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rageous iniquities which he is affirmed to have countenanced; while, at the same time, his undoubted eagerness for gain may have acted, in some cases, as a counterpoise to the valuable and upright parts of his character. Wolsey was too much feared and hated to do evil without detection. Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, the constant, but temperate opponent of Wolsey's arrogance, informed the King of the reports which taxed his favourite with injustice and extortion. "Father," replied Henry, "no man is so blind as in his own house; I pray you, go to Wolsey, and tell him, if any thing be amiss, that he amend it." This command was obeyed by Warham, who disliked the innovations, as much as the insolence of his rival. The admonition of the primate produced, however, no other effect than that of increasing the hatred of Wolsey towards him; but the information which Warham had imparted to the king was not wholly inefficacious. It opened the eyes of the King to the fallil ility of his minister; and some time afterwards, when Aleyn was accused of illegal practices, Wolsey received a severe rebuke from the king, for tolerating the conduct which he ought to have condemned. From this incident, according to the confident opinion of some historians of that period, the decline of Wolsey may be dated.*
While these circumstances were gradually undermining his influence at home, it remained, to all outward appearance, undiminished; and, at foreign courts, his will was the pivot upon which all important operations moved. One leading principle, governing all the actions of the Cardinal, may be observed, from about this period, until all hope o t attaining the object of his wishes was eventually precluded. He had been already exalted to a station, eminent beyond that which any former subject of a British monarch ever enjoyed; yet, like Alexander, he sighed for a new sphere over which he might extend his dominion; and the ambitious and restless ecclesiastic now directed his hopes to the papal crown. At what period of his life this desire was first kindled in the breast of the Cardinal, must be a matter of conjecture: but, perhaps, like many other aspiring men, the earliest yearnings of his soul for distinction were encouraged by a remote and apparently futile hope of
• Herbert, p 81.
attaining the highest point to which persons of his class and profession could arrive.
The principal influence among the conclave of cardinals, who held the papal election in their hands, was divided between France and Spain; and Wolsey was for some time undecided to which of these continental powers he should devote himself in expectation of assistance. Francis the First possessed fourteen votes in the conclave; he offered his interest to the Cardinal, and seconded his promises by presents and pensions. For some time Wolsey was disposed to adhere to the King of France, but wavered when he saw the young King of Spain raised to the imperial throne. The wisdom and energy already displayed by the young emperor, and the extent of his dominions, ensured to him a degree of importance in the affairs of Europe, which, as Wolsey easily foresaw, would eventually preponderate. The eagerness which Charles displayed to conciliate the British minister, his flattering epithets of " most dear friend," and his pension of three thousand livres, decided the choice of Wolsey, and he may from henceforth be regarded for some years as the secret and powerful ally of the Spanish court. His own mind being determined, Wolsey was not tardy in turning his master to the side of the young emperor; but Henry was constrained for some time to dissemble his intentions.
It had been agreed, iri the treaty with France, during the preceding year, that an interview between the two kings should take place at an early period, within the English territory in France. Honour, policy, and inelination forbade the breach of this engagement on the part of Henry; nor was Wolsey reluctant to display to admiring France his greatness, as the proudest and most powerful subject in the train of his sovereign. The celebrated meeting at the field of Ardres, merits, from its novelty in the annals of Europe, and from its magnificence, the minute description which it obtained in some of our English chronicles, and in the lively memoires of the Marquis de Fleuranges, one of the nobles who accompanied Francis, and who was commanded by that monarch to commemorate the event. It was the last semblance of chivalry, which expired with Henry the Eighth, the festive diversions in the reign of Elizabeth being but the shadow of knightly prowess. It was the most splendid incident in the life of Henry, and Wolsey shared its glories and its luxuries. Precluded by his sacred office from a participation in those exercises which delighted the young and gallant monarchs, Wolsey, however, appeared in costly and pompous array, as was his usage on all festive and ceremonious occasions. It was his courtesy which directed the ornaments, his judgment which prescribed the regulations of the meeting. As a political affair, the personal communication between Francis and Henry was followed by no important effects. Their union was rather prevented than cemented by the event . The utmost courtesy and deference were, it is true, displayed on either part, both by the princes and their attendant nobles. Yet, in the midst of the most peaceful interchange of compliments and presents, the discerning spectator might have detected the secret aversion ot Wolsey from an alliance with France; the ill-disguised distrust of the courtiers and people assembled on both sides; the irresolution of Henry, and the apprehension of Francis that his hold was insecure over the favour of his apparent friend. The scene must have been curious and interesting; unhappily it was soon to be followed by one of a solemn and affecting character.
On quitting Ardres, Henry repaired almost immediately to Gravelines, where he was joined by the emperor, with whom an understanding had been already commenced in a visit which Charles had recently made to the King of England. Neither Henry nor Wolsey considered it any derogation from their honours to encourage the alliance of this rival of the French king, at the very time that every manifestation of friendship had been displayed towards Francis. The subtle policy of Wolsey was visited with retribution, and he sunk eventually into snares prepared by his own insincerity and vacillation. Engaged as he was with diplomatic manoeuvres, his mind was also disturbed by the evident hatred and jealousy of the English nobles. Whilst the higher classes of the community outwardly paid homage to his rank and power, they secretly railed at the haughtiness, and recalled with contemptuous bitterness the lowly origin of the Cardinal. Among those highly born individuals, who, in those days of comparative darkness and ignorance, regarded no distinctions as worthy of consideration, except
the accidental circumstance of ancient and noble descent, none looked with more indignant disdain upon Wolsey, than Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Allied to the family of Plantagenet both by the male and female line, the proud and aspiring character of the duke had even rendered the suspicion probable, that he was not without hopes of one day ascending the throne, in case of the king's death without issue: if Buckingham ever cherished treasonable designs, the birth of the Princess Mary must have dispelled all confident expectations of success. Previous to that event, he had, unhappily, been induced to hold conferences with those who first tempted him to the premeditation of guilt, and then betrayed his secret. Unconscious of the impending danger, Buckingham accompanied Henry to the field of Ardres, and shone there, one of the most splendid of the English courtiers, who, on that occasion, were said to have far surpassed the French in magnificence. Perhaps the very display which was in part intended to do him honour, exasperated the jealous frenzy of Henry. Shortly after the return of the king and Wolsey from France, Buckingham felt the effects of the gathering storm. He was apprehended, arraigned for high treason, tried, and condemned. His sentence, accelerated by the evidence of his dependents, produced universal regret among his fellow-subjects, and lamenta tion abroad.
Like all other passing events, the execution of Buckingham was imputed to the Cardinal. Even the emperor is declared to have said that the "butcher's dog had slain the finest back in England." At home, it was supposed that a trifling incident had occasioned that bitter enmity in Wolsey towards the duke, to which his cruel fate was attributed. It was the custom for the highest of the nobility to hold the sacred water, present the ewer, and perform other offices of respect, at mass, when Wolsey assisted at the service. The more obsequious or more cautious courtiers submitted to the necessity which there appeared to be for these acts of humiliation, knowing and dreading the consequences of a refusal. Buckingham, however, inwardly chafed at the constrained semblance of reverence and even observing merely that Wolsey had the presumption to dip his hands in an ewer of water which the duke handed to the king, he could not brook the reflection that he had been involuntarily made to perform a service to a priest. Losing all self-command, he hastily and contemptuously poured the contents of the vessel upon the feet of the Cardinal. For this affront he swore that he would have his revenge, by sitting on the duke's skirts; a figure of speech more intelligible in the days of long trains than in the present time. Wolsey was, however, disappointed by Buckingham's appearing at court on the following day without any skirts to his coat, assigning as a reason for this new fashion that he was resolved to baffle the malicious designs of the Cardinal. For this childish and ridiculous warfare, ifWolsey be justly considered as the originator of Buckingham's ruin, the duke paid dearly. It is certain that, had Wolsey desired to rescue this proud noble from a degrading death, he possessed the power of saving him, for Henry, at this time, would have granted the privilege of mercy to his minister. It is perhaps unfair, however, to consider the conduct of Wolsey on this occasion as wholly dictated by the meanness of revenge. He may have deemed it a necessary act of caution to check, by the death of Buckingham, those aspiring views in the nobles allied to the crown, by which the peace and security of the country might be troubled.
There is reason also to believe that Buckingham was not entirely guiltless of the designs imputed to him; and the example of his father, who had once meditated asserting it claim to the English crown, was not obliterated from the recollection of the public. The most discreditable feature in the proceedings against him was the care taken by Wolsey to procure the absence of those friends and relatives of the unhappy duke, whose intercession might have averted his fate. Twenty-six peers only sat on the trial; and the sentence was pronounced with tears by the Duke of Norfolk, too subservient a courtier to decline this sad office, although the personal friend of the prisoner. Some indications of mercy were manifested on the part of the king; and while his obnoxious measures are imputed to the influence of Wolsey, it is but fair to ascribe to the same source those which betokened a milder spirit. The decree by which the punishment of hanging was adjudged to Buckingham, was changed into the sentence of decapitation, and part of the forfeited estates
were restored to the eldest son. Popular feeling was, however, in a state of unabated irritation against Wolsey, for some time after the death of Buckingham. The galling remark, that a "butcher's son must naturally delight in shedding blood," and other effusions of public resentment, were probably neither unfelt nor unobserved by the Cardinal; and he found, perhaps, relief from some annoyance in the mission which he was at this time induced to undertake, with the avowed object of composing the differ- 1521. ences now verging towards hostility, between the emperor and the king of France.
The actual end to which the exertions of Wolsey were directed in the negotiation was to form a confederacy with Charles against Francis on the part of England; and, on his own account, to obtain a promise from the emperor, in case of the decease of the reigning Pontiff, to aid his long-cherished wishes on that point. Charles readily, but without sincerity, accorded the favour requested; secretly resolving, as his subsequent actions proved, to suit his own convenience in the result. A treaty was concluded between the pope, the emperor, and the king of England, to the exclusion of Francis, against whom hostilities were meditated.
Chapter Third. The part taken by Wolsey in the Controversy between Henry the Eighth and Luther.—His desire for the Revival of Learning. — His schemes with respect to the Monastic Institutions. — Erection of the Cardinal's College at Oxford.—His Regulation of the Royal Households.—Embassy of the Cardinal to France.—His decline in the favour of Henry.—The Great Seal taken from Wolsey.—His Humiliation, — Impeachment, — Illness,—Death, — Character,—Burial.
It is necessary to take a cursory view of the life ot Wolsey at this period, in order to arrive at 1521. those benevolent designs, and at the great though imperfect achievements which constitute the real glory of this celebrated man; and which afforded a far nobler exercise for his genius than the diplomatic intrigues in which he played a conspicuous, but an unworthy part. It is, however, to be regretted, that he was allured by the voice of ambition, while he cherished the schemes of a philanthropist: yet a more cautious and less aspiring individual would never have projected, under existing circumstances, the reformation which he commenced; and, while the pride and ambition of Wolsey are to be reprobated by the moralist, it is to them that we owe the results of that power, which would scarcely have been the portion of Wolsey, without the agency of these passions.
It was at this era that the famous controversy between Henry the Eighth and Luther attracted the criticisms of the learned, and the attention of all classes. Wolsey was not engaged in this affair, otherwise than as being one of the objects of the vituperation in which the great reformer occasionally indulged. Described by Luther, in one of his celebrated letters, as "a favourite, a monster, a person hated both by God and man," Wolsey might possibly find his zeal for the interests of the hierarchy increased by the invectives against himself, which were coupled with just, though vehement reprobations against the corruptions of the church. Want of leisure, and perhaps want of inclination to enter the lists with so powerful an adversary, deterred the Cardinal from hurling back the epithots bestowed upon him. Contented to leave his cause in the hands of his royal master, who defended the character of his favourite, in his reply to Luther, Wolsey took no vengeance, except in issuing a commission, commanding that the works of the reformer should be collected in each diocese, and delivered to him by the bishops. Having thus extracted the supposed poison from the people, he resolved to distribute the antidote. He ordered fortytwo of the doctrines advanced by Luther to be posted upon the church-door, in every parish, that all persons might read and avoid these " damnable and pestiferous errors," as they are described in the commission, which also declares them "to have taken root as a noxious brier." This proceeding sullies the reputation of the Cardinal as a man of judgment and experience. It was natural that he*should think harshly of Luther, and seriously of the mischief, which, as a zealous papist, he might believe to result from the opinions he had denounced: but when the intemperance of zeal had subsided, it might occur to Wolsey, that thus to afford matter for thought and speculation was to give the first impetus to schism. It is, however, probable, that
he acted, in this instance, in conformity with the wishes of the king, who, by his edicts, his disputations, and vacillations, adopted the most effectual means that could have been devised for propagating a love of inquiry, and encouraging the desire of reform.
Wolsey soon proved that his notions concerning the real danger of the church were enlightened, and his plans for its benefit founded upon just and liberal principles. He saw that the majority of christian philosophers and scholars leaned to the side of the reformers; embraced their simple, but rigid persuasion j increased its growth by the influence of their writings, and honoured it by the purity of their lives. He beheld, on the other hand, the professors and dignitaries of the Romish church, obscured in intellect by the speculative and confused studies in which they were trained to glory, and degraded in conduct by the irregular and voluptuous courses in which they indulged.
To oppose " learning to learning," by encouraging a spirit of laudable exertion, to raise the meritorious members of the church into notice, appeared to the Cardinal to be the only mode by which the declining power of the hierarchy might be sustained. To this end he determined to restore the English universities, now drooping from the indifference of their teachers, to that rank of importance for which they were originally designed among the mstitutions of this country. Happily for England the services of Wolsey were ensured to her by the frustration of all his hopes of obtaining the papacy. Leo the Tenth expired, as it is said, of a fever produced byjoy, upon hearing of the success which attended his army engaged in warfare with the French. Upon this vacancy, it was naturally the expectation of Wolsey to ascend the pontifical throne, through the interest of Charles the Fifth; but in this he was deceived. Charles had little inclination to throw, into the balance of power, a proportion in the scale so advantageous to England as the exaltation of its minister to the highest dignity in Europe. The emperor had also his own favourites, whom he desired to aggrandize; and Adrian of Tortosa, his former tutor, was elected pope before Doctor Pace, the emissary of Wolsey, could reach the scene of contention. This annihilation of all his hopes was, probably, in the mind of Wolsey, conclusive; and although these were not his last efforts to obtain the papacy, it is likely that he considered this manifest declaration of the intentions of Charles to be an insuperable barrier to his wishes. His ambition may be deemed, therefore, from this time, to have centered in his country, and his schemes of public utility to have regarded her interests alone.
In surveying the condition of the church at this period, Wolsey perceived that, to destroy the corruption which infected the stem and branches of the tree, it was necessary to promote the healthy condition of the root. He regarded education as the soil in which religious knowledge might be restored to vigour. Hitherto the instruction of the young had been confined either to a few great public schools, to the monastic institutions, or to the humble exertions of parish clerks. The higher orders of the clergy received into their houses, it is true, as pupils, in some instances, the sons of noblemen or of gentlemen, on terms the most advantageous as far as private tuition was concerned; but opportunities such as these were afforded only to the sons of the great and opulent; whilst the middling classes of the people, from whom the clergy principally sprung, were wholly destitute of those incentives and those aids to learning, which, in our happier days, they eminently enjoy.
At an earlier period of his career, Wolsey had evinced his zeal for the revival of literature, and his sense of the inefficiency of those who were deputed to maintain its reputation, by an address to all the schoolmasters of England, exhorting them to introduce the classics into their plan of education.' He had afforded his patronage to the institution of St. Paul's School, by Doctor Colet, in 1509, and had devoted a particular attention to the structure and regulations of that valuable seminary, the first which was founded in England by any private individual; but the English universities demanded and received the first and most sedulous care of the Cardinal, and he viewed with regret and anxiety the diminution of honour and importance now attached to those venerable resorts of the studious and the learned.
It was apparently an accident which directed the notice of Wolsey to the degraded and impoverished condition of the colleges at Oxford. In 1518, the king, and queen Katharine, being on
q Strjr1x'sKcclruuucal Memorial«, vol. i„ p. 193,
their progress, at Abingdon, a visit to Oxford was planned by the pious and intelligent Katharine, who desired both to offer her tribute of respect at the famous shrine of the virgin St. Frideswide, and to see the university. Wolsey, who was with the royal pair, accompanied Katharine in this excursion, and remained at Oxford after the departure of the queen. Upon this occasion he made an oration in the Convocation House, declaring it to be his intention to establish fresh lectures in the university, and to apply to the king in its behalf. The heads of the colleges then delivered their charters and liberties into the hands of the Cardinal, and Wolsey, shocked at the irregularity, confusion, and even dishonesty which an exposition of the affairs of the university displayed,* resolved to spare neither trouble nor expense in dispelling the gloom which negligence or knavery had thrown over the scene of his early studies.
Agreeably to his promises, Wolsey made an earnest and early application to the king in favour of the declining yet indispensable institutions of Oxford, and Henry was disposed to enter warmly into a course so accordant with his own reverence for philosophy and letters; but the power of granting pecuniary aid for the noble purpose of restoring the decayed colleges to their former prosperity, had passed away from the king, and the expenses of foreign wars and negotiations, and the costly mamtenance of a dissipated court, had left no sums in reserve to promote the extension of knowledge. 'New and more abundant resources were, however, in store; and Wolsey had sufficient courage to resort to them, and address and wisdom to employ them with advantage.
The monastic system had for some time begun rapidly to decline in public estimation. Several of the most exalted and rigid of the English bishops, had viewed the corruptions which prevailed in religious houses with concern, and had preferred the endowment of colleges to the establishment of new monastic institutions. Reprobated, and in some individual instances suppressed by authority, the monasteries had hitherto possessed some degree of popularity, trom the convenience which, in some respects, they afforded, and, among the benefits they produced, none were with so much reason insisted upon by their advocates,
• Wood's HWtorT of O«ibrO, y0l. i., p. 666.