Reign of Henry the Eighth. - (Continued) page 5
Henry, charmed with these new arrangements with France, seemed to conceive now as vehement an admiration of Francis, as he had before manifested a jealousy. No doubt, the tone in which Wolsey spoke of him was of the same kind, and the cause of it. Having excited warmth in the great favourite, that warmth was breathed from the favourite on the master, if master Henry at this period could be called, for Wolsey was at the height of his unbounded greatness and power. Every day Henry seemed only more desirous of divesting himself of Ms prerogatives, and piling them on the cardinal. By one warrant he authorised him to issue conges d'elire, royal assents, restitutions of temporalities to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and to all ecclesiastical benefices without so much as consulting the crown. With such power in his hands, he was soon in possession or disposal of almost all the considerable benefices in England, from which he derived an enormous income. The Pope added to this by giving him the bishoprics of Bath and Wells, which had been taken from Cardinal Adrian for a conspiracy against his holiness.
To this spoiled child of fortune both Henry and Francis delegated all the arrangements for the proposed meeting of the monarchs. Francis sent him a warrant on the 10th of January, 1519, empowering him to settle with Henry's commissioners the time, place, and all the other circumstances of the intended interview. The public mind in both France and England was occupied by the details of this royal ceremony to the exclusion of almost every other topic, and both nations saw with wonder the vast and expensive preparations for the pageant. The offence which this unparalleled height of favour enjoyed by the favourite gave to the nobility, caused much secret murmuring, and told against him fearfully when the tide at length turned. The effects of such enormous prosperity were now every day ripening and growing into a strange flagrance in the public eye. Wolsey was a despot of the most decided stamp, and Henry appeared judicially blind. Such was the pride of the cardinal that' on solemn feast days he was not contented without saying mass after the manner of the Pope himself. He had bishops and abbots to serve him, and had even noblemen to hand him water and the towel. It was owing to this last piece of arrogance that he is said to have contracted that deadly enmity to the Duke of Buckingham, which never rested till he brought that great nobleman to the block. One day the duke was holding the basin for the king to wash, when the cardinal came and unceremoniously dipped in his hand. The duke, incensed at this indignity, flushed scarlet with anger, and let the water fall into Wolsey's shoes. The cardinal, stung by this insult, said apart to Buckingham that '' he would sit on his skirts" for that. Buckingham, to mark his contempt of "Wolsey, appeared next day at court in a jerkin, and when the king demanded the reason of that bizarre costume, Buckingham replied merrily that the cardinal had threatened to sit on his skirts, and therefore he had taken this precaution, for if he had no skirts they could not be sat upon.
It was only by such incidental means and by such spirited men as Buckingham that any complaint of my lord cardinal's doings could be brought to the king's notice. Every one was in terror of the overgrown minister. Such was his towering pride at this period that even Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, having addressed him in a letter as "Your loving brother," Wolsey resented it as an indignity, and complained of the primate's presumption in thus challenging an equality with him. On this being reported to the venerable Warham, he only calmly replied, "Don't you yet know that this man is drunk with too much prosperity?"
No one, except the honest Warham, dared to complain to the king of his favourite's proceedings. Wolsey had set up a court of his own, which was an actual inquisition, into which he compelled both laity and clergy, and in this he set himself up as the public censor of morals and opinions. Not only every man's conduct, but every man's conscience was at his mercy. He appointed as judge in this court one John Allen, a man of scandalous life, whom he had himself, as chancellor, condemned for perjury. With such an apt but unworthy tool as this, Wolsey drew a large income by fines upon the dissolute conduct of both laymen, and of monks, and the clergy, who gave him ample scope for it. But though this might have been tolerated in a man of strict life, the people were especially disgusted to see one who indulged himself freely, "both, in pomp and pleasure,
so severe on the licentiousness of others. Nor did Wolsey confine himself to his own court: by his commissions he claimed to possess jurisdiction over all the bishops' courts, especially as it regarded wills; and his decisions on such matters were regarded as most arbitrary and intolerable.
None but Warham dared to bring the complaints and discontents of the public on this score to the ears of Henry, who merely bade Warham tell Wolsey that if anything were amiss to see it amended. But at length a person of the name of Loudon ventured to prosecute Allen, Wolsey's judge, in a court of law, and convicted him of injustice and corruption; and the people were so delighted with this that their clamour reached the king, who was greatly incensed, and gave the cardinal a rebuke, which made him a little more cautious. At the approaching royal meeting, however, we shall see the cardinal occupying the place of sole arbiter of all proceedings; the depository, as it were, of the jurisdiction and glory of the two monarchs of England and France.
But whilst Wolsey was deeply occupied in his plans and preparations for the royal meeting, an event occurred which for a time arrested the attention of all Europe. This was the death of the Emperor Maximilian, and the vacancy in the imperial office. Francis I. and Charles of Spain were the two candidates for its occupation, and the rivalry of these two monarchs seems to have again awakened in Henry the same wish, though the plain statements of Bishop Tunstall had for a time suppressed it. He dispatched a man of great learning, Dr. Richard Pace, to Germany, to see whether there were in reality any chance for him. The reports of Pace soon extinguished any hope of such event, and Henry, with a strange duplicity, then sent off his "sincere longings for success" to both of the rival candidates, Francis and Charles!
Francis declared to Henry's ambassador, Sir Thomas Boleyn, that he would spend three millions of gold, but he would win the imperial crown; but though the German electors were notoriously corrupt, and ready to hold out plausible pretences to secure as much of any one's money as they could, from the first there could be no question as to who would prove the successful candidate. The first and indispensable requisite for election was, that the candidate must be a native of Germany, and subject of the empire, neither of which Francis was, and both of which Charles was. Charles was not only grandson of Maximilian, and his successor to the throne of Austria, and therefore of a German royal house, but he was sovereign of the Netherlands, which were included in the universal German empire.
Even where Francis placed his great strength - the power of bribing the corrupt German electors, the petty princes of Germany, for the people had no voice in the matter - Charles was infinitely beyond him in the power of bribery. He was now monarch of Spain, of the Netherlands, of Naples and Sicily, of the Indies, and of the gold regions of the newly-discovered America. Nor was Francis at all a match for Charles in the other power which usually determines so much in these contests - that of intrigue. Francis was open, generous, and ardent; Charles, cool, cautious, and, though young, surrounded by ministers educated in the school of the crafty Ferdinand and the able Ximenes to every artifice of
diplomatic cunning. Still more, the vulpine Maximilian, at the very time that he was attempting to wheedle Henry of England out of his money, on pretence of securing the imperial dignity for him, had paved the way for his own grandson, by assiduous exertions and promises amongst the electors, promises which Charles was amply able to fulfil. Accordingly, after a lavish distribution of both French and Spanish gold amongst the elector-princes of Germany, Charles was declared emperor on the 28th of June, 1519. Francis, though he professed to carry off his disappointment with all the gaiety of a Frenchman, was deeply and lastingly chagrined by the event; and though he and Charles must, under any circumstances, have been rivals for the place of supremacy on the continent of Europe, there is no doubt that this circumstance struck much deeper the feeling which led to that gigantic struggle betwixt them, which, during their lives, kept Europe in a constant state of warfare and agitation.
Europe at this juncture presented a peculiar aspect, Three monarchs especially stood forth as the arbiters of its destinies, made strikingly prominent above all others by the strength of their dominions, the vigour of their characters, and the superiority of their talents: those of England, France, and Spain. Francis I. was now the ruler of a great and united kingdom, but Charles of Spain was the master of a still more extended empire; to Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands, being added the dominion of the Two Sicilies and the dignity of the imperial crown of Germany. Francis was of a chivalrous, open, frank, and munificent character; Charles Y. was of a more reserved, artful, and diplomatic disposition, calculated to win his way by secret negotiations, and to guard against surprises in war. Francis was the more amiable man; Charles, the greater and more politic king. He was of a close and intriguing turn, and rarely have such qualities been supported by so immense a dominion. Francis was calculated to strike by sudden and brilliant exploits, but at the same time liable to run into imprudences and incur misfortunes; whilst the vast power and contiguous territories of these monarchs were sure to bring them into collision. Henry sat upon his isolated seat with a strength and distinction never enjoyed by a British monarch before, placed, as it were, by Providence to assuage the heats, balance the interests, and curb the ambition of those two great Continental kings. But far from possessing the wisdom and the impartiality requisite for such an arbitration, he was at once one of the vainest, the most gullible, and most passionate of mortals. Hence he was continually drawn this way and that by the flatteries of the interested parties, or by the ambitious arts of his great favourite.
Both Charles and Francis were intensely anxious to secure the preference of Henry, because his weight thrown into either balance must give it a dangerous preponderance. Both, therefore, paid assiduous court to him, and still more, though covertly, to his all-powerful minister, Wolsey. Francis, aware of the impulsive temperament of Henry, prayed for an early fulfilment of the visit agreed upon of Henry to France. It was decided that the interview should take place in May. The news of this immediately excited the jealousy of Charles, and his ambassadors in London expressed
great dissatisfaction at the proposal. Wolsey found he had a difficult part to play, for he had great expectations from both monarchs, and he took care to make such representations to each prince in private, as to persuade him that the real affection of England lay towards him, the public favour shown to the rival monarch being only a matter of political expedience. When the Spanish ambassadors found they could not put off the intended interview, they proposed a visit of their master to the King of England previously, on his way from Spain to Germany. This was secretly arranged with the cardinal, but was to be made to appear quite an unpremeditated occurrence.
Accordingly, before the king set out for Calais, Charles, according to the secret treaty with Wolsey, sent that minister a grant under his privy seal, from the revenue of the two bishoprics of Badajoz and Placentia, of 7,000 ducats. Henry set forward from London to Canterbury, on his way towards Dover and Calais, attended by his queen and court, with a surprising degree of splendour. Whilst lying there, he was surprised, as it was made to appear, by the news that the emperor had been induced by his regard for the king, to turn aside on his voyage towards his German dominions, and had anchored in the port of Hythe on the 26th of May, 1520. As soon as this news reached Henry, he dispatched Wolsey to receive the emperor and conduct him to the castle of Dover, and Henry himself set out and rode by torchlight to Dover, where he arrived in the middle of the night. It must have been a hospitably inconvenient visit at that hour, for Charles, fatigued by his voyage, had gone to bed, and was awoke from a sound sleep by the noise and bustle of the king's arrival. He arose, however, and met Henry at the top of the stairs, where the two monarchs embraced, and Henry bade his august relative welcome. The next day, being Whitsunday, they went together to Canterbury, the king riding with the emperor on his right hand, the Earl of Derby carrying before them the sword of state. Wolsey had pushed forward, and on their entering Canterbury, appeared at the head of a great procession of the clergy, and led the way to the cathedral, This cathedral, containing the shrine of Thomas a Becket, was by far the richest of any in England, for, independent of its ancient date, and many royal and noble benefactors of the last 800 years, the wealth which the pilgrims to Becket's tomb had brought to it was enormous. The venerable cathedral, and the monastery attached to it, stood in the glory of their noble architecture in a very town of ecclesiastical buildings and offices. "Every place," Erasmus says, "was enlightened with the lustre of most precious stones, and the church throughout abounded with more than royal treasure." The tomb of Becket itself was one blaze of wealth and splendour. It was actually embossed with jewels and gold, and the gold, it was said, was the meanest tiling about it.
At this magnificent shrine - so accordant with Spanish ideas of religion - the emperor and Henry paid their homage, depositing their royal gifts, and spending some time in devotion; but it is supposed that, at the very time Henry was paying this outward worship, he was pondering on the wonderful display of wealth, which made so deep an impression on his mind, that this gorgeous shrine was one of the very first that he stripped when he began his onslaught on the ancient Church,
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