Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

England Under the Tudors by Arthur D. Innes

Part 2 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download England Under the Tudors pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

to get more than his share of the spoils for less than his share of the
work. The League of Cambrai--a simple combination for robbery without
excuse--was formed at the end of 1508. Henry was left out, for which,
indeed, he cared little, knowing that the process of spoliation would
inevitably result in quarrels among the leaguers. But though he advanced
the arrangements for the marriage of Charles and Mary so far as to have a
proxy ceremony performed, the marriage project with Joanna was withdrawn,
and his overtures were also finally declined by Margaret of Savoy.

[Sidenote: Wolsey]

In the last year of his life, however, his diplomatic successor--destined
to outshine him in his own field--came into employment as a negotiator. It
was Thomas Wolsey who probably carried through the arrangement for the
union with Charles; Wolsey also who re-established friendly relations with
Scotland, which had been becoming seriously strained. In 1505 James had
more definitely promised not to renew the French alliance; but had
considered himself absolved from this and other obligations, on the usual
ground of border raids, in which Wolsey himself admitted that the English
had been very much more guilty than the Scots.

[Sidenote: 1509 Death of Henry VII.]

But Henry's own days were numbered. As a boy and as a young man he had
lived a hard life; throughout the four-and-twenty years of his reign he had
never been free from the strain of anxiety, never relaxed his labours,
never allowed himself to cast his cares upon other shoulders. In 1508 he
had a serious illness, from which he never fully recovered; in the early
spring of 1509 his health finally and fatally broke down. On April 21st
the founder of the Tudor dynasty and of the Tudor system left the throne,
which he had won by the sword, to a son, whose right by inheritance was
beyond dispute.



[Sidenote: 1485 Henry's position]

The task before Henry when he ascended the throne was a difficult one. He
had to establish a new dynasty with a very questionable title, under
conditions which could not have allowed any conceivable title to pass
without risk of being challenged. It was therefore necessary for him not
merely to buttress his hereditary claim by marrying the rival whose title
was technically the strongest, and securing the pronouncement of Parliament
in his favour, together with such adventitious sanction as a Papal Bull
afforded; but further to make his subjects contented with his rule.

Two things were definitely in his favour. The old nobility who between the
spirit of faction and the love of fighting had kept the country in a state
of turmoil for half a century were exhausted--not merely decimated but
almost wiped out; while the mass of the population was weary of war and
ready to welcome almost any one who could and would provide orderly
government. The country was craving to have done with anarchy.

[Sidenote: Studied legality]

A firm hand and a resolute will were thus the primary necessities; but
tired as the nation was, it was still ready to resent a flagrant tyranny.
The Yorkist Kings had seen that absolutism was the condition of stability;
Henry perceived that, applied as they had applied it, the stability would
still be wanting. He had to find a mean between the wantonly arbitrary
absolutism which had been attempted a century before by Richard II. and
recently by Edward IV. and Richard III. on the one hand, and on the other
hand the premature application of constitutional ideas under the House of
Lancaster. The actual method evolved was the concentration of all control
in the hands of the King, accompanied by an ostentatious deference to the
forms of procedure which were liable to be put forward as popular rights,
and a very keen attention to the limits of popular endurance.

Thus Henry's first step was to summon Parliament and follow the Lancastrian
precedent of obtaining its ratification of his own title to the throne. The
next step, necessitated by his position, was to cut the claws of the
Yorkists as a faction by striking at Richard's principal supporters. This
could only be done effectively by treating them as traitors--a proceeding
which could not but savour of tyranny, since they had at any rate been
supporting the _de facto_ King: so again Henry took the only means of
minimising the arbitrary character of his action, by obtaining
parliamentary sanction. Some ten years later, at the time of Perkin
Warbeck's attempted landing at Deal, he procured the remarkable enactment
that support of a _de facto_ King should not in the future be
accounted as treason to the successor who dethroned him--a measure
characterised by Bacon, writing a hundred years later, as too magnanimous
to be politic. In 1485 it would have been so; but at the actual time Henry
was himself the _de facto_ monarch; he had no wish to punish his
predecessor's supporters further; and he was really providing an inducement
to his subjects to be loyal to the ruling dynasty. At the same time he
could pose as advocating abstract justice in preference to the prevailing
practice by which he had himself profited; strengthening his own hands in
fact, while in theory he was introducing into politics the recognition of
an ethical principle which--as it happened--no longer conflicted with his
own advantage.

[Sidenote: Policy of lenity]

In fact Henry had an unusual perception of the political uses of a
judicious leniency: but the leniency was deliberate and considered. He
could also strike hard, on occasion. The rebels who were taken in the
fighting near Deal met with scant mercy; and a very few months earlier, the
execution of the apparently trusted and powerful William Stanley had been a
sharp reminder that the royal clemency could not be taken for granted.
Three years later he carried severity altogether beyond the limits of
justice in executing Warwick. But as a rule he was lenient to a degree
which had even its dangers. Simnel was treated as of too small account to
be worth punishing. Warbeck from his capture till his attempt to escape was
maintained in comfort and almost in freedom. Suffolk's earlier escapades
were pardoned. Kildare was repeatedly forgiven, and really converted into a
loyal subject. The Cornish insurgents of the Blackheath episode were dealt
with so tenderly that they took clemency for weakness. Warbeck's Cornish
rising was turned conveniently to account for the replenishment of the
royal treasury by the infliction of fines, but no one who had supported it
could complain of harsh treatment; rather they must have felt in every case
that they had been let off very easily according to all precedents.

Even when Lovel's and Simnel's risings were in actual progress, pardons
were offered to such of the rebels as would make haste to repent; and there
was no withdrawal of those pardons afterwards on more or less plausible
pretexts, in the manner of preceding Kings and of Henry's successor after
the Pilgrimage of Grace. Broadly speaking it was the King's policy to
emphasise the fact that he had no intention of attempting to play the
tyrant, or to vary a rash generosity by capricious blood-thirstiness, like
Richard III. The sole victim of tyrannous treatment in this sense
throughout the reign was the unhappy Warwick.

[Sidenote: Repression of the nobles]

But the attitude of strict conformity to law was entirely compatible with
that steady concentration of all real control in the King's hands, which
was the leading object of Henry's policy. For this purpose the primary
condition was that none of his subjects should be sufficiently powerful to
challenge his authority and raise the standard of revolt, as the King-Maker
and others had done in the past. The old nobility were practically wiped
out. Insignificant husbands were chosen for the daughters of York. The
blood of the Plantagenets ran in the veins of the house of Buckingham; but
it was only in the last generation that the De la Poles had mated with the
royal house, and their estates were much diminished; the Howards had
suffered as supporters of Richard. Surrey indeed was deservedly restored
to grace; but no amount of personal loyalty or of royal favour exempted the
nobles from the severe restriction of the old practice of maintaining
retainers in such numbers as to form a working nucleus for a fighting
force; nor were they allowed to accumulate wealth dangerously. Henry was
well pleased that his subjects should gather sufficient riches to feel a
strong interest in the maintenance of order, but not enough to use it to
create disorder.

Beyond this, however, he was careful to employ the nobles as ministers no
more than he could help. He laid the burdens of statesmanship as much as
possible on the clergy--on Morton and Fox and Warham. Fox, as Bishop of
Durham, played a part in the relations of England and Scotland at least as
influential as that of Surrey. After Morton's death Warham became
Chancellor. Yet each of these three bishops felt happier in the conduct of
his ecclesiastical functions than as a minister of the Crown. All three did
worthy and conscientious service, but would willingly have withdrawn from
affairs of State. They were counsellors, not rulers; the one real ruler was
the King himself.

While the King restrained the power of the nobility as military factors in
the situation, he developed his own control of military force by the
revival of the militia system, always theoretically in force, but
practically of late displaced by the baronial levies; and his hands were
further strengthened by the possession of the only train of artillery in
the realm, the value of which was markedly exemplified in the suppression
of the Cornish insurgents.

[Sidenote: The Star Chamber]

Another instrument in the King's hands, invaluable for the purpose of
holding barons and officials in check, was the institution which came to be
known as the Star Chamber. [Footnote: _Cf._ Maitland in _Social
England_, vol. ii., p. 655, ed. 1902; Busch, p. 267.] Beside the
development of the House of Peers as the highest court of judicature in the
realm, the development of the Great Council on similar lines had long been
going on. The two bodies differed somewhat in this way--that the peers had
the right of summons to the former, when the judges might be called in to
their assistance; whereas there were _ex officio_ members of the
Council who were not peers, and considerable uncertainty prevailed as to
the right of peers as peers to attend the Council. The customary powers of
the Council arose from the need of a court too powerful and independent to
be in danger of being intimidated or bribed by influence or wealth, able to
penalise gross miscarriage of justice fraudulently procured, and to take in
hand cases with which the ordinary courts would have had grave difficulty
in dealing. In exercising this function the Council practically came to
resolve itself into a judicial committee, meeting in a room known as the
Star Chamber, and its authority was regularised by Act of Parliament in
1487. Absorbing into its hands offences in the matter of "maintenance" and
"livery,"--_i.e._, broadly speaking, practices which the nobility had
indulged in for the magnification of their households, and the provision of
a military following--and being peculiarly subject to the royal influence,
it was exceedingly useful to the King in keeping the baronage within
bounds. Following, on the other hand, a procedure analogous to that of the
ecclesiastical courts, unchecked by juries, and having authority to punish
officers of the law whom it found guilty of illegal or corrupt practices,
its influence was gradually extended, so that the fear of it guided the
judgments of inferior courts. Under Henry VII., however, its functions were
exercised at least mainly in the cause of justice--they were used, not
abused--to the public satisfaction, as well as to the strengthening of the
King's own hands. The moderation with which Henry used the powers he was
accumulating concealed the latent possibility of the misuse of those same
powers by a capricious or arbitrary monarch.

[Sidenote: Henry's use of Parliament]

Not less conspicuous is Henry's application of the same principles in his
dealings with Parliament. He was careful, as we have seen, to secure for
his own claims the sanction of the National Assembly, and to give due
recognition to the authority of the estates of the realm. But he gave it no
opportunity of acquiring powers of initiative, and he directed his
financial policy to placing himself in such a position that he could escape
that extension of its controlling powers, which naturally followed whenever
a King found himself dependent on it for supplies. Throughout the first
half of his reign he summoned frequent Parliaments, obtaining considerable
grants on the pretext of foreign wars which were in themselves popular; but
he turned the wars themselves to account by evading extensive military
operations, and securing cash indemnities when peace was made. He even
resorted, when a serious emergency arose, to benevolences, which were
illegal; but he first secured the approval of the Council, which could
still act to some degree as a substitute for Parliament when the
Legislature was not in session, and he afterwards obtained the ratification
of Parliament itself. By this means he obtained more than sufficient for
the actual expenditure; in the meantime accumulating additional treasure by
forfeitures from rebels and fines for transgression of the law. We have
already observed his method of consistently resorting to pecuniary
penalties as an apparently lenient form of punishment, which conveniently
replenished his treasury. Thus, during the latter part of his reign, he was
able to do without Parliaments almost entirely; supplementing his revenues
through his agents Empson and Dudley, who made it their business to
discover pretexts for enforcing fines under colour of law, and often with
the flimsiest pretence of real justice.

[Sidenote: Financial exactions]

It was in this field that Henry overstepped his normal policy of not only
working through the law but avoiding misuse of it. For the filling of
Henry's treasury, the law was abused. The exactions of Empson and Dudley
were made possible by the statute of 1495, empowering judges, upon
information received, to initiate in their own courts trials of offenders
who were supposed to have escaped prosecution through the corruption or
intimidation of juries. Empson and Dudley being appointed judges found it
an easy task to provide informers, who laid before them charges on which a
case could be made out for fining the accused. In theory, of course, the
King was not responsible, and the guilty judges paid the penalty with their
lives early in the following reign. But the King did in fact get his full
share of the discredit attaching; and perhaps his methods in this
particular have been emphasised out of proportion to other traits in his
character and policy by popular writers. There is some reason to doubt if
Henry was ever quite fully aware of the extent to which these extortions
were distortions of law; and there is no doubt at all that Empson and
Dudley did not conduct their operations with a single eye to their master's
benefit, but contrived to intercept ample perquisites on their own account.
The statute was soon repealed under Henry VIII.

[Sidenote: Trade theories]

Modern economic theories depend for their validity on the postulates of the
transferability of capital and of labour. In proportion to the limitation
of the industries possible to a community, their laws apply, or fail to
apply, within that community. The development of a new industry may be
impossible, in the competition with established rivals, without artificial
assistance--assistance given to that industry at the expense of the
community at large; the preservation of an existing industry may demand
like assistance. When the labour and capital employed can be transferred
productively to another industry, it is obviously better that the transfer
should take place, and the failing industry lapse, than that the community
should be charged with maintaining an industry which cannot support itself
--whether or no the competitors driving it out of the market are enabled to
do so only by like extraneous assistance. When the capital and the labour
cannot be transferred, but the industry can be maintained by assistance,
the question becomes one of weighing the cost of maintenance to the
community against the injury to the community from the collapse of the
industry. Thus in any state with its commerce in the making, when the
transferability of capital and labour is at best in dispute, the theory of
buying in the cheapest market, wherever it is to be found, is not in
favour. It is held better to raise the prices to the point at which the
native product pays its native producers. In mediaeval times the foreigner
was _prima facie_ a person who came not to bring trade but to
appropriate it. Hence he was subjected to regulations, limitations and
charges for permission to carry on his operations. The next stage is
reached when reciprocal free trade is recognised as an advantage and mutual
concessions are made, restrictions and duties becoming, so to speak,
implements of war, often enough proving two-edged.

[Sidenote: Henry's commercial policy]

Henry VII. was not an economist far in advance of the theories of his age;
but economic considerations, as they were then understood, carried much
more weight, and generally played a much larger part in his policy than was
customary with the king-craft of the times, or with state-craft outside the
commercial republic of Venice, the commercial association of German Free
cities known as the Hansa or Hanseatic League, and the Netherlands.
Accordingly we find him using every available means to obtain a footing in
fresh foreign markets for the main English products of his day--wool and
woollen goods; to secure for English merchants the rights and privileges
which would enable them to compete on equal terms with the foreigner, and
to curtail those privileges of the foreigner in England. In the matter of
wool, the primacy of the English article was so thoroughly established that
little extraneous aid was required. But with manufactured woollen goods the
case was different, since the Flemings held the lead; and shipping also
demanded artificial encouragement--first, because it was necessary to
enterprise in the development of the export trade, at present largely
carried on in foreign bottoms; second, because the King was, at least to
some extent, alive to the strategic uses of a fleet which could be
requisitioned for war purposes.

[Sidenote: The Netherlands trade]

The great mart for English wool was the Netherlands, whose manufacturing
business required the raw product: the Netherlanders were more dependent on
England than the English were on them. Hence this trade was used by Henry
throughout his reign as a political lever--a means to political ends rather
than an end in itself. If his own subjects suffered from a customs war,
Philip's suffered more. So long as Burgundy made trouble on behalf of
Perkin Warbeck the battle went on. In 1496 Philip gave up the contest, and
the _Intercursus Magnus_ followed. Soon after the beginning of the new
century the fight was renewed, to be terminated by what the Flemings called
the _Intercursus Malus_, an arrangement so one-sided and pressing so
hard on them that its terms were practically impossible of fulfilment; and
Henry assented to their modification before his death, partly with a view
to overcoming the reluctance of Margaret of Savoy to accept his matrimonial

[Sidenote: The Hansa]

When Henry came to the throne, he found the export trade mainly in the
hands of two foreign groups--the Hansa, who had acquired privileges in
England which they did not reciprocate, and the Venetians, who held their
own without privileges by superior commercial acuteness--and of two English
groups, the Merchants of the Staple, who controlled the wool markets, and
the Merchant Adventurers, who were mainly interested in the manufactured
goods. The King therefore followed a consistent policy of straining, in a
restrictive sense, the interpretation of the concessions made to the Hansa,
of emphasising grievances against them and of pressing for counter-
privileges; and he successfully negotiated with Denmark in 1489 a
commercial treaty, which interfered with the Hansa monopoly of the
Scandinavian trade, by placing English merchants on a competitive footing
with them. In a similar manner, he brought pressure to bear on the
Venetians by opening direct relations with the Florentines at their port of
Pisa. It is curious to note incidentally that the export dues on raw wool
were enormously heavier than those on the manufactured goods; the
difference being made in order to encourage the home sale of the wool and
to stimulate the home manufacture by this means, as well as by encouraging
the foreign sale of the manufactured goods. It is also observable that when
an attempt was made by the London merchants to capture the worsted trade,
Henry nipped it in the bud. It was no part of his policy to allow
corporations--any more than individuals--to become powerful enough to
demand terms for their political support.

[Sidenote: The Navigation Acts]

Recognising, as we saw, the commercial advantage to England of doing her
own carrying trade and of multiplying ships and seamen, Henry--tentatively
at first, but with increasing confidence--adopted artificial methods of
encouraging this branch of industry, at the expense of free competition.
Very early in the reign a Navigation Act required that goods shipped for
England from certain foreign ports should be embarked on English vessels,
during a specified period. Then the Act was renewed for a longer period,
and finally without a time limit, and with more extended application. A
great impetus was given to English shipping, with momentous results which
can hardly have entered into Henry's calculations. He could not have
anticipated the vast extensions of empire which were to be the prize of the
nations with ocean-going navies, with the ocean itself for the great
battlefield; or even the extent to which commerce and naval preponderance
were destined to go hand in hand. The monopoly of the States with a
Mediterranean sea-board was coming to an end.

[Sidenote: Voyages of discovery]

Yet it was in his reign that the vast change was initiated. In 1492
Christopher Columbus made his great voyage: in 1497 Vasco da Gama sailed
for India, not westwards but southwards and eastwards round the Cape of
Good Hope. Ten years later, Albuquerque was founding a Portuguese Empire in
the Indian seas. Spain and Portugal, pioneers of the great movement, led
the way, one in the new world of the West, the other in the fabled world of
the East; where for many a year to come they were to divide a monopoly
authorised by the Papal Bull of Alexander VI. Before another century
closed, their dominion was to be challenged by England grown mighty and by
Holland emancipated. As yet, however, men dreamed only formless if gorgeous
dreams of what the unknown realms might bring forth. England played no very
large part in these early voyages. Christopher Columbus, craving to
discover a westerly route to the Indies, and failing of Portuguese support,
sent his brother Bartholomew to petition the English King for aid; but
Bartholomew was captured by pirates. Ultimately he reached England, but
before he could achieve his purpose, Christopher had found other helpers;
the prize fell to Ferdinand and Isabella. The first historic expedition
which sailed from English ports was captained not by an Englishman but by
another Italian, John Cabot, and his son Sebastian, in 1497. The Cabots
were Venetians who had for some time been established at Bristol. They
aimed for a north-west passage, and found Labrador and Newfoundland, cold,
inhospitable, producing no wealth: the explorers who sailed under Spanish
auspices struck the wealthy and entrancing regions of the south. There was
little enough material inducement beyond the simple spirit of enterprise to
attract capital to expend itself in aid of the Bristol men who followed in
the wake of Cabot. Henry deserves full credit for the encouragement and
actual pecuniary help which he rendered at first, and no blame for its
discontinuation. The daring of the adventurers was but ill repaid for the
time; yet a mighty harvest was to be reaped by England in the days to come.

[Sidenote: The rural revolution]

If England, however, did not for more than half a century turn the new
discoveries to material account, wealth and prosperity did increase greatly
in the towns, and the country recovered her lost position among the
commercial nations--partly from Henry's policy directed to that end, partly
from the comparatively settled conditions of life which gradually
prevailed. In the agricultural districts, however, this was hardly the
case, owing to the increasing tendency to substitute pasture for
cultivation. The country had no difficulty in producing sufficient for its
own consumption; and the development of the woollen manufacture made
sheep-farming in particular much more lucrative. But sheep-farming called
for the employment of many fewer hands; proprietors dispossessed small
tenants to make large sheep-runs; migration from the rural districts to the
nascent manufacturing centres was not a simple matter; and thus there was
no little distress, and a great multiplication of beggars and vagabonds.
The monasteries, which in the past had been progressive farmers, had
degenerated into landlords easy-going indeed but without enterprise. The
wealth of the gentry increased, but unemployment increased also, and labour
at the same time became cheaper. The evil was to a great extent realised;
in the Isle of Wight, which was rapidly becoming depopulated, an attempt
was made to improve matters by limiting the size of farms; the heavy export
duties on raw wool were doubtless intended actually to restrict the output
as well as to divert it to English rather than foreign manufacturers; but
since this did not effectively check the growing demand at home, the
production of wool remained so lucrative that it continued to be more
attractive than cultivation. Attempts were made to transfer labour from
agriculture to manufacture by interfering with, the restrictions imposed by
the trade-guilds (which always aimed at making themselves close bodies),
the object of such legislation being quite as much to prevent idleness as
to relieve distress. Nevertheless, the evil grew. Sir Thomas More in his
introduction to the _Utopia_, written early in the next reign, gives a
vigorous sketch of the prevalent vagabondage just before the death of
Cardinal Morton, adding to the causes above mentioned the number of lackeys
employed by the wealthy who when dismissed became a useless burden on the
community. He also charges the land-owners, expressly including many abbots
and others of the clergy, with causing depopulation and misery by forcing
up rents. From him too as well as from other sources we learn of the
frequency of crimes of violence, attributed by him to the reckless
employment of the death penalty for minor offences, encouraging the
fugitive criminal--already doomed if caught--to take life without

[Sidenote: The Church]

To a certain extent, then, we have to note among the causes of change in
rural districts the failure of the monasteries to discharge their old
function of agricultural leadership. In other respects, also, these
communities had fallen from the high standards of earlier days. Discipline
was lax. Visitations instituted by Cardinal Morton revealed the presence of
gross immorality, not only among the very small houses, but in so great an
institution as the Abbey of St. Albans, where the highest officials were
guilty of the gravest misbehaviour; and the correspondence seems to imply
that the disapprobation was by no means in proportion to the offences, from
which it is fair to infer that no high standard was normally expected. The
most to be looked for was an absence of flagrant misconduct. The clergy
were much more particular about ceremonial observances and ecclesiastical
privileges than about the morals either of themselves or of their flocks.
But as yet there was no sign of a coming Reformation. Lollardry, it is
true, had never been killed; its anti-clerical propaganda was by no means
inactive. But it worked beneath the surface, and could not be taken to
indicate an approaching convulsion. The greatest Churchmen of the day,
Morton, Warham and Fox, were absorbed--albeit reluctantly--in affairs of
State. Blameless, even austere in their own lives, patrons of learning,
sincerely pious, they lacked the Reformer's passion, without which it was
vain to combat the _vis inertiae_; generated by long years of clerical
sloth, and of the formalism by which the highest Mysteries were vulgarly
distorted into superstitions and Faith into ceremonial observances.

[Sidenote: Henry and Rome]

The first Tudor himself was a pious man, as piety was reckoned: punctual in
observances, commended and complimented by Popes. His chapel in Westminster
Abbey is evidence of his zeal in one direction; he gave alms with a
business-like regard to their post-mortem efficacy. Throughout his reign
the Popes made much talk of a new crusade, and Henry seems to have been the
one European monarch who took the idea seriously. It is true that when
Alexander VI. appealed in 1500 for funds to that end, the English King
preferred to be excused; but the polite irony of his refusal was more than
justified by his confidence that if the Pope got the money it would not be
expended for the benefit of Christendom; moreover, he did actually hand
over four thousand pounds. In fact, he took the Church as he found it.
There was but one almost infinitesimal curtailment of ecclesiastical
privileges in his reign, necessitated by political considerations and
accepted by the Pope, whereby the right of Sanctuary was withdrawn in cases
of treason.

[Sidenote: Learning and letters]

Practically it is only in the beginnings of an educational revival that we
find promise of the dawn of a new order. It was in Henry's reign that the
study of Greek, and with it the new criticism, began to establish itself.
Grocyn and Linacre led the way. In the last decade of the century John
Colet was lecturing at Oxford, the apostle of the new learning on its
religious side; calling his pupils to the study of the Scriptures
themselves, rather than of the schoolmen or doctors of the Church; treating
them as organic treatises, not as collections of texts. There he won the
friendship of young Thomas More; thither on flying visits came Erasmus
twice. Colet, made Dean of St. Paul's about 1505, continued to carry on his
educational work as the founder of the famous St. Paul's School; winning
renown also as a great preacher and a fearless moralist; a man of rich
learning, of a reverent enthusiasm, of a splendid sincerity, of a noble
simplicity; the prophet of much that was best, and of nothing that was not
best, in the coming Reformation.

But during Henry's reign Colet's figure is almost the only one--apart from
such representatives of erudition and scholarship as Grocyn and Linacre--
which stands forth holding out a promise of intellectual and moral
progress. In effect there was no literature; in this respect Scotland was
in advance of England with the verse of William Dunbar. More's
_Utopia_ was still unwritten. When Henry died the Universities had not
yet, or had only just, received within their portals the men who were to
fight the theological battle of the Reformation. More than half a century
was to pass before the splendid sunrise of the Shakespearian era.

[Sidenote: Henry's character]

It has hardly, perhaps, been the custom to render full justice to the
founder of the Tudor dynasty. His reign is stamped with a character sordid
and unattractive. There is no romance in it, no clashing of arms, no
valiant deeds, no suggestion of the heroic. The King's enemies are, for the
most part, contemptible persons; the King himself is a cold-blooded,
long-headed ruler, merciful indeed, but from policy, not from generosity,
and of a meanness in money matters very far from royal. Yet he was not
without virtues. He was not unjust; he was a statesman more loyal to his
pledges than most of his contemporaries or their successors. He gave
something like order and rest to a distracted land, and raised her again to
a position at least respectable among the nations, securing himself on a
most unstable throne without resorting to the usual methods of the tyrant.
Had he died when Morton died, the baser aspects of his reign would never
have achieved so unlovely a prominence as they have done.

The truth is, indeed, that judged by the first half of his reign alone
Henry might have been numbered among the princes with a title to be
regarded almost with affection. It is only in the light of the later years
that even his financial policy really assumes a mean aspect, though
occasionally it came perilously near what may be called sharp practice--and
the excuse was great, seeing that a full treasury was an absolutely
necessary condition of establishing the new rule. The imprisonment of
Warwick was an act of palpable injustice, yet the risk of letting him go
free would have been enormous. In another ruler than Henry, the leniency
which we attribute to astute policy would have been freely described as
surprising magnanimity. He never betrayed a loyal servant. His genuine
appreciation of the true spirit of chivalry was shown when he took Surrey
[Footnote: Surrey, the son of "Jockey of Norfolk," Richard's supporter, was
imprisoned in the Tower. At the time of Simnel's insurrection his gaoler
offered to let him escape, but he refused, saying that the King had sent
him to confinement, and only from the King would he accept release.] from
the Tower to entrust him with high command in the North. The luckless Lady
Katharine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, was treated with remarkable
courtesy and liberality. There was even a genial humour in the King's
behaviour to Kildare. His own marriage he doubtless looked upon as a purely
political affair; but while his wife lived his loyalty to his marriage vow
is in strong contrast to the general licentiousness of the princes of his
day; and the picture of Henry and Elizabeth striving in turn to comfort
each other on Prince Arthur's death, as recorded by a contemporary,
[Footnote: Gairdner, _Chron._, i., p. 36; Leland's _Collectanea_,
v., p, 373.] can hardly be fitted on to the conception of Henry as a man
almost without the more tender feelings of humanity.

[Sidenote: Deterioration after 1499]

Yet all this is forgotten or discoloured by reason of the ugly picture of
those later days when Morton and Prince Arthur and Elizabeth were gone. It
seems, indeed, as though a certain moral deterioration had set in from the
time when Henry made up his mind to do violence to his conscience by making
away with Warwick in 1499. Morton, his wisest counsellor, of whom More
gives a most attractive portrait in the _Utopia_, died the next year;
Arthur, whom he loved, in the spring of 1502; Elizabeth, always a refining
and softening influence, within a twelvemonth of Arthur. To these latter
years belong almost entirely the extortions of Empson and Dudley; the harsh
treatment of Katharine of Aragon, a helpless hostage in his hands; the
revolting proposal for a union with the crazy Joanna of Castile. This view
is further borne out when we observe that in these years also his political
foresight degenerates into craftiness, personal animosities playing a
larger part. The intellectual falling off is hardly less marked than the
moral. For the personal repute of a King who was almost, if not quite, one
of the great, it is to be regretted that his last years have cast a
permanent cloud over a reign which emphatically made for the good of the
nation over which he ruled.



[Sidenote: Europe in 1509]

Roughly speaking, the forty years preceding the accession of Henry VIII.
had witnessed the birth of modern Europe. The old feudal conception of
Christendom had passed away: the modern conception of organic States had
taken its place. The English Kings had for some time ceased to hold sway in
France, whether as claimants to the throne or as great feudatories. France
herself had become a united and aggressive nation; the fusion of the
Spanish monarchies was almost completed: the Emperor was no longer regarded
as the titular secular head of Christendom, but was virtually the chief of
a loose Germanic confederation. The Turk, finally established in Eastern
Europe, was shortly to find himself regarded as a possible ally of
Christian Powers; Christendom still reckoned the Pope as its spiritual
head, but the cataclysm was already preparing; and the enterprise of daring
seamen had but just rent the veils that had hidden from the nations of
Europe the boundless possibilities of a new world in the West and an
ancient world in the East, converting the pathless ocean into the great

[Sidenote: England's position in Europe]

Since the death of the conqueror Henry V., England herself had been rent
and torn by internal broils. For many a long year she had taken but little
share in the affairs of Europe. But it had been the part of the first Tudor
King to win for her breathing time; to secure a period for rest and
internal recuperation, which should fit her to hold her own in the counsels
of Europe should her interests demand it. The civil broils were ended;
trade had revived; wealth had been accumulating. Henry had not sought
military glory, but he had played the game of diplomacy with acuteness and
finesse. When he ascended the throne, the princes of Europe had regarded
England as a Power that might safely be neglected unless she could be used
as a cat's-paw; but before he died they had learned that they could no
longer negotiate with him except on equal terms. In a sense, perhaps, it is
true that England was still reckoned as no more than a third-rate
[Footnote: _Cf._ Brewer, _Reign of Henry VIII._, i., p.3;
Creighton, _Wolsey_, p. 11. The estimate, however, seems to be rather
the outcome of an inclination to magnify Wolsey's achievement.] power,
since her military prestige had fallen and the chances of its restoration
were untested, while her interests would not naturally lead her into active
participation in European complications; but she had at least achieved
sufficient importance for the Powers to desire her favour rather than her
ill-will, and for herself to be able to put a price on her support when it
was asked.

[Sidenote: The new King]

So far, however, it was rather respect for the personal ability of Henry
VII. than a high estimate of the English nation that had secured the
English position; and when the astute old monarch was succeeded on the
throne by a frank, high-spirited lad of eighteen, the Princes of Europe
flattered themselves that England would revert to the position of a
cat's-paw. From this point of view the first beginnings of the reign were
promising. Europe, however, was soon to be undeceived; to discover that the
young King had an unfailing eye for a capable minister, a sincere devotion
to his own interests, and an unparalleled power of reconciling the dictates
of desire and conscience.

At home, circumstances combined to render Henry extraordinarily popular.
Handsome, endowed with a magnificent physique, a first-rate performer in
all manly exercises, gifted with many accomplishments, scholar enough to be
proud of his scholarship, open of hand, frank and genial of manner, with a
boyish delight in his endowments and a boyish enthusiasm for chivalric
ideals, all English hearts rejoiced in his accession. The scholars looked
forward to a Saturnian age; his martial ardour fired the hopes of the
fighting men; the populace hailed with joy a King who began his rule by
striking down the agents of extortion to whom he owed the wealth inherited
from his economical sire. Henry in fact was blessed with the most valuable
of all possessions for a ruler of men, a magnetic personality, which made
his servants ready to go through fire and water, to stifle conscience, to
forgo their own convictions at his bidding.

When he ascended the throne, however, none had the glimmering of a
suspicion whither that imperious will was to direct the destinies of the
nation: his earliest acts gave little indication of the later developments
of his character and policy.

[Sidenote: 1509 Marriage]

His first step was to complete the marriage with Katharine of Aragon, to
whom he had been betrothed, under the papal dispensation, on the death of
his elder brother, her husband. It is not without interest to note, in view
of a plea put forward against the "divorce" in later years, that the bride
was arrayed for the wedding as one who was not a widow but a maiden.
Shortly afterwards Empson and Dudley, his father's unpopular agents, were
brought to the block after attainder on a not very credible charge of
treason, [Footnote: Brewer, i., p. 44; _L. & P._, i., 1212.] since the
misdeeds of which they had been guilty could hardly be construed into
capital offences.

Now, however, events on the Continent were to offer a field for Henry's
ambitions, and incidentally to disillusion, at least in part, his young

[Sidenote: The Powers: 1509-12]

The three great Powers--France, Spain, and the Empire--which had been
evolved out of the mediaeval European system, were united in the desire of
preventing Italy from following their example and consolidating into a
nation. Venice, as the one Italian State strong enough to have some chance
of combining the rest under her leadership, was the object not only of
their jealousy but also of the Pope's. A few months before the death of
Henry VII., these four combined in the League of Cambrai, for the
dismemberment of Venice. The allies, however, were not guided in their
actions by any altruistic motives--any excessive regard for the interests
of their associates. The French King, Lewis XII., by prompt and skilful
action, made himself master of the north of Italy before the rest were
ready to move. This was by no means to the taste of Ferdinand or of Pope
Julius; but as yet Maximilian had seen no reason to be displeased.
Ferdinand would not risk a quarrel with Maximilian, which might have led to
that monarch's interference in Castile on behalf of the boy Charles--his
grandson as well as Ferdinand's--the nominal King of that portion of what
Ferdinand looked on as his own dominions. So the crafty old King bided his
time, dropping a quiet hint to young Henry in England that a moment might
be approaching favourable to an English attack on France, in revival of the
ancient claim to the crown, or at any rate to Guienne.

Henry, as yet unskilled in the tortuous diplomacy of his father-in-law, was
well content to be guided by his advice. Ferdinand intrigued to unite
Julius and Maximilian against France, and to shift the burden of battle,
when it should come, off his own shoulders on to Henry's. Meantime, the
outward professions to France remained of the most amicable character.

[Sidenote: 1512 Dorset's expedition]

Then Lewis made a blunder which gave his enemies their opening. He called a
General Council at Pisa which was in effect an attack on the spiritual
authority of Rome. By the end of 1510, Julius was at open war with the
French King; Ferdinand was in alliance with the Pope; in the course of the
next year, the Holy League was formed; a combined attack was concerted; and
in June, 1512, an English expedition, under the command of Lord Dorset,
landed in Spain, on the theory that it was to be assisted by Ferdinand in
the conquest of Guienne.

The expedition was a melancholy failure. The English troops and their
commander were alike inexperienced in war; Ferdinand would not move against
Guienne, urging with some plausibility that the securing of Navarre was a
needful preliminary; the soldiers wanted beer and had to put up with
Spanish wines; finally they insisted on returning to England, and Dorset
had to put the best face he could on a very awkward situation. Officially
it was announced that the withdrawal was made with Ferdinand's approval.

So far, the European anticipations of England's incapacity had been duly
fulfilled. A military fiasco had accompanied an innocence of diplomatic
guile which looked promising to the Continental rulers. But the promise was
to be disappointed.

[Sidenote: Rise of Wolsey]

Henry VII. had avoided war and had been his own foreign minister; when he
died, he left to form his son's Council some capable subordinates like Fox
the Bishop of Winchester, but no one experienced in the responsibilities of
control. Among the noble houses, the Howards were shortly to display at
least a fair share of military capacity. But it was to a minister of at
best middle-class origin, a rising ecclesiastic who had, however, hitherto
held no office of the first rank, that England was to owe a surprisingly
rapid promotion to European equality with the first-class Powers.

With that skill in selecting; invaluable servants which distinguished his
entire career, Henry VIII. by the time he was one-and-twenty had already
discovered in Thomas Wolsey the man on whose native genius and unlimited
power of application he could place complete reliance.

Wolsey had been employed on diplomatic missions by the old King; whose
methods he had gauged and whose policy he had assimilated, but only as a
basis for far-reaching developments. He was brought into the Royal Council
by Fox, partly no doubt in the hope that he would counteract the influence
of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and others of the nobles who were
martially inclined and imbued with a time-honoured hostility to France. It
was no long time before he outshone his patron, who, however, had rightly
judged his tendencies. Wolsey was no friend to war, and had no hostility to
France, for the plain reason that he preferred diplomatic to military
methods, and was quite as well pleased to advance English interests by
alliance with France as by alliances against her if he saw his way to
profit thereby. It is probable enough that he would have avoided the war
with France if he had had the power; since he had not, he devoted his
energies to making the war itself as successful as possible.

[Sidenote: 1513 The French war]

The arrangements for the Guienne expedition had not unnaturally been
singularly defective. Wolsey devoted himself with untiring zeal to the
organisation of a new expedition in the following spring. Nothing was left
to chance over which it was possible for one man's energy to exercise
supervision. The first outcome was a naval engagement off Brest on 25th
April, wherein the English admiral, Sir Edward Howard, restored at least
the English reputation for valour, falling--overwhelmed by numbers--on the
deck of the French flag-ship which he had boarded almost single-handed. The
French fleet was much larger than that of the English, and the attack on it
which he led was a desperate enterprise in which his ships were beaten off;
but those who had jeered at the failure in Guienne were silenced, and Henry
was enabled to land his troops undisturbed at Calais at the end of June.
Both the King and Wolsey were with the army, and proceeded to lay siege, on
1st August, to Terouenne, which was partially re-victualled by the bold
dash of a relief party of horsemen through the besieger's lines. Here the
besiegers were shortly joined by a contingent under Maximilian (who
professed himself a mere volunteer under the English King). The advancing
French array was put to complete rout in the "battle of the Spurs"--the
consequence of a sudden panic--and on August 22nd Terouenne
surrendered. Tournai followed suit a month later.

In the meantime, events of moment had been taking place on the Scottish

[Sidenote: Scotland 1499-1513]

James IV., as we have seen, had by no means been on continuously good terms
with Henry VII., and had lent a good deal more than merely moral support to
the pretensions of Perkin Warbeck. At the close of the adventurer's active
career in the end of 1497, a treaty was made between England and Scotland
which was to remain in force till a year after the death of either monarch;
and there were further treaties when James married Margaret Tudor in 1503.
On the other hand, James had always maintained the traditional alliance
with France, and in 1507 had declined the papal invitation to enter the
league then formed to resist French aggression. Since the accession of
Henry VIII., the relations between the two countries had been exceedingly
strained. There were personal quarrels about jewels retained in England
which James claimed for his wife. Scottish sea-captains had been treated as
pirates by the English authorities. Henry, having joined the league against
France, wished to patch up the quarrel with James; James, incited by the
French, would not make friends with the active enemy of France; the French
Queen sent him a message bidding him strike a blow on English ground as her
knight. West, [Footnote: Brewer, _Henry VIII._, p.29. _L & P_.,
i., 1926, 3128, 3129, 3811, 3838, 3882.] the English ambassador, gives a
highly uncomplimentary account of James's bearing at this time, but his
evidence may be coloured. At any rate, there can have been little doubt in
James's mind that a successful war with France would leave Henry ready to
make himself extremely unpleasant to Scotland, even though he might not
patently set the treaty aside; and for himself there was a degree of
obligation to help France when she came to open hostilities with England;
while Henry's instructions to West are hardly consistent with a character
for stainless and unassailable honour. [Footnote: _Cf._ Lang,
_Hist. Scot._, i., p.375; commenting on Brewer, _Henry VIII._,
pp.28, 29 _q.v._]

[Illustration: Map: Campaign of FLODDEN showing Surrey's March]

[Sidenote: 1513 James invades England (Aug.)]

At any rate, the conclusion of the matter was that when Henry sailed for
Calais, James soon made up his mind, with the support of most of the
nobility, to declare war, and sent Henry his defiance--as he had promised
West to do before opening hostilities. On 22nd August he was in England at
the head of a great army; by the end of the month, Norham Castle, Ford, and
other strongholds were in his hands. [Footnote: _Cf._ Lang, _Hist.
Scot._, i., p. 377.] Thereafter, he entrenched himself on Flodden Ridge,
and awaited the approach of the English army.

Queen Katharine and the Earl of Surrey had been left in charge at home when
the King with Wolsey and Fox also crossed the channel. To the Queen's
energy the successful results were in no small degree due, as well as to
the military skill and audacity of the Howards, and to James's reckless
disregard of strategical and tactical principles.

Had the Scottish monarch held to his plans, his campaign could hardly have
failed to be successful. His army was large, and well victualled; his
position on Flodden Edge was exceedingly strong; he had secured the
fortresses which might otherwise have threatened him on flank or rear. His
object was to entice the English commander, Surrey, away from his base, and
force him to fight at a disadvantage, or to see his levies melt away, for
lack of provisions. Surrey, advancing from Alnwick to Wooler, tried to
inveigle him into descending from the Ridge to the open plain, but James
was not to be tempted.

[Sidenote: Flodden (Sept.)]

Eastward of Flodden the Till flows north to join the Tweed. Surrey put the
Till between himself and the Scottish army, and marched north, his movement
masked by hills on his left, with the intention of reaching Berwick, or of
threatening the Scottish communications. Arrived at Barmoor Wood, the
Admiral, Thomas Howard, Surrey's son, proposed to march west, cross the
Till, and move south again, threatening the rear of James's position. The
operation, involving a very hard march, was carried out. The main army
crossed at Twizel Mill, the rearguard fording the stream as high up as
Sandyford; the junction being effected behind Branxton Marsh. The passage
of the troops might easily have been prevented; but James, very
inefficiently served in scouting, knew nothing of what was going on. When
the approach of the English became known, he suddenly resolved to descend
and give battle [Footnote: The traditions concerning the King and the old
Earl of Angus on this occasion have been very untenderly handled by
Mr. Andrew Lang, _Hist. Scot._, 1., p. 390.] on the plain, instead of
remaining in his almost impregnable position. So on the afternoon of
September 9th was fought the bloody and decisive battle of Flodden. Of the
two armies, the Scottish was probably the larger; but the English captains
had their troops better in hand than the border lords on the Scottish left,
or the highland chiefs on their right. After fierce fighting, the Scottish
wings were broken, and the Scottish centre was completely enveloped. There,
headed by the King, fought the pick of the Scottish chivalry. The stand
made was magnificent, the slaughter appalling. The English victory this
time was one not of the bow--as so often before--but of the bill or axe
against the spears in which the northern nation trusted. By hewing away the
spear-heads, the English disabled their opponents; yet they fought on, till
man by man they fell around their monarch. The King himself, brave as any
man on the field, was slain; in the ring of his dead companions in arms
were found the bodies of thirteen earls, three bishops, and many valiant
lords. There were few families in Scotland which did not contribute to that
hecatomb, whereof the memory is enshrined in the national song of
lamentation, "The Flowers of the Forest".

[Effects of Flodden]

For many a long year the military power of Scotland was broken on the black
day of Flodden. From that quarter Henry was to have no more serious fears.
Great and decisive, however, as Surrey's [Footnote: Surrey was rewarded
with the Dukedom of Norfolk, held by his father. Accordingly, after this he
becomes "Norfolk," and his son Thomas becomes "Surrey". In 1524 the son
succeeded to the Dukedom, and is the "Norfolk" of the latter half of the
reign, the "Surrey" of its last years being his son Henry.] triumph was,
the English also had paid a heavy price, and were unable to follow up
victory by invasion. But Scotland had not only lost the best and bravest of
her sons; the King's death left the Crown to a babe not eighteen months
old, and the government of the country to the babe's mother, Margaret, the
sister of Henry VIII., and to a group of nobles, to whose personal feuds
and rivalries, constantly fomented by English diplomacy, the interests of
the Scottish nation were completely subordinated.

[Sidenote: Recovery of English prestige]

The year 1513 had completely restored the reputation of the English
arms. The sea-fight off Brest, the successes at Terouenne and Tournai, and,
finally, the great victory of Flodden, proved beyond dispute that
Englishmen only needed to be well led to show themselves as indomitable as
ever they had been in the past. The march of 8th and 9th September
immediately before Flodden was a feat which not many commanders would have
cared to attempt, and few troops could have carried out. And it had become
evident that generalship was not, after all, a lost art. It was now time
for Europe to discover that England, habitually inferior to other nations
in the arts of diplomacy, possessed in Wolsey a diplomatist of the highest
order. The old King had indeed been as little susceptible to the
beguilement of fair promises, as shrewd in detecting his neighbours'
designs, little less capable of concealing his own, little less tenacious
in pursuing them; but his designs themselves had not the amplitude of
Wolsey's, who shewed all Henry's skill combined with a far greater audacity
in execution, commensurate with the greater audacity and scope of his
conceptions. Wolsey was one of those statesmen, rare in England, who for
half a generation aimed, with a large measure of success, at dominating the
combinations of the European Powers without involving the country in any
tremendous war.

[Sidenote: 1514 Foreign intrigues]

Before the winter of 1513 Henry VIII. returned to England, with every
intention of following up his successes in the French war in the ensuing
year. The campaign, however, had not been at all to the liking of
Ferdinand, who gained nothing by the English victories in the north-west.
These tended to strengthen his grandson Charles in the Netherlands, where
Maximilian's influence over him was stronger; while Ferdinand was bent
above all things on maintaining his own control over the boy, and by
consequence over Castile. So Ferdinand set about making his own peace
privily with France, and trying to draw off Maximilian so as to isolate
Henry. In April, 1514, he accomplished his object, and a truce was declared
between Ferdinand, the Emperor, and France.

In mid-winter Henry had been struck down by small-pox; he recovered to find
these intrigues in active progress, and was highly indignant. His martial
projects were, of course, thrown entirely out of gear. Ferdinand, however,
had found his match. The English King, when the dictates of his personal
interests, translated into terms of conscience, did not obscure the issues
at stake, had an acute perception of political expediency, untrammelled by
the traditional sentiment which biased the judgment of advisers of the type
of Surrey (now raised to the Dukedom of Norfolk). It was Wolsey who swayed
his counsels, and Wolsey perceived in an alliance with France an effective
alternative to the collapsed alliance against her.

[Sidenote: Policy of French alliance ]

No sooner had he detected the intrigues of Ferdinand than he set his
counterplot on foot through the medium of the Duc de Longueville, who had
been taken prisoner at the battle of the Spurs and sent over to
England. The death of the French Queen, Anne of Brittany, gave him a
convenient opening as early as January.

Throughout this century, as in the reign of Henry VII., royal betrothals
and royal marriages play an immense part in international negotiations:
princesses are the shuttlecocks of statesmen. This particular form of
diplomatic recreation now springs again into sudden prominence.

[Sidenote 1: The French marriage]
[Sidenote 2: 1515 Francis I]

Henry's younger sister Mary was plighted to the young Charles of Castile
and the Netherlands, who was to marry her in the ensuing summer; he being
now fourteen, and she about seventeen. The boy's two grandfathers, now both
disposed to leave England detached and isolated, began finding excuses for
deferring the match. Wolsey pressed them, while secretly negotiating for
Mary's marriage with Lewis of France. Thus when his plans were ripe, and
not before, he found himself able to declare that the breach was entirely
the fault of the other side, whose objects were frustrated by the new
alliance, which had not entered into their reckoning. There was no further
prospect of keeping France and England embroiled while they appropriated
the spoils. Mary was married to the French King in October, and Henry was
certainly projecting, in conjunction with him, an aggressive movement
against his former allies, on the plea that his wife Katharine shared with
her sister the succession to Castile, when the tangible results of the
marriage were nullified by the death on January 1st of Lewis, and the
succession to the French throne of his cousin Francis I., a prince who was
some years younger than Henry himself, and quite as much athirst for
military glory.

Again diplomacy intrigued about the person of Lewis's widow. Charles
Brandon, [Footnote: Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk in the last reign,
and Yorkist intriguer, was executed, apparently without further trial, in
1513. The Dukedom of Suffolk was bestowed on Brandon whom Mr. Froude's
imagination has somehow developed into "the ablest soldier of the age," but
he never did anything to justify a high estimate of his abilities.] Duke of
Suffolk, an intimate personal friend of Henry's and a stout man-at-arms,
who was also personally devoted to the Princess Mary, was selected by
Wolsey as a better negotiator than one of the anti-French party. Henry and
Francis were both keen hands at a bargain, and there was serious trouble as
to Mary's dower and the financial arrangements connected with her
return. Francis gained his purposes by alarming Mary and at the same time
encouraging Suffolk to marry her out of hand; which he did, secretly. After
that, there could be no more talk of Mary's dowry being repaid; and Henry
had to content himself with making heavy demands on Suffolk's purse. The
event is of further significance, because Henry at present had no
offspring, and the young King of Scotland, son of his sister Margaret, was
heir presumptive to the throne; whereas if his younger sister Mary should
have children, it was certain that there would be a party to support their
claim in preference to that of the Scottish monarch. In fact, ultimately,
Mary's grandchild Lady Jane Grey was actually put up as a claimant to the

[Sidenote: Marignano (Sept.)]

The general effect however was, that Francis drew away from the English
alliance, and associated himself more closely with Ferdinand; having
Italian conquests and more particularly Milan in view. In the summer he set
out, crossed the Alps with unexpected success, and in September won the
great victory of Marignano, routing the Swiss troops which had hitherto
been reputed invincible. Such triumphant progress however was more than the
other monarchs or the Pope, Leo X., had reckoned for, and there was a rapid
and general reaction in favour of checking the French King's career. The
inflation of the power of France was satisfactory to no one else; but
incidentally the effect was not disadvantageous to Wolsey, since it forced
Pope Leo into an attitude of compliance with English demands in order to
secure English support, with the result that Wolsey was raised to the
Cardinalate, having recently been made Archbishop of York. "The Cardinal of
York" is the title by which he is named in official references from this
time (Nov., 1515).

Here it may be noted that a daughter, afterwards Queen Mary, was born to
the King early in 1516. Before this time, two sons at least--according to
some authorities no fewer than four--had been born, but had died either at
birth or shortly after.

[Sidenote: 1516-17 European changes]

During the winter, Wolsey--having no wish to plunge England into war--
persuaded Maximilian (by means of a very able diplomatic agent, Richard
Pace) to take up arms against Francis in Italy. As a rule, Maximilian took
sides with any one whose gold he expected to divert into his own pocket;
but Pace managed to keep the English subsidies, which were to pay the Swiss
Mercenaries, out of the Emperor's hands; so the Emperor retired from the
war in the spring. Early in this year, too, Ferdinand died, leaving Charles
lord of all Spain as well as of the Netherlands. This left the young King
to the guidance of advisers whose interests were mainly Flemish, and who
were consequently anxious in the first place for the friendship of
France. Hence in August the treaty of Noyon was contracted between Francis
and Charles; in which the Emperor shortly afterwards joined when he found
that England would not provide him with funds unless he earned
them. Wolsey's real strength lay in the fact that neither Maximilian nor
Charles could afford any serious expenditure without his financial support;
Francis was waking up to the fact that as allies they were both broken
reeds, though in active combination with Wolsey against him they would be
dangerous; and as the year 1517 passed, the inclination for France and
England to revert to amicable relations revived; becoming more marked in
the following year when the birth of a dauphin suggested his betrothal to
the little Princess Mary.

[Sidenote: 1518-19 Wolsey's success]

During these two years, the reality of Wolsey's control of the situation
was further demonstrated by his management of the Pope, who refused him the
office of legate after having reluctantly made him Cardinal. Leo however,
like other Princes, was in want of cash, and sent legates to the European
Courts to raise funds under colour of a crusade: whereupon Henry declined
to admit Cardinal Campeggio to England, on the ground that to receive a
legate _a latere_ was against the rule of the realm. Wolsey seized the
opportunity to suggest that if he himself, being an English prelate, were
placed on the same official footing as Campeggio, the objection might be
withdrawn; and Leo had to agree.

In the result, an alliance was concluded with France under which the
infants were betrothed, Tournai was restored to France. France was to pay
60,000 crowns and promise not to interfere in Scottish affairs to the
detriment of England, and Wolsey was enabled to pose as the pacificator of
Europe; the other Powers with more or less reluctance all finding
themselves constrained to give their adherence to the new treaty of
Universal Peace.

Thus when the year 1519 opened, Wolsey's policy was triumphant. France was
bound to England; the young King of Spain wanted her friendship; Maximilian
was still looking to her for money; and the Pope was obliged to applaud her
for having usurped his official function as peacemaker. But in the days
when war and peace and the movements of armies turned habitually on the
personal predilections, quarrels, and amours of monarchs, the political
atmosphere was liable to violent disturbances without warning. In January,
1519, Maximilian died suddenly; and his death in fact involved a complete
rearrangement of ideas as to the positions of the Powers.

[Sidenote 1: 1519 Charles V.]
[Sidenote 2: The Imperial election]

Ten years before, when Henry came to the throne, he was the only young man
among the European sovereigns. The Emperor and the King of France were both
more than middle-aged: so was the King of Aragon who was virtually King of
Spain and the Sicilies. Before six years were out there was a youthful King
of France; not much later, all Spain was under the dominion of a boy. These
three Kings were now twenty-eight, twenty-four, and nineteen respectively,
while the succession to the Empire lay with the Electoral Princes. Charles
was an obvious candidate, since the Habsburgs had actually retained the
office among themselves for three generations; yet the Electors were in no
way bound to maintain the tradition. In ability and in character, one of
their number was fit for the purple--Frederick of Saxony; but Saxony was
only one among a number of German States, and Frederick himself had no mind
to undertake the office. Thereupon ensued the somewhat curious spectacle of
the French King entering the lists, he being the one possible rival of
Charles. Of all the Continental Princes, these two alone were powerful
enough to sustain the burden of the Empire: yet either of them, achieving
it, would have his power dangerously expanded, and would become a serious
menace to the Pope.

So Charles and Francis both intrigued and bribed the Electors; the Pope
tried to avoid helping either; Wolsey promised support to both; and the
Electors themselves watched for opportunities of raising the price of their
suffrages. And presently Henry himself conceived the idea of getting
himself put forward as a third candidate, through whom a way of escape
might be found for those who regarded Francis and Charles as Scylla and
Charybdis. The combination however of the Crown of England with the
Imperial diadem was no improvement in their eyes. Leo did not wish to find
himself in Wolsey's grip. The scheme must almost inevitably have been
fraught with disaster both to England and the Empire. Wolsey of necessity
made himself the instrument of his master's desires; but while he selected
as his agent Pace, the most astute of his subordinates, Pace's own
correspondence is a good deal concerned with hints that an over-zealous
pursuit of the policy would be a bartering of the substance for the shadow
of power, and with explanations of the impracticability of an effective
electoral campaign. Pace, in fact, went very little beyond sounding the
Electors and declaring the results to be extremely unpromising; a state of
things to which we may infer that neither he nor Wolsey had any
objection. In the end, the influence of England was employed in favour of
Charles, who was chosen Emperor in the middle of summer. The three
sovereigns, Charles V., Francis I., and Henry VIII., dominated Europe for
nearly thirty years to come--an unusually long period for three princes to
reign side by side.

It was now Wolsey's difficult business to keep both Francis and Charles as
suitors for the favour of England; and, having placated the latter in the
contest for the Empire, to turn his attention to the former.

[1520 Wolsey's triumph]

Francis was at this time ready to meet Wolsey more than half way. He was
particularly desirous of holding a formal interview and a personal
interchange of courtesies with the King of England; and to this end he
actually appointed Henry's minister his own plenipotentiary, a position
without precedent or parallel for an English subject. Wolsey prepared to
make the meeting an occasion for such a display of magnificence as has
rarely been witnessed. At the same time he emphasised the independent
position of England by arranging for a separate preliminary interview
between Henry and the Emperor, and making it clear that herein it was not
the Emperor who was doing the King a favour, but the contrary. If Charles
wished to meet Henry, he must come to England for the purpose. Meantime
both monarchs sought to obtain the great minister's goodwill by promises of
support when the Papacy should become vacant--promises which Wolsey would
not permit to influence his plans; whether because he rated them at their
true value, or because he had no great anxiety to barter the position he
had already secured for one which, however magnificent, however dominant in
theory, might convey actual power of a much less substantial kind.

[Sidenote: Rival policies]

The French alliance, it must be observed, was never popular in England.
Tradition was against it; the nobles of the old families were against it;
the Queen was also naturally against it and very anxious for close and
friendly relations with Spain. A degree of antagonism was thus generated
between Katharine and the Cardinal, who held resolutely to his policy of
maintaining the balance and never so committing himself to one party as to
preclude a _rapprochement_ with the other.

There was much intriguing on the part of Francis to bring on the meeting of
the Kings before Charles could visit England. The state of the French
Queen's health on one side and of the English Queen's wardrobe on the other
figured largely as conclusive reasons for haste or delay. Wolsey however
gained the day. The meeting was fixed to take place early in June between
Guisnes and Ardres. In the last week of May (1520), Charles came to
England, remaining three days; a week later, Henry sailed for Calais.

[Sidenote: Field of the Cloth of Gold]

It might almost be said that the entire courts of England and France,
nobles and knights and ladies, met on the famous "field of the Cloth of
Gold". Jousts and feastings were the order of the day. Wolsey understood
how to impress the popular imagination; and he had a magnificent scorn or a
cynical contempt for the enmities and jealousies aroused, of which he
himself, as responsible for all the arrangements, became the centre. It may
be doubted, however, whether any great goodwill between the two nations was
born of all the display of amity; nor were there any very marked diplomatic
results. If it was Wolsey's particular object to evolve a triple league, he
was disappointed. The two Kings met and parted, Henry proceeding to a fresh
conference with his nephew of Spain, from which Francis, in his turn, was
excluded. Neither Charles nor Francis knew in the end which of them stood
in the more favourable position with England; but the little Princess Mary,
betrothed to the Dauphin, was half-pledged to Charles himself; while
Charles was still formally betrothed to the French Princess Charlotte, and
was inclining to substitute for both the well-dowered Infanta Isabella
[Footnote: Otherwise called Elizabeth. The names are interchangeable.] of
Portugal. Among all the surprising matrimonial complications of this
half-century, one particular feature appears to be tolerably constant--that
when Charles was not actually married, he was rarely without at least one
fiancée actual, and another prospective.

At any rate, the total result in 1520 was that Henry was in separate
alliance with Francis on one side and with Charles on the other; alliances
which neither could afford to break, but on which neither could rely.

[Sidenote: Wolsey's aims]

The main interest of Wolsey's career, from the national point of view,
attaches to his conduct of foreign policy: and in the confusion of
alliances and counter-alliances it is not always easy to recognise the
objects of that policy or its fundamental consistency. The aim always in
view was to prevent any Power or combination of Powers from dominating
Europe; to substitute diplomacy for the actual arbitrament of arms; to
secure for England recognition as the true arbiter without involving her in
war. The three first-class Powers of the earlier years were reduced to two
by the combination under one head, Charles V., of Spain and the Empire,
with France as the sole Continental rival.

But behind Wolsey's own policy was the traditional one of hostility to
France, popular in the country, supported by the nobility, and offering
attractions to an ambitious and martial-minded monarch who was not yet
thirty years of age: whose Queen moreover was by birth and sympathy a
strong partisan of Spain. Hence the Cardinal was liable to be forced out of
his mediatorial position into one of hostility to France.

[Sidenote: Charles and Francis]

On the other hand, Francis and Charles each desired to strengthen his own
position at the expense of the other. Each therefore desired an alliance
with England close enough to secure her aid in an aggressive programme. But
while Charles required active assistance and subsidies, seeking to throw on
England the real burden of accomplishing his designs, Francis was
comparatively satisfied with English neutrality. Again, while an
aggressive alliance with Charles offered some uncertain prospects of the
acquisition of French territory, circumstances were once more tending to
enable Francis to utilise the ancient Scottish alliance as a means of
holding England in check.

[Sidenote: Scotland 1513-20]

Since the decisive battle of Flodden, Scotland had not to any marked degree
influenced Wolsey's European diplomacy. The blow dealt to her had been too
serious: and the nobles, always turbulent, had never been more so than
during the years which followed the great defeat. Queen Margaret, sister of
the English King, a woman of only five and twenty when James was killed,
made haste to marry the young Earl of Angus within a year of the event. The
Douglases had frequently headed the Anglicising factions of the Scottish
nobility, whereas the country at large constantly favoured the traditional
alliance with France and hostility to the Southron. At present, the
Douglases of whom Angus was the chief headed one faction: the Hamiltons,
whose chief was Arran, headed the other. The marriage put an end to the
arrangement under which Margaret had been Regent; there was intriguing and
fighting to obtain possession of the person of the infant King; the Duke of
Albany, [Footnote: Albany's father had been brother of James III.; their
sister was Arran's mother.] of the royal house, who had been bred in
France, was sent for, in the hope that as Regent he would compose discords.
In the summer of 1515 he arrived. In the meantime, Dacre, in charge of the
English border, had been fomenting quarrels [Footnote: _Lang_,
_Hist. of Scotland_, i., 395. L. & P., ii., 779, 795.] and suborning
outlaws to raid and devastate in the border counties, and plotting
unsuccessfully to have James carried off into England to the tender care of
his uncle. Albany, for his part, demanded the custody of the child, which
was refused by Margaret; who however was forced to surrender with a show of
friendliness. But she herself very shortly took refuge in England.

In 1517 Albany withdrew to France with a view to resuscitating the French
alliance; the rivals Arran and Angus were again the two most powerful of
the nobles; Margaret returned to Scotland, but quarrelled with her husband.
In 1520 Albany was still in France which he probably found more cheerful
than his own country. Angus got the better of Arran, who fled to France.
There however Francis was still aiming at close alliance with England; and
under such a combination of favourable conditions the truce between England
and Scotland, entered upon in 1514 and now about to terminate, was extended
for a couple of years. But Margaret herself being now hostile to Angus,
there was every prospect that, should Albany return to Scotland, Wolsey
would have to reckon seriously with the anti-English party there as a
factor in his diplomatic relations with France.

[Sidenote: 1520-21 Affairs abroad]

The closing months of 1520 arid the opening months of 1521 witnessed events
of importance at the time-and one at least which had very far-reaching
consequences. The Emperor's wide do-minions were disturbed by a local
outbreak in Germany, a revolt in Spain, and an attempt on the part of the
claimant to the throne of Navarre to recover that territory. The Diet of
the Empire met at Worms, and Martin Luther was cited before it; with the
result that the Empire was practically divided into two camps, Charles
ranging himself on the papal side. As Henry VIII. was so far a loyal son of
the Church, wielding an anti-Lutheran pen in theological controversy, while
the French King's reverence for the papacy was under suspicion, the present
tendency of this event was favourable to the union of Charles and Henry
with the Pope against Francis. On the other hand there was very little
question that the troubles in the Emperor's dominions were fostered by
Francis, who was preparing for an Italian expedition. Had Charles and
Wolsey trusted each other, their alliance would certainly have been drawn
closer; but Wolsey was not the man to take up Charles's cause without
securing an adequate return, while Charles wished to involve England on the
strength of promises which he expected subsequently to find no necessity
for carrying out. Charles found his justification in the unexpected success
of his arms in Navarre, in Spain, and in Germany. Good fortune relieved
him from the more pressing need of English aid, and thus the prospect of a
close and active alliance faded.

[Sidenote: 1521 Buckingham]

In the late spring of 1521 there occurred in England a domestic episode
which must have impressed both Charles and Francis with the power wielded
in England by Henry; the first notable instance among the numerous
executions marking the reign for which treason was the pretext. [Footnote:
Unless we except that of Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, in 1513.] The
Duke of Buckingham stood at the head of the nobility; accepted as
representing the House of Lancaster, next in order to the Tudors.
[Footnote: The Staffords of Buckingham on one side descended, like Henry,
from the Beauforts. They were also the representatives of Thomas of
Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward III. See _Front_, and p. 9,
note.] The Duke no doubt had a sufficiently strong dislike to Wolsey, and
had used very incautious language about him, and the Cardinal was popularly
held responsible for his downfall, though there is no evidence that this
was actually the case. Buckingham had consulted soothsayers, and was
reputed to have used compromising expressions about tyrants and the
succession. At any rate, he suddenly found himself arrested for high
treason. The King had made preliminary inquiry on his own account--not in
the presence of Wolsey--and had made up his own mind that Buckingham was to
die. The peers were summoned to try him on May 10th, under the presidency
of Norfolk. The depositions of the witnesses against the Duke were read;
there was no cross-examination; he denied the charges, but was not allowed
counsel. The decision was of course a foregone conclusion. One by one the
peers pronounced him guilty; he was condemned to death, and executed. No
one was found to challenge the justice of the sentence, though on a review
of the evidence it is almost incredible that any human being could have
honestly endorsed it. The world at large however knew nothing about the
evidence, and merely accepted the judgment as final and indisputable. By a
single ruthless act, Henry had practically established his own right to
judge cases of treason on the hypothesis not that guilt had to be
demonstrated but that the accused must prove his own loyalty or suffer the
extreme penalty. For the King to entertain an accusation was tantamount to
condemnation. Even to plead on behalf of such a one was dangerous: to
maintain his innocence would have been a short way to the block.

[Sidenote: Wolsey's diplomacy]

By the execution of Buckingham, Henry vindicated his own authority in
England while popular opinion laid the responsibility on the Cardinal's
machinations. In the meantime, an impetus was given to the anti-French
policy of Charles by the death of his Burgundian minister Chievres. As the
summer advanced, the prospect of keeping the peace between the rival
monarchs grew fainter. The parties however agreed to hold a conference at
Calais, at which Wolsey should act as mediator. But matters looked as if
England would be forced to take a side in a European war; and if she did so
the balance of advantage to her lay on the side of the Emperor.

In August the conference met. Ostensibly with a view to obtaining from
Charles himself more concessions to France than his envoys would allow, the
Cardinal visited him at Bruges; where however he was really engaged in
coming to comparatively satisfactory terms as to the conditions upon which
Charles should receive English assistance. These included the deferring of
actual participation in hostilities, and indemnification for the inevitable
loss of the Tournai purchase-money, of which France had paid only a part.
Wolsey returned to Calais with a secret treaty, and the conference
continued, the Cardinal still making every effort to avert war; but towards
the end of November it became clear that his endeavours must be fruitless,
and the conference was broken up. He was followed to England by the news of
Imperial successes both in Italy and in Picardy--which went far to justify
Charles in his refusal to postpone hostilities for his own part. Henry,
whose own predilections were in favour of war, was very well pleased with
the result, and rewarded his minister by presenting him to the vacant and
lucrative office of Abbot of St. Albans. Such were the conveniences of
being served by an ecclesiastic.

[Sidenote: 1522 A papal Election]

The year closed with an event of importance. Leo X. died unexpectedly and
there was an election to the papacy. There is no doubt that Wolsey desired
the papal crown; and both Francis and Charles in courting his favour had
held out as a bait the influence they were prepared to promise on his
behalf. But he had not allowed these offers to influence his actions.
Charles now gave him fair words, but evidently intended his real support to
be given to some candidate whom he expected to be more pliant. The man he
would have chosen was the Cardinal de Medici, afterwards Clement VII.: but
Italian party spirit among the Cardinals ran too high for this to prove
practicable, and Adrian VI. who had been tutor to Charles was the new Pope.
Wolsey can hardly have been disappointed, and never gave undue weight to
the Emperor's promises: but the event was not calculated to increase his
confidence or his goodwill. The present fact however of the alliance
between the Emperor and England, with the corollary that England must
before long be at war with France, remained unaltered.

[Sidenote 1: War with France]
[Sidenote 2: Scotland]

By the end of May the war could no longer be postponed, and was duly
declared. It was still some months before Surrey took the field in France
at the head of the English forces--conducting his campaign on the general
principles of Anglo-Scottish border warfare--ravaging, burning, and rousing
the hatred of the country population, but striking no blow. If Henry
seriously contemplated the idea of reviving old claims to the French crown,
he could have adopted no worse policy. Charles of course gave no practical
assistance, and the allies each blamed the other for the futility of the
operations. Albany on the other hand had been back in Scotland for some
months; and in opposition to Angus--in conjunction therefore with Margaret
--threatened an invasion as soon as the French expedition started. The
ingenious Lord Dacre however by sheer bluff--there is no other word--
succeeded in procuring an armistice when the English border was all but
defenceless. After this exhibition, Albany found it as well to retire to
France; while Wolsey used the occurrence to urge upon Charles that Scotland
required too much attention to allow French expeditions to be practicable.

[Sidenote: 1523 Progress of the war]

With 1523 events took a turn more favourable to Charles. The Duke of
Bourbon, Constable of France, turned against the King, on the ground of
insults more or less fancied, and of a genuine attempt to deprive him of
his inheritance by legal process. The idea was revived in Henry's mind that
in alliance with some of the French nobility he might make himself King of
France as Henry V. had done; so Wolsey had to develop an active policy
against France. His hand being thus forced, the Cardinal devoted his
energies to making the combination against the French King really serious,
coercing Venice into the coalition. The military operations however were
not in train till the autumn; Suffolk, whose military skill was extremely
limited, commanded the English expedition, and marched into the interior
instead of falling on Boulogne as Wolsey had advised; Bourbon did nothing
useful; Charles's troops gave their attention to Fontarabia instead of to a
combined operation. From the English point of view the whole campaign was a
complete fiasco. Wolsey had been set to carry out a policy of which he
disapproved, with instruments of whose incompetence he was fully conscious;
and the results were probably neither better nor worse than what he and the
cooler onlookers like Sir Thomas More expected. The one thing that Wolsey
could do, he had done: he had placed Surrey on the Northern border to deal
with the inevitable return to Scotland of Albany with threats of invasion.
Surrey was successful: Albany having advanced into England was obliged to
fall back, and the border country was subjected to the usual process of
raiding and harrying.

[Sidenote: Election of Pope Clement VII.]

Once again, the closing months of the year witnessed a papal election; and
for the second time Wolsey was disappointed. The reign of Adrian closed in
September. It had been brief, well intentioned, and honest: but
ineffective. The Pope's efforts at reform had been met by the solid _vis
inertiae_ of the ecclesiastical world. His successor, the Medici,
Clement VII., was destined to play a much more important part in history,
and, buffeted by forces which he could not control, to become the
instrument whereby England was severed from Rome. In this election Charles
played the same part as before. He promised Wolsey his support, wrote
letters to Rome which were delayed till too late, and actually expended his
influence on behalf of Medici. Again, though Wolsey's anxiety to achieve
the papacy has probably been much exaggerated, he would have been more than
human if he had not inwardly resented the Emperor's behaviour. It is to be
noted in connexion with this election that Wolsey actually proposed the
employment of armed coercion to secure a convenient choice--a rather gross
method of condemning the theory that the Conclave reached its decision by
Divine guidance.

[Sidenote: 1524 Wolsey's difficulties]

The year had but six weeks more to run when Clement was finally elected. In
1524 the belligerents were all desirous of ending the war, but none was
willing to make concessions to hasten that end. The allies had good reason
to suspect each other of trying to make separate terms with Francis; each
hoped to extract concessions from the French King as the price of
defection. Wolsey in fact was neither able nor willing to carry on active
hostilities. England had gone into the war with a light heart; but when
Parliament was called upon in the summer of 1523 to vote the necessary
funds, the light-heartedness was modified, and the funds were voted with
extreme reluctance, under something very near akin to compulsion; and the
collecting of the taxes aroused angry complaint--the blame being as usual
laid on the Cardinal. He was well aware that any increase in the burden
would be a dangerous matter to propose, and very dangerous indeed to try
and carry through; yet without more funds an active campaign was
impossible. Therefore, as concerned the Continent, Wolsey on the one hand
sought to induce Charles to assent to a fresh conference where England
should mediate as to the claims and counter-claims of Charles and Francis;
and on the other made private overtures to Francis.

[Sidenote: Intrigues in Scotland]

In Scotland, the game of intrigue was actively carried on. Albany retired
permanently to France soon after the failure of his invasion. While he was
in Scotland, Margaret had sided with him; now she began to fall in with the
English policy, and was eager for the "erection" of her son--that is for
his recognition as actual King though he was barely twelve years old.
Throughout the summer, schemes were on foot for a peace conference--the
real object being the kidnapping of Beton, the Archbishop of St. Andrews,
coadjutor of Albany, Chancellor of Scotland, and the most resolute opponent
of the Anglicising party and policy. Wolsey is quite explicit on this point
in a letter to Dacre, though Surrey, who had just succeeded to the Dukedom
of Norfolk by the death of the victor of Flodden, never grasped this
peculiar method of diplomacy. Beton declined to be trapped; still, the
"erection" was carried through. [Footnote: _L. & P._, vol. iv., part
i., 549. _Cf._ Lang, _Hist. Scot_., pp. 405, 406. Beton was to
have a safe-conduct, and the kidnapping was to be done by Angus, at the
time in England, quite as a private personal matter. Angus had come to
England from France, whither he had been removed by Albany.] By dint of
bribery, many of the anti-English party had now changed sides along with
Margaret, with the curious result that Angus, who was bound to be in
opposition to his wife, allied himself to Beton. Next year, however, the
French or anti-English party in Scotland suffered a serious blow when the
French King was vanquished and taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia.

[Sidenote: 1525 Pavia]

Meantime, Wolsey had found Francis not too ready to accept his overtures,
and had therefore set about making a show of pursuing a more actively
antagonistic policy in conjunction with Bourbon. The Cardinal however,
whose object was to make Francis think it necessary to conciliate him--not
to be forced into expeditions and armaments--intentionally made his
conditions to Bourbon such as the Constable would not agree to; while
obtaining the desired result of moving Francis to enter seriously on
negotiations. He even felt that matters were progressing favourably enough
to justify a "diplomatic episode"--the interception of the Imperial
ambassador's dispatches, his virtual imprisonment, and the lodging of a
protest against his conduct with the Emperor. But the battle of Pavia
wrecked Wolsey's schemes, as well as those of his adversaries in Scotland.
For the disaster to Francis wakened anew in Henry's breast the belief that
the French crown was still attainable: and the minister found himself
forced to seek means to provide war-funds, while he was alive to the
practical impossibility of persuading Parliament to grant them.

For Wolsey to protest would have been vain. He did not in any way dominate
Henry, who was ready enough to follow his advice or allow him to carry out
his own policy so long as it fell in with the royal views. But if the King
chose to lay down a different policy, the Cardinal had to carry it out as
best he could--or else to retire in disfavour. And he could not afford to
retire in disfavour, since, if the royal countenance were once withdrawn,
the malignity of his many enemies would be given rein, and his utter ruin
would be inevitable. Therefore, while watching for any opportunity to
convert the King from his martial designs, he made a desperate effort to
fill the exchequer.

[Sidenote: The Amicable Loan]

Two years before, when Parliament had been called, it had been induced to
vote the money asked for. But (according to Hall) the Speaker, Sir Thomas
More, had taken the opportunity to resist Wolsey's high-handed methods, to
insist on parliamentary privileges, and to refuse to debate the matter in
the Cardinal's presence, though he actually exerted his influence in favour
of the grant. To repeat the demand now would be to risk rebellion; at the
best, to court an inevitable refusal. Therefore Wolsey reverted to ancient
precedents, and demanded an "Amicable Loan," on the ground that the King
was going to lead his armies, and must therefore go fittingly equipped. The
loan was to amount to about one-sixth of a man's property. Very soon
however it became clear that this was more than the country would endure.
Wolsey revoked the demand and called for a "Benevolence". London replied
that benevolences were illegal, by reason of the statute of Richard III.
Wolsey protested against appealing to the laws of a tyrant; but the
Londoners remarked that the fact of Richard having been a tyrant did not
annul the excellence of good laws when he made them. In Norwich the
aggrieved populace assembled in force, and presented their case
allegorically, but convincingly, to the Duke of Norfolk, who was sent to
deal with them. The Cardinal's attempt to raise money was a failure. The
King grasped the situation and remitted the demand, taking all the credit
for his clemency, while his minister had the odium for the proposal. For
the first time, Wolsey had failed to carry his master's wishes through, for
the simple reason that the task set him was an impossible one. The
soundness of his own antagonism to the French war was conclusively
demonstrated, since without the funds war could not be waged: but the cost
of the demonstration was the increase of his unpopularity, and an
appreciable diminution of Henry's favour. He did what he could to mollify
the King by presenting him with his palace of Hampton Court--a present
graciously accepted.

[Sidenote 1: A diplomatic struggle]
[Sidenote 2: 1526-27 Success of Wolsey]

Now, however, a _rapprochement_ with France was again possible.
Charles and Wolsey returned to the attitude of mutually desiring nothing so
much as to prove their complete accord, their own anxiety to fulfil all
obligations, provided only that the other would reasonably recognise his
own obligations in return. Each wanted to extract what he could from
Francis without regard to his ally: each wanted an excuse for evading his
contract with that ally--the Emperor because he now perceived the more
immediate pecuniary profit of the Portuguese marriage. In the diplomatic
contest Wolsey had the advantage, that Charles, in spite of Pavia, could
not bring the necessary pressure to bear on his captive, if the support of
England was felt to be withdrawn. He had something to lose by an open
breach: Wolsey had not--provided the responsibility for the breach could
plausibly be laid on Charles. Moreover, although the French King was the
Emperor's prisoner, the French Government was much less bitterly opposed to
the English demand for money than to the Imperial demand for territory.
Thus by the end of the year Wolsey achieved his end--a treaty with France,
involving the payment of two million crowns to England, and including
Scotland in its terms. Charles being isolated made his own peace with his
prisoner in the following February (1526); but Francis, before signing,
declared that his promises were extorted and not binding, and after his
release repudiated their validity. The Cardinal in fact had extricated
England from a very awkward situation, recovered her position as arbiter,
and once more made the rival European monarchs feel that they could neither
of them afford to have her definitely ranged as an enemy. As the year
advanced, the tendency for the French alliance to draw closer, and for the
Imperial alliance to dissolve became more marked. Charles, in his desire to
dominate Italy, allowed a Spanish force to enter Rome and terrorise the
Pope--though he disavowed their actions. In 1527, while he was continuing
this policy, and preparing for the sack of Rome and the seizure of the
Pope's person in May, Wolsey was carrying through a new French alliance, by
which Orleans (afterwards Henry II.) was betrothed to the Princess Mary,
and France not only bound herself to make heavy payments but also
surrendered Boulogne and Ardres. It seemed as though the isolation of
Charles was about to be completed, his opponents becoming the champions of
the papacy--while his own antagonism to the Pope had been emphasised at the
Diet of Spires by the withdrawal of the anti-Lutheran decrees, and the
temporary recognition of each State's right to adopt or reject the
Reformer's doctrines in its own territories.

[Sidenote: 1527 A new factor]

But in 1527 Henry had developed a single purpose; he had set his mind on
one object to the achievement whereof every political consideration was to
be subordinated. The state-craft of the great minister was dominated by and
subjected to the king-craft of a master who never brooked opposition to his
will; and Wolsey, failing to carry out that will, was hurled without
remorse from his high estate. The Cardinal's fall, the breach with Rome,
the defining of the shape which the Reformation was to take in England,
were all the outcome of Henry's resolve to be released from the wife to
whom he had been wedded for eighteen years. Hitherto we have made only
incidental allusion to the Reformation; it is now time to examine the
development of that movement, down to the moment when Henry took into his
own hands the conduct of it within his own realms.



[Sidenote: The Reformation in England]

Down to a comparatively recent date, the popularly accepted accounts of the
Reformation in England treated it as a spontaneous outburst of the deep
religious spirit pervading the mass of the people; a passionate repudiation
of the errors of Rome, born of the secret study of the Bible in defiance of
persecution, and of repulsion from the iniquities of the monastic system.
Then there arose a picturesque historian, who recognised in Henry VIII. and
Thomas Cromwell the men who created the Reformation; and having once
imagined them as the captains of a great and righteous cause, succeeded in
interpreting all their actions on the basis of postulating their single-
eyed devotion to reform as their ever-dominant motive. A view so difficult
to reconcile with some other stereotyped impressions has invited criticism;
and it is not unusual now to be told that the changes effected by the
Reformation were small, except in so far as the Church was robbed by the
destruction of the monasteries.

[Sidenote: Its true character]

As a matter of fact the change which took place was very great and very
far-reaching for the nation, though it is easy to exaggerate the deviations
from Roman doctrine imposed by it on the clergy of the Anglican Communion.
But the movement was one in which many factors were at work. Moralists,
theologians, and politicians, all had their share in it; some who were
prominent promoters of it in one phase were its no less active antagonists
in another; and not infrequently were guided by purely personal ambitions
and interests throughout. In its essence however the Reformation was a
revolt against conventions which had lost the justification of the
conditions that had brought them into being, and had become fetters upon
intellectual and spiritual progress instead of aids to its advancement.
Each group of reformers was ready enough to impose on the world a new set
of conventions of its own manufacture, but no group succeeded in dominating
the aggregate of groups; and thus in the long run toleration became the
only working policy, though its practice was by no means what the Reformers
had set before themselves. After long years, religious liberty was the
outcome of their work; but few indeed were the martyrs whose blood was
consciously shed in that great cause. The men who died rather than submit
their own convictions to the dictation of others were for the most part
ready, when opportunity offered, to sit in judgment on those who would not
accept their own dictation.

[Sidenote: Religious decadence]

The prevailing conditions of the Church at the dawn of the Reformation were
exceedingly corrupt, with the corruption of worn out institutions; but they
appeared to be part of the necessary order of things. Hitherto, occasional
heretics had arisen, but (superficially at least) they had been suppressed
without serious difficulty. The State, in England and elsewhere, had
entered upon conflicts with the priesthood; secular monarchs had even
challenged the authority of the Pope; but such quarrels had ended in
compromises formal or practical. Moral reforming movements like that of
St. Francis had arisen within the Church herself; they had not been
antagonistic to her, and they had thriven and decayed without producing
revolutionary results. Clerical abuses had been for centuries the objects
of satire, but the satirists rarely had any inclination for the role of
revolutionaries or martyrs. The recent revival of learning had developed a
scepticism which was however habitually accompanied by a decent profession
of orthodoxy. That there was prevalent unrest had long been obvious; that
there was risk of disturbing developments was not unrecognised; but that
these things were the prelude to a vast revolution had been realised
neither by Churchmen, Statesmen, nor literati.

[Sidenote: The Scholar-Reformers]

It did not appear, then, that the revolt of Wiclif in England and of Huss
in Europe was about to be renewed: though they had in fact prepared the
soil to receive the new seed. Lollardry had been driven beneath the
surface. Still, so far at least as it represented anti-clericalism rather
than a theological system, its secret disciples were accorded a
considerable measure of popular sympathy; though it numbered few professors
among the cultivated classes, it had semi-adherents even among the
wealthier burgesses of London; it was active enough to cause some alarm to
Convocation, and to excite reactionary bishops. But it was not in this
quarter primarily that any notable movement seemed likely to arise. The
demand for Reformation during the first quarter of the century was
formulated by scholars who were not heretics--Dean Colet of St. Paul's;
Thomas More; the cosmopolitan Erasmus, who was but a bird of passage in
this country, yet one who was warmly and generously welcomed.

To men of this school, a schism in the Church never presented itself as a
desirable end. Luther had not yet burned Pope Leo's Bull when Colet died;
Lutheranism changed More into a reactionary, as, centuries later, the
French Revolution changed Edmund Burke; Erasmus would not range himself
beside the stormy controversialists of Germany and Switzerland. To the
scholars, the Roman system was not irreconcilable with truth; its defects
were accidents, excrescences, curable by the application of common-sense
and moral seriousness. In the eyes of Luther and Zwingli, the corruption of
Rome was vital, organic, incurable. Ecclesiastical Authority was the
corner-stone of the Roman system: Colet and More never attacked it; Luther
attacked it because it maintained opinions which he held to be
fundamentally false; but in England it is possible to doubt whether the
attitude of More and Colet would ever have been officially discarded, had
it not been for the political and personal considerations which led Henry
and Cromwell to trample ecclesiastical authority under foot. Nevertheless,
by their attacks on ecclesiastical abuses, Colet and More helped
intelligent people to perceive that the abuses were intolerable, and to
acquiesce even in the extreme remedy of schism rather than continue to
endure the burden.

[Sidenote: Ecclesiastical demoralisation]

It is not disputable that the existing corruption was so serious that some
kind of Reformation was absolutely necessary. Where the head is corrupt,
there cannot be much general health. If the spiritual head of Christendom
were unworthy of his office the ecclesiastical body was certain to suffer;
nor could much spirituality be looked for therein, if it habitually
acquiesced in the election of Popes in whom spirituality was the last
quality recognisable. The climax was perhaps reached when a Borgia--
Alexander VI.--was raised to the papal throne; a man who revelled in the
practice of every imaginable vice, and shrank from no conceivable crime.
The mere fact that such an election was possible is sufficient proof of the
utter absence of religious feeling in the ruling ranks of the clergy: nor
was its presence compatible with the appointment either of his free living
and warlike successor Julius II. or of Leo X. who followed--a person of no
little culture, a patron of art and of letters, whose morals were not
exceptionally lax as compared with those of the average Italian noble, but
in all essentials a pagan. With few exceptions, the princes of the Church
owed their position to their connexion, by birth or otherwise, with great
families; not a few of them were territorial lords of considerable
dominions, for whom it was a sheer necessity to be politicians first,
whether they were scholars, ministers of the Gospel, or mere pleasure-
seekers afterwards. Italians completely dominated the college of cardinals,
looking upon the control of the Church as a national prerogative. The
characteristics of the ecclesiastical princes were shared in due degree by
bishops and abbots. The fact that until recent years learning had been
practically a clerical monopoly necessarily made the clergy the fittest
instruments for carrying on much State business, thereby withdrawing many
of the better men from the service of religion to the service of politics.
In brief, the whole system tended to entangle the able members of the
ecclesiastical body in the temptations not so much of the Flesh and the
Devil as of the World.

[Sidenote: Monastic corruption]

Further, the monastic system had utterly fallen away from its pristine
ideals. It had served a great purpose. Born as it was when the world was
just emerging from paganism, and the Roman civilisation was being engulfed
in the flood of barbarian invasion, the men and women who withdrew from the
desperate turmoil without to the sheltering walls of the monastery or the
convent, invested with a sacrosanct character which was at least in part
respected, found therein the opportunity for prayer, meditation and study
which was denied them elsewhere. They could maintain a standard of piety,
and keep a rudimentary education from altogether dying out. For centuries
they were the only source of alms and succour to which the afflicted and
needy could turn; and so long as the rules of the Orders were observed in
the spirit and in the letter, they were a genuine help towards a life of
self-devotion, of self-abnegation whereof the ultimate motive was not
always a subtle form of self-seeking. But as time passed, the monasteries
became the recipients of the bounty of pious benefactors. Their
inhabitants, in spite of ascetic regulations, found that life was none so
hard--at least in comparison with that of serfdom or villeinage; luxuries
were not less available than to the laity. The privileges of the sacred
office gave increasing opportunities for vicious indulgence when once
corruption had entered a Religious house. Promotion became the prize of
intrigue instead of the recognition of piety; till it came to be no scandal
when a political priest was rewarded for his services by presentation to
the rule of a wealthy abbey, with which he was connected only as the chief
recipient of its revenues, as when Wolsey had St. Albans bestowed on him in
return for his diplomatic labours. Apart from the diatribes of zealots and
the evidence of interested informers, apart also from the inclination to
generalise from well authenticated but extreme examples, it is evident
that, in the absence of a positive religious enthusiasm, the system was
peculiarly liable to grave degeneration; and it was long since there had
been any active spiritual revival to counteract that tendency.

[Sidenote: The proofs]

To these general considerations we have also to add the direct positive
evidence in connexion with Cardinal Morton's visitations of the Monasteries
in the reign of Henry VII. It was neither shown nor attempted to be shown
that the Religious houses _en bloc_ were hotbeds of vice. But it was
shown beyond question that even among the great Abbeys there were to be
found appalling examples of corruption and profligacy, where the heads were
the worst offenders and the rank and file imitated their superiors; and
that small houses were not infrequently conducted in the most scandalous
manner--for the simple reason that, when once corruption had found an
entry, there was no supervising external authority sufficiently interested
to intervene vigorously.

_Mutatis mutandis_, what was true of the Monasteries was also true of
the Mendicant Orders. The class of men who had no desire to dig, and no
shame about begging, found the friar's robe a useful adjunct to the latter
occupation. Long after enthusiasm had ceased to draw any large numbers into
the ranks of the friars, they were increased and multiplied by crowds of
ignorant and idle rogues, who were subjected to no adequate control.

[Sidenote: Corruption of doctrine]

But the corruption of the clerical body fostered also the degeneration of
popular religious conceptions. The actual teaching of the clergy was a
grotesque distortion of the doctrines they professed to expound. The
intelligible doctrine of absolution following on repentance and confession,
and accompanied by penance, had been transformed into that of absolution
purchasable by cash. Reverence for the relics of saints and martyrs had
been degraded by their spurious multiplication. The belief that such relics
were endowed with miraculous properties had been utilised to convert them
into fetishes, and pampered by fraudulent conjuring tricks. The due
performance of ceremonial observances was treated as of far more vital
importance than the practice of the Christian virtues. The images of the
Saints had virtually come to be regarded not as symbols, but as idols
possessed of various degrees of power, the assistance of one and the same
saint proving more or less efficacious according to the shrine favoured by
his suppliant.

[Sidenote: Evidence from Colet and More (1512-18)]

These facts are not disputable. They were fully recognised by Reformers of
the type of Colet and More, who would have had the Church reform herself by
reverting to the primitive and orthodox expression of the doctrines of
which these deformities were a corrupt latter-day misrepresentation, and to
the ideals of life and conduct which had been overlaid by ceremonial
observances. The primitive doctrines they accepted without question; as
regarded the ceremonial observances, they objected to them not in
themselves but only so far as they obscured in practice the much higher
value of moral ideals. In the view of such men the remedy for heresies lay
in the hands of the clergy: would they but bring their lives into some
conformity with primitive ideals, surrendering the pursuit of place,
profit, or pleasure to tread in the footsteps of the apostles, heresy would
perish of inanition.

[Sidenote: Later evidence]

When Colet was preaching at St. Paul's, when More was imagining the
_Utopia_, when Erasmus was preparing his _Praise of Folly_ and
his edition of the Greek Testament, the name of Luther was still unknown.
Their aim was the active propagation of reform; not to exercise thereon a
restraining influence, which at that time would have seemed superfluous.
The only reason they could have had for understating the existing
corruption would have been fear of the authorities, a fear from which both
Colet and More always showed themselves conspicuously free. Colet's most
vigorous exhortations were addressed to prelates and persons in high
places; More never throughout his career hesitated to oppose Chancellors,
or even Tudor Kings, when a principle was involved. We are therefore
entitled to assume that they neither over-coloured nor deliberately toned
down the prevalent conditions. A decade later, when fanaticism had broken
loose, the anathemas hurled at the clergy by irresponsible pamphleteers, or
zealots who were sheltered in the Lutheran States of Germany, were of a
much more sweeping character. Later, again, the reports of the
Commissioners for the suppression of monasteries formed an appalling
indictment. Later still, when the Protestant party won the upper hand after
a season of relentless and embittering persecution, the pictures they
painted of the past were lurid in the extreme. But the evidence of such
witnesses could not be other than passionately biassed, just as the
evidence of persecuted monks and nuns must have been biassed on the other
side: whereas the evidence of Colet, of More in his earlier days, and, with
certain reservations, of Erasmus, is that of honest and high-minded men of
great intellectual capacity, speaking without prejudice of conditions with
which they were in direct contact. Their assertions, and the fair
inferences from their assertions, are a safe basis from which we can
ascertain both the gravity and the limits of the corruption which existed
in England.

[Sidenote: Dean Colet]

John Colet was appointed to the Deanery of St. Paul's four or five years
before the death of Henry VII., being transferred thither from Oxford,
where he had won high repute, not merely for character and learning, but as
the initiator of a new and rational method of Scriptural study in place of
the old scholasticism. At St. Paul's the Dean proved himself a great
preacher, exercising also in private life a powerful influence on all who
came in contact with him, alike from the splendour of his intellect and the
large-hearted purity of his character. His outspoken sermons were by no
means to the liking of his bishop; but some of the leading prelates,
notably Warham of Canterbury and Fox of Winchester, were well disposed to
the new school of learning and exposition and to higher moral standards, as
Cardinal Morton had been. When the young King ascended the throne in 1509,
his accession was hailed by all men of the new school as heralding the
reign of intellectual liberty and enlightenment.

[Sidenote: Colet's sermon, 1512]

Accordingly, when Convocation was summoned in 1512 to discuss the
suppression of heresy, in consequence of some stray reappearances of
Lollardry, the prevalence of a wider spirit was shown by the selection of
Colet to preach the opening sermon, and by the subsequent ignominious
failure of the Bishop of London to have the Dean punished as a heretic. It
is to the sermon preached on this occasion that we must turn to see how
Colet viewed the situation. It was a direct indictment of the manner of
life of the clergy from Wolsey down; a summons to them to amend their ways,
to set a higher example to their flock; an appeal to them to fix their eyes
on apostolic ideals, and so to remove the real incitement which turned
men's minds to heretical speculation. While the positive arguments of the
preacher are evidence not only of the purity of his own aims and his
courage in supporting them, their reception shows that the substantial
justice of the indictment was recognised by the audience at whom it was
personally directed, however little disposed they might be to act
individually on his appeal. On the other hand however, it is a striking
fact that the charges brought are almost exclusively of worldliness,
laxity, indiscipline, unbecoming in pastors and in ministers of the Gospel
of Christ--though these charges were pressed home relentlessly; not at all
of that rampant immorality and vice of which the clergy were so freely
accused in later years. From what Colet did _not_ say, we may fairly
infer a reasonable average of respectability among them.

[Sidenote: Erasmus]

If, in the _Encomium Moriae_ or _Praise of Folly_, which Erasmus
wrote at about the same period (1511), the vices and follies of the Church
were lashed with a mockery still more unsparing, we have to note, first,
that the great scholar drew his picture less from England than from the
Continent; next, that it had no injurious effect on his appointment to the
professorship of Greek at Cambridge. The patronage extended to him by the
Primate, and by Fisher of Rochester, the most orthodox and saintly of the
English bishops, is a sufficient proof that the authorities were not
bigoted enemies of all reform; a proof borne out by the enthusiastic
welcome extended to his edition of the Greek Testament in 1518, by Fox of
Winchester amongst others.

[Sidenote: The _Utopia_, 1516]

From the _Utopia_ of Sir Thomas More we derive precisely the same
impression. In 1516, when the work was published, Luther had not yet defied
the Pope; the German Peasants' War had not yet broken out, nor the spread
of new ideas been associated with Anarchism under the name of Anabaptism.
Persecution, which fifteen years later More advocated and practised as the
unavoidable remedy for the spread of doctrines which he had come to regard
as actively pernicious, was alien to his instincts; in his ideal
Commonwealth, men might expound whatever they honestly held, provided they
did not deny God and the Future Life. More's nature was tolerant and
charitable. But his own convictions were thoroughly orthodox; he had at one
time a strong disposition to enter the priesthood himself; he held the
priestly office in high reverence. Yet his restriction of the number of
priests in _Utopia_ shows his vivid consciousness of the evil wrought
by their unrestricted multiplication in England; and in the description of
English social conditions in the introductory portion of his work, he
refers in emphatic terms to the large proportion of "sturdy vagabonds"
among them. His whole tone in the section of his book devoted to religious
matters implies that he is pointing a contrast between his ideal order of
things and that familiar to his readers, wherein non-essentials are so
emphasised that essentials are practically forgotten. Yet More, like Colet,
makes no sweeping attack on the morality (in the narrower popular sense of
the term) prevalent among the clerical body.

[Sidenote: Exaggerated attacks]

The wholesale condemnation of later days has been largely due to the
acceptance without qualification of denunciations poured forth in the heat
of controversy, in days when men did not mince words and were not given to
the careful weighing of evidence. Typical of such works is the
_Supplicacyon for the Beggers_ produced by one Simon Fish in 1527,
which has been seriously treated as a sober indictment. The Clergy, from
Bishops to "Somners" are a "rauinous cruell and insatiabill generacion"
... "counterfeit holy and ydell beggers and vacabundes" ... "that corrupt
the hole generation of mankind," committing "rapes murdres and treasons".
They are a "gredy sort of sturdy idell holy theues" habitually guilty of
every conceivable form of vice and profligacy. The pamphlet teams with
arithmetical absurdities. It is simply inconceivable that the growth within
the realm of such an organisation as is here depicted would have been
permitted; or that, if there, it would not have been sternly repressed by
Henry VII.; or that if it had survived the first Tudor, the second would
have suffered it to flourish unregarded for eighteen years of his reign.
The exaggeration is so flagrant that we can hardly infer from it even a
substratum of truth. Such diatribes as this must be referred to, not as
being valid evidences against the accused, but as proving the passion of
the controversy, and the hesitation necessary before accepting conclusions
traceable to the wild and whirling words of such controversialists.

[Sidenote 1: Clerical privileges]
[Sidenote 2: Tentative reforms]

In another respect however there was a serious demand for reform; namely
the legal and judicial privileges which the ecclesiastical body had
acquired in the course of centuries, and which had gradually become the
source of serious abuses. The administration of certain branches of the
Civil Law had been absorbed by the Clerics, who were charged with
converting their functions into an elaborate machinery for extorting fees;
and on the Criminal side, what was known as Benefit of Clergy, as well as
the rules of Sanctuary, had become not merely anomalous but an actual
encouragement to crime. Any criminal or accused person who succeeded in
reaching Sanctuary was safe from the secular arm; and any one who could
produce evidence, even of the flimsiest character, that he was a cleric
could claim to be tried by the ecclesiastical instead of the secular
courts. Originally these privileges had been of very great service in the
wild days when judicial treatment was at least more readily obtainable from
the Clergy, when trial by ordeal was common, and the merciless punishments
of the ordinary law gave place to the milder but not ineffective penalties
of Ecclesiastical discipline. Even the legal fictions by which evildoers
were allowed to claim Benefit of Clergy as Clerics had their justification.

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest