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enemies of the house of York, then lived in rural disorders ; for which he was punished by a sir retirement. During the Christmas holidays in Amyas Paulet, a neighbouring justice of the peace, 1499, Wolsey attended his “three honourable with the “ignominious durance” of the public scholars” to their father's house ; when he so stocks of the town. This incident is interesting gained upon the marquis by his fascinating powers as illustrative of the manners of the times. The of conversation, and by the progress which his fact of a beneficed clergyman being thus held up pupils had made under his care, that that noble- to popular derision for an indecorum which many man presented him to the rectory of Lymington of his successors, even in the present day, might in Somersetshire, a benefice in the gift of his fa- term an act of good fellowship, jars much with mily. Wolsey was in the 29th year of his age our notions of modern refinement. But it clearly when he obtained this his first church preferment, shows the fruitfulness of the English soil for the for which he immediately relinquished his school seeds of the approaching Reformation; and proves and other collegiate appointments. Before, how- that our catholic ancestors were not so priest-ridever, he left the university, he had given proofs of den, nor those priests so openly dissolute in their the love of literature, enterprising magnificence, habits, as protestant zeal has repeatedly asserted. and patronage of art, which were the virtues of his It is probable that Wolsey considered the affront character; and had given occasion for the suspicion to be aimed at the meanness of his birth; for, beof that disregard of any quality in means except ing of a temper less prone to resent injuries than their immediate efficacy, which was his predomi- contempt, he held it in angry recollection till fornant and fatal vice. He was elected bursar of his tune placed the offender within his power. Though college in 1498, at which time Erasmus was at prudence and magnanimity should have prevented Oxford ; and he zealously concurred with that his raking up the transaction from probable obeminent scholar and genius (whose venal praise livion, Wolsey, on his becoming lord chancellor, and dispraise of Wolsey are alike disgraceful to sent for sir Amyas, and, sternly reprimanding him literature) in encouraging the study of the Greek for his affront to the rector of Lymington, comwriters, or, as it was then called, the new learning. manded him to remain within the bounds of the At the same time Wolsey had erected the tower Temple during pleasure. The mode by which, of Magdalen College chapel, known by the name after a confinement of five or six years, the unof Woisey's Tower, admired for the chaste sim
lucky justice at length mitigated the resentment plicity and elegance of its architecture. The build- of the vindictive minister is characteristic.
He ing of this tower involved Wolsey in pecuniary embellished the exterior of his residence, situate embarrassments which affected his reputation : at the gate of the Middle Temple, with the arms, for he is affirmed to have fraudulently applied the the hat, and other badges of distinction proper to college funds, over which his office of bursar gave Wolsey as a cardinal; and by this architectural him some control, to the erection of the edifice; offering to the haughty churchman's vanity obtainand is even reported to have used violent means ed his liberty. to supply himself from the college treasury with On leaving Lymington (the emoluments of the the necessary money. The same taste for build- living of which he, however, did not resign for ing attended and embarrassed him in every stage seven years after, having in the mean time obtainof his career : for no sooner was he settled in his ed two papal dispensations for holding a plurality “cure" than he set about repairing and beautify- of benefices), Wolsey entered the service of Deane, ing the church and parsonage house ; and to this archbishop of Canterbury, as domestic chaplain, day Esher, Christ Church college Oxford, and and soon after that of sir John Nanfar, treasurer Hampton Court remain monuments of his wealth, of Calais, in the same capacity. The circumstance love of magnificence, and genius for architecture. of his being thus received into the household of the Never, indeed, was there a clergyman to whom archbishop of Canterbury abundantly disproves an the designation in the epigramm" ut donem pastor assertion of some of his biographers, that, overet ædificem,"--would more happily apply.
whelmed with shame for the ill odour in which his Wolsey remained at the rectory of Lymington dissolute conduct at his cure of Lymington caused but two years, during which an incident, curious him to be held, he fled from it suddenly on the in many of its bearings, occurred, that is not un- death, in 1501, of his patron, the marquis of Dorworthy of our notice. Wolsey, being of a
set; and is, indeed, hardly reconcileable with the and sociable temper” (we quote the Biographia scandalous tradition of his inebriety which we have Britannica), went with some of his neighbours to just noticed. Though nominally but chaplain, sir a fair in an adjacent town, where his reverence is John Nanfar, owing to the infirmity of old age, said to have got so drunk* as to create some soon committed to him the whole management of
his office, in which Wolsey gave so much satis* The ground for this assertion is not known, and
faction, that on the knight's return to England, he should seem to have no earlier authority than sir John recommended him with such earnestness to the Harrington. Cavendish professes ignorance of the cause which, “Sir, by your leave, made the knight so bold to set the schoolmaster by the feet during plea
trical life of Wolsey, represents him as the injured
party. ".Wrong'd by a knight for no desert of mine." sure.” It may be remarked that Storer, in his me- -See Singer's edition of Cavendish.
king, that Henry (VII.), ever willing to secure well known to the readers of history, are worthy the services of men of practical ability, made him of being quoted with some fulness, as they were alone of his chaplains.
ways referred to by Wolsey himself as the incident This was the step to fortune which Wolsey had which opened the way to his subsequent greatness. long panted for, and which he failed not speedily Henry was at the time negotiating his intendto improve, as it afforded full scope for the display ed marriage with Margaret, duchess dowager of of all those natural and acquired advantages in Savoy, the emperor Maximilian's only daughter; which he is admitted to have excelled. We have and it was necessary to employ a person of great said that he was eminently favoured by nature in address to adjust with the emperor in person some dignity of person and manner : he was, moreover, delicate points connected with the marriage. Fox celebrated according to Cavendish for “a special and Lovell joined in earnestly recommending gift of natural eloquence, with a filed tongue to Wolsey as the fittest person for the commission. pronounce the same; so that he was able with “The king, giving ear unto them, and being a the same to persuade and allure all men to his prince of excellent judgment and modesty, compurpose;" or, as Shakspeare phrases it, he was manded them to bring his chaplain, whom they so “exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading.” much commended, before his grace's presence. But he possessed endowments still more rare and At whose repair thither, to prove the wit of his valuable. Besides his great fluency of diction and chaplain, the king fell in communication with him, practical self-command, Wolsey had a quick and in matters of weight and gravity: and perceiving correct perception of character and of the secret his wit to be very fine, thought him sufficient to be springs of action, and a singular power of shaping put in trust and authority with this embassy; and his conduct and conversation according to circum- commanded him to prepare himself for this enterstances. Hence his extraordinary influence over prise and journey, and for his depeche to repair to those in power with whom he came in contact, his grace, and his trusty counsellors aforesaid, of which seemed to partake of the nature of fascina- whom he should receive his commission and intion, and which was not the less paramount and structions; by means whereof,” continues Cavenenduring that it was unostentatious, and seemed dish, “ he had then a due occasion to repair from to but blindly follow where, in fact, it guided. time to time to the king's presence, who perceived With the gay, youthful, and prodigal Henry VIII., him more and more to be a very wise man, and of Wolsey was betimes the magnificent courtier- a good entendement.” the frolicsome companion—the state Mentor, and Wolsey, having thus satisfied the wary monarch the commentator on Thomas Aquinas--the grave of his competency, despatched his commission minister, and the mirthful favourite ; while with with a celerity which, notwithstanding the extrathe wary and calculating founder of the Tudor
ordinarily increased facilities of modern conveydynasty he was remarkable for the laborious assi
ance, may perhaps still be considered great, if duity, business-regularity, and monotonous steadi- not surprising. He left the king at Richmond at ness of his habits. Such power of self-control, four o'clock on Sunday, went to Gravesend from combined with his splendid abilities and insinua- London by water that evening in less than three ting address, could not fail to recommend Wolsey hours, thence posted it to Dover, where he arrived to Henry and his ministers, particularly when it next morning as the passage-boat was about to was observed (as we are informed by Cavendish) sail. By it he was conveyed over to Calais before that, after celebrating mass before the king, “he noon, whence he got to Bruges, where Maximispent not forth the day in vain idleness, but gave lian was staying, by Tuesday morning. Wolsey his attendance upon those whom he thought to obtained an immediate audience of the emperor, bear most rule in the council, to be most in favour and pressed that his return might be expedited. with the king.”—chiefly upon Fox, bishop of Win- He received his answer late in the evening, startchester, the most influential of Henry's ministers, ed from Bruges next morning, and arrived in and sir Thomas Lovell*, master of the wards, Richmond the same night. On Thursday mornboth of whom early appreciated and proclaimed ing he attended at court, and threw himself at the the value of the chaplain's civil services. To these king's feet. Henry, supposing he had protracted statesmen Wolsey was indebted for all that a man his departure, was displeased at seeing him, and of his abilities and ambition required an oppor- began to reprove him for the dilatory execution of tunity of evincing his zeal and address in the king's his orders : on which Wolsey, to the king's great immediate service. The circumstances of the oc- surprise, presenting his letters of credence, replied, casion on which he was thus employed, though “If it may please your highness, I have already
been with the emperor, and despatched your af* Wolsey had not only the address and good qualities necessary to the acquisition of such friends, but
fairs, I trust to your grace's contentation.”—“But also retained them to the last. The affection of bishop
on second thoughts,” said the king, “ I found that Fox is apparent in the last letter which he wrote to somewhat was omitted in your orders, and have him; and 'sir Thomas Lovell's esteem was manifested
sent a messenger after you with fuller instrucat the close of his life : for he leaves him in his will
tions.”_“Yes, forsooth, sire,” quoth Wolsey, “I “ a standing cup of golde, and one hundred marks in golde."-Singer's Notes.
encountered him yesterday by the way; and, hav
ing no understanding by your grace's letter of your pleasure therein, have notwithstanding been so bold, upon mine own discretion (perceiving that matter to be very necessary in that behalf), to despatch the same. And, forasmuch as I have exceeded your grace's commission, I most humbly require your gracious remission and pardon."* The king, pleased with the whole transaction, gave Wolsey his royal thanks, " for his good and speedy exploit,” and commanded him to attend after dinner ; when, says his biographer, he reported his embassy to the king in council with such a graceful deportment, and so eloquent language, that he received the utmost applause; all declaring him to be a person of such capacity and diligence that he deserved to be further employed. Henceforth Wolsey was regarded as on the road to power and fortune, being very soon after installed in the deanery of Lincoln, then the most valuable benefice under a bishopric; to which were added the prebends of Stowe, Walton, and Brinhald. The death of Henry at this time (1509) alone prevented his receiving further marks of the royal favour.
Wolsey's introduction to the new king, Henry VIII., then in the bloom and promise of his youth, is usually attributed to his patron bishop Fox's jealousy of his rival, the earl of Surrey, the late king's high treasurer. It is said that the prelate, observing that lord Surrey had totally eclipsed him in favour, introduced Wolsey to the young prince, with the hope that he might rival Surrey in those arts which win and secure the attachment of the youthful heart, and yet be content to act in the cabinet a part subordinate to Fox himself. But he knew little of the workings of Wolsey's proud and aspiring mind when he calculated upon his resting satisfied in a subordinate capacity, while there existed the remotest possibility of his reaching a higher. In a very short time, by his extraordinary address, he not only supplanted Surrey in the royal favour, but also his patron Fox in the youthful monarch's trust and confidence. On the accession of Henry he was appointed king's almoner, an office which kept him in constant attendance upon the person of the monarch in his hours of relaxation, and which thereby enabled him to acquire such an ascendancy over the mind of Henry as was attributed to necromancy, and lasted for many years the wonder of Europe. Within a year after Henry's mounting the throne, he presented his almoner with the splendid mansion and gardens of his father's ravenous but too faithful minister Empson (who had just been most
illegally attainted at the shrine of popularity), which adjoined his own palace of Bridewell, in Fleet Street; and appointed him rector of Turrington, in Exeter, canon of Windsor, registrar and soon after chancellor of the order of the Garter, reporter of the proceedings in the star-chamber, and member of the privy council : the prebend of Bugthorp and deaneries of York and Hereford were added next year.
The means by which Wolsey acquired and retained his extraordinary ascendancy over Henry are such as might be inferred from his quick insight into character, and power of assimilating his discourse and actions accordingly. The language of Cavendish on this point is unusually graphic:
“In whom the king conceived such a loving fantasy, and in especial for that he was the most earnest and readiest among all the council to advance the king's only will and pleasure, without any respect to the case : the king, therefore, perceived him to be a meet instrument for the accomplishment of his devised will and pleasure, called him more near unto him, and esteemed liim so highly, that his estimation and favour put all other ancient counsellors out of their accustomed favour that they were in before; insomuch that the king committed all his will and pleasure unto his disposition and order. Who wrought so all his matters, that all his endeavour was only to satisfy the king's mind; knowing right well, that it was the very vein and right course to bring him to high promotion. The king was young and lusty, disposed all to mirth and pleasure, and to follow his desire and appetite, nothing minding to travail in the busy affairs of this realm : the which the almoner perceiving very well, took upon him, therefore, to disburden the king of so weighty a charge and troublesome business; putting the king in comfort that he shall not need to spare any time of his pleasure for any business that necessarily happens in the council, as long as he being there, and having the king's authority and commandment, doubted not to see all things sufficiently furnished and perfected ; the which would first make the king privy to all such matters as should pass through their hands, before he would proceed to the finishing or determining of the same, whose mind and pleasure he would fulfil and follow to the uttermost, wherewith the king was wonderly pleased. And whereas the other ancient counsellors would, according to the office of good counsellors, divers times persuade the king to have sometime an intercourse in to the council, there to hear what was done in weighty matters, the which pleased the king nothing at all, for he loved nothing worse than to be constrained to do any thing contrary to his royal will and pleasure; and that knew the almoner very well, having a secret intelligence of the king's natural inclination, and so fast as the other counsellors advised the king to leave his pleasures and to attend to the affairs of his realm, so busily did the almoner persuade him to the contrary; which
* In his metrical life of Wolsey, Storer thus speaks of this expedition : “ The Argonautic vessel never pass'd
With swifter course along the Colchian main, Than my small bark, with fair and speedy blast,
Convey'd me forth, and re-convey'd again: Thrice had Arcturus driven his restless wain, And heaven's bright lamp the day had thrice revived, From first departure till I last arrived."
to him for his whole conduct, and introduce his master gradually into the knowledge of public bu. siness; and thus, without tedious restraint or application, initiate him in the science of government.* The bait took ; Henry, without perceiving his design, entered into all his views, and Wolsey became sole and absolute minister, with a more uncontrolled authority than any other British subject has ever possessed. This happened in 1512, three years after the accession of Henry
The public life of Wolsey from this time properly belongs to general history; or, rather, we should perhaps be more correct in saying, that the history of England from the year 1512 to 1529 is nothing more than the history of Wolsey's insatiable ambition. He soon constituted himself the sole avenue to Henry's favours, and suitors of every rank found it expedient to ensure his mediation by flattery and presents, which showered in on him so fast, that, says Cavendish, “ he wanted nothing either to please his fantasy or to enrich his coffers, fortune so smiled upon him.” The two rival ministers, Surrey, then duke of Norfolk, and Fox, who perceived too late that the servant whom
delighted him much, and caused him to have the greater affection and love to the almoner."
Henry, owing to his father's jealous care to remove him from the inclination and means of acquiring a knowledge of public business, had spent his youth in the pursuits of literature and scholastic theology, and had acquired a relish for both. In Wolsey he found at once a fellow-student and a master, who encouraged his propensity with a “most filed tongue and ornate eloquence.” Henry was prone to frolic, and the usual excesses and amusements of youth and high spirits, and found in his reverend expounder of the subtleties of the Thomists, not a check nor a restraint, but one who took the lead in every entertainment, who sported*, jested, sang, and even danced, unmindful or regardless of the decorum sought for in a clergyman. No doubt this unbecoming pliancy of conduct would, as it eventually did in the king's more adult years, lessen his respect for his favourite; but youth is unsuspicious and confiding, and easily won and deceived by the flattery of apparent sympathy. Wolsey, moreover, was too good a judge of human nature to suppose that Henry's vigorous understanding would be content to while away his time between court revels and Thomas Aquinas; and therefore, in the intervals of amusement, introduced business, and warily insinuated those maxims of conduct which he was desirous his master should adopt. He observed to him, that while he intrusted his affairs to his father's counsellors, he had indeed the advantage of employing men of wisdom and experience, but men who owed not their promotion to his own personal favour, and who scarcely thought themselves ac. countable to him for the exercise of their authority; that by the factions, and cabals, and jealousies, which had long prevailed among them, they more obstructed the advancement of his affairs than they promoted it by the knowledge which age and practice had conferred upon them; that while he thought proper to pass his time in those pleasures to which his age and royal fortune invited him, and in those studies which would in time enable him to sway the sceptre with absolute authority, his best system of government would be to intrust his authority into the hands of some one person, who was the creature of his will, and who could entertain no view but that of promoting his service; and that if the minister had also the same relish for pleasure with himself, and the same taste for literature, he could more easily, at intervals, account
* Hume's History of England, on the authority of Lord Herbert and Polydore Vergil. The historian is too partial to Wolsey's memory.
† So early as 1513, the queen (Catharine) corresponded with him confidentially. "Maister Almoner, for the payne ye take remembring to write to me so of: ten, I thanke you for it wh al my hert.” In 1514, Mary, the sister of Henry, then queen of France, ad. dresses her lovynge frend the archebischop of Yorke," to use his influence with the king to permit lady Guldeford to reside with her in France. The letter written to Wolsey by Mary on her becoming a widow is worth quoting at length.
“ My nanne good Lord, I recommend me to you (sometimes written zou), and thankyng you for yor kynde and lovyng letter, dysyryng you of yor good contenance and good lessones that you hath gyffen to me ; my lord, I pray you as my trust ys in you, for to remember me to the king my brother, for sowche causses and bepynes as I have for to do; for as now I have no nother to put my trust in but the kyng my brother and you. And as yt shall ples the kyng my brother and hys counsell, I wil be hordered. And so I pray you, my lord, to show hys grace, seying that the kyng (Louis XII.) my howsbande ys departed to God, of whos sole God pardon. And wher as you avyse mo that I shulde macke no promas, my lord, I trust the kyng my brother and you wole not reckon in me soche chyidhode. I trust Í have so hordered my selffe so sens that I came better, and so I trust to conteneu. Yff there be any thynge that I may do for you, I wolde be glad for to do yt in thys partes. I shal be glade to do yt for you. No more to you at this time but Jesus preserve you. • Wretten at Pares, the x day of January, 1515,
“By your lowyng
" Quene of France." " To my Lorde of Yorke.
In the same tone of respect and confidence Margaret, queen of Scotland, Henry's eldest sister, writes,
My lorde, I thynke ryght" longe vyhil I speke výth you; for next the kyng's grace my most trust is in you, and you may doo me most good of any."-Ellie's Historical Letters, First Series, vol. i.
*" He (Wolsey) came unto the king and waited upon him, and was no man so obsequious
and serviceable, and in all games and sports the first and next at hand, and as a captain to courage others, and a gay finder out of new pastimes to obtain favour with all. He spied out the nature and disposition of the king's playfellows, and of all that were great, and whom he spied meet for his purpose him he flattered and made faithful with great purposes."--Tyndule, Prac. Prel. To the same effect writes Polydore Vergil. ---See Turner's Modern History of England.
he had advanced had become his master, quailed affairs in the hands of those who had no other before his ascendancy. The former, not long af- recommendation to the monarch's favour than ter, finding that the king's extravagance far outran their abilities and devoted zeal in his service. Το his revenue, was glad to resign his office of trea- princes so greedy of absolute power as those of surer, and retire from public life. Wolsey immedi- the house of Tudor, and so consequently jealous ately took upon himself the vacant office, and, by of all who might prove obstacles to their attainthe most arbitrary aggressions of authority, con- ment of it, no ministers could be more agreeable trived to supply his master with the means of in- than those who were the mere creatures of their dulging his prodigality and love of magnificence. will, and who, as such, would not for their own Fox too withdrew from court, and thought it pru- sakes entertain any design not tending to promote dent to confine himself for the remainder of his the views of him or her to whom they felt they days to the care of his diocese. Brandon, the duke were wholly indebted for their political, and, as it of Suffolk, who was married to Henry's sister, might happen, even natural existence. Previous« affected also to live in privacy,” from disgust at ly to the era of the Reformation, such ministers Wolsey's ascendancy. Thus was he left, without were usually furnished from the ranks of the clergy, a rival, to enjoy the whole power and favour of his who held in their own hands the learning of the sovereign.
times, and who were themselves drawn, without It would, however, be an error to impute all this distinction of birth, from all classes of the commuupstart ascendancy to the influence of Wolsey's nity. personal character. Much of it was owing to the The church, as we before remarked, was in political circumstances to which the recent changes those days what the bar is at present, the ladder in the succession to the throne gave birth. The by which the lowly born might ascend to political Tudor dynasty was an usurpation : its founder eminence; of which state of things a more rewas an upstart, and therefore regarded with a jea- markable instance need not be quoted than the Jous eye by such of the ancient and more wealthy fact of sir Thomas More's being distinguished as nobility as had escaped the slaughter of the wars the first layman who for centuries had filled the of the Roses. Hence it was the constant purpose
office of chancellor. Hence the facilities to Wolsey's -alike congenial with the temper, and suitable to elevation, which show that his humble origin was the policy, of the princes of the house of Tudor- by no means a bar to his advancement. to restrain the ascendancy, and as much as possi- It is not possible to furnish a consistent narrable destroy the political influence, of the ancient tive of Wolsey's life without touching upon those nobility. As might be expected from the sordid great political events of the early part of the calculating disposition of the first and ablest of 16th century which more properly belong to the these princes, Henry VII. employed, as the chiet historian. A rapid glance must, however, sufmeans to this end, fine and confiscation; by which
fice. he at once gratified his ruling passion of avarice, At the accession of Henry VIII. Italy was the and impoverished and intimidated those great centre of all the wars and negotiations of the families, of whose restless ambition, hereditary European princes; and the great object of these affection to the house of York, or jealousy of his wars and negotiations was the preserving what usurped title, he was distrustful. The more arro- was then, for the first time, clearly understood gant and impetuous, and therefore less eautious the balance of power between the great monarchies. and dissembling, temper of his son and successor,
Never did this balance seem better secured, nor made him hesitate less in shedding the blood of the general tranquillity more likely to be long his highest and most illustriously descended no- maintained, than when Julius II., the most warbles; and we find that towards the close of his like and enterprising of the successors of St. sanguinary reign his jealousy of every great man Peter, united the kings of Europe against the rebecame so ferocious, that not all the services to public of Venice by the League of Cambray. Havthe Tudor family of the house of Howard, nor the ing humbled that proud republic, the ambitious ties of blood, nor the strong feelings of friendship, pontiff' next directed his energies to the nobler decould save the life of the high-minded earl of Sur- sign of freeing Italy from the yoke of the barbarians rey, whose only crime was the possession of those -the title by which all foreigners were then detalents and virtues which have secured him the signated by the Italians. admiration of posterity; and that nought but the The expelling the French out of their new contimely death of the tyrant himself snatched from quest of Milan was the first object of his ambition; the same scaffold the father of that accomplished and for that purpose he solicited the military aid nobleman, the duke of Norfolk, notwithstanding of England, by sending Henry a sacred rose, his long-tried loyalty, numerous personal claims perfumed with musk, with a letter stating that it upon the gratitude of his sovereign, and, what had been blessed by his own hands, and anointed perhaps should have availed him more, his igno- with holy oil ; and by holding out hopes to him minious servitude to that sovereign's will. A that the title of Most Christian King, considered natural result of this policy of depressing the no- the most precious jewel in the crown of France, bles was the placing the management of public
should be the reward of his services. Julius obtain