, and on that dignity he had already fixed his ambitious eye.

From the moment that Wolsey saw himself a cardinal and Papal legate, as well as chief favourite of the king, his ambition displayed itself without restraint, and we shall have to paint, in his career, one of the most amazing instances of the pride, power, and grandeur of a subject. When his cardinal's hat was brought to England, he sent a splendid deputation to meet the bearer of it at Blackheath, and to conduct him through London, as if he had been the Pope himself. He gave a reception of the hat in Westminster Hall, which more resembled a coronation than the official investiture of a subject and a clergyman. His arrogance and ostentation disgusted all the king's old ministers and courtiers. The Duke of Norfolk, with all his military glory, found himself completely eclipsed, and absented himself from Court as much as possible, though he still held the office of Treasurer. Fox, the venerable Bishop of Winchester, who had been the means of introducing Wolsey, found himself superseded by him, and, resigning his office of Keeper of the Privy Seal, retired to his diocese. On taking his leave, the aged minister was bold enough to caution Henry not to make any of his subjects greater than himself, to which the bluff king replied that he knew how to keep all his subjects in order. The resignation of Fox was followed by that of Archbishop Warham, who delivered the Great Seal on the 22nd of December, 1515, resigning his office of Chancellor. Henry immediately handed over the seal to Wolsey, who now stood on the pinnacle of power, almost alone. He was like a great tree which withered up every other tree which came within its shade, and even the kingly power itself seemed centred in his hands. For the next ten years he may be said to have reigned in England, and Henry himself to have been the nominal, and Wolsey the real king. Well might he, in addressing a foreign power, say, "Ego et rex meus," "I and my king."

The state which from this time he assumed was both ecclesiastic and imperial. His dress, his retinue, his establishment, equipage, and attendance were such as no subject ever assumed in any country. His person was tall and commanding, his figure portly and majestic; and he arrayed himself in the richest silks and satins, all of the proper cardinal's colour - scarlet, or crimson. His neck and shoulders were clothed with a tippet of costly sables, his robes of dazzling scarlet, his silk gloves of the same colour, his hat the same; and his shoes were one blaze of silver gilt, of pearls and diamonds. To support this grandeur he had an income which was equal to, if it did not surpass, that of the crown. He had a train of 800 persons, many of them knights and gentlemen, and amongst them nine or ten impoverished noblemen; and many of the greatest aristocracy placed their sons in his establishment as the best school for acquiring a proper courtly style, or, more probably, court favour. All his domestics were richly attired, his cook wearing a jerkin of satin or velvet, with a chain of gold round his neck. Whenever he appeared abroad a person of distinction bore his cardinal's hat before him on a cushion. He selected one of the tallest and handsomest priests that he could procure to carry before him a pillar of silver surmounted by a cross, but not contented with this, which he adopted as cardinal, he had another priest, of equal stature and beauty, who carried the ponderous silver cross of York, even within the diocese of Canterbury, contrary to the established rule and agreement betwixt the prelates of those two sees.

He was the first ecclesiastic in England that indulged himself in wearing silk and gold, and these not merely on his person, but on his saddles and the caparison of his horses. His enormous retinue on all public appearances were mounted on the most splendid steeds, richly ornamented, but he himself, in priestly fashion, rode a mule, with saddle and saddle-cloth of crimson velvet, and with stirrups of silver gilt. Every morning he held

a levee after mass, at which he appeared in his complete array of scarlet drapery.

Whilst the great looked on all this grandeur in obsequious but resentful silence, the people settled it in their own minds that the wonderful power of the priest over the fiery nature of the monarch was the effect of sorcery. But Wolsey was no mean or ordinary man. His talents and his consummate address were what influenced the king, who was proud of the magnificence which was at once his creation and his representative; and Wolsey had a grasp, an expanse, and an elevation in his ambition, which had something sublime in them. Though he was in the receipt of enormous revenues, ho had no paltry desire to hoard them. He employed them in this august state and mode of living, which he regarded as reflecting honour on the monarch whose chief minister he was, and on the Church in which he held all but the highest rank. He devoted his funds liberally to the promoting of literature. He sent learned men to foreign courts to copy valuable manuscripts which were made accessible by his vast influence. He built Hampton Court Palace, a residence fit only for a monarch, and presented it to Henry as a gift worthy such a subject to such a king. He built a college at Ipswich, his native place, and was in the course of erecting Christ Church at Oxford when his career was so abruptly closed. Besides that, he endowed seven lectureships in Oxford.

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Pictures for Reign of Henry the Eighth. - (Continued) page 2

Thomas Wolsey
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Scotch Peers demanding the Children of Queen Margaret
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The Field of the Cloth of Gold
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Queen Catherine of Arragon
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Hampton Court Palace
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Windsor Castle
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