Reign of Henry the Eighth. - (Continued) page 4
His sapient plan was this. Untaught by the gross style in which he had been imposed upon by Maximilian, he resolved to employ him to put down Francis. He therefore dispatched an ambassador to the emperor, who was, as he always had been, poor and greedy of money, to engage him by a large subsidy to march an army into Italy to join his forces to those of Francisco Sforza, the brother of Maximilian Sforza, to take Milan, and place Francisco on the ducal throne. Maximilian Sforza had resigned all his rights to Francis, and was therefore to be set aside. This scheme, which Henry put forth as his own, was, in fact, but another speculation of Wolsey's. Francisco Sforza, desirous to make Milan his own, had already applied to Wolsey, and engaged, if he succeeded, to pay that corrupt and greedy minister 10,000 ducats a year, and in return Wolsey had engaged not only to procure Henry's consent, but to make him the perpetual friend and protector of Sforza.
The Emperor Maximilian, having got a large sum in hand, put his troops in motion for Italy, and pursued the journey with the greater alacrity because he was also furnished with bills to a still greater amount on the Friscobaldi, the great Italian bankers. Dr. Richard Pace, Henry's ambassador, hastened on before the emperor with another large sum of money, with which he engaged an army of Swiss to join Maximilian. With this augmented force, the German emperor pursued the route to Milan, where he made a feeble and spiritless attempt against it, and then coolly turned his face homewards and marched back again, saying the Friscobaldi were bankrupts, the bills were waste paper, and his engagement at an end. Henry was justly served for once more trusting to so rotten a reed. In addition to the loss of his money, he had shown Francis his teeth without being able to bite.
On the 12th of November, 1515, Parliament was summoned to meet. Henry had caught a very discouraging glimpse of the iron at the bottom of his father's money-chests, and was, therefore, obliged to ask supplies from his subjects. His application does not appear to have been successful, and Parliament was therefore dissolved on the 22nd of December, and was never called again till the 31st of July, 1523, an interval of eight years. A Parliament which would not grant money was not likely to be a very favourite instrument with Henry, and this still less so, because it had involved him in a contention with the convocation. The convocation had dared to claim exemption for the clergy from the jurisdiction of the secular courts. The clergy in Henry's interest resisted this claim; it was brought before Parliament, and both the Lords and Commons, as well as the judges, decided against the convocation. Henry, who was at once as fond of power and as bigoted as the Church, found himself in a most embarrassing dilemma, but declared that he would maintain the prerogatives of the crown, and was glad to get rid of the dispute by the dismissal of Parliament.
On the 11th of February Queen Catherine gave birth to a daughter, who was named Mary, and who survived to wear the crown of England. In the same month died the queen's father, Ferdinand of Spain, one of the most cunning, grasping, and unprincipled monarchs who ever lived, but who had by his Machiavellian schemes united Spain into one great and compact kingdom, and whose sceptre Providence had extended, by the discovery of Columbus, over new and wonderful worlds. His grandson Charles, already in possession of the territories of the house of Burgundy, and heir to those of Austria, succeeded him, as Charles V. Henry had just entered into a, commercial treaty with Charles, as far as it regarded the Netherlands, and now perceiving the vast power and greatness which must centre in Charles - for on the death of Maximilian, who was now old, he would also become Emperor of Germany - he was anxious to unite himself in close bonds of interest and intimacy. To this end, he gave a commission to Wolsey, assisted by the Duke of Norfolk, and the Bishop of Durham, to cement and conclude what was called a holy league with the Emperor Maximilian and Charles, the avowed object of which was to combine for the defence of the Church, and to restrain the unbridled ambition of certain princes - meaning Francis. A more unholy league could not be conceived, though the Pope was at the head of it, for there was not a contracting party to it which had not lately entered into leagues of friendship and peace with Francis, who certainly had neither before nor since done anything to injure any of them. This league, so basely misnamed, was undoubtedly promoted by Wolsey with right good will, for he could not forgive Francis's support of his rival Bishop of Tournay.
The sordid Emperor Maximilian, who had so often and so successfully made his profit out of the vanity of Henry, seeing him so urgent to cultivate the favour of his grandson Charles, thought it a good opportunity to draw fresh sums from him. Maximilian was now tottering towards his grave, but he was not the less desirous to pave his way to it with gold. In a confidential conversation, therefore, with Sir Robert Wingfield, the English ambassador at his Court, he delicately dropped a hint that; he was grown weary of the toils and cares attending the imperial office. Pursuing the theme, he pretended a great admiration for the King of England; he declared that amongst all the princes of Christendom, he could see none who was so fitted to succeed him in his high office, and at the same time become the champion and protector of Holy Church against its enemies. He therefore proposed to adopt Henry as his son, for a proper consideration. According to his plan, Henry was to cross the Channel with an army. From Tournay he was to march to Treves, where Maximilian was to meet him, and resign the empire to him, with all the necessary formalities. Then the united army of English and Germans were to invade France, and, whilst they thus sufficiently occupied the attention of Francis, Henry and Maximilian, with another division, were to march upon Italy, crossing the Alps at Coire, to take Milan, and, having secured that city, make an easy journey to Rome, where Henry was to be crowned emperor by the Pope.
In this wild-goose scheme - which equally ignored the fact that Charles V. was the grandson of Maximilian, heir of his kingdom, and therefore neither by the natural affection of the emperor, nor by the will of his subjects, likely to beset aside for a King of England; and the difficulty - the next to an impossibility - of the accomplishment of the enterprise by two such monarchs as Maximilian and Henry - only one thing was palpable, that Maximilian would put his hand on the stipulated sum for all these impossible honours, and then would as quickly find a reason for abandoning the extravagant scheme, as he had already done that of taking Milan. Yet it is certain that, for the moment, it seized on the imagination of Henry, and he dispatched the Earl of
Worcester and Dr. Tunstall, afterwards Bishop of Durham, to the Imperial Court, to settle the conditions of this notable scheme. Tunstall, who was not only an accomplished scholar, but a solid and shrewd thinker, no sooner reached the Court of Maximilian than he saw at a glance the hollowness of the plot and the imperial plotter. He, as well as Dr. Richard Pace, the ambassador at Maximilian's Court, quickly and honestly Informed Henry that it was a mere scheme to get money. Tunstall, in one of his letters, declared the Emperor's Court to be a place of great dissimulation and fair words; but where no promises were kept. With the boldness of an honest ambassador he dared to write as follows: -
"Please your grace, - Your election to the empire cannot be brought about by no means, for divers considerations. First, that, like as in the election of a Pope, a certain form is to be kept, which, if not observed, maketh the election to be void; so of ancient time and ordinance of the universal Church, a certain form must be observed in choosing of the emperor; which omitted, the election is void. One of the chief points in the election of the emperor is, that he which shall be elected must be native of Germany, and subject to the empire; whereas your grace is not, nor never since the Christian faith the kings of England were subject to the empire; but the crown of England is an empire in itself, much better than now the empire of Rome. Besides that the form of the election containeth that, first, he must be king of the Romans, and the coronation at Rome maketh him to have the name of emperor, where before he is called but king of the Romans. Over this, if the emperor which now is remain still king of the Romans - which I understand he intendeth to do - then, even if your grace were eligible, and under the empire, yet ye could not be chosen emperor, because ye were never king of the Romans.... For which considerations I repeat it is impossible that your grace be chosen: and I am afraid lest the said offer - being so specious at the first hearing - was only made to get thereby some money of your grace."
These honest and patriotic statements perfectly unmasked the wily old Maximilian, and Henry escaped the snare. Francis I., having also now secured the duchy of Milan, set himself to conciliate two persons whose amity was necessary to his future peace and security. These were the Pope and Henry of England. The balance of power on the Continent, it was clear, would lie betwixt Francis and Charles V., the King of Spain. On the death of Maximilian, Charles would be King of Austria, and, in all probability, Emperor of Germany. It would be quite enough for Francis to contend with the interests of Charles, whose dominions would then stretch from Austria, with the imperial power of Germany, through the Netherlands to France, and reappear on the other boundary of France, in Spain, without having that gigantic dominion backed by the co-operation of England. Francis had seen with alarm the cultivation of friendship recently betwixt these two formidable neighbours. To counteract these influences, Francis, whilst in Italy, had an interview with the Pope at Bologna, where he so won upon his regard that the Pope agreed to drop all opposition to the possession of Milan by the French.
Having secured himself in this quarter, Francis returned to France, and knowing well that the only way to the good graces of Henry was through the all-powerful Cardinal Wolsey, he caused his ambassador in England to endeavour to win the favour of the great minister. This was not to be done otherwise than by substantial contributions to his avarice, and promises of service in that greatest project of Wolsey's ambition, the succession to the Popedom. Wolsey was at this time in the possession of the most extraordinary power in England. His word was law, with both king and subject. To him all men sought and bowed down, and while he conferred favours with a regal hand, he did not forget those who had offended him in the days of his littleness. At this period he flung Sir Amias Paulet into prison, and kept him there for some years for having set him in the stocks when he was a wild young rural incumbent, and had raised a riot in a country fair. Not only English subjects, but foreign monarchs sought his favour with equal anxiety. The young King of Spain, to secure him to his views, and knowing his grudge against the King of France, conferred on him a pension of 3,000 livres a year, styling him, in the written grant, ''his most dear and especial friend."
Thus were the kings of Spain and France paying humble homage to this proud churchman and absolute minister of England, at the same moment. But Francis felt that he must outbid the King of Spain, and he resolved to do it. He commenced, then, by reminding him how sincerely he had rejoiced at his elevation to the cardinalate, and how greatly he desired the continuance and increase of their friendship, and promised him whatever it was in his power to do for him. These were mighty and significant words for the man who could signally aid him in his designs on the Popedom, and who could settle all difficulties and doubts about the bishopric of Tournay, hitherto such a stumbling-block betwixt them. The letters of Francis were spread with the most skilful, if not the most delicate flatteries; he called him his lord, his father, and his guardian, told him he regarded his counsels as oracles; and whilst they increased the vanity of the cardinal most profusely, he accompanied his flatteries by presents of many extremely valuable and curious things.
Being assured by Villeroi, his resident ambassador at London, that the cardinal lent a willing ear to all these things, Francis instructed the ambassador to enter at once into private negotiation with Wolsey for the restoration of Tournay, and an alliance betwixt the two crowns. This alliance was to be cemented by the affiancing of Henry's daughter, Mary, then about a year-and a half old, to the infant dauphin of France, but recently born I The price which Wolsey was to receive for these services being satisfactorily settled betwixt himself and Francis, the great minister broke the matter to his master in a manner which marks the genius of the man, and his profound knowledge of Henry's character. He presented some of the superb articles which Francis had sent him to the king, saying, "With these things hath the King of France attempted to corrupt me. Many servants would have concealed this from their masters, but I am resolved to deal openly with your grace on all occasions. This attempt, however," added he, "to
corrupt a servant is a certain proof of his sincere desire of the friendship for the master." Oh! faithful servant I Oh! open and incorruptible man! Henry's vanity was so flattered that he took in every word, and looked on himself as so much the greater prince to have a minister thus admired and courted by the most powerful monarchs
The way to negotiation was now entirely open. Francis appointed William Gouffier, Lord of Bonivet, Admiral of France; Stephen Ponchier, Bishop of Paris; Sir Francis de Rupecavarde, and Sir Nicholas de Neufville his plenipotentiaries. They set out with a splendid train of the greatest lords and ladies of France, attended by a retinue of 1,200 officers and servants. Francis knew that the way to ensure Henry's favourable attention was to compliment him by the pomp and splendour of his embassy. The French plenipotentiaries were introduced to Henry at Greenwich, on the 22nd of September, 1518, and Wolsey was appointed to conduct the business on the part of the King of England. When they went to business the ambassadors of Francis prepared the way for the greater matters by producing a grant, already prepared, and, therefore, clearly agreed upon beforehand, which they presented to Wolsey, securing him a pension of 12,000 livres a year, in compensation for the cession of the bishopric of Tournay. This was a direct and palpable bribe; but there was no troublesome and meddlesome opposition in the House of Commons in those days to demand the production of papers, and the impeachment of corrupt ministers. With such a beginning the terms of a treaty were soon settled. They embraced four articles: - A general contract of peace and amity betwixt the two kings and their successors, for ever; a treaty of marriage betwixt the two little babies, the dauphin and Mary Tudor; the restitution of Tournay to France for 600,000 crowns; and, lastly, an agreement for a personal interview betwixt the two monarchs, which was to take place on neutral ground betwixt Calais and Ardres, before the last day of July, 1519.
<<< Previous page <<<
>>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5 6 7 8 9