Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 9
It now occurred to him that, though the Pope had granted permission for Wolsey and the legate to decide this momentous question, yet he might be induced, by the influence of Charles, to revise and revert the sentence pronounced by his delegates: and this might involve him in the most inextricable dilemmas, especially should he have acted on the sentence of divorce, and married again. Once more, therefore, he dispatched Gardiner and Fox; to Italy, in quest of more certain and irrevocable powers. They were to proceed to Venice, and there demand, in the names of the French and English kings, the consent of Francis being first obtained, the restoration of Ravenna and Cervia to the Roman state, a restoration for which Clement was extremely anxious. We are not told whether the Venetians were likely to make this sacrifice, or of any compensation to be made them; but the envoys were then to proceed to Orvieto, and calling the brothers Gregorio and Vincenzo da Casali to their aid, they were to demand from Clement, in gratitude for this promised favour, his signature to two especial instruments, which the envoys had brought with them from England. The first of these instruments was a dispensation of the same tenor as the former one, but more complete; the second was called a decretal bull, by which the Pope was to pledge himself to confirm the sentence pronounced by "Wolsey and the legate; and, moreover, was to declare that the prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of affinity in Leviticus was a part of the Divine law, admitting of no exception or dispensation, notwithstanding the permission in Deuteronomy.
Clement was placed in a very trying situation. He was anxious to oblige Henry, anxious to secure Ravenna and Cervia; but to grant that bull was to annihilate the dogma of the Church's infallibility, for Julius II. had granted that dispensation, notwithstanding the fact of Catherine's union with Henry's brother. He had been also informed that Henry's object was only to gratify the wish of a woman who was already living in adultery with him. But this was rebutted by a letter already received from Wolsey, assuring the Pope that Anne Boleyn was a lady of unimpeachable character. Driven from this point, Clement still demurred as to the formidable bull; and only consented, after consultation with a convocation of cardinals and theologians, to issue an order for a commission to inquire into the validity of the dispensation granted by Pope Julius, and to revoke it, if it was found to have been by any means surreptitiously obtained.
Fox arrived in England with these instruments in the beginning of May, and was received by Henry in the apartments of Anne, who, on hearing the contents of them, imagining them much more decisive than they were, went into transports of exultation, believing all difficulties now over, and promised all sorts of advancement to the man who had brought them. There was a clause in the commission legitimising the Princess Mary, though the marriage of the mother should be proved invalid. An assembly of divines and casuists was immediately assembled, who subjected every clause of the instruments to a close examination; and Gardiner was again sent off to Italy with new instructions, requesting that Cardinal Campeggio should be joined in the commission with Wolsey, as a prelate more experienced in the forms of the Roman courts. Wolsey, in fact, became alarmed at the weight of responsibility which was threatening him; and it may be said to be this fear which involved Henry in all the difficulties and delays which followed. Wolsey could by the first commission have decided for the divorce, and Henry would have been at liberty to marry; but now the decision would have to be referred back to Borne, and Clement availed himself of this, as we shall see, to defer the dreaded decision, which must involve him irretrievably with the emperor.
Wolsey by this time had taken a serious view of his position in the matter, and it had filled him with the direst apprehensions. He saw on either hand a host of enemies ready to seize an occasion to overthrow him. He was hated by both queens, and by all their relatives and partisans. If he decided for the divorce, the party which was hostile to France, and all those in favour of Catherine, the emperor, and the Flemish alliance, so important to the commerce of the nation, would use every means in their power to destroy him on the first opportunity. If he decided against the divorce, the vengeance of his master, whose furious passions and terrible temper he well knew, would fall like a thunderbolt upon him, and the resentment of Anne, and all her relatives and followers, would ensure his certain downfall; whilst, if he favoured the new mistress, his fate would be little better, for he was confident both she and her kinsfolk were, one and all, his implacable enemies and rivals, and only waited for her marriage to ruin him with the king, and thrust him down from his high estate. Under these circumstances he began to hesitate, and when Henry urged him to dispatch, he ventured to say that, though he was bound to the king by endless gratitude, and was ready to spend his goods, blood, and life in his service, yet he was under still greater obligations to God, and was bound to do justice, and if the dispensation of Julius was found to be valid, to pronounce it so.
At this declaration from his minister, whom he had raised from the dust, and set on a level with princes, the fury of Henry burst loose, and he heaped on him the most terrible terms of abuse and menace. Wolsey felt that ho stood on the edge of a precipice, and prepared for his fall. He hastened to finish his different buildings, and to obtain the charters for his colleges, and declared to his intimate friends that as soon as the divorce was pronounced, and the succession to the crown firmly settled, he would retire to his diocese, and devote the remainder of his life to his ecclesiastical duties. Meantime, he forwarded a fresh despatch to Rome, imploring the Pope, in the most supplicatory terms, to sign the decretal bull, which he promised should be kept secret, considering that his possession of such a bull would be a sure guarantee that his decision would never bs revoked. The Pope gave way to the importunities of Gardiner, so far as to sign the bull: but believing that if Wolsey once had it in his hands, he would publish it, and throw the whole onus of the measure upon him, he took care to commit it to the keeping of Campeggio, with the strict injunction never to let it go out of his hands, but to read it to the king, and the cardinal, and then privately to commit it to the flames.
At this exciting crisis, and in the pleasant month of May, the Court and capital were thrown into consternation by the re-appearance of that scourge of the nations in those days, the sweating sickness. We have related the terrible mortality attending this malady on its first appearance in 1485, but the mode of healing the disease was now so well understood by the physicians, that they who followed strictly their regulations were in no real danger. It only required to lie quietly in bed for twenty-four hours, when the danger was over. But any violation of this rule by which the patient was exposed to the air, stopped the profuse perspiration, and the patient died in a few hours. The disorder now appeared first amongst the female attendants of Anne Boleyn, and Henry had her hurried off forthwith to Hever Castle, in Kent, her father's residence. But she carried the aura of the complaint with her, and it spread through the family. She herself, and her father, Lord Rochford, were in extreme danger, but Dr. Butts, the Royal physician, who attended her, brought them safely through. Henry, who was as great a coward as he was a braggadocio of courage and heroism, fled precipitately from the infected place, shut himself up from all approach of his own servants or strangers, and frequently changed the scene of his residence. He was seized with such fear, that he became most pious and amiable. He sent for Queen Catherine, with whom he had long ceased to cohabit; expressed the greatest affection for her, lived with her as a most devoted husband, and attended constant devotions with her. He confessed every day, and took the sacrament with Catherine every Sunday and saint's day. He seemed struck with remorse for his late stern treatment of the cardinal, and sent to him regulations for his diet during the continuance of the pestilence, insisting on hearing from him every day, and on his being so near that the same physician might attend both of them in case 01 illness.
The cardinal, who had also fled like his sovereign, and concealed himself, was busied in settling the affairs of his soul. He made his will and sent it to Henry, as it no doubt was made magnificently in his favour, and he accompanied it by the most humble assurances that "never for favour, mede, gift, or promysse, had he done or consented to anything that myght in the least poynte redownde to the king's dishonour or disprouffit." Henry, in like manner, made his will, and sent it to Wolsey, "that he might see the tried and harty mynd that he; had with him above all men living."
All this piety, humility, and return to domestic kindness and decorum, led people to imagine that the king had determined to abandon the divorce and the favourite lady, but no sooner had the contagion disappeared, than he recalled Anne Boleyn to Court and ordered the nobles to attend her levees as if she were already queen. All the time that she had been absent, and he had been living so like a good husband with his own wife, and had been so zealous in his devotions, he had been corresponding with his mistress in the most passionate and love-sick terms. These letters yet remain. Wolsey had suffered a severe attack of the disorder, or gave out that he had, in July, that he might touch the repentant mind of Henry, or keep him quiet till the arrival of Campeggio; and Anne Boleyn, who, as if to imitate her royal lover, or to flatter the cardinal on the eve of his exercising a function of such vital consequence to her ambition,, had begun to fawn on Wolsey, wrote to him the most sadly hypocritical letters.
Campeggio, who had most reluctantly undertaken the appointment of commissioner in this case, was all this time slowly, very slowly, progressing towards England. He was an eminent professor of the canon law, and an experienced statesman. He had been a married man, and had a family; but, on the death of his wife, in 1509, he had taken orders, was made cardinal in 1517, and had been employed by Leo and his successors in various arduous cases to their highest satisfaction. Campeggio was now suffering all the agonies of the gout, and was eager to transfer this business to some one else; but Clement was at his wits' end with the difficulties of his situation, and thought that not only the abilities of Campeggio, but his gout itself was a thing to be thankful for, as it might give him plausible grounds for delay.
The poor Pope was environed by perplexities. The Emperor Charles watched all the movements of the affair with the closest attention. He vowed to support and defend his aunt. His ambassador, Guigonez, steadily opposed every proposition of Henry's ambassador, Gardiner. Charles, on the one hand, as well as Henry on the other, threatened, if the Pope decided against him, to renounce his obedience to the Holy See. To make matters worse, the arms of France were on the decline in Italy, those of the emperor in the ascendant. When Clement ventured to sign the decretal bull, there was a very different promise of affairs. Lautrec, the French general, was traversing Italy with a victorious army. Us drove the Imperialists to the very walls of Naples, and had every prospect of securing that city by the goodwill of the inhabitants. But his successes were rendered abortive by the folly of Francis, who was spending his time amongst his mistresses, and neglected to send his valiant army either money or reinforcements. A contagious disease broke out in the French camp while vainly waiting for these; and Lautrec, the English commissary, Sir Robert Jerningham, and the greater part of the men perished, the enfeebled remnant being made prisoners of war. To have run in the face of the victorious emperor, with all Italy now prostrate at his feet, would have been madness in the Pope, and his only resource betwixt the two troublesome kings was all possible delay. Clement, indeed, was seriously disposed to make peace with Charles, but secretly: in which case it was quite out of the question that he would decide against Catherine.
Campeggio arrived in London at last, on the 7th of October, but in such a state of exhaustion, from the violent and long attacks of the gout, that he was carried in a litter to his lodgings, and remained for some time confined to his bed. Henry, with his characteristic hypocrisy, on the approach of the legate, again sent away his mistress, and recalled his obliging wife, with whom he appeared to be living on the most affectionate terms. They had the same bed and board, and went regularly through the same devotions. The arrival of the legate raised the courage of the people, who were unanimous in the favour of the queen, and though Wolsey made every exertion to silence and restrain them, they loudly declared that, let the king marry whom he pleased, they would acknowledge no successor in prejudice to Mary.
It was a fortnight before the legate was ready to see the king. On the 22nd of October he made his visit, and was, of course, most graciously received by Henry and the cardinal, but they could extract from him no opinion as to the probable result of the inquiry which was at hand. Henry and Wolsey exerted all their arts to win over the great man. The king paid him constant visits; and to mollify and draw him out, heaped all sorts of flatteries upon him, and made him the most brilliant promises. He had already made him Bishop of Salisbury, and presented "him with a splendid palace in Borne; and he now offered to confer on him the rich bishopric of Durham, and knighted his son Ridolfo, by whom he was accompanied. But nothing moved the impenetrable ecclesiastic; for if favours were heaped on him here, terrors awaited him at Borne, if he betrayed the trust of his master, the Pope. He replied to all solicitations that he had every disposition to serve the king, so far as his conscience would permit him. To produce a favourable bias in the opinions of the inexorable man, the judgments of eminent divines and doctors of the canon law on the king's case were laid before him, which he read, but still locked his own ideas in his own breast.
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