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Title: The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies (Vol 2 of 12)

Date of first publication: 1845

Author: C. Cox

Editor: Charles Knight (1791-1873)

Date first posted: November 9 2012

Date last updated: November 9 2012

Faded Page eBook #20121122

This ebook was produced by: Marcia Brooks, woodie4 & the Online Distributed Proofreading Canada Team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

(This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)











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A living writer, whose opinions are not only entitled to the utmost respect from their intrinsic importance, but who commands far more than ordinary attention from the circumstances of his social position, has recently alluded to the character of Henry the Fifth as one which the historian is called upon to denounce, and hold up to execration:—"Reference has been made already to the Plantagenet Prince (Henry V.), and the Tudor Princess (Elizabeth), so much the theme of admiration with historians for great capacity, crowned with dazzling [Pg 6]success. But why could not the diction of Hume and of Robertson have been employed for the far more worthy purpose of causing men to despise the intrigues, and execrate the wars, of such rulers? The same events had then studded their page, the same picturesque details given it striking effect, the same graphic colours added life to it, and yet the right feelings of the reader would have been exerted and cherished; nor would the historians have made themselves accomplices with the vulgar in the criminal award of applause and of fame, by which the wicked actions of past times are rewarded, and the repetition of the same offences encouraged."[1] Without attempting to controvert these opinions in the abstract, we may believe that the remarkable qualities which distinguished "the Plantagenet Prince," and his great-grandfather Edward III., may claim the attention, and even the applause, of the historian and the biographer, without the award being criminal, or the wicked actions of past times encouraged. To adopt the sentiments of a literary friend and colleague, "It is unnecessary in the present day to waste a word on either the injustice or the folly of the enterprise on which Henry threw away the whole of his reign. In estimating his character it is of more importance to remember that the folly and injustice, which are now so evident, were as little perceived at that day by his subjects in general as by himself, and that there can be no doubt whatever that both he and they thought he was, in the assertion of his fancied rights to the crown of France, pursuing both a most important and a most legitimate object. That motives of personal ambition mingled their influence in his views and proceedings must no doubt be admitted; but that is perfectly consistent with honesty of purpose, and a thorough belief in the rightness both of the object sought and the means employed to secure it. In following the bright though misleading idea that had captivated him, he certainly displayed many endowments of the loftiest and most admirable kind—energy, both of body and mind, which no[Pg 7] fatigue could quell; the most heroic gallantry; patience and endurance, watchfulness and activity, steadiness, determination, policy, and other moral constituents, as they may be called, of genius, as well as mere military skill and resources."[2]

Henry, the eldest son of Henry Bolingbroke and Mary Bohun, was born at Monmouth, according to some of the chroniclers, on the 9th of August, 1387. It has been held that he was educated at Oxford, under his uncle Cardinal Beaufort; and although the archives of the university furnish no evidence of the fact, yet tradition has in this case more than common authority. He is said to have lodged in a small room over the ancient gateway of Queen's College; and here, according to Anthony Wood, were rude portraits in stained glass, of his uncle and of himself, with a Latin inscription, which has been thus translated—"To record the fact for ever. The Emperor of Britain, the triumphant Lord of France, the conqueror of his enemies and of himself, Henry V., of this little chamber once the great inhabitant." The term of his scholastic education must, however, have been very brief. He had just completed his eleventh year in 1398, when his father was banished by the tyrannical decree of Richard II.; and it would appear that the king, no doubt from motives of policy, took upon himself the protection, or rather the custody, of the young Henry Bolingbroke. Richard II. sailed for Ireland on the 29th of May, 1399. On the 23rd of June, the vigil of St. John, it is recorded by an eye-witness that Richard "out of true and entire affection, sent for the son of the Duke of Lancaster, a fair, young, and handsome bachelor, and knighted him, saying, 'My fair cousin, henceforth be preux and valiant.'" In less than a fortnight from this time the Duke of Lancaster had landed at Ravenspur. Richard immediately shut up the young Henry in Trym Castle; but within two months the weak king was deposed, Bolingbroke crowned as Henry IV., and the fair young bachelor created Prince[Pg 8] of Wales, and declared, by act of parliament, heir-apparent to the throne. In 1401, when he was scarcely fourteen years of age, the young Henry was in command of an army sent against the rebellious Welsh. A despatch from the prince to the council, dated the 15th of May, 1401, contains many of the revolting details which necessarily accompany warfare, at all periods, and under all circumstances. "We caused the whole place to be set on fire—we laid waste a fine and populous country;"—these are the expressions which Henry uses, describing the duties which he performed. The disgust which we naturally feel at the record of such atrocities should not be wholly bestowed upon one who was essentially the child and champion of warfare in an age when war was the great business of existence, but upon those who in a far different state of society, when the business of the world is peace, carry this savagery of civilization into the houses of men that they esteem barbarous, and receive the rewards of riches and honours from applauding senates—ay, even from a nation that cannot spare a few annual thousands to bestow upon the widows and orphans of the poet and the philosopher. In an age of butchery Henry of Monmouth was a merciful conqueror. There is a proclamation extant of Henry IV., dated the 10th of March, 1401, which thus begins, "Of our especial grace, and at the prayer of our dearest first-born son, Henry, Prince of Wales, we have pardoned all treasons, rebellions," &c.

In his sixteenth year Henry was at the battle of Shrewsbury, where, though severely wounded in the face, he fought gallantly to the close of the bloody day. Immediately after this he was sent to Wales in command of the army employed against Glendower, and for some years he was occupied in the contest with that able and active leader, in the course of which he evinced extraordinary military genius, defeating his adversary in a succession of engagements—in one of which, fought at Grosmont in Monmouthshire, in March, 1405, he took his son Griffith prisoner—and driving him from fastness to fastness, till all Wales except a small part of the[Pg 9] north, was reduced to submission. It is said that the renown and popularity the prince acquired by these successes so inflamed the jealousy of his father as to occasion his recall from the army. It is at this period of his life—that is, for about seven years previous to his ascending the throne—that we must, in all probability, place that career of dissipation which, however exaggerated it may have been by the early historians, had no doubt an adequate foundation—the natural result of the ardent temperament of a youth trusted very early with almost irresponsible power. It has been attempted to prove that there was no solid historical ground for the prevailing opinion of Henry's early profligacy; first, by Mr. Alexander Luders, in 'An Essay on the Character of Henry V. when Prince of Wales,' published in 1813—secondly, by the Rev. J. Endell Tyler, in his historical work 'Henry of Monmouth,' published in 1838. Without regarding what the chroniclers of the sixteenth century recorded of Henry, we have abundant evidence in the writings of his own contemporaries that

"His addiction was to courses vain."

Thomas Elmham, one of those contemporaries who wrote his life, distinctly tells us of his passing the bounds of modesty, and, "when not engaged in military exercises, he also indulged in other excesses which unrestrained youth is apt to fall into." Of Henry's sudden conversion this author also tells the story; and he dates it from his father's death-bed. Otterburn, another contemporary of Henry, gives us also the story of his sudden conversion:—"Repentè mutatus est in virum alterum:" he was suddenly changed into another man. Hardyng, another contemporary, and an adherent of the house of Lancaster, says—

"The hour he was crowned and anoint
He changed was of all his old condition;"

or, as he says in the argument to this chapter of his chronicle, "he was changed from all vices unto virtuous life." Walsingham, a fourth contemporary, speaking of[Pg 10] a heavy fall of snow on the 9th of April, the day of his coronation, says "that some interpreted this unseasonable weather to be a happy omen; as if he would cause the snow and frost of vices to fall away in his reign, and the serene fruits of virtues to spring up. That it might be truly said by his subjects, 'Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.' Who, indeed, as soon as he was invested with the ensigns of royalty, was suddenly changed into a new man, behaving with propriety, modesty, and gravity, and showing a desire to practise every kind of virtue." The story of Henry insulting the Lord Chief Justice, and being by him committed to prison, was first told by Sir Thomas Elyot, in 1534, in his book entitled 'The Governor;' and he sets out by saying, "The most renowned Prince, King Henry V., late King of England, during the life of his father, was noted to be fierce and of wanton courage." His servant, according to this story, was arraigned for felony, and the prince, "incensed by light persons about him, in furious rage came hastily to the bar." According to Sir Thomas Elyot, the prince did not strike the judge; but "being set all in a fury, all chafed, in a terrible manner came up to the place of judgment, men thinking that he would have slain the judge." Holinshed makes the blow to have been inflicted.

Henry IV. died on the 20th of April, 1413, and his son was proclaimed king on the day after the death of his father. His accession to power gave him an immediate opportunity of displaying the generous qualities of his nature. He transferred the remains of Richard the II. with a pious care to Westminster Abbey; he set free the young Earl of March, who had been held captive during the preceding reign; and he recalled the son of Hotspur from exile to reinstate him in his hereditary possessions. Within a year after his accession he entered upon the perilous adventure of the conquest of France. The history of his first invasion is undoubtedly the most interesting event in Henry's life; and the battle of Agincourt, as it was the last great conflict of the times of chivalry, was, in many respects, the extraordinary.[Pg 11] The authentic details of this expedition have been collected and formed into a most interesting narrative by Sir Harris Nicolas. We shall condense, in as short a compass as may be, the leading details of this wonderful story.

The claim of Henry V. to the crown of France appears to have been set up without the shadow of justice. He demanded the throne as the heir of Isabella, wife of Edward II., and daughter of Philip IV. His pretensions were more absurd than those of Edward III., for at that time the Earl of March was the direct heir of Isabella. The concessions which Henry required from France, for the renunciation of his title, were certainly most extravagant. He was, perhaps, anxious that they should be refused. He was of a restless and enthusiastic nature, and his element was war. During the year 1414, and till the time of Henry's invasion in 1415, negotiations were carried on with the French court. Henry would not listen to the terms proposed: it is said he had a personal insult to avenge upon the Dauphin of France; he even challenged him to single combat. Two letters addressed to the King of France by Henry on the subject of his claims, are given by Mr. Nicolas; they are very characteristic of the man and of the times. However, the King of England, in council at Westminster, on the 17th of April, 1415, determined on the expedition to France, arranged for the safety of the realm during his absence, and settled on the wages of his army. Every exertion was used to provide the necessary stores and attendants for the expedition, and ships were taken up for transport. Most of the fighting men engaged required the advance of a quarter's wages; the parliamentary supply was insufficient for this purpose; and Henry, therefore, not only obtained sums of his subjects by proclamation, but actually pawned many of the crown jewels to raise the necessary supplies. Here is a singular evidence of the enthusiasm with which the king engaged in his ambitious enterprise. It has been estimated that Henry, by these various expedients, raised the sum of 500,000 nobles.

The king left London on the 18th of June, with great[Pg 12] state. He proceeded to Winchester, where he received an embassy from France, with new terms. These were again refused by Henry with unyielding pertinacity. The king afterwards went to Southampton. During his stay there, the conspiracy of the Earl of Cambridge and Lord Scrope for the overthrow of his government was detected, and the principal conspirators were executed before the king quitted the English shores. The invading army assembled in the neighbourhood of Southampton. Its aggregate number is a matter of great doubt, from the contradictions of the old chroniclers: it may be estimated, including the followers of the men-at-arms, at 30,000.

Mr. Nicolas has, with the most commendable industry, collected together the narratives of every contemporary historian, from the time of the departure of the English army to its achievement of the battle of Agincourt. It is difficult in a short space to crowd in many of the interesting facts which are in his book, for the first time, made known; but we shall endeavour to seize upon the most prominent occurrences.

The king embarked on board his ship the Trinity, on the 10th of August, between Portsmouth and Southampton. The fleet, consisting of more than a thousand vessels of various sizes, was under weigh on the 11th. The voyage had its good and evil presages: the former was the appearance of swans about the fleet; the latter was at once a presage of calamity, and a calamity itself—the destruction of three large vessels by fire. The invading squadron entered the Seine on the 13th of August, three miles from Harfleur. The disembarkation took place on the next morning. It is remarkable that the landing of the army was entirely unresisted, although the place of disembarkation presented many natural and artificial obstacles. A proclamation was issued, forbidding, under pain of death, all excesses against the inhabitants; and it is to be noted with what honourable perseverance Henry enforced the uniform good treatment of the people through whose districts he passed, even under circumstances of the most dreadful privation.[Pg 13] This merit is yielded to him by all the contemporary historians, whether English or French.

The siege of Harfleur was the first military undertaking of the invading monarch. The conduct of that enterprise was agreeable to the rules of war laid down by 'Master Giles,' the principal military authority of that period. The loss sustained by the besieging army was very great; and in a few days the English forces were visited by a frightful dysentery. Many of the most eminent leaders fell before its ravages. The town was surrendered on the 22nd of September, after a siege of thirty-six days. The inhabitants were treated with kindness, and the great prisoners and hostages with all honour. Henry in this, as in other circumstances, appears to have been a model of chivalrous equanimity. Immediately after the capture of Harfleur, the king of England sent his challenge to personal combat to the Dauphin of France. The loss which the English army sustained during the thirty-six days subsequent to its landing would be almost incredible, if its accuracy were not supported by every conflicting testimony. It appears that if Henry landed with thirty thousand men, more than two-thirds must, during the short period of the siege, have been slain, have died of disease, or have been sent back to England as incapable of proceeding. The English army, when it quitted Harfleur, did not amount to much more than eight thousand fighting men.

It was decided in the council of the King of England, that the invading army should re-embark for their native shores. The pertinacity of Henry (amounting, it would have been thought, to judicial blindness, if his wonderful success had not covered his determination with a false splendour) resolved that, instead of going on board the ships which lay ready to receive them, the army should march to Calais. There was a chivalrous hardihood in the resolve, which almost entirely covers its rashness. His trust, said the king, was in God; he was resolved to see the territories which were his own; he would not subject himself to the reproach of cowardice. "Our mind," said he, "is prepared to endure every peril,[Pg 14] rather than they shall be able to breathe the slightest reproach against your king. We will go, if it pleases God, without harm or danger; and if they disturb our journey, we will frustrate their intentions with honour, victory, and triumph."

The army commenced its perilous march about the 8th of October, carrying provisions for eight days. The king's proclamation, forbidding plunder under pain of death, was renewed. The supineness of the French government was suddenly extinguished by the daring character of Henry's march. The oriflamme was hoisted—for the last time. Princes, and knights, and esquires, and men-at-arms, rushed to the sacred standard; and an army of enormous numbers, and of the most complete equipment, was collected to annihilate this band of desperate invaders. The passage of the Somme presented an almost insuperable difficulty to Henry. At Abbeville, and other places, the bridges were broken down; an enemy constantly appeared on the opposite banks; the provisions of the English were nearly exhausted. He at length crossed the river, over a temporary bridge, on the 19th of October, at a place called Nesle. The passage is described with great minuteness by the chroniclers. On the 20th, three heralds arrived from the Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, to acquaint the king of their resolution to fight him before he reached Calais. Henry replied, "All would be done according to the will of God. He did not seek them, but the fear of them would not induce him to move out of his way." The king continued his march, with great regularity, till the 24th, when the French army was descried, in "such prodigious numbers, that many of the English fell on their knees, and implored the Almighty to take them under his protection." It was then that the celebrated scene occurred, which is so spiritedly given by our Shakspere. Walter Hungerford was regretting, in the king's presence, that he had not, in addition to the small retinue which he had there, ten thousand of the best English archers; when Henry said, "Thou speakest foolishly, for by the God of Heaven, on whose grace I have relied, and in whom[Pg 15] I have a firm hope of victory, I would not, even if I could, increase my number by one." Shakspere had the anecdote from Holinshed. The fidelity of the poet's descriptions is very remarkable, when they are compared with these contemporary narratives. The night was passed by either army as the great dramatist has described; by the French, in gambling and debauchery—by the English, in prayer and preparation. The quarters of Henry, on the night preceding the battle, were at Maisoncelles. He spent the intervening hours in obtaining accurate reports of his position, and of that of the enemy.

The French army, upon an average of the conflicting testimonies, must have amounted to more than 60,000 men. These forces, on the morning of the 25th, were arrayed in three lines, on the plain of Azincourt, through which the route to Calais lay. The fighting men of France wore "long coats of steel, reaching to their knees, which were very heavy; below these was armour for their legs; and above, white harness, and bacinets, with camails." They were drawn up between two woods, in a space wholly inadequate for the movements of such an immense body; and the ground was soft from heavy rains. It was with the utmost difficulty they could stand, or lift their weapons. The horses at every step sunk into the mud. Henry formed his little band in one line, the archers being posted between the wings, in the form of a wedge, with sharp stakes fixed before them. The king, habited in his "cote d'armes," mounted a small grey horse; but he subsequently fought on foot. He addressed his troops with his usual spirit. Each army remained inactive for some hours. A truce was at length proposed by the French. The reply of Henry, before an army ten times as great as his own, differed little from the terms he had offered in his own capital. Towards the middle of the day, the order was given to the English to advance, by Henry crying aloud, "Advance Banners." Sir Thomas de Erpyngham, the commander of the archers, threw his truncheon into the air, exclaiming, "Now strike!" The English immediately prostrated themselves[Pg 16] to the ground, beseeching the protection of Heaven, and proceeded in three lines on the French army. The archers of Henry soon put the French cavalry in disorder; and the whole army rushing on, with the national huzza, the archers threw aside their bows, and slew all before them with their bill-hooks and hatchets. The immense numbers of the French proved their ruin. The battle soon became a slaughter; and the harnessed knights, almost incapable of moving, were hacked to pieces by the English archers, "who were habited in jackets, and had their hosen loose, with hatchets or swords hanging from their girdles, whilst many were barefooted and without hats." The battle lasted about three hours. The English "stood on the heaps of corpses, which exceeded a man's height." The French, indeed, fell almost passive, in their lines. Henry, at one period of the battle, issued an order for the slaughter of his prisoners. Even the French writers justify this horrible circumstance as an act of self-preservation. The total loss of the French was about ten thousand slain on the field; that of the English appears to have been about twelve hundred. Most of the dead were afterwards buried in enormous trenches.

The English king conducted himself with his accustomed dignity to his many illustrious prisoners. The victorious army marched to Calais in fine order, and embarked for England, without any attempt to follow up their almost miraculous triumph. Henry reached Calais on the 29th of October, and on the 17th of November landed at Dover. He entered London, amidst the most expensive pageantry of the citizens, contrasting with the studied simplicity of his own retinue and demeanour, on Saturday the 24th of November.

It was many years before France, torn as she was by internal dissensions, without a leader, almost without a government, consented to yield to the yoke of the invader. The subsequent career of Henry was not marked by any very brilliant military operations. He marched steadily forward to the accomplishment of his hopes, principally by taking advantage of that rivalry of faction[Pg 17] which ought to have ceased in the presence of an invader. The people of Paris, and the Burgundians, came at last to look upon the English as their allies against the faction of the Dauphin. In 1420 Henry virtually accomplished the great object of his ambition by marrying Katherine, the daughter of the King of France, and concluding a treaty by which the succession to the throne was secured to him after the death of Charles. Henry returned to England with his queen in 1421; but the Dauphin still continued in arms, and with a success that again summoned Henry to the field of war. Again were his energy and skill rewarded by his accustomed triumphs. The Dauphin fled before him; and he entered Paris in solemn state, with his queen, on the 30th of May, 1422. Katherine had borne him a son at Windsor Castle in the previous December. The short career of the great conqueror was now drawing to a close. Labouring under a severe illness, he set out, with his usual determination, to the relief of a town which had been invested by the Dauphin. He could proceed no farther than Corbeil, about twenty miles from Paris; and, being carried back in a litter to the immediate neighbourhood of the capital, he lay on a sick bed for about a month, and then died on the 31st of August, 1422. Never was so short a life so filled with unceasing action. He lived thirty-four years; he reigned ten years.

The character of Henry V. was precisely adapted to the times in which he was born, and to the circumstances by which he was surrounded. Enterprising, fearless, persevering, generous, pious, he was made to be a leader of chivalry, and to earn an imperishable distinction by those glittering but unsubstantial virtues which belong to an age in which success in arms was the chief, if not the only distinction. Rash, obstinate, proud, superstitious, he was equally unfitted to make his people happy by wise laws, by a righteous administration of justice, or by the cultivation of sound knowledge. He lived just at the moment when the world could admire his brilliant qualities, and be blind to his defects. Had he come a century later, he would have found men's minds averse[Pg 18] to feudal projects of conquest, by the spread of intelligence produced by the invention of printing; whilst, from the general application of gunpowder to military affairs, he would have seen that warfare was a matter of calculation, in which personal prowess was only one of many instruments. He was the last of the conquerors of chivalry. May we hope that the time is fast approaching when we shall see the last of the conquerors of strategy.


[1] Lives of Men of Letters and Science, by Henry, Lord Brougham.

[2] Penny Cyclopædia, art. Henry V.

[Pg 19]


This accomplished prince was born some time in the year 1394. He was a younger son of King Robert III., and grandson of Robert II., the first king of the unfortunate line of Stuart, who had ascended the Scotish throne in 1371. The sixty-four years between the death of Bruce, the great liberator of his country, and the birth of James I., had been years of war and turbulence, and, partly owing to the weakness of his father's character, Scotland was in a very anarchic condition during the royal poet's childhood. Robert III. was fifty years old before he came to the crown (in 1390): he was of a mild and somewhat timid disposition, and much fonder of retirement and study than of war and state business. He was pious, merciful, and accomplished; but these were qualities which the half-savage aristocracy of Scotland held very cheap at the end of the fourteenth century, and, indeed, even two centuries later; and his want of energy and of a taste for war excited contempt. These[Pg 20] iron barons were only to be ruled by a king of iron heart and iron hand. Robert's two younger brothers, the Earl of Fife and the Earl of Buchan, were men of a very different stamp, and during the life of their father Robert II. they had divided between them such powers as the kingly government then possessed. Upon his accession, the amiable recluse, apparently without a struggle, and even without any regret, left the management of affairs to the Earl of Fife (afterwards created Duke of Albany); and, under the name of Custos or Guardian, or that of Governor, the crafty, stirring, and ambitious Albany governed both kingdom and king. But when Robert's eldest son, the Duke of Rothsay, grew up to manhood, he submitted very unwillingly to the authority of his uncle; and a strong party rallying round the heir-apparent, Albany, in 1398, found himself compelled to retire and admit his nephew as Regent. The Duke of Rothsay occupied this post for about three years; but he was thoughtless, rash, and dissipated, and his uncle Albany was constantly on the watch for an opportunity to work his ruin. It is also said that the cunning and ambitious uncle got dissolute and depraved men placed about the young Regent, in order to lead him into guilt and trouble, and that, at the same time, he never ceased lamenting in public the vices of his nephew. By means of artful representations conveyed to the old pious king of the licentious conduct of his son, Albany, at the beginning of the year 1402, procured an order under the royal signet to arrest Rothsay and place him in temporary confinement. The unhappy young man was treacherously seized near St. Andrews, and was soon lodged in a dungeon in Falkland Castle. How long he was left to linger there, or of what death he really died, is not clearly ascertained; but the general belief is that he was starved to death, and that his helpless father did not know his fate until the year 1404. From the moment of the seizure of the Duke of Rothsay, Albany resumed his authority as Custos or Regent, leaving his brother the king in the quiet retirement he so much loved. But Robert, taking the proper measure of Albany's ambition[Pg 21] and remorselessness, was very eager to get his younger son James out of his way, lest he too should be cut off in order to leave the succession to the throne open to Albany and his sons. Prince James was now near upon his eleventh year, and already gave good promise of the high qualities he afterwards displayed. His father had given him a taste for books, and he had been carefully instructed by Henry Wardlaw, Bishop of St. Andrews, in letters; and in arms and martial exercises by Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld, and other nobles and knights who remained steady in their attachment to the poor king, whose piety and charity endeared him to the churchmen and the common people. But for these last circumstances, Albany might have proceeded to some desperate extremity in Scotland against the young heir to the throne. But not daring to take this step, he agreed with his brother King Robert that James should be sent over to France, to be educated in the court of Charles VI. It is suspected, however, that Albany, before giving his necessary consent to the prince's departure, arranged in a secret correspondence with Henry IV. of England, who had recently dethroned Richard II., that Prince James should be seized on his voyage, and kept a close prisoner in one of King Henry's castles.

In the spring of the year 1405 the young James took his leave of his father, whom he was destined never to see again. The prince travelled to North Berwick, being accompanied and protected by the Earl of Orkney, Sir David Fleming, and a strong party of barons and knights, chiefly of the Lothians. He embarked and took his departure from the Bass Rock. The Earl of Orkney, young Sir Alexander Seton, his esquire William Gifford, and a few others (making but a small retinue), continued with the prince, and were to remain with him in France; the rest of the party took a mournful farewell and returned homeward. But one of the best of that party, Sir David Fleming, never reached his home, being waylaid and barbarously murdered on Langhermanstone moor, by a band led on by Douglas of Balvainy, laird of Dirle[Pg 22]ton, an adherent of the Regent Albany. As it was a time of peace with England, the prince's friends seem to have entertained no apprehension from that quarter, and the ship sailed close along the English coast. But as they were rounding Flamborough Head, on the Yorkshire coast, on or about the 12th of April, 1405, the vessel was surrounded by a squadron of armed merchantmen, commanded by one John Joliffe, and belonging to the port of Clay. According to another account, the prince and his friends, after passing Flamborough Head, landed to procure refreshments, and were taken prisoners on shore. But it appears pretty certain that they were boarded and captured at sea, and that Henry IV. was fully prepared to intercept the prince and keep him a prisoner for life. When the Earl of Orkney spoke of the existing peace between the two countries, and showed the English king the passes and letters which he had received from King Robert, and protested that the only object held in view in sending the young prince into France was that he might be well educated and taught the French language, Henry laughed and said, "Well, as I know the French tongue right well, the boy could not have fallen into better hands than mine!" James was forthwith shut up in Pevensey Castle on the coast of Sussex.

There was at this time, as there had been for the four or five preceding years, a mysterious adventurer that passed for the king, Richard II. of England, whom the wily Bolingbroke had dethroned, and who had died in his prison. It seems almost certain, and it is not at all inconsistent with the temper of that meek and credulous old king, that Robert believed this man to be King Richard; but it is not easy to conceive that the acute, crafty, and suspicious Albany gave any credit to the adventurer's strange story. It would, however, suit the Scotish Regent's purpose to feign a belief; for Albany, by treating the adventurer as the true Richard, could confirm the popular notion of many of the English, that the deposed king was still alive; and, by keeping the man in his power, he could at any time alarm Henry by threatening to throw him, like a firebrand, into England,[Pg 23] and to support his cause with an invading army. Thus, the Regent Albany, as well after the death of his brother King Robert as before that event, treated the adventurer in public as the indisputable Richard, and legitimate king of England. The man, whoever or whatever he was, though narrowly watched, was liberally entertained at the public expense, and the money so spent was entered in the High Chamberlain's books as "for the maintenance of Richard King of England."[3] Most if not all of the Scotish nobles seem to have sincerely believed the strange story for a time, for they were eager to credit what flattered their vanity and gave them a means of annoying the English king, and few of them could have been competent to an investigation of the historical doubt: notwithstanding some attempts which have been made of late years to establish the probability of this story, we feel fully convinced that the stranger entertained at the Scotish court was an adventurer and an impostor, and that Richard II. perished in Pontefract Castle—most probably by starvation. But whether the true Richard, or only an impostor and a phantom, he could be made dangerous to Henry IV., whose throne was not yet firmly established, and who was regarded as a usurper not only by most foreign princes, but also by a very considerable portion of his own subjects. The original bargain between him and the equally wily Regent of Scotland appears to have been this—Do you keep your pretended Richard out of my way, and I will keep your nephew and heir to the Scotish crown out of your way. Other views may have arisen in Henry's fertile and politic mind afterwards, and he may even have contemplated the annexation of Scotland to his own dominions by keeping the heir of the old king in his hands; or he may have hoped that, by educating his captive as an Englishman, he would lose his nationality, and be prepared either to submit to him in after years, or to hold his[Pg 24] crown in vassalage and dependence on him. The injustice of the seizure and detention of the prince was matter of no moment either to the crafty Bolingbroke or to his ministers and advisers; for the privy council warmly recommended Henry to keep James in sure ward, and to take every possible advantage of his captivity. The cunningest of English kings had already in his power the Regent Albany's eldest son, Lord Murdoch Stuart, who had been taken prisoner in the famous battle of Homildon Hill on the 14th of September, 1402; and, notwithstanding his many public treaties and private dealings with Albany, and the truces which so long existed, and the friendship he so often professed for the regent, Henry so long as he lived could never be prevailed upon to liberate his son.

The news of James's arrest is commonly said to have broken the heart of the old king, Robert. One chronicler says that Robert died on the very day he received the sad intelligence.[4] But this last assertion is evidently incorrect; and it may almost be doubted whether Robert, when on his death-bed, did not rejoice that his young and helpless son was in an English castle, and not in his own distracted country, exposed to the malice of his unscrupulous uncle. The old king did not die until a year after the seizure of the prince. Shortly after his death a sort of Scotish parliament assembled at St. Johnstoun (now called Perth), and acknowledged and proclaimed James as king; but at the same time they confirmed Albany in the Regency, and they made no effort to procure the liberation of their young sovereign. We cannot discover that they so much as remonstrated with Henry IV. on the flagrant injustice of which he was guilty. Albany was thus left in quiet and undisputed possession of whatever power belonged to the royal station in so anarchical a kingdom, where every great baron set himself above the law, and exercised sovereign rule in his own fiefs.

A few months after the seizure of James, Albany sent[Pg 25] an embassy or a company of secret agents to treat with Henry IV., and some of these men were the Regent's relatives,[5] who no doubt were anxious that James should remain where he was. Friendly engagements were contracted, and for several years peace was preserved between the governments of England and Scotland. Prince James appears to have been almost forgotten in his own country, and in England he remained a very close prisoner. He was, however, kindly and liberally treated, and King Henry caused great care to be taken of his education. Sir John de Pelham, constable of Pevensey Castle, James's first place of confinement, was a statesman and warrior of no mean fame, and a better scholar than was commonly found in his station; he had lived much abroad, and had been with Henry Bolingbroke during that exile in France which preceded the easy Revolution that placed him on the throne of England. An old writer very justly says of James—"This advantage he had by his captivity, that he was well and carefully educated."[6] These advantages he could not have enjoyed to anything like the same extent if he had been brought up in Scotland. He studied during his captivity Latin as well as French, Grammar, Rhetoric, Theology, and Music; and, for that time, he must have been plentifully supplied with books. We are not told who were his several masters, or what was the course and order of his studies, but it should appear that music and poetry engaged his attention at an early period of his captivity. His fame was afterwards as great as a musician as it was as a poet. "He exercised all instruments of music, and equalled the best professors thereof," says Drummond of Hawthornden. "He had studied all philosophy, but most that which concerns government."[7] He was also well trained in the art of war, and[Pg 26] in military and athletic exercises. When, after so many years, he returned to his own country, he was found to surpass all men in archery, in throwing the great hammer, and "putting the stone."

In the course of the year 1407, James was removed from Pevensey Castle to the Tower of London, and from the Tower to Nottingham Castle. Before these removals the Earl of Orkney and Sir Alexander Seton had been liberated and allowed to return to Scotland, but his faithful squire, William Gifford, remained with the captive king. As we hear of no more changes, it seems probable that James dwelt by the broad Trent in Nottingham Castle for the space of six years. Henry IV. died on the 20th of March, 1413. His son and successor, Henry V., immediately removed King James, and shut him up once more in the Tower of London, the faithful Gifford being still with him. To make the case still more bitter, Henry V. entered into friendly negotiations with the Regent Albany, and liberated his son, Lord Murdoch Stuart, who proceeded to Scotland to assist his father in maintaining his power, and to pave the way for his own promotion to the Regency upon the death of his parent, who was far advanced in years. King James, however, was not detained many months in the Tower. In the summer of 1414 he was conveyed to Windsor Castle, where he was allowed considerable liberty. It appears to have been shortly after his removal to Windsor that some of the Scotish nobility were, for the first time, permitted to visit and to give him the consoling assurance that he was not altogether forgotten in his native country and kingdom. Henry V., who was at this time bent upon his French conquests, and who commenced his victorious career in the summer of the following year (1415), was dissatisfied with the Regent Albany, who betrayed an inclination to aid and assist France. He had always maintained a close alliance with that country, even while at peace with England, and the Scots generally regarded the French as their natural as well as most ancient ally.[Pg 27]

James remained in Windsor Castle from the summer of 1414 until the summer of 1417. His apartment was in the Round Tower, and it was here that he is thought to have prosecuted his studies with most ardour and success, being about twenty years old when he first came to Windsor. "Windsor Castle," says Drummond, "kept him a prisoner; but by commandment of King Henry, he was so carefully instructed, that no prince could have been better bred in the schools of Europe." The surrounding country, the noble river, the vast and venerable forest, were fitted to promote his poetical turn, and to feed and invigorate that love of nature and nice observation of it which are displayed so remarkably in his poetry. It appears also to have been towards the latter part of this his first residence at Windsor, that his heart was warmed and his feeling refined by the passion of love—the groundwork of his greatest and, perhaps, only indisputable poem that has come down to our times.

All the first part of the 'King's Quair' (that is, the King's Quire or Book) is considered autobiographical, and no doubt is entertained that the lady therein celebrated was the fair Jane or Joanna Beaufort, who, after a long attachment, became his wife and queen. This lady was daughter of John, Earl of Somerset: her father, now dead, was son of John of Gaunt, and uncle to Henry V.: her mother, Catherine, a daughter of Holland, Earl of Kent, had for her second husband the Duke of Clarence, a younger brother of Henry V., who was at this time serving in France. She was young, beautiful, and accomplished. It appears that she frequently resided at Windsor Castle, or in that neighbourhood. James, in the poem, describes the first sight he had of her as accidental. It was the sweet month of May, and as he looked forth from the Tower of the castle all men and things seemed free and gay, except only he. He bewailed his hard lot, as he had oft times done before:[Pg 28]

"Where as in ward full oft I would bewail
My deadly life, full of pain and penance,
Saying right thus, What have I guilt to fail[8]
My freedom in this world, and my pleasance?
Sen[9] every wight has thereof suffisance
That I behold, and I a creature
Put from all this: hard is mine aventure.[10]
The bird, the beast, the fish eke in the sea,
They live in freedom everich in his kind,
And I a man, and lacketh liberty!
What shall I sayn, what reason may I find,
That fortune should do so? Thus in my mind
My fate I would argue; but all for nought;
Was none that might that on my paines wrought.[11]

The longe dayes and the nightes eke
I would bewail my fortune in this wise;
For which again[12] distress comfort to seek
My custom was on mornes for to rise,
Early as day; O happy exercise!
By thee came I to joy out of torment:—
But now to purpose of my first intent.
Bewailing in my chamber thus alone,
Despaired of all joy and remedy,
Fortirit[13] of my thought and woe-begone,
And to the window gan I walk in hy[14]
To see the world and folk that went forby;[15]
As, for the time though I of mirthes food
Might have no more, to look it did me good."

The broad moat at the foot of the Round Tower had been converted into a garden, and in this garden were groves, and arbours, and flowers, and sweet-smelling[Pg 29] shrubs. The royal poet's description of the scene is exquisite:—

"Now there was made, fast by the Toures wall,
A garden fair, and in the corners set
Ane herber[16] green, with wandes long and small
Railed about: and so with trëes set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,[17]
That life[18] was none walking there forby
That might within scarce any wight espy.
So thick the bewes[19] and the leaves green
Beshaded all the alleys that there were,
And middes[20] every herber might be seen
The sharpe, greene, sweete juniper,
Growing so fair with branches here and there,
That, as it seemed to a life without,
The bewes spread the herber all about.
And on the smale greene twistes sate
The little sweete nightingale, and sung
So loud and clear the hymnes consecrate
Of loves use, now soft now loud among,
That all the gardens and the walles rung
Right of their song and on the couple next
Of their sweet harmony; and lo the text:—
Worshippe, ye that lovers been, this May,
For of your bliss the kalends are begun,
And sing with us, Away, winter, away!
Come, summer, come, the sweet season and sun;
Awake, for shame! that have your heavens won,
And amorously lift up your heades all;
Hark, Love, that list you to his mercy call."

While the birds are thus sweetly singing, a lady comes into the garden and passes close under the Tower:[Pg 30]

"And therewith cast I down mine eye again,
Where as I saw walking under the Tower,
Full secretly, new cumyn[21] her to pleyne,
The fairest or the freshest younge flower
That ever I saw, methought, before that hour:
For which sudden abate, anon astert,[22]
The blood of all my body to my heart.
And though I stood abaisit tho a lyte
No wonder was; for why? my wittis all
Were so o'ercome with pleasance and delyte,
Only through letting of mine eyen fall,
That suddenly my heart become her thrall,
For ever of free will, for of menace,
There was no token in her sweet face.
And in my head I drew right hastily,
And eftsoons I leaned it out again,
And saw her walk that very womanly,
With no wight mo, but only women twain;
Then gan I study in myself and seyne,
Ah! sweet, are ye a worldly creature,
Or heavenly thing in likeness of nature?"

The enamoured poet goes on to describe the choice array, the golden hair, and the rich attire of the lovely maiden, who has—

"Beauty enow to make a world to dote."

These descriptions are exceedingly elaborate, and yet full of grace and beauty. The lover envies the little dog that is playing round the lady with his bells—

"her little hound,
That with his belles playit on the ground."

The lady quits the garden, and the ecstasy of the captive king is succeeded by sadness, and he sits lone and cheerless in his chamber in the Round Tower till the sun sinks[Pg 31]

"Bidding farewell to every leaf and flower."

He then falls into a deep sleep, and is wafted in—

"A cloud of crystal, clear and fair,"

from planet to planet, till he reaches the "glad empire of blissful Venus," where he finds lovers of all classes and descriptions. The poem then becomes allegorical, demi-classical, and in truth somewhat tiresome, although natural and tender thoughts, musically expressed, are to be found even in this part. The sweet flow and melody of the verse—the musical delicacy of the poet's ear—are very remarkable. With the alteration of a few obsolete and crabbed words, and a little attention to the accentuation of the period, the 'King's Quair' will afford delight to the most delicate ear in its rhythmical construction.

In the summer of 1417, Henry V., who was departing for his second French expedition, called James from Windsor Castle, and took him with him to Normandy, where the two kings landed in the beginning of August, together with the finest army that England had ever sent abroad. The campaign which ensued was a very active one, and nearly twenty sieges of towns or strong castles were commenced and concluded. It appears that James took an active part in some of these operations, and that his skill and bravery attracted universal admiration. While he was thus serving in France, his uncle, the Regent Albany, broke the truce he had solemnly concluded with Henry V., and rushed across the English border with 60,000 men. He was impelled by various strong motives: seeing the altered condition of his nephew, he thought that nothing short of a war with England could bar James's return to Scotland; and he was also bound by his French treaties to make a diversion in favour of France. The phantom King Richard had long ceased to delude even the credulous; and if it had been otherwise, the conqueror of Azincourt would not have been much troubled by his pretensions. A war Albany thought the surest means of keeping the young king from his throne; and as Henry had taken so great a force with him to France, he expected to find the[Pg 32] northern counties of England an easy prey. But the Regent miscalculated. Elated by Henry's brilliant victories on the Continent, the whole of England was in a martial temper and attitude; between Trent and Tweed there was a small but admirably appointed army, and at the first news of its approach Albany called in his marauding parties and retreated with disgrace, and without striking a blow. The English force invaded Scotland and made a desert of the country near the borders. This dishonourable campaign of the Regent was ever afterwards called the "Foul Raid." Shortly after its occurrence the Regent agreed to send 7000 Scots, under the command of his second son, the Earl of Buchan, to assist the French in their own country. James remained with Henry V., and still further distinguished himself in the campaigns of 1418 and 1419. He was present at the marriage of Henry with the Princess Katherine of France at Troyes, on the 2nd of June, 1420, and at the splendid repast which was given the day after the marriage. Before this time his uncle the Regent was dead. Albany, who had reached the age of eighty, died at Stirling on the 3rd of September, 1419. His government had not been unacceptable to the aristocracy, for he made no attempts to curb their excess of power; and he seems to have charmed the Scotish clergy by a regular attendance at mass, and a declared enmity against all heterodoxy:

"At Goddes service, and at his mass,
In all time right devout he was.
He was a constant Catholic;
All Lollard he hated and heretic."[23]

As the Scots had entered as principals into the war, and as the Earl of Buchan was fighting valiantly against Henry V., no attempt could be made to procure the restoration of James; and Lord Murdoch Stuart, Albany's eldest son, who had himself been so many years a prisoner in England, was allowed to assume the regency quietly, and as if it were a matter of course.[Pg 33]

At the beginning of 1421, when Henry returned to England with his French bride, James accompanied him, and was present at the coronation of the fair Katherine, and at the magnificent banquet in Westminster Hall, where he sat "in his estate," at the left hand of the queen.[24] Henry then sent him back to his old abode in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle; but he had much more liberty, and more respect paid to him than before. Several Scotish lords who were dissatisfied with Murdoch's regency visited him, and it is believed that he occasionally enjoyed the society of his "milk-white dove," the Lady Jane, and of other members of the great family of Beaufort. It is also thought that it was now he began his beautiful poem, the 'King's Quair,' although from some verses in it alluding to his long and constant passion, and to the happiness he found in his marriage, it should appear that the poem was not finished until some time after his return to Scotland. But, perhaps, these verses were introduced afterwards into the otherwise completed poem. During King Henry's absence in England several disasters and serious reverses befell parts of his army in France. The Earl of Buchan and his Scots fell suddenly upon Henry's brother, the Duke of Clarence, while he was besieging a town in Anjou, and gave him a complete overthrow. Clarence was slain in the battle, and Buchan for this exploit received from the Dauphin the sword of Constable of France.[25] "In truth," said Pope Martin V., when he heard the news, "the Scots in France are the only antidotes of the English." Henry now applied to James, promising him his liberty and many advantages, if he could cause the Scots to quit the service of the Dauphin and return to their own country. As James had never had possession of his realm, and as he was neither sworn to his subjects, nor they by any oath of allegiance bound to him, he could do little or nothing in his captive state; and upon these representations the English king began an agreement with James and several of the Scotish lords that had come into Eng[Pg 34]land. But Henry's presence was imperatively demanded in France, and before the negotiations could be brought to any head, he went over to the Continent, and again took King James with him. But this time the Scotish King was followed by the Earl of Douglas with a Scotish force of two hundred knights and squires, and two hundred mounted archers; and, when in France, he was allowed a free and undisguised intercourse with all such of the Scotish nobility as were disgusted with his cousin Murdoch, and as chose to resort to him. He again saw many sieges and battles, and many splendid festivals and pageantries. After the death of the conquering Henry, on the 31st of August, 1422, James, acting as chief mourner, followed the body to England in that funeral procession which surpassed in solemnity and magnificence everything of the sort that had been known or even conceived. The authority of the deceased king was now divided between his two brothers, the Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford, Gloucester acting as Regent in England, and Bedford as regent in France. Both these princes willingly resumed the treaty which Henry V. had commenced; and at last, on the 10th of September, 1423, the treaty was concluded by Scotish and English negotiators who had met at York. The Scots agreed to pay, as compensation for the expenses of their king's maintenance and education, the sum of 40,000l. "of good and lawful English money," delivering at the church of St. Paul's, London, 10,000 marks every six months until the whole amount should be discharged.[26] As soon as he was a free man and king, he asked the hand of the fair Lady Jane Beaufort, whom he had so long loved. According to Grafton, the Regent or Protector of the realm of England, by the consent of the whole baronage, readily assented to the match. On the 26th of November the queen dowager Katherine, with her son, the infant Henry VI., went from Westminster to Waltham Holy Cross, and thence to Hertford, where the little king kept his Christmas, having the King of Scots with[Pg 35] him.[27] In the following month of February (1424) "Sir James Stuart, King of Scots, married in the face of the church," in the church of St. Mary Overy, in Southwark, the Lady Jane; and the marriage feast was kept in the palace of the bride's uncle, the great Cardinal Beaufort.[28] At the intercession of the cardinal, the money to be paid by the Scots was to be reduced to 30,000l.; and the 10,000l. saved were to be considered as his niece's marriage portion. In a few weeks James, with his beautiful wife, her father the Earl of Somerset, and her uncle the cardinal, and a goodly retinue of Scotish and English lords, set out for the borders; and, after an absence of very nearly nineteen years, he re-entered his native country. He kept his Easter feast at Edinburgh, and was crowned with his queen at Scone on the 20th of April. His cousin Murdoch, who had fallen into contempt, seems at this moment to have made no effort either to preserve his political power, or in any way to thwart the restored king, who was certainly received with transports of joy by the common people, and by most of the nobles. In a parliament which met at Perth, five days after the coronation, the king called attention to the feuds, factions, and abuses of law, and oppressions of the poor, which had made Scotland so unhappy a country; a complete reviewal of the disorders of the kingdom was gone into, and, as a beginning, various laws and regulations were made for their correction. But legislation could not remove the roots of the evil; and some of the barons, who had enjoyed a full immunity under the Regent Murdoch, and even under his much abler father Albany, complained at the changes now attempted, and, leaguing again with Murdoch, they in many cases openly opposed the laws that were passed. James remained quiet, and, to all appearance, submitted to this fierce oligarchy; but all the while he was preparing for a great state-blow. In the month of March, 1428, when he thought himself sufficiently strong, and when he had provided himself with fitting instruments,[Pg 36] he called together another parliament at Perth, and then and there suddenly arrested the ex-regent Murdoch, his youngest son Alexander, and twenty-six other barons. Walter, Murdoch's eldest son, had been seized some time before. James Stuart, another of Murdoch's sons, upon learning the arrest of his father and brother and friends, rode to the town of Dumbarton with a number of outlaws and Highlanders, surprised one of King James's uncles, called the Red Stuart of Dundonald, and slew him with thirty others; and then, setting fire to the town, fled into Ireland. A court was forthwith assembled in the palace of Stirling, over which the king himself presided; and, in the month of May, Murdoch and his two sons, Walter and Alexander, and his aged father-in-law, the Earl of Lennox, were condemned by the court and beheaded on the Heading Hill, in front of Stirling Castle. After giving this terrible warning, James released the other nobles who had been apprehended. "For the king," says Drummond of Hawthornden, "like a wise physician, would take no more blood than might take away the disease, and all further causes of faction. So within twelve months he set them all at liberty, and received them into his wonted favour, upon promise of their loyal demeanour and dutiful obedience in time to come."

For several years James continued to occupy himself, with the assistance of his parliament, in strenuous efforts to promote the civilization and general improvement of his kingdom. A series of legislative enactments are still preserved, which comprehend the subjects of agriculture, commerce, manufactures, the regulation of weights and measures, the police of the country, its defence against foreign enemies, the administration of justice, and even the constitution of the supreme government.[29] These numerous enactments, which are nearly all marked with James's mind, and which show how much he had profited by his residence in England and the studies he had there prosecuted, are considered as the most complete[Pg 37] collection of materials that now exist for the illustration of the internal state of any European country at this remote time. James also strengthened himself, and provided the means of calling into activity the industry and resources of his country, by concluding treaties of alliance or commerce with France, Flanders, and other foreign powers. He was heartily supported by most of his clergy, and could always count on the goodwill of the commonalty, who loved him the better for every act of severity he exercised against their old oppressors, the lawless and rapacious nobles. This severity was frequently excessive; but allowance must be made for the barbarous times in which, and the desperate men among whom, this reforming king's lot was cast. It was felt not only in Scotland, but in countries far more advanced in civilization, that the baronial fury was only to be tamed by copious blood-letting: gentler remedies had been tried and had failed, and had caused the death or ruin of the mild reformers. The armed retainers of the nobles despised industry, and lived by sword and spear. "This king," says an old Scotish writer, "was one great justiciar, which was the occasion that he did execute 3000 that were oppressors of the common weal in the first two years of his reign."[30] Having reduced the whole of the Lowlands to an obedience to the laws, James proceeded against the much wilder clans in the Highlands. He repaired or rebuilt the royal castle of Inverness, and there kept his court for some time. "He seemed," says Drummond, "to have arrived in some territory of the Scythians, having known or found things which none dare relate unto him; for he learned that not many miles off there were men some of whom had 1000, some 2000 robbers at their call, who were accustomed to drive preys from the more civil neighbours and borders, pilling and spoiling, polluting and ravishing, without any difference of right or wrong, holy or profane, but only following their ravenous and insolent humours. On the quieter[Pg 38] sort they set tribute, others they compelled to minister to them sustenance and necessaries. The God, Prince, Law, which they obey, are their barbarous chieftains, amongst which he is thought the best who doth most transcend in villainy." James made a beginning by seizing about fifty chiefs of clans. Of these some of the most desperate, as Alexander Macrore, James Campbell, and others, were executed immediately; some were kept in prison to be tried and condemned in a more deliberate manner; the rest were released and sent to their homes, having been exhorted by the king to lead a life more conformable to the law of God and man. Alexander, Lord of the Isles, was released after a captivity of two years, and the first use he made of his liberty and of the king's pardon was to call his clans and friends together to make war upon the king. James instantly marched against him, defeated him in a bloody battle, and drove him and his scattered clansmen into the hungry wilds of Lochaber. After making a vain attempt to escape into Ireland, this great chieftain disguised himself and went privately to Edinburgh; and there, on Easter Sunday, wrapped in a mourning garment, and concealed among the multitude, he stood in the church of the Holy Rood awaiting the coming of the king; and when the king came to mass he stepped out of the crowd, and, falling prostrate at his feet, implored his grace and another pardon. The gentle queen Jane interceded for him, and James gave him his life, but sent him as a prisoner to the strong castle of Tantallon. Donald Balloch, cousin to this Alexander, Lord of the Isles, now flew to arms, and a good many of the Highland clans were more than once in open insurrection; but Donald was killed in battle, and the Highlands were again pacified, though not until 300 men had perished on the gibbet.

About the year 1432 there was a greater calm in every corner of Scotland than had been known in any preceding time. The king prosecuted his internal reforms without disturbance. He founded schools, and granted them liberties and privileges. He invited learned foreigners to come and settle in the country. "Many[Pg 39] famous men in all sciences, from the noblest universities in Christendom, came hither, as to the sanctuary of the Muses, where often the king himself in person graced their lessons, and, when great matters did not withdraw him, was umpire to their harmless conflicts."[31] He advanced learned and virtuous men to eminent places in the church; and although he lamented that his predecessor, the saintly King David, had been a grievous saint to the crown, by alienating so much crown-land in extraordinary donations to the church, he himself founded the magnificent abbey of Perth, and endowed it richly; and he improved and beautified several abbeys and cathedral churches. "The excellent skill which he had in music and delight in poesy made him affect choristers, and he was the first that established choirs in his own chapels and the cathedral churches of Scotland, organs being not much known before his reign to the nation."[32] Almost all the craftsmen and artisans had been killed in the long wars, and manufactures had nearly disappeared; therefore he invited industrious and ingenious mechanics from England, France, and the Low Countries, offering them good pay and privileges, and the steady protection of the law. "Of which," says Drummond, "such a fair number came, and were so graciously received, that they forgot their native countries, and here made their perpetual abode: and what till this day Scotland enjoyeth of them, owes all its beginning to these times." He had vowed upon coming to the throne, that if God would but grant him life, he would make the property of the poorest man as secure as that of the greatest baron. Learning that poverty was frequently a bar to justice, he decreed that if any man was too poor to pay the law fees, then the king, "for the love of God," should appoint him a judge to see justice done free of expense.

Even when seated on this perilous throne, which was fatal to nearly everyone of his name and race, and when surrounded with difficulties, and oppressed with labour—having to see to all things himself—he yet found time[Pg 40] to devote to his two darling pursuits—poetry and music. Drummond says he wrote verses, both Latin and English, of which many were extant at the time he composed his history. If the bard of Hawthornden had only given the titles of these poems and a few specimens of them, not a little controversy might have been avoided in our day. Besides the 'King's Quair,' which is indisputably his production, the two humorous poems in the Scotish dialect, called 'Peebles to the Play,' and 'Christ's Kirk on the Green,' and the two famous comic ballads, 'The Gaberlunzie Man,' and 'The Jolly Beggar,' have been attributed to James. As for the two ballads, it now seems to be admitted on all sides that they were written neither by him nor by his equally accomplished and equally unfortunate descendant, James V., the victim at Flodden Field. About the authorship of the two humorous Scottish poems, opinions are still somewhat divided. Mr. George Chalmers, the best editor that the royal authors of Scotland have as yet met with, rejects 'Christ's Kirk on the Green,' but assigns 'Peebles to the Play' to James I. Bishop Percy and Ritson considered the last-named piece as being indisputably the production of the first James. Lord Hailes, on the contrary, thought it contained references to a much later period and a different state of society. Gibson, Tanner, and the editor of Gawain Douglas's Virgil, give the 'Christ's Kirk on the Green,' to James V., and Chalmers agrees with them and with Sibbald, the poetical chronologist, in considering this poem as the undoubted production of James V., and not of James I., whose style, versification, sentiment, and cast of thought are altogether different. On the other side, Mr. P. F. Tytler, the last biographer of these Scotish kings, says that "the absurdity of this hypothesis" was clearly exposed by his own grandfather,[33] and that "the learned world have invariably adopted" his grandfather's opinion. At the risk of being considered unlearned by Mr. Tytler,[Pg 41] we agree with Mr. Craik[34] and with others who have considered the subject attentively, that neither 'Peebles to the Play,' nor 'Christ's Kirk on the Green,' was written by James I., or by any poet of his time. They are both clearly the production of the same period, and of a period much later than that of the first James. Unless one be an imitation of the other, they are both from the same hand, and, we believe, they may be pretty safely allotted to James V.

During his captivity in Windsor Castle, James had diligently studied the works of Chaucer and Gower; and in the concluding stanza of the King's Quair he gracefully and gratefully acknowledges his obligations unto his

"maisters dear,
Gower and Chaucer, that on the steppes sate
Of Rhetoric while they were livand here,
Superlative as poets laureate,
Of morality and eloquence ornate."

It was by a happy and truly poetical coincidence that the lady so suddenly seen in the garden at Windsor, and so fondly loved from that first sight, should be the grand-daughter of Chaucer's friend and patron, John of Gaunt, who married the sister of that great poet's wife. It should appear that the writings of Chaucer were altogether unknown in Scotland until the return of James I.; but from that period Chaucer became the one great model of the Scotish poets.

It has generally been thought that James was the means of improving the music as much as the poetry of his country; that he composed various airs and pieces of sacred music; and that he was in fact the father of the peculiar, plaintive, and characteristic melody of Scotland. It is probable, however, that, as in other matters, our Scotish writers have been misled by their eager wish to make that which is old more ancient than it really is. The only basis of their musical hypothesis is a single short and not very clear passage in an Italian writer of the seventeenth century. Alessandro Tassoni,[Pg 42] author of the mock-heroic poem 'La Secchia Rapita,' or the 'Rape of the Bucket,' and of various less known works, says in his 'Dieci Libri di Pensieri Diversi' (or 'Ten Books of Divers Thoughts,' which was published at Venice in 1636), in a chapter on the old question, whether the ancient musicians surpassed the modern or the modern the ancient,[35] "We may also enumerate among our musicians (tra nostri) James, King of Scotland, who not only composed sacred things for singing, but found out of himself a new music, pathetic and sad, and different from every other music, in the which he has since been imitated by Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, who, in this our age, has improved music with new and admirable inventions." Tassoni gives no numeral after his King James; and when he wrote there had been six Jameses upon the throne of Scotland. Besides, James I., James IV., and James V. had been greatly distinguished by their love of music and their proficiency in it; and it appears on the whole rather more probable that the Italian meant to speak of James V., who was killed in 1513, and who was a great employer of foreign artists, than of James I., who died in the preceding century. As there is no number after the James, as no date is mentioned, and as there is no other authority than this inconclusive passage of Tassoni, the question must, at the least, be left in doubt. The author of the 'King's Quair,' the first civilizer of his country, has glory and fame enough without the disputable reputation of being the inventor of the Scotish melody. James I. was, however, highly celebrated as a musical performer; and he is said not only to have played well upon all the instruments that were then in use, but also to have far surpassed all the Irish and Scotish Highlanders as a player on the harp. Charmed with the gardens he had lived among at Windsor, he introduced a taste for gardening in his own country. The[Pg 43] buildings, the style of living, the pageantries and amusements of the court, and even the sports and amusements of the people, were all improved by him; and in his busiest days he found time to be present at, and take part in, the popular pastimes and exercises.

But "the delicate soft time, the reign of the mild arts," and that "sweet condition of life" which James I. had brought about, were suddenly interrupted by his barbarous murder.

The patrimony of the crown had been wasted by the Regent Albany and his son Murdoch, who had alienated the royal domains in order to conciliate the selfish and factious nobility, while some of the barons had helped themselves without any grant. The king caused an examination to be made into numerous grants and titles, and, in several cases, took possession of crown lands to which they really gave no right. From this moment the barons began to cabal against him. His close connection with France roused the jealousy of England; and when, in 1435, he sent his infant daughter Margaret abroad to be betrothed to the Dauphin (afterwards Louis XI.), he became involved in a dispute with the English government, and these disputes led to a war. On the following year James marched with a formidable army to the border and laid siege to Roxburgh Castle, which was then occupied by Sir Ralph Gray. While he was engaged in this siege, his wife, Queen Jane, came suddenly to his camp, and, after some conference with her in private, he raised the siege, disbanded most of the army, and, accompanied by some chosen bands of his most assured friends, returned hastily towards the north. The Queen had discovered a conspiracy directed against his throne and life. This was in the month of August, 1436. The contriver and main leader of this murderous plot was Sir Robert Graham, a man of the darkest and most resolute character, "that dared give attempt upon those things which no honest man ever could think."[36] This Graham, being warned in time,[Pg 44] fled into the wildest parts of the Highlands before the king could reach him. There he began to collect an armed force, while his unsuspected associates and brother conspirators, the Earl of Athole and his grandson Sir Robert Stuart, continued about the king, lulling him into security, and watching for an opportunity to take him off. Athole was the king's uncle, and between eighty and ninety years of age; his grandson, Sir Robert, held the office of chamberlain in the royal household, and had constant access to James, by whom he appears to have been implicitly trusted. As that season approached, the king announced his intention of keeping his Christmas in the great monastery of the Black Friars at St. Johnstoun (Perth). Several warnings were given to him in the shape of interpreted omens and predictions, but he would not understand them as they were meant, and he set out with his queen and court. On the right bank of the Forth a Highland spae-wife, or prophetess, or fortune-teller, raised her voice and said, "If you cross that water, you will never return alive." No doubt the spae-woman, without any supernatural means, had obtained some knowledge of the plot, or of what Sir Robert Graham was doing in the Highlands; but Sir Robert Stuart, the traitorous chamberlain, or some other attendant that was in the conspiracy, told the king that the woman must be mad or drunk. The monastery of the Black Friars was outside the town of Perth, but not far from the town walls. The king and queen reached the place in safety, and passed a very merry Christmas without any disturbance. Several more weeks glided away happily; and if the king had ever entertained any apprehensions of personal danger, they entirely vanished. On the evening of the 20th of February he was unusually gay, and had more company, and sat in the hall later than usual. Nigh upon midnight, to the relief and joy of that white-headed conspirator, the Earl of Athole, who was present, he called for the parting cup. As the company were going, the Highland sibyl who had warned him not to cross the Forth came to the hall-door and desired to speak with the king himself.[Pg 45] The usher told the woman that the king was "busy in playing," and so bade her come again upon the morrow. "Well," said the woman, "it shall repent ye all that ye will not let me speak now with the king." "Thereat the usher laughed, and held her but a fool, charging her to go her way, and, therewithal, she went thence." Every man departed, and the monastery was still. "Then Robert Stuart, who was right familiar with the king, and had all his commandments in the chamber, was the last that departed; and he left the doors leading to the king's apartment open; and he had burst and blundered the locks in such wise that no man might shut them; and about midnight he laid certain planks and hurdles over the ditches that environ the garden, and upon these the said traitors entered—that is to say, Sir Robert Graham, with others of his covine, unto the number of three hundred persons." The king, who had prepared for bed, was standing in his nightgown talking and laughing with the queen, and other ladies and gentlewomen with her. "But he hearkened and heard great noise without, and great clattering of harness, and men armed, with great sight of torches. Then he remembered him, and imagined anon that it should be the false traitorous knight, his deadly enemy, Sir Robert Graham. And suddenly the queen, with all the other ladies and gentlewomen, ran to the outer chamber door, and found it open; and they would have shut it, but the locks were so blundered that they neither could nor might shut it." James called to them to make good the door as best they could, and rushing to one of the windows he attempted to burst open the iron bars with which it was secured; "but the bars were so square and so strongly soldered in the stones with molten lead," that he could not do it. He then started to the chimney and took the iron tongs, and ran into an inner cabinet, and mightily burst up a plank of the floor, "and entered adown low beneath," replacing the plank before he descended. It was a foul hiding-place for king or clown; it was all hard stone within, and had no window or issue save a square hole near the bottom. Yet through this[Pg 46] hole the king might well have escaped, if he had not caused it to be blocked up with stone three days before, because when he played at the paume (tennis) the balls would often run in at that foul hole. "And so there was for the king neither rescue nor remedy, but there he must abide, alas the while!....The traitors without laid at the chamber door with hammers, with levers, and with axes, so that at the last they break up all, and entered (because the doors were not fast shut) with swords, axes, glaives, bills, and other terrible and fearful weapons. Amongst the great press of the which traitors there was a fair lady sore hurt in the back; and other gentlewomen made a sorrowful shrieking, and ran away for the hideous fear of those boisterous and merciless men of arms. The traitors furiously passed forth into the chambers, and found the queen so dismayed and abashed that she could neither speak nor withdraw. And as so she stood there, so astounded as a creature that had lost her kindly reason, one of the traitors wounded her full villainously, and would have slain her if it had not been for one of Sir Robert Graham's sons, that thus spake to him and said, 'For shame of yourself! what will ye do to the queen? She is but a woman. Let us go seek the king!' And then not witting well what she did or should do in that fearful and terrible affray, the queen fled in her kirtle, her mantle hanging about her.... And there the traitors sought the king in all the chambers about, in the withdrawing-chamber, in the litters, under the presses, and forms, and chairs, and in all other places; yes, long they busily sought the king, but they could not find him; for either they knew not or did not recollect that cabinet. The king hearing of long time no noise nor stirring of the traitors, conceived that they had all gone away, and cried to the women that they should come with sheets and draw him out of that unclean place." The women ran at his call. "And as they were about to help up the king, one of the ladies, named Elizabeth Douglas, fell into the place to the king. Therewith one of the said traitors, called Robert Chaumbers, supposed verily, since[Pg 47] they could not find in any of the said chambers the king, that he of necessity had hid himself in that cabinet. And therefore he said to his fellows, 'Come on with me, and I shall readily tell you where the king is!' For the same Thomas Chaumbers had been afore right familiar with the king in all places; and therefore knew he well all the private corners of those chambers. And so he went straight to the cabinet, and looked well about him, and saw how a plank of the floor had been broken up; and he lift up the plank, and with a torch looking in, he saw the king there beneath, and a woman with him." The fellow called in the other murderers, and one of them, named Sir John Hall, leaped down to the king with a great knife in his hand. James caught him by the throat, and threw him under his feet. "For the king was, of his person and stature, a man right manly strong." A brother of this Hall that then went down to the king was also laid prostrate; and James so maltreated them both under him, that "all, a long month after, men might see how strongly the king had holden them by the throats." "And greatly the king struggled with them, for to have bereaved them of their knives; by the which labour his hands were all sore cut. But an the king had been in anywise armed, he might well have escaped their malice by the length of his fighting with these two false traitors. For if the king might any while longer have saved himself, his servants, and much other people of the town, by some fortune should have some knowledge thereof, and so have come to his succour and help. But alas, the while! it would not be! Fortune was to him adverse.... Therewithal that odious and false traitor, Sir Robert Graham, seeing the king laboured so sore with those two false traitors which he had cast under his feet, and that he was faint and weary (the more pity was it!) descended down also unto the king with an horrible and mortal weapon in his hand. And then the king cried him mercy. 'Thou cruel tyrant,' quoth Graham to him, 'thou hadst never mercy of lords born of thy blood, nor of none other gentlemen that came in thy danger; therefore no mercy[Pg 48] shalt thou have here!' Then said the king, 'I beseech thee that, for the salvation of my soul, ye will let me have a confessor!' Quoth the said Graham, 'Thou shalt never have other confessor than this same sword.' And therewithal he smote him through the body, and at last the good king fell down.... God of his grace and goodness preserved and kept the queen out of their hands. And upon this the noise rose and sprang out, both into the court and into the town.... And anon all the king's servants that were lodged in his said court, and all the other people of the same town, with one will and one assent, as the king's true men and his liege subjects, came with force and arms, with many a torch and other lights. And when the traitors heard the noise of those commons, they, with all haste possible, fled. But yet in their withdrawing, ere they were fully passed the ditches of the king's place, a worthy knight that was called Sir Davy Dunbar, alone descried and pursued them, and with his own hand slew one of them, and another he sore wounded. And as he fought with them in their fleeing they cut off three of his fingers of his one hand, and sore wounded him upon his head. And they slew another young man of the king's chamber that was good groom."[37]

When they brought up the butchered king, sixteen deadly wounds were found in his breast, and many other frightful gashes in his body and limbs. Thus perished[Pg 49] this intellectual and rarely accomplished prince, in the forty-fourth year of his age, and the thirteenth of his actual reign. He was buried in the Charter-house of Perth, which he had founded, where the doublet in which he was slain was kept as a relic almost to the time of Drummond of Hawthornden. He had by his fair queen one son and six daughters. The son, who was immediately proclaimed as James II., was only about seven years old, and he was killed at the siege of Roxburgh Castle by the accidental bursting of a cannon before he was thirty. His eldest daughter Margaret was already married to the French Dauphin. Afterwards, one of his daughters married the Earl or Duke of Bretagne, and another Sigismund, Duke of Austria; the remaining three seem to have married into the families of Angus, Huntly, and Morton, though one of them is said to have been at one time the wife of a great lord in Holland.

The king's beloved wife, Queen Jane, survived little more than eight troublous unhappy years. Apparently more for the sake of having one strong enough to protect her than from any love, she married Sir James Stuart, commonly called the Black Knight of Lorne. After being driven from one castle to another, she died in the strong fortress of Dunbar, some time in the year 1445. Her second husband, the Black Knight, was driven from Scotland by the faction of the Douglases, and died in exile and probably in captivity.

The murderers of James fled into the Highlands, but a curse was upon them all, and within forty days all the principal conspirators were captured, condemned, and put to cruel deaths. The tortures inflicted upon Sir Robert Graham and the old Earl of Athole were horrible and atrocious; but such was the practice of the time, and there is good evidence to show that the common people rejoiced at the sight, and that they preserved in rude rhyme the memory of the execution of the accursed lords that had slain Scotland's best king and the common people's best friend. The meaner sort that were of council in the conspiracy, or that had had art and part in the plot, were simply hanged on gibbets.[Pg 50]

"By James," says Drummond, "abuses were reformed, defects repaired, sedition and discord were put from the nobles, equity and industry restored to the country; every man had a certainty of enjoying his own, and security. Into all men was either infused a will to do well, or a necessity of so doing imposed upon them, virtuous actions being honoured, crimes punished. The mean man did respect the great, not fear him; the great man did precede the mean, not contemn him; favour was mastered by equity, ambition by virtue; for the excellent prince, by doing well himself, had taught his subjects so to do. He was the worthiest of all the kings of Scotland till his time: of the former kings it might have been said, the nation made them kings; but this king made that people a nation." Much of the good he had done in the state was speedily undone, but his memory was endeared to the people of Scotland for all aftertimes, and the murderous knife, and the anarchy which followed his decease, could not destroy the written monuments of his rare genius and accomplishments.


[3] P. F. Tytler, Hist. Scot., and Life of James I., in Scotish Worthies—Lord Dover, Paper in Transactions of Roy. Soc. of Literature.

[4] Fordun.

[5] Rymer, Fœdera.

[6] Prefatory Introduction to Drummond's (of Hawthornden) History of Scotland, by Mr. Hall, of Gray's Inn

[7] Hist. of Scotland from the year 1423 until the year 1542.

[8] What guilt have I (what have I been guilty of) so that I should want (be deprived of).

[9] Since.

[10] Hap, lot, fate.

[11] There was no one that might do what had any effect in relieving my sufferings.

[12] Against.

[13] Tired, Fatigued.

[14] Haste.

[15] Thereby.

[16] A garden plot set with plants and flowers—a grove with an arbour railed with trellis-work, and close set about with trees from Herbarium.

[17] Knit.

[18] Living person.

[19] Boughs.

[20] Amidst.

[21] Coming forth to complain.

[22] At whose sudden appearance the blood of all my body rushed to my heart.

[23] Prior Wyntoun, Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland.

[24] Fabyan Chronicles.

[25] Mezeray, Hist. de France.

[26] Rymer, Fœdera.

[27] Fabyan.

[28] Id.

[29] Body of Scotish Acts Parl.

[30] Chronicle of the Kings of Scotland, from Fergus I. to James VI., published by the Maitland Club, Edinburgh, 1830.

[31] Drummond of Hawthornden.—Hist. of Scot.

[32] Id.

[33] W. Tytler, author of A Dissertation on the Life of James I., and the first editor of the King's Quair.

[34] Sketches of the Hist. of Literature and Learning in England.

[35] The whole of the tenth book of this very curious work is devoted to a comparison between ancient and modern genius. All arts, sciences, &c., are discussed by turns. The passage about Jacopo Re di Scozia occurs in the twenty-third chapter of the book on "Musici Antichi e Moderni."

[36] Drummond of Hawthornden.

[37] Contemporary narrative of the Murder of King James and of the Execution of the Regicides, published by Pinkerton in the appendix of the first volume of his History of Scotland. This narrative professes to be translated from a Latin original—in all probability the Latin account published by authority at the time. It bears strong marks of having been written by an eye-witness, and it is now generally considered as authentic as it is striking. It has been said of it that few stories either in history or in fiction can compete with its grim horrors. The effect of the story has been impaired by modern fastidiousness, which has shrunk from naming or even intelligibly describing the place wherein James was killed.

[Pg 51]

Henry VII.

The reign of King Henry VII. is included in the account of the Wars and the Union of the Red and White Roses written about the middle of the sixteenth century by Edward Hall, the most eloquent of our old English chroniclers; and it is also the subject of one of the noblest historical works, for its extent, in any language, the composition, about eighty years later, of Francis Bacon.

To follow a course of events turning so much upon genealogical claims and the connexion of families, it will be convenient for the reader to keep in mind the following particulars:—

The principal persons who figure in the reign of Henry VII. were descended from the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth sons of King Edward III., the line of whose eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, failed in Richard II., and whose second son William died in childhood.[Pg 52]

1. From Lionel Duke of Clarence, whose only child Philippa married Edmund Mortimer, third Earl of March, sprung, through her grand-daughter Anne Mortimer, who married Richard Earl of Cambridge, son of Edmund Duke of York, the kings of the House of York, Edward IV., his son Edward V., and his brother Richard III.; Edward IV.'s second son Richard Duke of York; the same king's eldest daughter Elizabeth, who eventually became the wife of Henry VII., and thus united the two roses; Edward IV.'s brother George Duke of Clarence, with his son Edward Earl of Warwick, and his daughter Margaret Countess of Salisbury; Edward IV.'s second sister Margaret, who became the wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; his third sister Elizabeth, who married John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and his sons John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. All these personages, of course, were Yorkists.

2. From John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, sprung the three Lancastrian kings, Henry IV., Henry V., and Henry VI., who were his son, grandson, and great-grandson; and, through John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, his son by a third marriage, that earl's grand-daughter Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and their son Henry VII.

3. From Edmund Duke of York, through his son Richard Earl of Cambridge, who, as mentioned above, married Anne Mortimer, all the persons already enumerated as descendants, through that lady, of Lionel Duke of Cambridge.

4. From Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, his daughter Anne, who married Edmund Earl of Stafford; their son Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham; his grandson Henry Duke of Buckingham, the accomplice and ultimately the victim of Richard III.; his son Edward Duke of Buckingham; and other persons of the name of Stafford.

Henry VII. was born at Pembroke Castle, 21st January, 1456. His father was Edmund Tudor (or rather Tydor, pronounced Tuddor, that is Theodore), surnamed[Pg 53] of Hadham, who had been created Earl of Richmond in 1452, being the son of Sir Owen Tudor and Queen Katherine, widow of Henry V., and daughter of the French king Charles VI. He was thus paternally descended both from the royal house of France and also, it is said, from the ancient sovereigns of Wales, for such is the derivation assigned by the genealogists to the Tudors—if indeed, as Camden remarks (in his 'Remains') that can with any propriety be considered as the family name which was really merely the Christian name of Owen Tudor's grandfather, from whom he and his father assumed it as their patronymic. But it was his maternal extraction that gave Henry Tudor his political importance. His mother was Margaret, the only child of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, whose father of the same names was the eldest of the sons of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the root of the Lancastrian house, by his third wife, Catherine Swinford. The Beauforts, as the children of Gaunt by this wife were named, having been born before marriage, and only subsequently legitimated by a patent entered on the rolls of parliament, which appears (though there is some doubt as to that point) not to have opened to them the succession to the crown, were not at first looked upon as in themselves or their descendants forming strictly a branch of the House of Lancaster; their name itself distinguished them as another family. But towards the close of the reign of Henry VI. their royal descent and proximity to the throne began to be spoken of as giving them important pretensions. After the termination of the Wars of the Roses the Somerset family remained the only representatives of the House of Lancaster, in England: there were indeed in Portugal, Spain, Germany, and Denmark nearly a dozen descendants of John of Gaunt by his two earlier marriages, some of whom at least, namely, those sprung from Henry IV., had clearly a prior place in the line of succession to the Beauforts, had the legitimation of the latter been ever so perfect; but the circumstances of the time were not such as to allow any validity to these foreign titles. After Richard[Pg 54] III. obtained the throne, only two really formidable members of the House of Lancaster survived, namely, this Henry Earl of Richmond, and Henry Duke of Buckingham, whose mother was also a Margaret Beaufort, a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt. But her father was a younger brother of the father of the Countess of Richmond, whose son therefore undoubtedly stood first in the line of the family succession.

The following anecdotes are related by Bacon at the close of his History of Henry VII.: "When the Lady Margaret, his mother, had divers grand suitors for marriage, she dreamed one night that one in the likeness of a bishop in pontifical habit did tender her Edmund Earl of Richmond, the king's father, for her husband; neither had she ever any child but the king, though she had three husbands. One day when King Henry VI., whose innocency gave him holiness, was washing his hands at a great feast, and cast his eye upon King Henry, then a young youth, he said, 'This is the lad that shall possess quietly that that we now strive for.'" Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, died in 1456, the same year in which his son Henry was born. Throughout the stormy period that followed, the child found a protector in his uncle Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, till, on the accession of Edward IV. in 1461, the earl was attainted and obliged to fly the country. Henry appears to have been then consigned by the new king to the charge of Sir William Herbert, Baron Herbert (afterwards created Earl of Pembroke), and to have been carried by that nobleman to his residence of Ragland Castle in Monmouthshire. Long afterwards he told the French historian Comines that he had been either in prison or under strict surveillance from the time he was five years of age. He is said however to have been brought to court on the restoration of Henry VI. in 1470, and it is to this date that the story is assigned of his having been prophetically pointed out by Henry as the person that was to bring to a close the contest between the two houses. It must have been at this time also that he was sent to Eton, if he ever really studied, as reported by[Pg 55] some, at that school. After the battle of Tewkesbury he seems to have been sent back to Ragland Castle, and to have remained there till his uncle, who had fled to France, returned secretly, and found means to carry him off to his own castle of Pembroke. Upon this Edward immediately took measures to recover possession of the boy, but his uncle at last contrived to embark with him at Tenby with the intention of proceeding to France. They were forced, however, by stress of weather to put into a port of Bretagne, and there they were detained by the duke, Francis II. But, although this prince would not suffer them to pursue their journey, he allowed them an honourable maintenance, and as much liberty as was consistent with his design that they should not pass out of his dominions, nor, although repeatedly importuned by King Edward to deliver them up, would he ever listen to the proposal. Henry continued resident in these circumstances in the town of Vannes in Bretagne till after the accession of Richard III.

As soon as it came to be known that Edward V. and his brother no longer existed, a fact which Richard III. himself took pains to publish, without any attempt to make it appear that they had not been taken off by violence, the minds of men turned to the young Earl of Richmond as the most eligible opponent to set up against the actual possessor of the crown. Morton, Bishop of Ely, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury and cardinal, has the credit of having first suggested to the heads of his party, that the crown should be offered to Henry on condition of his engaging to espouse the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV., and, since the death of her brothers, the undoubted heiress of the rights of the House of York. The scheme received the assent of the leaders of the various interests already confederated against Richard—of the queen dowager, of her son the Marquis of Dorset, and of the Duke of Buckingham, whatever were the motives that had induced the last-mentioned nobleman to make his sudden change from the one side to the other. Communications were immediately entered into with Henry's mother the Countess of Rich[Pg 56]mond, and she also entered cordially into the design, although her present husband Lord Stanley had all along steadily adhered to Richard, with whom he at present was. A messenger was now despatched to Henry in Bretagne, September 24, 1483, and he was informed that the general rising in his favour would take place on the 18th of October. The issue of this first attempt was eminently disastrous to the confederacy of the earl's friends. Henry sailed from St. Malo with a fleet of forty sail, which he had been enabled to provide partly by the assistance of the Duke of Bretagne; but a storm dispersed his ships as he crossed the Channel, and when he reached the English coast near Poole he deemed it prudent, with the insufficient force that he had remaining, not to land. Meanwhile the hasty, ill-combined revolt of Buckingham and his associates fell to pieces without the striking of a blow. Buckingham himself was taken and executed as a traitor; of the other chief persons engaged in the attempt, several underwent the same fate; others escaped death by flight; many were attainted, among the rest the Countess of Richmond, whose life was only spared at the intercession of her husband Lord Stanley. Henry himself returned to Bretagne, and here at Christmas, in the presence of a meeting of the English exiles to the number of five hundred, held in the cathedral of Rhedon, he solemnly swore to marry Elizabeth as soon as he should have triumphed over the usurper, and in return the assembly promised him fealty on that condition, and did him homage as their sovereign. A few months after this, however, Henry and his friends found it expedient to withdraw from Bretagne to avoid the machinations of the duke's minister Landois, who had been gained over by Richard, and had prevailed upon the duke to take measures for betraying them to the English king. They succeeded in making their escape to the French territory, where they spent another year in making preparations for a new expedition under the countenance and with the assistance of King Charles VIII. At length, on the 1st of August, 1485, Henry sailed with his fleet from Harfleur, and on[Pg 57] the 7th landed at Milford-Haven in Wales. The two rivals encountered at Bosworth in Leicestershire, on the 22nd, when the result was that Henry obtained a complete victory, which, with the death of Richard, who fell in the battle, at once placed the crown on his head. This was afterwards reckoned the first day of his reign, an arrangement by which only those who had actually drawn their swords against him at Bosworth were made to be guilty of treason; and whatever acts had been done in the service of the usurper (as Richard was considered) up to the eve of that battle, were overlooked.[38]

Henry, immediately after this victory, "as one," says Bacon, "that had been bred under a devout mother, and was in his nature a great observer of religious forms, caused Te Deum laudamus to be solemnly sung in the presence of the whole army upon the place, and was himself with general applause and great cries of joy, in a kind of military election or recognition, saluted king." In the same evening he marched on with his army to Leicester, and entered in triumphal pomp that town, from whence his rival had gone forth in nearly equally gorgeous pride and state the day before. Hither, also, the dead body of Richard was brought, "naked," says Hall, "and despoiled to the skin, ... and was trussed behind a pursuivant of arms called Blanch Sanglier, or White Boar, like a hog or a calf; the head and arms hanging on the one side of the horse, and the legs on the other side; and, all besprinkled with mire and blood, was brought to the Grey Friars' Church." Here it was interred obscurely, and without any funeral solemnity, "after many indignities and reproaches," says Bacon, "the dirges and obsequies of the common people towards tyrants." According to Hall, when his death was known, "few[Pg 58] lamented and many rejoiced;" and "the proud bragging white boar, which was his badge, was violently razed, and plucked down from every sign and place where it might be espied." The motive assigned by the chronicler, however—"so ill was his life, that men wished the memory of him to be buried with his carrion corpse"—may be presumed to have been, at least, not the only reason for this last procedure.

The new king rested at Leicester for two days. While here, he despatched Sir Robert Willoughby to the castle of Sheriff Hutton, in Yorkshire, where both the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV., and her cousin Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, son and heir of the late Duke of Clarence, had been confined by order of their uncle the late king. The earl, a boy in his fifteenth year, was conducted by Willoughby to the Tower of London, and there shut up; and the princess was also directed to repair with all convenient speed to the capital, "which accordingly she soon after did," Bacon tells us, "accompanied with many noblemen and ladies of honour." "In the mean season," continues this historian, "the king set forwards by easy journeys to the city of London, receiving the acclamations and applauses of the people as he went, which indeed were true and unfeigned, as might well appear in the very demonstrations and fulness of the cry. For they thought generally, that he was a prince as ordained and sent down from heaven to unite and put to an end the long dissensions of the two houses; which, although they had, in the times of Henry the Fourth, Henry the Fifth, and part of Henry the Sixth on the one side, and the times of Edward the Fourth on the other, lucid intervals and happy pauses, yet they did ever hang over the kingdom ready to break forth into new perturbations and calamities. And, as his victory gave him the knee, so his purpose of marriage with the Lady Elizabeth gave him the heart; so that both knee and heart did truly bow before him." Hall says that, as he passed along on his journey, "the rustical people on every side of the ways assembled in great numbers, and with joy clapped their hands[Pg 59] and shouted, crying, 'King Henry! King Henry!'" "But," proceeds this chronicler, "when he approached near the city, the mayor, the senate, and the magistrates of the same, being all clothed in violet, met him at Shoreditch, and not only saluted and welcomed him with one voice in general, but every person particularly pressed and advanced himself gladly to touch and kiss that victorious hand which had overcome so monstrous and cruel a tyrant, giving lauds and praisings to Almighty God, and rendering immortal thanks to him by whose mean and industry the commonwealth of the realm was preserved from final destruction and perpetual calamity, and the authors of the mischief sublated and plucked away. And with great pomp and triumph he rode through the city to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, where he offered his three standards. In the one was the image of St. George; in the second was a red fiery dragon beaten upon white and green sarcenet; the third was of yellow tartern, in the which was painted a dun cow. After his prayers said, and Te Deum sung, he departed to the bishop's palace, and there sojourned a season, during which time plays, pastimes, and pleasures were showed in every part of the city." Bacon observes, that "to disperse the conceit and terror of a conquest," he had given orders that his journey should bear no resemblance to a warlike march, but that it should be "rather like unto the progress of a king in full peace and assurance." It is added, that "he entered the city upon a Saturday, as he had also obtained the victory upon a Saturday; which day of the week, first upon an observation, and after, upon memory and fancy, he accounted and chose as a day prosperous unto him."[39] He took care, however, not to begin his reign by making himself too common; he appeared, we are told, on this[Pg 60] occasion, "not on horseback, or in any open chariot or throne, but in a close chariot, as one that having been sometimes an enemy to the whole state, and a proscribed person, chose rather to keep state and strike a reverence into the people than to fawn upon them." But in this interpretation we may have not so much the motive or intention of Henry, as the refining political sagacity or imagination of his historian.

The reader has sufficiently seen with what fervour and fierceness of virtuous indignation the chronicler Hall is animated against the beaten party in the great civil quarrel which had thus been brought to a close. Speaking of the Lady Elizabeth, "whom," he says, "King Richard, foolishly fantasying and devilishly doting, did intend to marry," he adds, "But the damsel did not alonely disagree and repudiate that matrimony, but abhorred and detested greatly his abominable desire. At which most importunate and detestable concupiscence the common people of the realm so much grudged and maligned, that they did not only attribute the fault and crime to the king, but much more culpate and blame his privy councillors, which did not dissent but consent to so pernicious a council and so shameful a conclusion. But God, of his only goodness, preserved the Christian mind of that virtuous and immaculate virgin; and from their flagitious and facinorous act did graciously protect and defend." Sir George Buck, however, the defender of Richard, who maintains that that king never had any real intent to make Elizabeth his wife, but only entertained the proposition out of policy, has shown that both the lady and her mother had been quite ready and eager to conclude such an arrangement. The only objection they made was, that Richard's first queen was not yet dead. "But the answer," writes Buck, "which was made in the name of the king to the Lady Elizabeth concerning his queen was, that she would be no impediment of long continuance; being a very weak woman, in a consumption, and past hopes of recovery; her physicians giving their opinions she would not live past the middle of February next following; nor guessed they[Pg 61] much amiss, for she died in the next month, March. When the midst and last of February [1485] was past, the Lady Elizabeth, being more impatient and jealous of the success than any one knew or conceived, writes a letter to the Duke of Norfolk, intimating first, that he was the man in whom she affied, in respect of that love her father had ever borne him, &c. Then she congratulates his many courtesies, in continuance of which she desires him to be a mediator for her to the king in the behalf of the marriage propounded between them; who, as she wrote, was her only joy and maker in this world, and that she was his in heart and thought: withal insinuating that the better part of February was past, and that she feared the Queen would never die. All these be her own words, written with her own hand; and this is the sum of her letter, which remains in the autograph, or original draught under her own hand, in the magnificent cabinet of Thomas Earl of Arundel and Surrey." Richard's first scheme had been to marry Elizabeth to his son Edward; and it was after that prince died (in April, 1484) that he proposed to make her his own wife. Both she and her mother would probably have been equally pleased with either arrangement. At this time Richard was only in his thirty-second year, Elizabeth herself being nineteen. It is believed that after he was left a widower by the death of Queen Anne (on the 16th of March, 1485,—not without suspicion of having been poisoned), he was dissuaded from marrying Elizabeth by his two confidants, Radcliffe and Catesby, who warned him of the popular outcry such a step would excite. He then took great pains to proclaim that nothing of the kind had ever been contemplated.

All this, however, was not likely to prepossess Henry in favour of the match which circumstances imposed upon him; nor, whatever might be the national wish, was he desirous to make it appear as if he owed his crown in any degree to his marriage with the heiress of the House of York. He was accordingly in no hurry to raise Elizabeth to the throne which she was so ambitious to mount. His own coronation took place on the 30th[Pg 62] of October, immediately after the disappearance of what was then a new disease, the sweating, or sweating sickness, which had broken out both in London and other parts of the kingdom towards the end (Stow says on the 21st) of September, and had proved frightfully destructive. Two Lord Mayors of London were carried off by it within a week, and four aldermen were also among its victims. The ceremony of the coronation was performed in Westminster Abbey, the crown being set upon the king's head by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury. "At which day also," writes Bacon, "as if the crown upon his head did put perils into his thoughts, he did institute, for the better security of his person, a band of fifty archers under a captain, to attend him, by the name of yeomen of his guard; and yet, that it might be thought to be rather a matter of dignity, after the imitation of that he had known abroad, than any matter of diffidence appropriate to his own case, he made it to be understood for an ordinance not temporary, but to hold in succession for ever after."

The parliament met at Westminster that day week. It enacted that "the inheritance of the crown should be, rest, remain, and abide in the most royal person of the then sovereign lord, King Henry VII., and the heirs of his body lawfully coming, perpetually with the grace of God so to endure, and in none other;" and, when the commons, on the 10th of December, presented to his majesty the usual grant of tonnage and poundage for life, they accompanied it with a petition that he would be pleased to "take to wife and consort the Princess Elizabeth, which marriage they hoped God would bless with a progeny of the race of kings." This last unusual expression, Dr. Lingard, whose translation of the original Latin entry in the rolls of parliament we make use of, conceives to mean the kings of both lines. The lords signified their concurrence by rising from their seats and bowing to the throne; and Henry answered that he was willing to comply with the request of the two houses. The marriage was accordingly solemnized on the 18th of January, 1486; "which day," says Bacon, "was cele[Pg 63]brated with greater triumph and demonstrations, especially on the people's part, of joy and gladness, than the days either of his entry or coronation, which the king rather noted than liked. And it is true that all his life-time, while the Lady Elizabeth lived with him, for she died before him, he shewed himself no very indulgent husband towards her, though she was beautiful, gentle, and fruitful. But his aversion towards the House of York was so predominant in him, as it found place not only in his wars and councils, but in his chamber and bed."

The king now, according to Bacon, "full of confidence and assurance, as a prince that had been victorious in battle, and had prevailed with his parliament in all that he desired, and had the ring of acclamations fresh in his ears, thought the rest of his reign should be but play, and the enjoying of a kingdom." But it was not to be expected that a reign commencing in such circumstances should be undisturbed by insurrectionary attempts. A succession of such movements kept Henry in disquietude for many years. The first that occurred was that headed by Francis Viscount Lovel, in April, 1546, which was speedily and effectually put down. The disappearance of this danger was followed, in September, by the delivery of the queen, at Winchester, of her first son, who was named Arthur, after the famous old British king. "The child," Bacon remarks, "was strong and able, though he was born in the eighth month, which the physicians do prejudge"—that is, are prejudiced against, or hold to be unfavourable.

But before the end of the same year a new commotion in the state, more formidable than the last, broke out. Bacon admits that Henry, though contrary to what he deserved, was still "not without much hatred throughout the realm." "The root of all," adds the historian, "was the discountenancing of the House of York, which the general body of the realm still affected. This did alienate the hearts of the subjects from him daily more and more, especially when they saw that, after his marriage, and after a son born, the king did nevertheless not[Pg 64] so much as proceed to the coronation of the queen, not vouchsafing her the honour of a matrimonial crown; for the coronation of her was not till almost two years after, when danger had taught him what to do." The dissatisfaction greatly increased when it came to be rumoured that Edward Plantagenet was intended to be secretly made away with in the Tower: the popular belief of this made Henry be thought almost as bloodthirsty a tyrant as Richard, whom he had supplanted. And all this while, Bacon confesses, it was still whispered everywhere that at least one of the children of Edward the Fourth was living. "Neither," he adds, "was the king's nature and customs greatly fit to disperse these mists, but, contrariwise, he had a fashion rather to create doubts than assurance." In this state of things, a priest of Oxford, called Richard (or, according to others, William) Simon, or Simonds, is supposed to have originated the bold project of setting up as a claimant for the crown his pupil Lambert Simnell, the son of a baker, or, as another account has it, of an organ-maker, of that town. Simnell was about fifteen years of age, and he is described by Bacon as "a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity and grace of aspect." The priest's first design is affirmed to have been to present Simnell to the world as the Duke of York, the second son of Edward IV., said to have been murdered along with his brother, Edward V., in the Tower; but it was eventually determined that he should personate Edward Plantagenet, now lying a prisoner in that fortress. The audacity of this scheme, as Bacon remarks, seems scarcely credible; for the individual to be personated was neither one who was dead, nor one who had been carried away in infancy, and was known to few; but a "youth that, till the age almost of ten years, had been brought up in a court where infinite eyes had been upon him," and, what was still more unfavourable to the project, who could be produced at any moment to confute his counterfeit. The historian concludes that some great person who knew Edward Plantagenet particularly and familiarly must have had a hand[Pg 65] in the business; and he adds, "That which is most probable, out of the precedent and subsequent acts, is, that it was the queen dowager from whom this action had the principal source and motion. For certain it is, she was a busy negotiating woman, and in her withdrawing chamber had the fortunate conspiracy for the king against King Richard the Third been hatched; which the king knew, and remembered perhaps but too well; and [she] was at this time extremely discontent with the king, thinking her daughter, as the king handled the matter, not advanced, but depressed; and none could hold the book so well to prompt and instruct this stage-play as she could." Edward IV.'s sister, Margaret Duchess of Burgundy, also gave her countenance and effective aid to the enterprise of the pretender. "This princess," says Bacon, "having the spirit of a man, and malice of a woman, abounding in treasure by the greatness of her dower and her provident government, and being childless and without any nearer care, made it her design and enterprise to see the majesty royal of England once again replaced in her house; and had set up King Henry as a mark at whose overthrow all her actions should aim and shoot; insomuch as all the counsels of his succeeding troubles came chiefly out of that quiver. And she bare such a mortal hatred to the House of Lancaster, and personally to the king, as she was no ways mollified by the conjunction of the Houses in her niece's marriage, but rather hated her niece, as the means of the king's ascent to the crown and assurance therein." The design of the Yorkists in thus patronizing the pretensions of Simnell was of course merely to make use of him for effecting their first object, the ejection of the reigning king; after which he himself would have been very easily disposed of. It is astonishing to what a height of temporary success the project attained. Simon, having taken his pupil over to Ireland, there presented him to the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Kildare, by whom he was at once recognised as the person he called himself. Kildare had been one of the chiefs of the Yorkist party, and it is impossible to believe that he had[Pg 66] not been from the first taken into the conspiracy. His acquiescence in the imposture naturally produced an immense effect. After a few days Simnell was proclaimed king, in Dublin, by the name of Edward the Sixth, with apparently the universal assent of the population of all classes. The boy, Bacon allows, became the part he acted well, and did nothing that betrayed the baseness of his real condition. The scheme, however, was too inherently hollow and flimsy to be long kept up. The first thing Henry did was to shut up the queen dowager in the nunnery of Bermondsey, and to seize all her lands and goods—with his characteristic indirectness, however, professing to visit her with that punishment for having, after her agreement for the marriage of her daughter with himself, delivered Elizabeth out of sanctuary into the hands of King Richard. At this proceeding "there was," says Bacon, "much wondering;—that a weak woman, for the yielding to the menaces and promises of a tyrant, after such a distance of time, wherein the king had shown no displeasure nor alteration, but much more after so happy a marriage between the king and her daughter, blessed with issue male, should, upon a sudden mutability or disclosure of the king's mind, be so severely handled." "This lady," adds the noble historian, "was amongst the examples of great variety of fortune. She had first, from a distressed suitor and desolate widow, been taken to the marriage bed of a bachelor king, the goodliest personage of his time; and even in his reign she had endured a strange eclipse by the king's flight and temporary depriving from the crown. She was also very happy, in that she had by him fair issue, and continued his nuptial love, helping herself by some obsequious bearing and dissembling of his pleasures, to the very end.... After her husband's death, she was matter of tragedy, having lived to see her brother beheaded, and her two sons deposed from the crown, bastarded in their blood, and cruelly murdered. For this while, nevertheless, she enjoyed her liberty, state, and fortunes: but afterwards, again, upon the rise of the wheel, when she had a king to her son-in-law, and was[Pg 67] made grandmother to a grandchild of the best sex, yet was she, upon dark and unknown reasons, and no less strange pretences, precipitated and banished the world into a nunnery, where it was almost thought dangerous to visit her or see her, and where, not long after, she ended her life; but was, by the king's commandment, buried with the king her husband, at Windsor." The queen of Edward IV., originally Elizabeth Woodville, or Wydville, and, before she was raised to the throne, the wife of Sir John Grey, is supposed to have survived till about the year 1492. It appears that she was not kept all this while in close confinement; when the French ambassadors were introduced to her daughter at Westminster, in November, 1489, she is, in a contemporary record, expressly stated to have been present, as well as the king's mother, the Countess of Richmond. From this and other circumstances, Dr. Lingard is inclined to doubt altogether the fact of her apprehension upon the present occasion; but a story so distinctly told by all the old authorities, by Polydore Virgil, as well as by Hall, whom Bacon follows, can hardly be supposed to be a pure fiction.

Another measure, however, that Henry adopted was more suited to tell immediately with a favourable effect upon the popular mind. On a Sunday he had the true Edward Plantagenet brought out from the Tower, and, after being carried through all the principal streets of London, conducted in solemn procession to St. Paul's, "where," says Bacon, "great store of people were assembled. And it was provided also in good fashion that divers of the nobility, and others of quality, especially of those that the king most suspected, and [that] knew the person of Plantagenet best, had communication with the young gentleman by the way, and entertained him with speech and discourse; which did in effect mar the pageant in Ireland with the subjects here, at least with so many as out of error, and not out of malice, might be misled. Nevertheless, in Ireland, where it was too late to go back, it wrought little or no effect. But, contrariwise, they turned the imposture upon the king, and[Pg 68] gave out that the king, to defeat the true inheritor, and to mock the world, and blind the eyes of simple men, had tricked up a boy in the likeness of Edward Plantagenet, and showed him to the people, not sparing to profane the ceremony of a procession, the more to countenance the fable."

The affair did not end without being brought to the arbitrement of the sword. The Duchess of Burgundy having sent over a force of two thousand veterans under an experienced officer, Martin Swartz, these Germans landed at Dublin; the young Earl of Lincoln, son of Edward IV.'s sister the Duchess of Suffolk, who had recently gone over to his aunt in Burgundy, accompanying them. It was now decided that the pretender should undergo the ceremony of a coronation. In all haste, accordingly, the people from all quarters assembled, Stow tells us, "at Divelin, or Dublin, and there, in Christ's Church, they crowned their idol, honouring him with titles imperial, feasting and triumphing, rearing mighty shouts and cries, carrying him thence to the king's castle upon tall men's shoulders, that he might be seen and noted, as he was surely an honourable boy to look upon." Other accounts state that he was carried from the church to the castle on the shoulders of an English chieftain named Darcy. He was crowned by the Bishop of Meath with a diadem taken from a statue of the Virgin Mary. This was on the 24th of May, 1487. Immediately afterwards writs were issued, and a parliament summoned, in his name. Then Lincoln and the Germans, together with what Hall calls "a great multitude of beggarly Irishmen, almost all naked and unarmed, saving skaynes [daggers] and mantles," sailed for England, and landed at the pile of Foudray, in the southern extremity of Furness, Lancashire. They were encountered on the 16th of June by the royal force, under the command of the king in person, at the village of Stoke, in Nottinghamshire, and there, after a short but sharp conflict, completely put to the rout. Among those slain was the Earl of Lincoln, whom Richard III. had, after the death of his son, declared heir to the throne. Francis Lord Lovell, the other[Pg 69] chief English leader of the insurrection, is said to have been seen endeavouring to swim over the Trent on horseback, and one report makes him to have been drowned in that attempt; another, to have made his way to his own house of Minster Lovell, in Oxfordshire, where it is said that about two hundred years after there was found in a chamber under ground the skeleton of a man, seated in a chair, with his head reclined on a table, which was supposed to be the fugitive lord, perhaps left there to perish through neglect. Another of the English leaders, Sir Thomas Broughton, whom the common accounts make to have been killed, is also reported by tradition to have effected his escape, and to have lived, till his death, concealed among his tenants at Witherslack, in Westmoreland. The pretender himself, and the priest his tutor, were both taken prisoners. "For Lambert," says Bacon, "the king would not take his life; both out of magnanimity, taking him but as an image of wax that others had tempered and moulded; and likewise out of wisdom, thinking that, if he suffered death, he would be forgotten too soon, but, being kept alive, he would be a perpetual spectacle, and a kind of remedy against the like enchantment of people in time to come. For which cause he was taken into service in his court to a base office in his kitchen; so that, in a kind of mattacina [pantomime] of human fortune, he turned a broach that had worn a crown; whereas fortune commonly does not bring in a comedy or farce after a tragedy. And afterwards he was preferred to be one of the king's falconers. As to the priest, he was committed close prisoner, and heard of no more; the king loving to seal up his own dangers." It was after the suppression of this outbreak that, on the 25th of November, the queen was at length solemnly crowned in Westminster Abbey.

But the attempts of the House of York to regain possession of the throne did not end with this first discomfiture. The imposture of Simnell was followed, after a few years, by the appearance of the more celebrated pretender Perkin Warbeck. This singular affair occupies nearly eighty octavo pages of Bacon's history, and it has[Pg 70] been the subject of a world of controversy in more recent times. Of course, we can here attempt only the most rapid outline of the story. The new competitor for the throne was first heard of in the beginning of May, 1492. Bacon introduces him as a spirit or ghost, raised up to walk and vex the king by the magic arts of the Duchess of Burgundy, whom, he says, Henry's friends called Juno, "because she was to him as Juno was to Aeneas, stirring both heaven and hell to do him mischief." The proper name of the boy called Perkin Warbeck is affirmed to have been Peter Osbeck, his father having been John Osbeck, a converted Jew of Tournay, who was married to Catherine de Faro, and who was led by his business to come and reside for some time in London with his wife, in the days of King Edward IV.; "during which time," according to Bacon's account, "he had a son by her, and, being known in court, the king, either out of a religious nobleness, because he was a convert, or upon some private acquaintance, did him the honour to be godfather to his child, and named him Peter. But afterwards, proving a dainty and effeminate youth, he was commonly called by the diminutive of his name, Peterkin or Perkin; for, as for the name of Warbeck, it was given him when they did but guess at it, before examinations had been taken; but yet he had been so much talked on by that name, as it stuck by him after his true name of Osbeck was known." It is impossible not to be struck with an observation which the historian elsewhere makes upon the remarkable circumstance, mentioned, he tells us, by one who wrote at the time, of King Edward having been the boy's godfather, "which," he says, "as it is somewhat suspicious for a wanton prince to become gossip [that is, spiritual relation] in so mean a house, and might make a man think that he might indeed have in him some base blood of the House of York, so at the least, though that were not, it might give the occasion to the boy, in being called King Edward's godson, or perhaps, in sport, King Edward's son, to entertain such thoughts into his head." He was, it seems, very handsome; and "more than that," says[Pg 71] Bacon, "he had such a crafty and bewitching fashion, both to move pity and to induce belief, as was like a kind of fascination and enchantment to those that saw him or heard him." He had also, we are told, "been from his childhood such a wanderer, or, as the king called him, such a land-loper, as it was extreme hard to hunt out his nest and parents. Neither, again, could any man, by company or conversing with him, be able to say or detect well what he was, he did so flit from place to place." While he was yet a child, according to this version of the story, he was carried back to Tournay by his parents, and as he grew up he moved much about from town to town in Flanders, all the while, however, associating much with natives of England, and so acquiring a perfect command of the language. At last he was brought to the Duchess of Burgundy, who soon discerned the use that might be made of him, and, keeping him by her for a long while, though in extreme secresy, set herself diligently to tutor him for the part she designed he should play. Her scheme was that he should personate Richard Duke of York, supposed to have been murdered in the Tower, with whose age his own nearly agreed. To prevent its being suspected that she had had any hand in the matter, she shipped him off in the first instance to Portugal; and there he remained about a year, when he set sail from Lisbon in a merchant vessel, and was conveyed to Ireland at the time we have mentioned. The vessel cast anchor in the Cove of Cork, on the 5th of May, 1492. The young man, who appeared to be about twenty or twenty-one years old, immediately upon landing announced himself as the Duke of York, and wrote to the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, desiring them to come to aid him in the recovery of his rights.

Soon after this, the adventurer was invited by the French king, Charles VIII., to come over to Paris, whither accordingly he proceeded; but, upon a peace being concluded between the two countries in November, he was warned by Charles to make off with himself; and he then repaired to Brussels, to the court of the Duchess of Burgundy. After questioning him about everything,[Pg 72] the duchess professed to be quite satisfied that he was her nephew. "Thereupon she gave him," says Bacon, "the delicate title of the 'White Rose of England,' and appointed him a guard of thirty persons, halberdiers, clad in a party-coloured livery of murrey and blue, to attend his person. Her court likewise, and generally the Dutch and strangers, in their usage towards him, expressed no less respect. The news hereof came blazing and thundering over into England, that the Duke of York was sure alive."

The effect was that a number of eminent persons soon associated themselves in a secret combination to support the pretender—among them being Sir William Stanley, the Lord Chamberlain of the Household. By these persons Sir Robert Clifford was secretly sent over to Brussels; and he, either won over by the duchess, or actually convinced, wrote back to his employers that the young man was undoubtedly the Duke of York. But Henry also now set his enginery at work. "There is a strange tradition," says Bacon, "that the king, being lost in a wood of suspicions, and not knowing whom to trust, had both intelligence with the confessors and chaplains of divers great men, and, for the better credit of his espials [spies] abroad with the contrary side, did use to have them cursed at St. Paul's by name amongst the bead-roll of the king's enemies, according to the custom of those times. These espials plied their charge so roundly, as the king had an anatomy of Perkin alive; and was likewise well informed of the particular correspondent conspirators in England; and many other mysteries were revealed; and Sir Robert Clifford in especial won to be assured to the king, and industrious and officious for his service." In 1494 the chief conspirators were most of them suddenly seized at once, and several of them were instantly sent to the block. Early in the next year, Clifford, having come over to England, boldly, in the presence of the king and the council, accused Stanley, who had till now been left untouched. "The king," says the historian, "seemed to be much amazed at the naming of this lord as if he had heard the news of some[Pg 73] strange and fearful prodigy." Stanley had saved Henry's life at the battle of Bosworth, and had in the moment of victory set the crown he had won upon his head; the revolution had raised him to be one of the principal persons in the state, and had brought him vast wealth, as well as the highest honours; and he had since been united in close relationship to the new royal family by the marriage of his brother with the king's mother.[40] But his guilt was so clear that he scarcely attempted to deny it; and, after a few weeks, he was arraigned and condemned to die; and on the 16th of February he was brought to Tower Hill, and there beheaded.

In the summer of this year, 1495, the pretender made a descent, with a few hundred followers, upon the coast between Sandwich and Deal, but was immediately repulsed by the royal forces. In the fight, besides those of the invaders or rebels that were slain, a hundred and sixty-nine were taken prisoners. "They were brought to London," we are told, "all railed in ropes, and were executed some of them at London and Wapping, and the rest at divers places upon the sea-coast of Kent, Sussex, and Norfolk, for sea-marks, or light-houses, to teach Perkin's people to avoid the coast."

In the beginning of the next year Perkin was forced to leave Flanders, by an arrangement which Henry succeeded in making with the archduke. He then, after trying Ireland, and seeing little prospect of encourage[Pg 74]ment there, sailed to Scotland, where he was received with great kindness by the young king, James IV., who was at the time eager to find an occasion of quarrel with Henry. James actually gave him in marriage the Lady Catherine Gordon, daughter to the Earl of Huntly, a near kinswoman of his own, and a lady of distinguished beauty. Early in the following year, 1497, he and James invaded England, but were not joined by any portion of the population; and the attempt was repeated a few months afterwards with no better success. Perkin next made his appearance in Cornwall, which was at this time agitated and in confusion from a recent revolt of the people against the collection of a newly imposed tax, which had not been put down till after the insurgents had advanced upon London as far as Blackheath, where they were met by the royal forces, and defeated with great slaughter. He was joined by numbers of the Cornish men; but, after an unsuccessful attack upon the city of Exeter, when on the 21st of September his followers and the royal army were drawn up in array against each other near Taunton, ready to join battle on the following day, he rode off with a guard of sixty men, and took refuge in the sanctuary of Beaulieu in Hampshire, upon which his adherents threw down their arms. He afterwards surrendered himself upon condition that his life should be saved; and, being brought to London, he was paraded on horseback through the principal streets, and was then ordered to confine himself within the precincts of the palace. After leading this life for about six months, he one day made his escape; but he was soon retaken; and then, after having been compelled to stand two days in the common stocks, the first at Westminster Hall, the second in Cheapside, and to read to the people a confession to which he had previously put his signature, he was committed to the Tower. In August of the following year, 1499, he and Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, were detected in a project for effecting their escape together from that fortress; on which they were both separately arraigned and found guilty of treason; and Warbeck was executed at Tyburn on the 23rd[Pg 75] of November, Warwick on Tower Hill a few days after. On the scaffold Perkin recited his former confession, "taking on his death" says Stow, "the same to be true; and so he and John a Water [formerly Mayor of Cork, who was executed along with him] asked the king forgiveness, and took their deaths patiently."

When Perkin first fled to sanctuary, instant means had been taken to get possession of the Lady Catherine Gordon, then residing in St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, where she had been placed by her husband, "whom," says Bacon, "in all fortunes she entirely loved, adding the virtues of a wife to the virtues of her sex." "The king," he adds, "sent in the greater diligence, not knowing whether she might be with child, whereby the business would not have ended in Perkin's person. When she was brought to the king, it was commonly said that the king received her not only with compassion but with affection; pity giving more impression to her excellent beauty. Wherefore, comforting her, to serve as well his eye as his fame, he sent her to his queen to remain with her; giving her very honourable allowance for the support of her estate, which she enjoyed both during the king's life and many years after. The name of the white Rose, which had been given to her husband's false title, was continued in common speech to her true beauty."

From this time Henry's reign was one of complete internal tranquillity, of which he chiefly took advantage to augment his revenue and his hoarded treasures—extracting money from his subjects on all sorts of pretences, which were not the less oppressive for being generally legal in their form and colour. The English law at this time, if only stretched as far as it would go, was abundantly sufficient for the purposes of the most exorbitant tyranny. The chief instruments of Henry's rapacity were two lawyers, Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, names immortalized by the detestation of their country.

Henry was early in his reign involved in the politics of the Continent by the quarrel which arose between[Pg 76] Francis Duke of Bretagne and Charles VIII. of France, with both of whom he had been connected before he came to the throne, and each of whom applied to him for his assistance. This quarrel, by the death of Francis, soon after it broke out, leaving only two daughters, one of whom also soon afterwards died, became in fact a contest for the possession of Bretagne on the part of France. This was an object to which the public mind in England was strongly opposed; but, although Henry was forced to appear to go along with the national feeling, he deferred taking any steps to prevent the subjugation of the Bretons till it was too late. The money that was eagerly voted by parliament to fit out an expedition, he collected very carefully; but, instead of fighting, he endeavoured to manage the matter by the cheaper method of negotiation.—Afterwards indeed, in the spring of 1489, he found himself compelled to equip a small force, which proceeded to Bretagne; but he had previously assured the French government that if the troops were sent they should act only on the defensive—an engagement which was faithfully kept. Charles eventually compelled the Duchess of Bretagne to marry him, after she had been affianced to Maximilian, the King of the Romans; and the duchy was thus finally annexed to the French crown. The indignation in England at this result forced Henry to conduct an army to France in person, in the beginning of October, 1492; but he had already secretly arranged a peace with Charles, and before there was any fighting the treaty was published in the beginning of November. By this treaty, called the Treaty of Estaples, Charles bound himself to pay Henry the sum of 149,000l. sterling, in half-yearly instalments of 25,000 francs. In 1496, notwithstanding this peace, Henry joined the league of the Pope, the King of the Romans, the King of Castile, the Duke of Milan, and the republic of Venice, which, after Charles had overrun the kingdom of Naples in 1494, had in a few months expelled him from his sudden conquest; but when Charles died, in 1498, the treaty of Estaples was renewed with his successor Louis XII., and conti[Pg 77]nued to regulate the relations of the two kingdoms to the end of the reign.

By successive truces with James III. and James IV., the peace with Scotland was preserved till 1495, when, on the recommendation of the French king and the Duchess of Burgundy, Perkin Warbeck was received in that kingdom as the rightful heir of the English crown. After Warbeck's final discomfiture, however, in 1497, a new truce was concluded between the two countries, to last till the expiration of a year after both kings should be dead; and this led in 1502 to a treaty of perpetual peace, cemented by the marriage of James with Henry's eldest daughter, the Princess Margaret. This marriage, from which flowed, after the lapse of a century, the important political result of the union of the two crowns, was solemnized at Edinburgh on the 8th of August, 1503. It was reported, Bacon informs us, that, when the project of the marriage was discussed in the council of the English king, an objection was raised on the ground that it might possibly lead to the kingdom of England falling to the king of Scotland. "Whereunto," continues the historian, "the king himself replied, that, if that should be, Scotland would be but an accession to England, and not England to Scotland, for that the greater would draw the less; and that it was a safer union for England than that of France. This passed as an oracle, and silenced those that moved the question."

Nearly two years before this, namely, on the 14th of November, 1501, a marriage, long contemplated and agreed upon, had been solemnized between Henry's eldest son Arthur, prince of Wales, and Catherine, the fourth daughter of Ferdinand, King of Castile. Arthur however, who was a prince of the highest promise, died within six months after; and then it was arranged that Catherine should be married to his surviving brother Henry. The marriage of Catherine and Arthur proved still more momentous in its consequences than that of Margaret and James.

Queen Elizabeth died on February 11th, 1503, a few days after giving birth to a daughter; on which Henry[Pg 78] lost no time in proceeding to turn his widowhood to account in the acquirement of some political advantage, or in the augmentation of his riches, now his ruling passion, by means of a new matrimonial alliance. One disappointment after another, however, met him in this pursuit; and, after having first made application to the widow of the King of Naples; then concluded a treaty with the Archduke Philip, husband of Joanna, Queen of Castile, for the hand of his sister Margaret, widow of the Duke of Savoy; and finally, on the death of Philip, in September, 1506, once more changed his ground, and proposed himself as the husband of Philip's widow, the Queen Joanna, who was insane—he died before he could accomplish his object. His death took place at Richmond, as the royal palace at Sheen was now called, 22nd April, 1509, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign and the fifty-third of his age.

The children of Henry VII. by his queen Elizabeth of York were—1. Arthur, born 20th September, 1486, created Prince of Wales 1489, married to Catherine of Spain (to whom he had been contracted eleven years before), 14th November, 1501, died at Ludlow Castle, 2nd April, 1502; 2. Margaret, born 29th November, 1489, married to King James IV. of Scotland, 8th August, 1503, died 1539; 3. Henry, born 28th June, 1491, succeeded his father as Henry VIII., and died 28th January, 1547; 4. Elizabeth, born 2nd July, 1492, died 14th September, 1495; 5. Mary, born 1498, married to Louis XII. of France, 5th November, 1514, and secondly, in 1515, to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, died 25th June, 1533; 6. Edmund, born 21st February, 1499, soon after created Duke of Somerset, died in infancy; 7. Edward, born February, 1500, died young; and 8. Catherine, born 2nd February, 1503, died a few days after her mother.

Bacon has drawn this king as a hero of policy and craft, who may almost compete with the 'Principe' of Macchiavel, if we make allowance for the greater ruthlessness and more sanguinary spirit natural to the Italian blood. It may be admitted that this great writer, in the[Pg 79] elaboration of his design, has been drawn into some degree of exaggeration or over-refinement; and he has probably also softened the more repulsive features in Henry's moral character, as much as he has unduly exalted his intellectual endowments. But the difficult position which he occupied, and the success with which he maintained himself in it, vindicate the title of this sovereign to be regarded as at least one of the greatest masters of king-craft that figure in history. Bacon compares him, justly enough, to Louis XI. of France and Ferdinand of Spain, designating the three as "the tres magi of kings of those ages." The age in which Henry lived was that of the birth of modern policy, and that in which the foundations were laid of the still enduring system of the European states. Nothing that was then established has been greatly shaken since; all the changes that have since taken place have been little more than the growth and development of the arrangements that were then made and the principles that were called into action. This reign therefore may be considered as the beginning of the modern history of England.


[38] Sir Harris Nicolas, however, in his Chronology of History, pp. 309-313, although he adopts the unanimous account of the chroniclers, that Henry's reign began on the 22nd, has stated some reasons for suspecting that it was legally reckoned from the 21st, the day before the battle of Bosworth.

[39] This, however, is a mistake. The 22nd of August, 1485, on which the battle of Bosworth was fought, was a Monday. But King Henry entered the city on the 27th, which would be on the Saturday thereafter, as we learn from Stow.

[40] Bacon's account is:—"At Bosworth-field the king was beset, and in a manner inclosed round about by the troops of King Richard, and in manifest danger of his life; when this Stanley was sent by his brother, with three thousand men, to his rescue, which he performed so that King Richard was slain upon the place.... For which service the king gave him great gifts; made him his counsellor and chamberlain; and, somewhat contrary to his nature, had winked at the great spoils of Bosworth-field, which came almost wholly to this man's hands, to his infinite enriching." His elder brother, who married the Countess of Richmond, was Thomas Lord Stanley, afterwards created Earl of Derby. He was her third husband; she, his second wife.

[Pg 80]


The life of Dean Colet was neither a long nor an eventful one, and an outline of its course may be given in small space. His father was Sir Henry Colet, knight, a distinguished citizen of London, and member of the Mercers' Company, who twice held the office of lord-mayor, first in 1486, and again in 1495; his mother's name was Christian Knevet; and John was the eldest of twenty-two children, eleven boys and as many girls—of all of whom he appears to have been the only survivor at the death of his father, in 1510. As for his mother, she outlived himself, and reached a great age.

Colet was born at his father's house in the parish of St. Anthonine's, now commonly called St. Antholine's, London, in 1466. He received the rudiments of his classical education at what was then the most eminent school in London, that called St. Anthony's, which was in Threadneedle Street, near where the French church lately stood, and where the Hall of Commerce is now[Pg 81] built—a spot of ancient eminence, having probably been the site of a building of distinction in the Roman time, as the beautiful tessellated pavement discovered when the church was taken down a few years ago would seem to attest. About the year 1483 he was sent to Oxford, it is supposed to Magdalen College, and there he spent seven years in the study of logic, philosophy, and mathematics. Meanwhile, having been intended for the ecclesiastical profession, he had, after the irregular custom that then prevailed, been presented by his relation Sir William Knevet to the rectory of Denington in Suffolk, so early as the year 1485, while he was still under age, and before he had taken holy orders; and five years after he was presented by his father to another rectory, that of Thyrning in Huntingdonshire. The latter preferment he appears to have soon after resigned; the former he retained to his dying day. It is supposed to have been in 1493 that he left England to improve himself by travel on the Continent; he visited both France and Italy, and did not return home till 1497. In Italy he made the acquaintance of Lilly, Linacer, Latimer, and others of his countrymen who were then studying Greek there under the learned exiles from Constantinople, or their pupils and successors; and he also himself acquired a knowledge of that language, of which little or nothing was as yet understood at Oxford. While he was abroad, he had been presented to a prebend in the church of York, and to another in that of St. Martin's-le-Grand, and also to a canonry in the latter church. Yet his ordination even as a deacon did not take place till after his return. He now retired to Oxford, and he appears to have read lectures in divinity there for the next four or five years. It was at Oxford that, in the latter part of the year 1497, he first met Erasmus, with whom he continued in the most intimate friendship from this time till his death, and to whose notices of him in his letters and other writings we are indebted for the most interesting particulars of Colet that have been handed down to us. In 1502 he obtained a prebend in the church of Salisbury, on which he resigned the one he held in that of St. Mar[Pg 82]tin's-le-Grand; but he was shortly after instituted to another in St. Paul's Cathedral. It appears, too, that along with his rectory of Denington he had up to this time held the vicarage of Stepney; for he is stated to have resigned that living on being made dean of St. Paul's, to which eminent dignity he was raised in 1505. He had taken his degree of doctor in divinity the preceding year. He was also, in his capacity of dean, rector of the Guild of Jesus in St. Paul's church; and he was one of the preachers in ordinary to the king, Henry VIII.

With all these church livings Colet was of course very well off; and, when he came into the inheritance of all his father's property on the death of Sir Henry in 1510, he must have been a person of considerable wealth. He appears to have formed the design which has principally immortalized his name, the founding of a classical school in his native city, some years before his father's death; but it was not fully carried into effect till then; and the foundation of St. Paul's school is properly dated in the year 1510.

Some years after this date, finding his strength decaying, though he was still not in advanced life, he became anxious to find some monastery or other place of religious retirement, in which he might close his days in quiet and solitude. But, before he could determine upon his retreat, he was attacked by the disease then called the sweating sickness, the repeated visitations of which proved so destructive in England, and also in other countries, in the latter part of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century; and, after several recoveries and relapses, he sunk under it, at a house which he had built for himself near the royal palace of Richmond, on the 16th of September, 1519.

Colet presents himself to us in various capacities: as a man; as a clergyman, preacher, and divine; as a scholar; and as a great public benefactor, to whom posterity has been indebted in every age that has elapsed since that in which he lived. His personal appearance has been preserved both in description, and in picture and sculpture.[Pg 83] From a drawing representing him in his ecclesiastical attire, in a manuscript of the two first Gospels which had belonged to him, and which is now in the public library at Cambridge, he seems to have been eminently handsome. Erasmus also describes him as both comely and tall. The same friend reports, that Colet declared himself to be by natural disposition inclined to indulge in all the ordinary ways of the world; but he had subdued these tendencies by the most determined self-discipline. "He conquered, and then commanded himself," says his modern biographer, Dr. Knight, abstracting in English the account given by Erasmus, "and brought his high spirit to be subject to reason; so that he would bear a reproof even from his own servant. His disposition to sleep and luxury he restrained by a continual abstinence from suppers, a strict sobriety, a close application to his studies, and by serious and religious conversation.... And yet, whenever opportunities offered themselves, either of jesting with facetious persons, or talking familiarly with the female sex, or of appearing at feasts and great entertainments, there nature would break forth, and you might see some little signs and tokens of it. For which reason he very much forbore acquaintance with laymen, and especially all public entertainments, where, if necessity brought him, he picked out some learned friend and talked Latin with him to avoid the profane discourse of the table, and in the mean time he would eat but of one dish, and take but one or two draughts of beer, refraining commonly from wine, which yet he relished with delight if very good, but drank it in the most sparing manner. Being always jealous of himself, he would therefore be constantly upon his guard, and cautious to the last degree of offending anybody; and he so behaved himself in all the minute circumstances of human life as if he well knew the eyes of all people were fixed upon him. There never was a more flowing wit; which, for that reason, delighted in the like society; but even then he chose rather to divert to such discourse as savoured most of religion and eternal life. And if ever he indulged him[Pg 84]self in any light and pleasant stories, he would still give some turn of philosophy and serious application to them. He was a great lover of little children, admiring the pretty innocence and simplicity in them; and he would often observe how our Saviour had set them for our example, being wont to compare them to the angels above." The only detriment which he contracted from this constant self-observance and asceticism seems to have been some slight severity of temper; which, however, he also, as well as its opposite vices, generally kept under control. Yet it was a principle with him that boys should occasionally be soundly whipped, even when they had committed no fault, to break their spirits or to humiliate them, as he expressed it. He would sometimes have one of the boys of his school brought to him while he was at dinner, and subjected in his presence to what he considered this salutary discipline. On this point his milder or easier-natured friend Erasmus differed from him, as also upon the matter of going to bed supper-less. Erasmus hints, too, that Colet was not without a tincture of avarice; he sometimes did not respond to the applications of the great scholar for pecuniary assistance so liberally or so readily as the latter could have wished, or he would accompany his bounty with unasked advices and cautions; but such complaints are very apt to be made by habitual borrowers, or beggars rather; and Erasmus was one of the most inveterate of that class, always receiving, always in want. He admits that Colet would supply him when nobody else would—when the charity of all his other friends had been tired out and run dry; and he further admits, that if Colet ever really showed anything like stinginess, it was not that he wanted to hoard his money, but only to bestow it on the worthiest objects, to apply it to the best use.

As a theologian, Colet occupies a very eminent place among the forerunners of the Reformation—among those who, without leaving the communion of the Romish Church, had yet abandoned many of its doctrines, as well as laboured to expose and remedy its corruptions, before the great popular revolt which finally separated from that[Pg 85] communion a third of Christendom. Although he held so many preferments, he at least did what he could to provide that the duties, whenever there were any, should be properly performed, either by himself or a deputy. Erasmus tells us, that when he was appointed to his principal office, the deanery of St. Paul's, as if he had been called to the labours, not to the dignity, of the place, he "restored the decayed discipline of his cathedral church, and brought in what was a new practice there, preaching himself upon Sundays and all solemn festivals." These sermons, it is added, were always attended by a numerous auditory, including amongst others the chief magistrates of the city. It appears that Colet's example had a good effect in making the deans of several other churches introduce the same practice of preaching. Colet's theological writings, some of which exist in manuscript, appear to contain very little doctrine that can be called peculiarly Romish. The only repository of divine truth which he recognised seems to have been the Bible, the obscurities and difficulties in which he interprets by comparison of one passage with another, and by the common lights of reason and learning, not by either tradition or the decisions of popes and councils; and his interpretations in various instances were contradictory to those upon which the church of Rome founds its peculiar doctrines. He was also accustomed to inveigh strongly against the pride, luxury, avarice, ignorance, and idleness of the clergy; the open profligacy of many of their number; and the general disorder into which the religious houses had fallen in his time—an evil which was already so universally felt that no new monastery or nunnery had been founded in England for many years, and the system of such institutions was thus pining away from mere neglect long before the fatal blow given to it by Henry the Eighth. One or two of the popish doctrines or practices Colet even ventured the length of distinctly dissenting from and condemning; in particular, the celibacy of the clergy, and, to a certain extent also, auricular confession. For the freedom with which he was[Pg 86] wont to express himself upon these and other points, he was more than once exposed to some annoyance and danger. One of the persons who looked upon him with suspicion and dislike for the general complexion of his opinions, was Fitz James, Bishop of London. "The dean," Erasmus informs us, "had never stood right with the bishop, who was a very rigid Scotist, and the more jealous of the dean because his lectures and sermons were chiefly employed in opening the sense of the Scriptures; which, being in the new way of learning, was called heresy. And, in truth, at that time, any divine that had more learning or piety than the grosser part of his order, or did touch or talk of any thing out of the common road of the church of Rome, was counted a perverse heretic, or at least suspected of the crime of heretical pravity. The bishop upon this score accuses the dean to the archbishop as a dangerous man; and, calling in the assistance of two other bishops of equal bigotry and no less virulency, he began to create him a great deal of trouble and vexation; using no other weapon but that of the charge of heresy, which was then reckoned the most fatal engine for the destruction of their enemies. So the bishop drew up certain articles against the dean. One was, that the said Dr. Colet had taught that images were not to be worshipped. A second was, that he had preached against the temporal possessions of the bishops, by denying that the repeated exhortation of Christ to Peter, to feed his sheep, could be at all meant of hospitality, or the worldly ways of entertainment, because the apostles were then poor, and unable to give any such reception. A third was, that he had preached against some men's reading their sermons in a cold unaffected manner, whereby he must needs mean to reflect upon the bishop himself, who, by reason of his old age, had taken up that idler way of preaching. But Archbishop Wareham, who knew the integrity and worth of Dr. Colet, undertook to defend the innocent party; and, from a judge, became his advocate and patron, and dismissed him without giving him[Pg 87] the trouble of putting in any formal answer."[41] The bishop, nevertheless, was not quieted by this first failure; and some time after he and his friends were much excited by the hope of being able to represent Colet to the king as a disaffected and dangerous person, on the ground of one of his sermons, in which he had spoken of reconciling the quarrels and differences of Christian states and princes by persuasion; and had exhorted his bearers to conquer those evil passions, out of which, he said, came wars and fightings among men. The sermon was preached before his majesty, who had just declared war against France; and, a little disturbed at the doctrine, Henry, immediately after the service, sent for the preacher. Colet waited on his majesty in the Franciscan monastery adjoining the royal palace at Greenwich; they met in the garden of the monastery, where the king went to walk; and as soon as the dean came up to him his majesty dismissed all his attendants. The rest of the story may be given in the words of Colet's modern biographer:—"The Bishop of London and his party, who hated the dean, and especially friar Bricot, were waiting in the palace, full of hope and expectation that the preacher would fall under the suspicion of treason, and the king's highest displeasure upon it, and would immediately be sent from the court to the Tower. But, on the contrary, as the king and Dean Colet were alone in the garden, his highness commanded him to be covered, and then spoke to him in this friendly manner:—'Master Dean, that you may fear no harm, I sent for you at this time; not to interrupt your holy labours in preaching, which I would rather encourage and promote, but to disburthen my own conscience of some scruples upon it, and by your ghostly advice to direct myself in the present posture of my affairs.' The king then told him that he was now engaged in a war against the French king, not at his own desire, but by force and urgent necessity for the defence of his kingdom; and therefore,[Pg 88] though the doctor, in his truly Christian sermon, had spoken admirably well of Christian love and charity ... yet since this was a war, not of choice, but of necessity ... he must desire him in another sermon to defend the lawfulness of such a war as was defensive, and should be entered upon for the honour and safety of our country. Dean Colet with all dutiful readiness obeyed the king's command; and at the next opportunity, in the same grave and eloquent way, he spoke of the grounds of a lawful war among Christian states and princes with such strength of reason and Scripture, that he not only confirmed the king and his nobles in their intended enterprise, but even raised the spirits of the common people, before cool and indifferent in that matter. At the end of this last sermon the king thanked him publicly before all the people; and said to his nobles, who stood about him:—'Well, let everyone choose his own doctor, but this shall be my doctor before all other whatsoever.' And so the king took a glass of wine, and drank to him very graciously, and dismissed him with all the marks of affection; promising him any favour at court he would ask for. After this great honour done him by the king, his enemies, that stood gaping like wolves for a prey, slunk away with shame and vexation; and the dean, now secure from their envy and malice, went on in his constant course of preaching, and had always a full audience, as well of courtiers as of citizens, who were all pleased, and even charmed, with his excellent way of preaching."[42]

Inclined upon principle, if not by original disposition, to the utmost plainness and simplicity in all things, Colet, somewhat of an ascetic and a puritan in religion, was also something of a utilitarian in scholarship. He had a high value for learning, and appreciated the importance of whatever contributed to make knowledge sound and correct; but whatever was, or seemed to be, merely ornamental, he was apt to disregard or despise. He and his friend Erasmus differed entirely upon[Pg 89] the subject of rhetoric, which Colet seems to have looked upon as only another name for falsehood and misrepresentation, or at least thought to be good only for confusing or disguising the truth. Its efficacy in arousing the passions and the imagination he certainly would not have admitted as any defence of it; for it was an essential part of his creed, that the imagination and the passions ought in all circumstances to be as far as possible subdued and kept down, and that the less part they were allowed to have in human affairs the better. Yet this is the only ground or apology for the employment of what is commonly called eloquence in writing or speaking. Colet would have had the reason or judgment to be the only faculty of the mind ever called into exercise, the only part of our nature ever appealed to. And with his robust and homely tastes he did not relish or approve of any tendency to subtlety or over-refinement even in reasoning. The logic of the schools he despised and hated, denouncing alike both Thomists and Scotists (as the followers of Thomas Aquinas, and their opponents, the followers of Duns Scotus, were denominated) as triflers and abusers of the gift of speech. In this feeling his religious opinions and tendencies took part with his literary tastes; for the schoolmen were the great defenders of Romanism, both theological and political; and the strongest antagonism and hostility also subsisted between their old logic and the new learning, directed in great part to the original language and better interpretation of the Christian Scriptures, which preceded and mainly helped to produce the Reformation. This was also no doubt the motive of much of Colet's zeal for the advancement of Greek scholarship, in which, as we have seen, he sought to accomplish himself after he had finished the ordinary course of study, and for the public and permanent teaching of which, as we shall presently find, he was one of the first persons who made provision in England. But, although a good, he never himself became a great scholar; and his name has only a place in the history of learning in connexion with the great classical school of which he was the founder.[Pg 90]

There had been in very early times a school connected with the cathedral church of St. Paul's, as there were with most of the other principal churches and monasteries throughout the kingdom. But, like many of the other better parts of the Romish system, this seminary, in Colet's days, appears to have fallen into complete decay, and to have subsisted, if at all, in little more than in name and form. His own institution, which entirely superseded it, was founded by him, as we have already stated, about nine years before his death, and its settlement and superintendence principally occupied the remainder of his life. The best account of how he proceeded is that given by Erasmus, who says, "Upon the death of his father, when by right of inheritance he was possessed of a good sum of money, lest the keeping of it should corrupt his mind, and turn it too much toward the world, he laid out a great part of it in building a new school in the churchyard of St. Paul's, dedicated to the child Jesus, a magnificent fabric, to which he added two dwelling-houses for the two several masters; and to them he allotted ample salaries, that they might teach a certain number of boys free and for the sake of charity. He divided the school into four apartments. The first, namely, the porch and entrance, is for catechumens, or the children to be instructed in the principles of religion, where no child is to be admitted but what can read and write. The second apartment is for the lower boys, to be taught by the second master or usher; the third for the upper forms, under the head master; which two parts of the school are divided by a curtain, to be drawn at pleasure.... The fourth or last apartment is a little chapel for divine service. The school has no corners or hiding-places; nothing like a cell or closet. The boys have their distinct forms or benches, one above another. Every form holds sixteen; and he that is head or captain of each form has a little kind of desk, by way of pre-eminence. They are not to admit all boys of course; but to choose them according to their parts and capacities. Their wise and sagacious founder ... after he had finished left the perpetual care and over[Pg 91]sight of the estate, and government of it, not to the clergy, not to the bishop, not to the chapter, nor to any great minister at court; but amongst the married laymen, to the Company of Mercers, men of probity and reputation. And when he was asked the reason of so committing this trust, he answered to this effect:—that there was no absolute certainty in human affairs; but, for his part, he found less corruption in such a body of citizens than in any other order or degree of mankind."[43]

But the nature of the original establishment, and also some points in the character of the founder, will be best illustrated by a few extracts from the statutes, as drawn up by Colet himself. They are dated the 18th of June, 1518.

The school is described as founded "in the honour of Christ Jesu in pueritia, and of his blessed moder Mary." The high or head master is directed to be "a man whole in body, honest and virtuous, and learned in good and clean Latin literature, and also in Greek, if such may be gotten, a wedded man, a single man, or a priest that hath no benefice with cure, nor service that may let the due business in the school." His wages are appointed to be "a mark a week, and a livery gown of four nobles, delivered in cloth."

The number of children received in the school is directed to be a hundred and fifty-three (in allusion, it is supposed, to the number of fish taken by St. Peter, as recorded by the evangelist John, chapter xxi. verse 11), "of all nations and countries indifferently." One of the rules with regard to the scholars is, that "in the school, in no time in the year, they shall use tallow candle in no wise, but alonely wax candle, at the costs of their friends." Colet, though he hated show and luxury, was a great lover of cleanliness: he dressed only in black, while many of the other clergy of his degree arrayed themselves in purple: but he was always remarkable for the neatness of his attire, and also for the good condition and order of his house and everything about him. Other[Pg 92] rules which he lays down for the boys are the following:—"Also I will they bring no meat, nor drink, nor bottle, nor use in the school no breakfasts nor drinkings in the time of learning in no wise; if they need drink, let them be provided in some other place. I will they use no cock-fighting, nor riding about of victory, nor disputing at St. Bartholomew, which is but foolish babbling and loss of time. I will also that they shall have no remedies [that is, holidays]. If the master granteth any remedies, he shall forfeit 40s. totiens quotiens [for every time], except the king, or an archbishop, or a bishop present in his own person in the school desire it. All these children shall every Childermas-day come to Paul's church and hear the Child Bishop Sermon; and after be at the High Mass; and each of them offer a penny to the Child Bishop; and with them the masters and surveyors of the school." This festival of the Boy Bishop is remarked as almost the only popish observance attendance upon which the dean enjoined upon those educated at his school.

Some instructions are given as to what should be taught and what books should be read in the school. Generally it is explained that the purpose of the seminary is to afford instruction both in Latin and Greek, but always as far as possible in connection with Christian truth. He recommends, therefore, that Lactantius, Prudentius, and other Christian authors who wrote in Latin be used; but at the same time he wholly banishes and excludes, along with everything immoral, whatever corruption or adulteration of style "the later blind world brought in," "which," he facetiously adds, "more rather may be called blotterature than literature."

Finally, Colet shows his good sense in a very unusual provision with which he concludes, under the title of "Liberty to declare the Statutes." Notwithstanding all that he has laid down under previous heads, "yet because," as he well says, "in time to come many things may and shall survive and grow, by many occasions and causes which at the making of this book was not possible to come to mind," he leaves entire liberty to the Com[Pg 93]pany of Mercers, to whom he had intrusted the government of the institution, "to add and diminish of this book, and to supply in it every default; and also to declare in it every obscurity and darkness, as time and place and just occasion shall require."

Colet's first head master was William Lilly, the principal author of the Latin grammar which goes under his name. Lilly had visited not only Italy but Rhodes to acquire and perfect himself in the Greek language, which he is said to have been the first person who taught at Oxford, at least after the revival of letters. He was a married man with many children; and he lived and presided over St. Paul's school till the year 1522, when he was carried off by the plague.

Colet's allowance to his head master of a mark (13s. 4d.) a week, with two houses (one attached to the school; the other, as an occasional country retreat, at Stepney), was a liberal provision according to the value of money at that day. The revenues of the school, however, derived from land, have of course since greatly increased: they amounted, as Colet calculated them, to about 120l., and are understood to be now nearly 6000l. The estates lie chiefly in Buckinghamshire.


[41] Translated by Dr. Knight, in his Life of Colet, 8vo. Lon. 1724; pp. 88-90.

[42] Life of Colet, pp. 205-208.

[43] Translated in Life by Knight, pp. 110-113.

[Pg 94]


Thomas Wolsey was born in the year 1471, in the pleasant and prosperous town of Ipswich in Suffolk. This place, being the chief port of a very rich agricultural and pastoral district, and a great mart of the trade carried on with Holland and the whole of the Low Countries, had from very early times been a thriving town. A considerable portion of that great staple the wool of England had been annually exported from the port of Ipswich and the broad Orwell to the Netherlands, and a very frequent intercourse had been steadily kept up between the men of Ipswich, and the more civilized and manufacturing people of Flanders, Brabant, and Holland. A full century and a half before the birth of Wolsey, Ipswich was one of the most trading of our English cities. At his time commerce had brought both civilization and wealth; and shortly after his death, when the Reformation began in England, the people of Ipswich, and the county of Suffolk generally, were among[Pg 95] the foremost and steadiest that embraced the new doctrines; for in their foreign intercourse they had made themselves acquainted with the object and the operations of Luther and the earliest German Reformers, and their superior enlightenment rendered them more open to conviction than the population of any other of the island. At the date of the birth of our great and last prince of the Roman Church Luther was not born; but the mental development and the prosperity of Ipswich stood remarkably high. Many of the trading burghers were exceedingly wealthy.

It is quite certain that Thomas Wolsey was the son of plebeian parents, but it is not quite so certain that his father was a mere butcher. It was a poet, and a most bitter satirist, his contemporary John Skelton, who first designated Wolsey as the "butcher's dog," as a man of "greasy genealogy," and "that was cast out of a butcher's stall." Lord Herbert of Cherbury says indeed in plain prose that Wolsey was a butcher's son; Shakspere makes the angry Duke of Buckingham call the Lord Cardinal "this butcher's cur," and speak of "this Ipswich fellow's insolence;" but the words proceed from the mouth of an exasperated enemy. The probabilities are that Wolsey's father was a substantial yeoman that may have sold the wool of his flocks to the wool-staplers, and have fattened sheep and cattle for the stalls, without being himself a butcher. It is unquestionable that Robert and Joan Wolsey, his parents, were reputable persons, and possessed of sufficient means to provide a learned education for their son. It is true that children of poor and obscure parents did occasionally obtain the advantages of such an education; but in these cases the youths were devoted to the cloisters, and received gratuitously the instruction of the monks. Such was not the case of Thomas Wolsey. He received preparatory instruction, at the cost of his father, in Suffolk, and was then sent at the same charge to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated at the age of fifteen, gaining by his early advancement to academical honours the nickname of the "boy-Bachelor." He became fellow of[Pg 96] his college, teacher of a school connected with it; and was ordained. Greek was not as yet taught in either of the universities; but the Cardinal's letters and state papers in Latin show that he had diligently studied the Roman classics; and the high reputation he indisputably enjoyed at Oxford, may be taken as good evidence that he cultivated all such learning as was accessible at that time. It is also to be mentioned to his honour that he afterwards, in the days of his greatness, founded a Greek professorship in the college he built at Oxford, and published a general address to the schoolmasters of England, ordering them to institute their youth in the most elegant literature.[44]

While master of the school attached to Magdalen College, Wolsey had for his pupils three sons of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, and to his acquaintance with this noble and powerful family the future Lord Cardinal owed his first humble preferment in the church, being presented by the marquess to the living of Lymington in Somersetshire. At this time Wolsey was twenty-nine years old. He was not distinguished at any period of his life by temperance and sobriety, and a command of his passions; and in the hot season of youth he is said to have been publicly guilty of various indiscretions. Thus it is said by Bishop Godwin that almost as soon as he had set footing in his Somersetshire living, "he was very disgracefully entertained by Sir Amias Pawlet, who clapped him in the stocks, a punishment not usually inflicted upon any but beggars and base people."[45] This Protestant prelate does not give the cause of this punishment, but communicative tradition says that Wolsey had gotten drunk at a neighbouring fair. "What the matter was," says Bishop Godwin, "that so exasperated Sir Amias Pawlet against Wolsey, a man not of[Pg 97] least account, I know not: this I know, that Wolsey being afterwards made Cardinal, and Lord Chancellor of England, so grievously punished this injury, that Sir Amias was fain to dance attendance at London some years, and by all manner of obsequiousness to curry favour with him. There remains to this day a sufficient testimony hereof in a building over the gate of the Middle Temple in London, built by the knight at the time of his attendance there, and decked round about very sumptuously with the Cardinal's arms, the knight hoping thereby somewhat to allay the wrath of the incensed prelate." But Wolsey had qualities which could not be obscured, and a spirit that would not be depressed by any temporary disgrace. It is thought that his mind soon looked beyond his poor rural benefice. He certainly did not stay long at Lymington. Among other Somersetshire gentlemen, to whom he recommended himself by his wit and vivacity and captivating address, was Sir John Nafant, Treasurer of Calais, then an English possession and a great emporium of our trade. It appears that at first this knight engaged him as his chaplain: but that being incapacitated by age and sickness, and finding Wolsey admirably qualified for business, he soon appointed him his deputy in the office of Calais Treasurer, and afterwards conceived such a liking for him that he introduced him to King Henry VII. and obtained for him a nomination of king's chaplain. This crafty king, who was very sagacious in judging of the abilities and character of men, and who is said never to have employed or promoted a dull man, was charmed with the alacrity of his new almoner. According to Bishop Godwin, Wolsey's introduction to the king was brought about more indirectly by Sir John Nafant making him first known to Henry the Seventh's favourite minister Fox, who was at that time Bishop of Winchester and Lord Privy Seal, and, like his master, "a man that knew right how to judge of good wits." "And he (Fox) finding this young man to be very sprightful, of learning sufficient, and very active in despatch of affairs, so highly recommended him King Henry the Seventh, who[Pg 98] relied much upon Fox's faith and wisdom, that he thought it good forthwith to employ him in affairs of great moment. What need many words? He so far pleased the king that in short time he became a great man." In these times the clergy were not barred from any state employment, and Henry the Seventh, making more account of their literature than of the pedigree and warlike qualities of the lay aristocracy, generally employed them in the various offices of government, and rarely if ever used any other ambassadors. Wolsey owed his next great rise to his skill as a negotiator and his rapidity as a traveller. The subject of Wolsey's first embassy, or as Bacon calls it, "this his first piece," was matrimonial: the grand cause of his final downfall was a divorce. Henry VII., in his old age, had determined to take to himself another wife, and was looking through all Europe for a rich and fair one. After sundry disappointments he obtained a promise of the hand of Lady Margaret, duchess dowager of Savoy, only daughter to the Emperor Maximilian, and sister to Philip, King of Castile, "a lady wise and of great good fame." In furtherance of this match it was found necessary to send a trusty, quick-witted, and quick-moving envoy into Flanders; and Wolsey, being named by Henry, went and returned to court before his royal master thought he had had time to get out of England. In the end the negotiation came to nothing; but the king was so much pleased with Wolsey's conduct that he procured for him the valuable deanery of Lincoln, to which he was appointed in February, 1508. In the following year the king died, and was succeeded by Henry VIII. The character and habits of the young sovereign differed in all essentials from those of the old one, but they were much more favourable to the advancement of a man of Wolsey's turn, and accordingly we find the expert, gay, and courtly Dean of Lincoln rising rapidly in favour and greatness from the beginning of this new reign. As he had lived a good deal about the court, and had alike distinguished himself his aptitude for business and by his captivating manners, he must have attracted the notice of[Pg 99] the gay young heir to the throne. He had also another advantage over the grey-headed ministers of Henry VII., for he was in the prime of life, and could pursue pleasure and amusement with as much heart and skill as state business. "The young prince," says Bishop Godwin, "coming to the crown, was wholly taken with his smooth tongue and pliable behaviour." Wolsey's first promotion under Henry VIII. is, however, attributed by Lord Herbert of Cherbury and others, to the political jealousies of the time. Fox, Bishop of Winchester, lord privy seal and principal secretary of state, is said to have been jealous of the influence of the Earl of Surrey, the Lord Treasurer, and to have introduced Wolsey into the council with the view of strengthening his party, hoping to benefit by his "quick and stirring wit," without being disquieted by his ambition. And as Bishop Fox appears to have been one of Wolsey's earliest patrons at court, he may have committed the mistake of counting on his submission and entire dependence, or of considering that his want of high birth would prevent his reaching the high offices of state. "Wolsey," says Lord Herbert, "was already a chaplain in the household and almoner, and from thence raised to the place of a counsellor. Being in this nearness, he knew as well how to discourse with the young king, in matter of learning, (the king being much addicted to the reading of Thomas Aquinas,) as to comply with him in his delights; insomuch, as (saith Polydore) he would sing, dance, laugh, jest, and play with those youths in whose attendance and company the king much delighted; briefly (to use Polydore's words), he made his private house voluptatum omnium sacrarium, quo regem frequenter ducebat, a receptacle for pleasures of all kinds, where he frequently entertained the king, He omitted not yet, in the midst of all these jollities, to speak seriously, so representing all businesses to the king, as he got much credit with him, and this, again, was confirmed by those gallants, who contributed no little thereunto, whereupon he began to tell the king, that he should sometimes follow his studies in school divinity, and sometimes takes his pleasure, and leave the[Pg 100] care of public affairs to him: promising that what was amiss in his kingdom should be rectified. Likewise, he omitted not to infuse fears and jealousies of all those whom he conceived the king might affect. Whereby he became so perfect a courtier that he had soon attained to the height of favour. For as princes have arts to govern kingdoms, courtiers have those by which they govern their princes, when through any indisposition they grow unapt for affairs." Tradition is too unvarying and there is too much substantial evidence of the facts to allow us to doubt that Wolsey encouraged Henry's natural turn to dissipation, took an active part in his expensive and loose pleasures, and turned to his own advantage all his art as a most accomplished courtier and all his influence as a favourite; but it may still be doubted whether there was any man about the court or government of Henry VIII. that would have made a better or a more disinterested minister. He could turn from pleasure to business with a happy facility, and in the midst of the amusements of the court he devoted much time to public affairs; his naturally joyous and confident disposition made him averse from acts of cruelty and oppression, and when the extravagance and the capricious and absurd wars of his master drove him to the necessity of laying on irregular taxes, he so gilded the pill or honeyed it over with sweet words, that for some time no complaints were raised against him or against the king. If allowances be made for the times in which he lived, it must be confessed that the absolute favourite and minister of a despotic prince was seldom less arbitrary or tyrannical. His leading maxim was rather to win and persuade men than to terrify them. Henry, according to an old writer, had at this time as little inclination to trouble himself with business, as a wild ox has to be yoked to the plough. Wolsey did everything for him, and reaped the fruit of his labour in rich gifts and rapid promotions. Before Henry VIII. had finished the first year of his reign he was made Lord Almoner, and presented with some valuable lands in the parish of St. Bride, Fleet Street, which Empson, one of[Pg 101] the extortionate finance managers of Henry VII., had forfeited to the crown upon his attainder and execution. In the next year, 1510, Wolsey became Rector of Torrington; in 1511, Canon of Windsor and Registrar of the Order of the Garter; in 1512, Prebendary of York; in 1513, Dean of York and Bishop of Tournay in France; in 1514, Bishop of Lincoln, and in the same year Archbishop of York. By this time he had not only checked the power and ambition of my Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Surrey, but had also completely eclipsed his patrons, the Lord Privy Seal and Secretary Fox, bishop of Winchester. Fox, who had never shown any lack of ambition or indifference to wealth, and whose own rise to greatness had been very rapid under Henry VII., had possessed a great capacity for business, and had acquired no inconsiderable fame as a deviser and manager of feasts, pageants, and court-entertainments; but in the despatch of business his greatest speed was slowness compared with the pace of Wolsey; and his other conceptions appear to have been tame and niggardly when put in contrast with the magnificent devices of the son of the Ipswich burgher, who was a refiner of the sensual pleasures, and whose talent in pageantries and festivities may indeed be said to have amounted to genius. Bishop Fox, too, had grown old and parsimonious, and had the uncourtly habit of complaining of the vast expenditure of the young, gay, and most ostentatious king. Finding himself disregarded at court, and completely overshadowed in the state by the plebeian churchman he had patronized and brought into the council to serve him, the old man in 1515 retired in disgust to his diocese, and spent the rest of his life in discharge of the duties of his episcopal office, and in works of munificence and piety. The same year, 1515, which witnessed the retirement of Fox, saw Wolsey elevated to the rank of a Cardinal, and to the office of Chancellor of England. The Cardinal's hat was given to him by Pope Leo the Tenth (whose character and tastes in many respects resembled his own), in order to gratify the powerful King of England, and to keep him steady to the league[Pg 102] against the French king, who, among other schemes of conquest, was contemplating the reduction of a great part of Italy; for the great seal Wolsey was indebted to the resignation and retirement of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, who, like Bishop Fox, had found his authority reduced to nothing.[46] In the very next year after these high promotions, in consequence of services rendered, or in the hope of securing other services and an active co-operation on the part of King Henry in the continental wars, Leo X. made Wolsey his legate à latere in England, a commission which gave him great wealth and an almost unlimited power over the English clergy. He was likewise allowed to farm, for the foreign bishops who held them, the revenues of the dioceses of Bath and Worcester, the latter of which two sees had been given to Julius de' Medici, cousin to Leo X., and afterwards Pope Clement VII. It appears that Wolsey paid these foreign churchmen fixed stipends far below the annual proceeds which he drew from the dioceses. He had also in commendam the rich abbey of St. Alban's. All these enormous revenues were further increased by stipends received from the Kings of France and Spain, and from the Doge of Venice, and by occasional gifts made to him by other princes. All the powers of Europe were eager to secure the friendship of the English king, and applied to Wolsey as the only means of effecting the desired end. He had few scruples about taking this foreign money, but he seems always to have made the king privy to the transactions, and it is pretty[Pg 103] evident that a good part of this money either went directly into the king's privy purse or was spent by the Lord Cardinal in splendid entertainments for him. By the year 1517 Wolsey had the whole power in the state, both civil and ecclesiastical, and an income of enormous amount. Pope Leo himself scarcely lived with more splendour and magnificence. Wolsey's taste was rather for spending than accumulating. He became most gorgeous in his dress, retinue, housekeeping, and all other things; his portly figure was set off with silks and satins of the finest texture, and richest scarlet and crimson dye. Polydore Virgil says that he was the first among all priests, bishops, and cardinals that ever wore silks for his uppermost vestment. His neck and shoulders were covered with a tippet of costly sables; his gloves were of red silk; his hat of a cardinal was scarlet; his shoes were silver gilt, inlaid with pearls and diamonds. The eye of imagination is almost dazzled by this warm and glowing picture, which was drawn by one of Wolsey's own servants.[47] He maintained a train of one hundred persons, among whom were nine or ten lords, the beggared descendants of proud barons who had lost their lives or fortunes, or both, in the long War of the Roses, which had so broken the power of the ancient aristocracy, and which had laid the way for the despotism of the House of Tudor. Besides these lords he had fifteen knights and forty squires in his service. All his domestics were splendidly attired: his very cook wore a silk or velvet jerkin, and a chain of gold round his neck. Whenever he appeared in public, his cardinal's hat was borne before him by a person of rank; two priests, the tallest and best-looking that could be found, immediately preceded him, carrying two ponderous silver crosses, one to denote his dignity as Cardinal, the other as Archbishop of York; two gentlemen, each bearing a silver staff, walked before the two priests; and in front of all went his pursuivant-at-arms, carrying on his shoulder a huge mace of silver gilt. Most of his[Pg 104] followers were mounted upon spirited horses, perfect in training, and splendidly caparisoned; but he himself, as a priest, rode a mule, with saddle and saddle-cloth of crimson velvet, and stirrups of silver gilt. At his levee, which he held every morning at an early hour, after a very short mass, he always appeared clad all in red. The king, who loved show and parade beyond all precedent, seems really to have prided himself in the splendour of his favourite; and it is thought that jealousy was avoided by his considering all this pomp and glory as a mere reflection of his own: he had raised him from poverty to this enormous wealth, and he may have reflected, that by his arbitrary and unopposed will he could at any moment cast him down and seize whatever he had. Even the nation was less jealous of the lowborn minister than might have been expected; for Wolsey's wealth was like an overflowing river that reached far and near; he was a liberal and punctual paymaster; he fed thousands of artists and artisans; he constantly gave alms to the poor, and very frequently largesses to the people. At the same time he encouraged men of learning and letters, exerted himself most strenuously for the revival of Greek and pure classical literature, and endowed schools and colleges, without waiting, as Bishop Fox and others had done, for the season of old age or disappointment, or for the hour of death, to make this noble use of riches. At court, no doubt, there were many lords who daily bent the knee to him and flattered him, full of envy and hatred; but with the people, with the great body of the nation, Wolsey appears to have been a favourite, until the king's increasing wants made him put his hands too frequently into the people's pockets. As chancellor, he was praised for the strict justice he dispensed, although his severity too often resembled that exercised under Henry's father by Empson and Dudley, who fined rich offenders rather in proportion to their wealth than in proportion to their offences. He, however, repressed with a strong hand the arbitrary power which some members of the aristocracy still attempted to exercise in[Pg 105] the remoter parts of the kingdom; and he put down thieves and robbers by improving the police, or by encouraging the sheriffs and local magistrates. He allowed none to maltreat or oppress the poor, he erected a court of requests where the complaints and claims of the needy were to be heard; and he introduced other things in the civil government of the kingdom that were very acceptable to the people, and that were continued and improved after his time. "Herein," says Bishop Godwin, "he alike manifested his wisdom and love of his country. Certainly they that lived in that age would not stick to say, that this kingdom never flourished more than when Wolsey did, to whose wisdom they attributed the wealth and safety that they enjoyed, and the due administration of justice to all without exception."

His foreign policy was bad, and even base; but much of this is to be laid to the account of the capricious, violent, and jealous character of the master he served. England occupied a position which might have enabled her to be the arbitress of Europe, and which might have given such weight to a wise and liberal policy as would have checked the long wars waged between the French kings and the emperors Maximilian and Charles V. But Henry was avid for military glory, and, without any genius for war, conceited himself into the hope and belief that he was to be a greater soldier and conqueror in France than Henry V.; and, to say the truth, the English people were at first disposed to be of this opinion, and therefore to encourage his warlike propensities. In the fourth year of his reign he rushed into the war as a principal by invading France. The Emperor Maximilian and his other allies could not, or would not, do that which he had expected; and so, breaking off from them all, he suddenly, in the summer of 1514, concluded a treaty of family and political alliance with Louis XII. of France. Louis XII. died shortly after, but his brilliant and more warlike successor Francis I. flattered the vanity of Henry, who confirmed the league which had so recently been made, and by so doing encouraged Francis to cross the Alps. Then in a very short time, the glory[Pg 106] which the young French king was acquiring in Italy excited the jealousy of Henry, and an outcry was raised in the English court against French ambition and encroachment. If Henry had not already spent all the treasures which his father had left him, he would instantly have declared war against Francis. To tempt him to this step the poor and faithless Maximilian hinted that he was weary of the weight of the imperial crown, and might be easily persuaded to resign it to the English king, for some present assistance, or for a proper consideration in money. Henry's egregious vanity took the bait; and the Earl of Worcester and Doctor Cuthbert Tunstall, afterwards Bishop of Durham, were sent to the emperor's court to negotiate for this cession of the imperial crown. Schemes were laid at home for the raising of money and the equipment of great armies. But Tunstall, one of the most accomplished scholars in Europe, and an excellent statesman and man of business, presently discovered the specious cheat which Maximilian was attempting to practise, and boldly and bluntly told his master that the constitutions of the Germanic empire and other circumstances rendered it utterly impossible that he could ever be emperor even by name. "But the crown of England," said this patriotic priest, and with not less truth than patriotism, "is an empire of itself, much better than now this empire of Rome." Tunstall also told Henry, that he really believed that Maximilian's offer had only been made in order to get thereby some money, and that the emperor's court was a place of great dissimulation, where no promises were kept.[48] Upon this Henry's jealousies of Francis I. gave way to other and fresher feelings, and, instead of declaring war, in order to make the French king evacuate Italy, he concluded with him a treaty of alliance offensive and defensive. During the negotiations which preceded this treaty Wolsey was gratified by French money, but it is[Pg 107] pretty clear that his master's disappointment and irritation led to this sudden change of policy, and were too violent to be resisted. At the beginning of the following year, 1519, when Maximilian died unexpectedly, and when Francis proposed himself as a candidate for the vacant dignity, Henry promised the French king his countenance and support. Yet, after doing this, he sent the learned Richard Pace to the German electors, to announce himself as a candidate. Then, as the Archduke Charles began the canvass, and showed that his better qualifications, his wise policy, and his immense resources must secure him the election, Henry, from that common desire men feel for being on the winning side, or from some new offence taken to Francis, or in a miserable attempt at manœuvre, wrote to assure Charles of his earnest wishes for his success; and at this very time Sir Thomas Boleyn, one of Henry's ambassadors at the diet, was repeating to Francis the most solemn assurances that Henry would support him. Charles the Fifth was elected on the 28th of June, 1519. The eagerness with which both he and his disappointed rival Francis attempted to secure the friendship of the King of England, was a tribute paid to the power and importance of the nation; but Henry was incapable of benefiting either himself or his people, or the cause of peace and humanity in Europe, by the advantages afforded him by his enviable position. The correspondence preserved in the State Paper Office, and published a few years since, shows that the imperious and constantly changing will and the gusty passions of the king directed, far more than Wolsey's schemes and projects, the foreign policy or no policy of these times. If the Cardinal had been allowed to take the lead in foreign as in home affairs, although the policy might not have been much more elevated, it would certainly have been somewhat more regular and consistent. Just before the imperial election, Henry had proposed to Francis a personal interview, to take place between the English town of Calais and the French king's town of Boulogne. Francis now requested Henry to keep this engagement, and the meeting was fixed for[Pg 108] the summer of 1520. The Emperor Charles was greatly alarmed hereat, and his ambassadors in England did all they could to keep the king at home. But Henry, who longed to display his magnificence, was firm to his purpose. As he was collecting his finery for embarkation at Dover, he received news that the emperor was in the Channel. According to the commonly received account, Henry was taken by surprise, but not so his minister; for Wolsey had been secretly corresponding with the emperor, and had concerted this opportune visit, and Charles had granted his "most dear friend" a pension of 7000 ducats, secured upon two Spanish bishoprics. The emperor anchored at Hithe near Dover on the 26th of May, and was there received by my Lord Cardinal in great state. Henry met him at Dover and conducted him to Canterbury, where the two sovereigns laid their offerings on the tomb of Thomas à Becket. Charles spent three days in England, and during that time he is said to have had many conferences with Wolsey, and to have encouraged the Cardinal to aspire to the tiara or triple crown of Rome, promising him his support if Leo X. should die. He treated Wolsey with great reverence, and affected to submit to his superior judgment in state affairs; he also gave him many magnificent presents—"a great part of the spoils of Mexico"—says Lord Herbert of Cherbury. On the fourth day Charles re-embarked at Sandwich, and set sail for his Netherlands dominion, trusting that, by anticipating Francis and by winning the Cardinal, he had prevented any evil consequences that might otherwise have arisen out of the more formal meeting of Henry and the French king. On the same day Henry, with the Cardinal, the queen, and the whole court, sailed for Calais to keep that appointment. The place fixed upon, and afterwards styled the "Field of the Cloth of Gold," was within the English pale, between Guisnes and Ardres. The manner of meeting, together with the whole ceremonial and pageant, was left by both monarchs to Wolsey. Francis thought to flatter the vanity of the Cardinal by this arrangement; but the concession was a trifle compared with Charles's promises to make the Cardinal a Pope.[Pg 109] In the long and costly pageantries exhibited in the Field of the Cloth of Gold, none could vie in magnificence with Wolsey, although it was said of some of the French nobles that they carried their entire estates on their backs. According to an old writer, who had a surpassing love for all shows and gaudy dresses and dazzling pageantries, and who was thereby qualified to be the proper historian of such a reign, the Frenchmen were so struck with Wolsey's splendour and magnificence that they afterwards "made books, showing the triumphant doings of the Cardinal's royalty; as, of the number of his gentlemen, knights, and lords, all in crimson velvet, with marvellous number of chains of gold; the multitude or horses, mules, coursers and carriages that went before him with sumpters and coffers; his great silver crosses and pillars, and his embroidered cushions; the great and honourable number of bishops giving their attendance on him, and the mighty and great number of servants, as yeoman and grooms, all clad in scarlet."[49] Before the ten days of tilting, tourneying, fighting at the barriers, and feasting and dancing began, Wolsey spent two whole days in arranging an additional treaty with the French sovereign. Francis, whose head and heart were full of his Italian conquests, readily agreed to pay a high price for the neutrality of the King of England in the war with the Emperor Charles, which he saw was inevitable: he renewed the recent marriage treaty, and, in addition to the money therein promised, he bound himself and his successors to pay to Henry and his successors the yearly sum of one hundred thousand crowns, in the event of the marriage between their children being solemnized, and the issue of that marriage seated on the English throne. Many extravagant professions of friendship were made on either side; and by the royal word of Henry, as well as by the treaty, Francis was led to believe that he should have nothing to fear from England in his contest with the Emperor Charles for the dominion of Italy. Yet the first thing Henry did on[Pg 110] quitting the Field of the Cloth of Gold, was to go to Gravelines and pay a visit to the more sober-minded and politic emperor. Charles accompanied him back to Calais, to pay, as was given out, his respects to his dear aunt Catherine, Queen of England; but, in reality, to concert measures with those who had so recently pledged themselves to his rival's interests. The emperor flattered the vanity of his dear uncle Henry by attempting to appoint him umpire for the settling of all differences between him and the French King; and he again assured Wolsey that he would aid him in the next vacancy at Rome. Splendid entertainments were given at Calais; and when, after three days, Charles took his leave, he was "mounted on a brave horse covered with a cloth of gold richly beset with stones which the king had given him." "He would often," adds Bishop Godwin, "speak of his aunt's happiness, that was matched to so magnificent a prince." Henry and his court soon returned to London, "all safe in body, but empty in purse." The most lasting effect produced by the Field of the Cloth of Gold was the ruin of many of the nobility, who, in their desire to please the gorgeous king and outshine the French, had contracted enormous debts. Even under that despotism there were some men who expressed their disapprobation of the ruinous and useless expense. One of the loudest of these murmurers was Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who had long been an object of dislike and jealousy to the king. The origin of the duke's misfortunes was his close connection with royalty by his descent from the ancient line of the Plantagenets. His next misfortune was his great wealth, which tempted the impoverished king to make it his own by a sentence of attainder and forfeiture. He had also been guilty of the folly of listening to one Hopkins, a Carthusian friar, who had gained great reputation as an astrologer and fortune-teller, and who had predicted or hinted to him that his young son would be Henry's successor on the throne of England. Eight years before, when he was much less jealous and suspicious than now, Henry had cut off the head of the Duke of Suffolk for no other[Pg 111] crime than that of his royal birth. Before leaving England for the Field of the Cloth of Gold, he had been alarmed at a report that the Duke of Buckingham was augmenting the number of his armed retainers: he had called into the Star Chamber one Sir William Bulmer for having deserted the royal household to take service in that of Buckingham, and although he had pardoned that knight, he had in so doing made use of ambiguous expressions against the duke. The ill-will and fears and angry passions of the king are quite enough to account for the cruel fate of this great nobleman, without charging the capital guilt upon Wolsey, whose revenge had certainly not been of a fierce or sanguinary kind. It is clear, however, that there was no friendship between the unfortunate duke and the Cardinal, and there is good ground for believing that if Wolsey did not urge on the duke's ruin, he did little to prevent it. Lord Herbert says that on one occasion the choleric Duke of Buckingham had drawn his dagger against the Lord Cardinal. Bishop Godwin says that Buckingham could by no means bear with the intolerable pride of the Cardinal. "There goes a tale," adds the bishop, "that the duke once holding the basin to the king, the Cardinal, when the king had done, presently dipped his hands in the same water: the duke, disdaining to debase himself to the service of a priest, shed the water in his shoes. The Cardinal, therewith incensed, threatened him that he would sit upon his skirts." All the historians of the following century, and the traditions to which the greatest of our poets always adhered, bear Shakspere out in representing the high-born duke as a scoffer at the pride and pomp of the plebeian Cardinal, and in assigning Wolsey's revenge as an immediate cause of his arrest: yet still we cannot but think that there was a stronger cause in the king's own heart. The duke, who was living quietly on one of his estates in Gloucestershire, was basely inveigled up to town by an invitation from the king. His suspicions were first awakened at Windsor, by seeing that he was closely watched and followed by three knights of the king's body-guard and some servants-at-arms. Making[Pg 112] no vain or desperate effort to escape, he continued his journey to Westminster, where he took his barge, in order to go by water to Greenwich, where the court then was. On his way he stopped at my Lord Cardinal's quay, or the jetty at York House; but the Cardinal made his servants say that he was indisposed; and he would not see the uneasy face of the doomed nobleman. Between Wolsey's residence and London Bridge the duke's barge was boarded by the captain of the body-guard and a company of his men; and Buckingham was attached as a traitor and conveyed to the Tower, to the great regret and astonishment of the people. Seventeen slavish peers, chosen by the king, and the Duke of Norfolk as high steward, constituted the tribunal which sent Buckingham to the block as a convicted and attainted traitor. It was while the blood of Buckingham was fresh upon him that King Henry took the field as champion of the holy Roman mother church. Three days after the duke's execution he wrote, with his own hand, a terrible letter to Lewis of Bavaria, denouncing the Reformation as "a fire which hath been kindled by Luther, and fanned by the arts of the devil." The royal polemic was the more incensed against the German reformer, because Luther had spoken disrespectfully of St. Thomas Aquinas, his favourite author. After recommending the Bavarian prince to burn Luther and all his books, he himself took up the controversy, and wrote what he at least considered as a full refutation of the detestable and damnable errors of the German innovator. He was assisted in this composition by the learning of Wolsey and Moore, and probably by other scholars; but he took all the praise to himself; and his ambassador at Rome presented the Defence of the Seven Sacraments to Leo X., who declared it to be sprinkled with the dew of ecclesiastical grace, and conferred upon Henry the title of Defender of the Faith.

Shortly after this, upon the application of the French king, the Cardinal went over to Calais to act in the name of his master, as umpire between Francis and Charles. He found the pretensions of the two rivals irreconcilable; and his inclinations and interests, or his reliance[Pg 113] upon the emperor's promise to promote the grand scheme of his ambition at Rome, led him to take part with Charles, who moreover was by far the most successful of the two great belligerents. Dismissing the ambassadors of Francis, he repaired to the city of Bruges, where the Emperor Charles received him with wonderful respect. The Cardinal's pomp and magnificence excited universal amazement. It was reported that gentlemen of the first rank served him on their knees. "He spent a huge mass of money in that ambassage, not against his will; for he by all means sought the emperor's favour, hoping that Leo X., although much younger than he, either cut off by treachery or his own intemperance, might leave the world before him."[50] On the 19th of August, 1521, this impartial arbitrator wrote from Bruges to his master Henry, that the emperor earnestly required his grace forthwith to declare war against France, and that he, Wolsey, had finally convinced the emperor that it would be better to defer for a time this declaration of hostilities. These last expressions were very grateful to Henry, who wished to keep his treaty with the emperor secret, in order to continue to draw his pension from Francis till the last moment. He therefore praised Wolsey for his "high wisdom." Returning to Calais, the Cardinal declared to the re-assembled French diplomatists, that their master Francis had been the aggressor in the war, and that the King of England was bound by treaty to assist his ally the emperor. In the month of October the mask was dropped, and a league was signed at Calais between the pope, the emperor, and the English king. On the first of December following, Leo X. died suddenly at Rome. Adrian, Cardinal of Tortosa, a Fleming by birth, who had been tutor to the emperor, was elected by a conclave, in which not so much as the name of Wolsey appears to have been mentioned. For this time the disappointment and resentment of the great English Cardinal were moderated by the reflection that Adrian was a very infirm old[Pg 114] man. In a few months—in May, 1522—the emperor came on a visit to King Henry, and spent more than a month in England, during which it was agreed that Henry should invade the north of France with forty thousand men, and that Charles should invade the southern provinces of that kingdom with an equal force. The two contracting powers were to divide between them the conquered provinces, but Henry was promised the larger share. This unprincipled war brought heavy taxes and no glory to the English nation, and Henry grew weary of it before it had lasted six months. In the month of September, 1523, Pope Adrian died, after a pontificate of only twenty months and six days. This time Wolsey was not only named, but he also obtained some considerable number of votes in the conclave. Yet in the end Giulio de' Medici, the cousin of Leo X., got the tiara. Again to all appearance Wolsey bore his disappointment with an unruffled mind, though this time he could scarcely flatter himself with another chance, for the successful candidate was young and vigorous. The new pope, however, forthwith appointed him legate for life, enlarging his authority and giving him permission to suppress certain religious houses in England. Early in the year 1525 the French king was thoroughly defeated and taken prisoner by the Spaniards and Imperialists, in the great battle of Pavia; and hereupon Henry, who, a short time before, had been secretly negotiating with Francis, with the view of breaking with Charles, brushed up his insane hope of seating himself on the French throne. He sent to the emperor to propose that he should put himself at the head of a great army, and march upon Paris, where he, the King of England, would meet him with another great army, when they might amicably partition the kingdom between them. But Henry at the same time intimated that he, by right of lawful inheritance, must ascend the French throne, and that Charles must rest satisfied with the provinces he claimed in France as the representative of the House of Burgundy. Without waiting for the emperor's answer, he began to raise more troops and to levy more money[Pg 115] by way of benevolence, and by other illegal and equally arbitrary means. Parliament, which had become almost a nullity, was not consulted; but the judges of England did not blush to affirm that the king might tax his people in any way which seemed to him best. Daring and great as had been the growing of the Tudor despotism, the people would not so read the law; in Wolsey's native county of Suffolk four thousand men flew to arms; the men of Kent drove away all the fiscal agents of the court, and the people of other counties prepared to follow these examples. The court was dismayed, and by a fresh proclamation the illegal demands were annulled. It was reported, and certainly believed by many, that Wolsey had been all along opposed to this irregular taxation, and that it was at his advice and prayer the king had annulled his first proclamation. "But the people took all this for a mock, and said, God save the king—for the Cardinal he is known well enough."[51] And from this time it should appear that the decline of the Cardinal's popularity was very rapid. Moreover in the course of this year some misunderstandings arose between the king and him: Wolsey wished to annex the revenues of the few monasteries he had suppressed with the pope's licence to the new college he intended to found at Oxford; Henry wished to keep those revenues for himself. Some exaggerated accounts of these differences reached Martin Luther, who sat down and wrote a long letter for Henry, calling Wolsey "the monster, the nuisance to God and man," "the pest of the kingdom, and caterpillar of England." The reformer said that he understood his grace had now begun to loathe that wicked sort of men, and in his mind to favour the true doctrine. But before this letter reached England the quarrel between king and cardinal was made up; and Henry told the reformer that Wolsey was the best, the most faithful, the most religious of men, and that he, Luther, was a monster of impiety.

As the Emperor Charles would not enter into Henry's[Pg 116] wild scheme, Henry resolved to contract forthwith an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the French regency. The negotiations were driven on with amazing speed, and the treaty was concluded in the month of August, 1525. France engaged to pay a high price for it: King Henry was to get for himself two millions of crowns, and an annual pension of a hundred thousand; Wolsey got thirty thousand crowns in compensation for the bishopric of Tournay, and a hundred thousand more were promised him. The emperor, after making his own hard terms with the French king, released him from his captivity, in January, 1526. Henry took the unnecessary pains to urge Francis to break the treaty which had been extorted from him in his prison at Madrid, and pledged himself to support the French in the war which must follow, and never to make peace with Charles without the consent of his dear ally. The pope readily absolved Francis from the oaths he had taken at Madrid, and entered into the league with the Kings of France and England, bringing with him the Duke of Milan, the Florentines, the Venetians, and some minor Italian states. The league, for which Henry did next to nothing, led to the sacking of Rome, the ruin of most of the Italian states, and the firm establishment of Charles in Lombardy and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. On the 6th of May, 1527, the Constable Bourbon, a traitor and rebel to the King of France, and who on this occasion acted rather for himself than for the emperor, scaled the walls of Rome with ten thousand desperate mercenaries at his back. The constable was killed in the act of storming, but Rome was taken; the pope and his cardinals shut themselves up in the castle of St. Angelo, the holy city was sacked, and the foreign bands committed in it nearly every possible crime and atrocity. The news reached England at the end of May; and on the 2nd of June, Wolsey, who appears to have felt the blow sincerely and deeply, wrote a letter to Henry, calling upon him as Defender of the Faith to relieve and succour the pope who was pressed by siege in the castle of St. Angelo.[Pg 117] The king, who was already engaged in those amorous matters which were soon to change him into the bitterest enemy of Rome, and to cause Wolsey's ruin, responded rather coolly to the Cardinal's letter. He could do nothing, he said, by means of arms in Italy; and it was but a mockery to tell Wolsey that if money could help the pope he might take it—for his treasury was empty. In July, however, Wolsey was allowed to proceed on another embassy to France; and it is said that he even took three hundred thousand crowns with him to assist the French king in making some immediate effort on behalf of the pope.[52] This was the last of the Cardinal's grand displays. Perhaps he had never before exhibited so much pomp. On setting forth from London he was accompanied by nine hundred lords and gentlemen, among whom were the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of London, the Earl of Derby, the Lords Sandys and Mounteagle, and many knights of high name, all splendidly dressed and mounted: the cardinal's servants and retainers swelled the number of the party to two thousand; and there was a long line of carts, carriages, and sumpter mules guarded by bowmen and spearmen. The French Cardinal of Lorraine met him at his landing in the name of the king and clergy of France. The Cardinal was received in France as if he had been a king. By the French king's orders he was permitted in all such places as he passed through on his journey, "to release, pardon, and put at liberty all such transgressors as be detained in prison, of whatsoever quality their offence." On the 4th of August, Francis himself welcomed the Cardinal, having advanced a mile and a half from the city of Amiens to meet him on the road. The gallant king met him with his bonnet in his hand, and then embraced him "with most hearty kind loving countenance and manner."[53] Four separate treaties with Francis were soon concluded: the first confirmed the recent engagement of perpetual alliance between England and France;[Pg 118] the second related to intermarriage; the third fixed the subsidies to be furnished by England for the war in Italy, which was to be conducted by Francis in aid of the pope, and for the acquisition to himself of Lombardy and Naples; and the last of the four stipulated that, until the pope should be liberated and enabled to resume the government of the church, whatsoever should be determined in France by the clergy of the Gallican church, and in England by the Cardinal-legate Wolsey and the principal members of the English church, convoked on the king's authority, should be held good and valid, even as if the pope had decreed and spoken it. The great Italian historian of the period says that Wolsey aspired to be a pro-pope or universal vicar in France, England, and Germany during the pontiff's imprisonment, and that the king of France made a pretence of gratifying him in this ambitious wish;[54] but the charge, though often repeated, does not appear to be supported by fact. It has been more plausibly supposed that the object of the last treaty, or that part of it which went to place the whole authority of the Anglican church in the hands of the king and Wolsey, and to make that authority decisive in all matters, was to invest the Cardinal or the king with full power to manage "the great and secret affair," or the divorce of Queen Catherine, upon which Henry had already determined. Letters written at the time by Wolsey to his impatient master contain passages which go to support this hypothesis. We unhesitatingly take the word of the Cardinal's faithful attendant and minute biographer for the fact, that during his last and most splendid embassy Wolsey was cast down with grief and anxiety. He was too thorough a churchman not to feel the degradation of the tiara; and perhaps he already foresaw that Henry, being once put in possession of the supreme authority over the English church, would grow too fond of the power ever to resign it. None of the Protestant historians of the following century, or even of a much more recent period, were able to comprehend the character of Wolsey as a prince of the Roman church, or to draw a distinction between his conduct and disposition[Pg 119] as a courtier and man of the world, and his fixed principles as a cardinal and churchman. The sacred college contained many cardinals as fond of worldly pomp and pleasure as he, and more profligate, self-seeking, ambitious than he had ever been, yet when the system was in danger these very cardinals braved torture and death for the cause of the pope.

Shortly after Wolsey's return to England the French king despatched an embassy to our court still further to confirm the league, and to invest Henry with the order of St. Michael. The Cardinal had just finished his palace at Hampton, and there he entertained for four or five days the noble Montmorency and his numerous suite. Among the latter was du Bellay the historian, who has left upon record an account of the magnificence of the palace. "The chambers," he says, "had hangings of wonderful value, and every place did glitter with innumerable vessels of gold and silver: there were two hundred and four-score beds, the furniture to most of them being silk, and all for the entertainment of strangers only." But during Wolsey's recent absence in France, the king had taken counsel of other men; and perhaps it is a proof of Wolsey's uneasiness and declining favour, that he now gave this splendid palace, with all its furniture, to the king. Henry took the gorgeous bribe; but he could no longer take to his heart any man that did not give up his whole soul and conscience to his plan of espousing Anne Boleyn. It is said that Wolsey was not opposed to the divorce from Queen Catherine, but that he intended his master should marry the sister of the French king. All this, however, is at the very least doubtful, for Queen Catherine had always been the friend of the Cardinal, and from the time when the divorce was first mooted Wolsey appears to have been a disquieted and unhappy man. He had not courage enough openly to disobey his tyrannical master, but he evidently entered upon the business with a misgiving mind and a heavy heart. As Pope Clement escaped from Rome disguised as a gardener, and assembled a court within the strong walls of Orvieto, Wolsey could no longer settle the[Pg 120] matter as legate and pope's vicar in England. Clement sent Cardinal Campeggio to act with Wolsey in this delicate commission. When the English Cardinal ventured to explain some doubts and difficulties which he had encountered among the English canonists, all his past services were forgotten in the king's one absorbing passion, and Henry answered him "with terrible terms." The English Cardinal took his seat in the great hall of the Blackfriars with his Italian brother, and summoned Queen Catherine before them; but his heart was not in the business, Campeggio would not proceed in the matter, and, by Pope Clement's authority, adjourned the court. It was clear that the court of Rome would not grant the divorce; and this sealed the doom of the already falling Wolsey. Anne Boleyn, who had vowed an eternal friendship to him only the year before in consequence of some concessions and compliances, had now bent heart and soul on his destruction. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and brother-in-law to the king, whom Wolsey had stung to the quick at the trial in the hall of the Blackfriars, the great Duke of Norfolk, and others of the old nobility, the Lord Rochford, Anne Boleyn's father, and many more great lords and knights, who for nearly twenty years had bent the knee before the royal favourite, now leagued against him, and made common cause with Anne, who was plainly about to become their queen, with or without the pope's sanction to the divorce. They represented that Wolsey had never wished for the divorce except in favour of his French matrimonial scheme; that he had constantly been bribed and bought by France; and that he was in very deed a traitor to King Henry. Henry turned a ready ear to all this, and already in conceit devoured Wolsey's immense wealth, which he thought to be even greater than it was. The courtiers laid wagers that the Cardinal's game was up.[55] They also began to talk at dinner-time, that when once the Cardinal was dead or ruined they would relieve the English church of its superfluous[Pg 121] wealth.[56] Soon after the rising of the court in the Blackfriars the amorous king set out on a progress: Anne Boleyn was with him, and Wolsey was not. The Cardinal, however, soon rode after the king, and joined the royal household at Grafton in Northamptonshire. Freezing was the reception he met with; all the great lords and courtiers shunned him as if he brought the plague or sweating sickness with him; and he was told that no apartment had been prepared for him. Only Sir Henry Norris entreated him to make use of his room, for changing his riding dress into more courtly apparel. Yet to the astonishment and dismay of the betting courtiers the king received the Cardinal with an appearance of his old familiarity and affection, discoursing with him for some time in the deep embrasure of a window, and dismissing him very courteously. That same day Henry dined with Anne Boleyn in her chamber, and before he rose from table or came out of that chamber he gave the fascinating Anne a promise that he would never more admit the Cardinal to an interview or hear the tongue of Wolsey again. On the morrow, when at an early hour the Cardinal presented himself, he found that the king was mounting and riding away without noticing him: he was ordered back to London, and he never more saw his master's face. At the commencement of Michaelmas term, 1529, when Wolsey went as Chancellor to the Court of Chancery, the law officers treated him as disrespectfully as the courtiers had done; and on that same day two informations were filed against him in the Court of King's Bench, charging him with having, as legate, transgressed the statute of premunire. His long life as a courtier had deprived him of the spirit of a man. Without an effort he submitted himself to the scourge, and ordering his counsel to admit his guilt, where he was innocent, he abjectly threw himself upon the king's mercy, saying he knew not how he had offended. Some allowance is, however, to be made for this weakness or mean[Pg 122]ness of spirit: the absolute king was about to begin a reign of terror, and the law was administered by trembling slaves; submission might avert Henry's fatal wrath, but resistance was sure to provoke it; the whole court was leagued and banded against him, and as matters now stood, the church could no longer shield him. The Court of King's Bench, upon his plea of guilty, pronounced their sentence—that he was out of the protection of the law, that his lands, goods, and chattels were forfeited, and that his person was at the mercy of the king. With the hope of being allowed to retain his rank and property in the church, he drew up a deed transferring his entire personal estate to his gracious master, from whose bounty, he said, he had derived it all. The property thus surrendered was valued at half a million of crowns; but neither the amount nor the promptitude of the surrender could disarm persecution. He was presently told that he must quit York Place, as the king meant to live there himself, and that he must confine himself to his house at Esher. To this Wolsey only replied by prostrations and protestations of submission. When his implacable enemies, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, who had both owed many favours to him in the days of his greatness, went to demand from him the great seals and to insult him in his fallen fortunes, Wolsey summoned up a little more heart. "The great seal of England was delivered to me by the hands of my sovereign, I hold it by his majesty's letters patent, and I may not deliver it at the simple word of any lord!" The two dukes represented to their master that the Cardinal was refractory and insolent; and they returned the next day with a written order, under the royal sign manual. The Cardinal read the paper and immediately resigned the seal. "Sir," said his treasurer Sir William Gascoigne, "I am heartily sorry for your grace, as I understand you shall go to the Tower." "It is a false and a blasphemous statement," exclaimed the Cardinal: "have you no better comfort than this for your master in his adversity? But I thank God that I have never done aught to bring me under arrest, albeit it hath pleased the[Pg 123] king to take to himself my house ready furnished at this time." He then issued from his sumptuous palace at Whitehall, and entered his barge. The Thames was covered with boats full of people, who hooted and shouted, and told him how happy they were to see him sent to the Tower. Their triumph was indeed ungenerous and misplaced, for the words of Wolsey's faithful attendant were fully verified; and right soon there came another hungry and lean minister "that bit nearer the bone than the old one."[57] And instead of descending the river to the Tower, Wolsey ascended it to Putney. As he was travelling by land from Putney to Esher, Sir John Norris, one of the royal chamberlains, overtook him on the rise of a hill, and presented him with a ring from the king, who had taken it from his own finger, with "a very comfortable message." "Therefore," added Sir John, "take patience, for I trust to see you in better estate than ever." The Lord Cardinal alighted from his mule, fell upon his knees in the road, pulled off his cap, and humbly thanked God for such happy intelligence from his lord the king. He told the chamberlain that his glad tidings were worth half a kingdom; but, as he had nothing left except the clothes on his back, he could make him no suitable reward. He, however, gave Sir John a small gold chain and crucifix. "As for my sovereign," he said, "sorry am I that I have no worthy token to send him! But stay, here is my fool, that rides beside me. I beseech thee take him to court, and give him to his majesty. I assure thee, for any nobleman's pleasure, he is worth a thousand pounds." The poor fool was so much attached to his old master, the Cardinal, that he would not leave him until forcibly carried off by six stout yeomen, who delivered him to the king. But other attendants besides his poor buffoon were fondly attached to Wolsey. It seems to have cost a pang even to his ambitious secretary Thomas Cromwell, ere he could quit him in his solitude and poverty at Esher, and get him to Court "to make or mar." Those[Pg 124] beautiful solitudes were gloomy and horrid to the Cardinal without the smiles of the king, and without the pomp to which he had been accustomed. But he was so closely shorn as nearly to be wanting at this time in the ordinary comforts of life. He soon fell prostrate with despondency and sickness. "I have been to visit the Cardinal in his misfortunes," writes the French ambassador, "and have seen the most striking change of fortune. He explained to me his hard case in the worst rhetoric that was ever heard. Both his tongue and his heart failed him. He recommended himself to the pity of the king and Madame (Francis and his mother), with sighs and tears, and, at last, left me, without having said anything half so moving as his appearance. His face is dwindled to one half of its natural size. In truth his misery is such, that his enemies, Englishmen as they are, cannot help pitying him: still they will carry things to extremities. As for his legation, the seals, his great authority, he thinks no more of them. He is ready to give up everything, even the shirt from his back, and to live in a hermitage, if the king would but desist from his displeasure." The Cardinal wrote the most abject letters to his "most gracious and merciful and most pious sovereign lord," calling himself a poor heavy and wretched priest that was dying for want of the light of his countenance; but Henry gave him no further comfort till he heard that he was consumed by a slow fever, and was generally thought to be dying. Then the king somewhat relented towards the man who had been his friend for so many years; and he not only said that he would lose 20,000l. rather than that Wolsey should die, but he also sent his physicians and some presents and tokens of friendship to Esher. Wolsey revived marvellously at these signs of grace.

At this great crisis in the history of the country, when Henry was on the point of defying the pope and breaking from his communion because he would not assent to the divorce, it was thought expedient to summon a parliament. On the 1st of December, 1530, a bill of im[Pg 125]peachment against Wolsey, containing forty-four articles, mostly of a vague and ridiculous description, was presented to the Commons, who, after an eloquent speech from Thomas Cromwell, who was already rising fast in the king's service, threw it out. The Cardinal now mended rapidly. If he had been allowed to retain his numerous church preferments he would still have been very wealthy. But in the beginning of the following year he was formally deprived of everything except the archbishopric of York and the bishopric of Winchester, and the far greater part of the revenue of the latter was appropriated by the king, who divided it among the Viscount Rochford (Anne Boleyn's father), the Duke of Norfolk, the Lord Sandys, Sir John Russell, and other laymen, who, if not all favourable to the contemplated changes in the national religion, were all eager enough to share the spoils of the national church. In return, however, Wolsey received a free pardon, and some plate, furniture, and a little money for his present expenses. He was also permitted to come nearer to the court, and he removed from Esher to Richmond. But Anne Boleyn and her party took the alarm, and the king being as amorous as ever, and not yet free from his matrimonial bondage to Catherine, was easily induced to order him to reside in the north of England within his archbishopric. The Duke of Norfolk was Anne Boleyn's uncle; he was uncle to two beheaded queens, for the beautiful young Catherine Howard was also his niece. None were more eager than he to drive the Cardinal to a distance from the king. Meeting Thomas Cromwell one day, he said to him, "Master Cromwell, methinks the Cardinal, thy master, makes no haste to go northward. Tell him, if he go not away I will tear him with my teeth!" These words being reported to the Lord Cardinal at Richmond by Cromwell, his lordship said, "Then, Tom, it is time to be going!" The king sent him a little money for his journey, and he set out a short time before Easter.[58] Lingering at every stage, in the fond[Pg 126] hope of being recalled to court, Wolsey travelled to York. Yet, when once there, and with work to do, his mind seemed reconciled to the change, and he appeared to devote his whole soul to his ecclesiastical duties. Casting off his courtly pride and arrogance, he became meek and mild as a primitive apostle—courteous and affable to all men. The gentlemen of Yorkshire he entertained at a plain but hospitable table; to the poor he gave liberal alms, and (what was far better), abundant employment to three hundred of them in repairing the churches and houses of the see. He won the hearts both of clergy and laity. But this winning of men's hearts did not suit the selfish and vindictive faction who now ruled at court, and who were alarmed not only at the Lord Cardinal's popularity, but also at a correspondence he was carrying on with the French king and with the pope. How they discovered this correspondence, or what was the real nature of it—or, in fact, whether there was any correspondence at all beyond some wishes expressed to the French ambassador that Francis would intercede in his behalf with Henry—is not very clear. But they made Henry believe that there was such correspondence, and that it was of a treasonable nature, and for the thwarting of the marriage with Anne Boleyn.

The clergy of York, delighted with their metropolitan, waited upon Wolsey in a body, and begged that he would be installed in his cathedral according to the custom of his predecessors, which he had not hitherto observed. Wolsey consented on condition that the thing should be done with as little pomp and expense as possible; and the first Monday after All Saints was fixed for the ceremony. As soon as this was known, the neighbouring nobility and gentry sent into York great store of venison, wine, and other things needful. "Who," exclaims his affectionate servant and biographer, "was ever less beloved in the north than my Lord Cardinal—God have his soul!—before he was among them? Who better beloved after he had been there awhile? We hate ofttimes whom we have cause to love. It was a wonder to see how were turned; how of utter enemies[Pg 127] they became his dear friends."[59] The Lord Cardinal, however, was disquieted by bad omens. Apparently he had never risen above those superstitions of the time, and his misfortunes, and his too certain knowledge of the power and malice of his enemies, may have rendered him the more sensitive and superstitious. One day as he was rising from dinner, Doctor Agostino, his Venetian physician, caught with his loose gown the great silver cross which was always placed at the end of the table, and threw it down on the head of Doctor Bonner, who had not yet risen from the table. Wolsey eagerly inquired whether blood had been drawn by this accident; and upon being told that it was so, he shook his head, and said, "It is malum omen." He afterwards explained to Cavendish, who was present, "that by the cross he understood himself; by Agostino, who threw it down, the person who should accuse him; and that Doctor Bonner, whose head was broken, to the effusion of blood, pre-figured his death, which shortly came to pass." On the 4th of November, three days before that fixed for the installation in York Minster, as the Lord Cardinal was sitting at dinner in his house at Caywood, near York city, he was suddenly told that the Earl of Northumberland, with Sir Walter Walsh, had arrived from court, and was dismounting in the yard. He expressed regret that he had not arrived before dinner began, for the Earl had been brought up in his household, and he did not doubt that, as a friend, he had been chosen by the king to be the bearer of good news. He arose with a cheerful countenance to welcome Northumberland as he came into the hall. Seeing that the earl was rather numerously attended, and that most of the men with him were old servants of the family, he said, "Ah, my lord, I perceive that you observe the precepts and instructions which I gave you when you were abiding with me in your youth—to cherish your father's old servants. These be they that will not only serve and love you, but live and die with you." And the Cardinal then took the earl[Pg 128] affectionately by the hand, and led him into a bed-chamber. Northumberland was much affected, and hesitated for a while, but at length he laid a trembling hand on the old man's shoulder, and said in a faltering voice, "My lord, I arrest you of high treason!" For a season Wolsey stood rooted to the ground, mute as well as motionless, and when he recovered speech it was only to utter unmanly and unavailing lamentations, accompanied by torrents of tears. He was innocent, he said, innocent not only of treason, but of all offence to the king; if they would but confront him with his accusers, he would have no fear of proving his innocence; but this was known, and for this his powerful enemies would deprive him of every chance of a fair trial, and bring him to the scaffold by falsehood and treachery; and then he wept again. His great popularity in that country was known and feared. The king had ordered Northumberland to execute his commission with quickness and quietness, lest there should be commotion and interruption; and the noble earl, unannounced, had crept into the court-yard at Caywood like a bailiff or a thief-taker. When the object of the earl's coming was known, the people showed a lively sympathy for the Cardinal, and might, no doubt, have been easily induced, by a few words from his mouth, to rescue him and convey him to the coast, whence he might have escaped to the Netherlands, or to the more friendly territories of the French king; but he was as passive as any doomed victim of an Eastern sultan, and followed Northumberland without making any effort for his life. The sad journey began on a Sunday morning. "Many people," says Cavendish, "were at the gate of the house lamenting: there were above three thousand, who, as they saw the Cardinal, cried out 'God save your Grace! God save your Grace! The foul evil take them that have taken you away from us!' And thus they ran after him through the town of Caywood, for he was there right well beloved, both of rich and poor." When he reached Sheffield Park, the seat of Lord Shrewsbury, steward of the king's household, he was sick and faint,[Pg 129] and shortly after his arrival he was seized with a dysentery which confined him to his bed for a fortnight. The noble master of the mansion made use of much "comfortable discourse;" and even when Kingston, the lieutenant of the Tower, arrived with a small guard to take charge of the prisoner, he told Wolsey that he was in no danger, that the king would remember his long services and past friendship, and that this storm would soon blow over. It appears that Shrewsbury did not use these words in kindness and commiseration, but that he was afraid that Wolsey might yet throw himself under the protection of the people, and so effect his escape. On resuming his slow journey, he was so reduced in strength that he could scarcely sit on his mule without support. Some of the men in Kingston's guard had formerly been in his own service, and these men could not abstain from weeping, considering that he was their old master, and now in such miserable case. The Cardinal took them by the hand, and as he rode by the way he would sometimes talk with one and sometimes with another of them. On the third evening he reached Leicester Abbey; he was received at the gate by the lord abbot and the monks holding lighted torches, the hour being late. "Father," said he to the abbot, as he dismounted, "I am come to lay my bones among you." The monks carried the Lord Cardinal to his bed, from which he never rose again. In the course of the following day and night he swooned repeatedly; and on the second morning his affectionate servants saw to their great grief that he was dying. Cavendish, his chamberlain, and the most affectionate and faithful of them all, says, "As I stood by his bed-side about eight of the clock, the windows being close shut, having wax-lights burning upon the cup-board, I beheld him, as he seemed, drawing fast to his end. He, perceiving my shadow upon the wall by his bed-side, said, 'Who is there?' 'Sir, I am here,' quoth I. 'How do you?' quoth he to me. 'Very well, sir, if I might see your grace well,' quoth I. 'What is it of the clock,' said he to me. 'Forsooth, sir,' said I, 'it is past eight of the clock in[Pg 130] the morning.' 'Eight of the clock!' quoth he,' 'that cannot be;' rehearsing diverse times, 'Eight of the clock! Eight of the clock!' 'Nay, nay,' quoth he at the last, 'it cannot be eight of the clock; for by eight of the clock ye shall lose your master, for my time draweth near that I must depart out of this world.'" The clock, however, had struck eight, and he did not die that morning. The lieutenant of the Tower tormented him in his last moments about money, saying that my lord of Northumberland had discovered, by a book found at Caywood, that he had lately borrowed fourteen hundred pounds, of which not so much as a penny had been found. Kingston further said that Northumberland had told the king about this loan, and that his grace was very pressing for the same. The dying Cardinal replied that all that he ever had, had been by him held as the king's; that he never aimed at more than the bare use of it during life, to be all left to his grace at death; but that as for this money, it was none of his, but borrowed, to be bestowed upon his poor faithful servants, from divers of his friends; to wit, 200l. from Sir Richard Gresham, 200l. from the dean of his college at Oxford, and five sums of 200l. each from other friends, and he hoped that the king, who would have all his property, would see these sums repaid. In course of the opening day and following night he had repeated fainting fits. Early on the following morning the hand of death was clearly upon him; but his intellect was still clear and his mind composed. He called to him Kingston, the lieutenant of the Tower. As the lieutenant came into the chamber of death, he bade the Cardinal good-morrow, and asked him how he did. "Sir," said Wolsey, "I tarry but the will and pleasure of God to render unto him my simple soul into his divine hands." "And now, Master Kingston," he continued, "I pray you have me commended most humbly to his majesty; and beseech him, on my behalf, to call to his gracious remembrance all matters that have passed between us from the beginning especially respecting Queen Catherine and himself and then shall his conscience know whether I have offended[Pg 131] him or not. He is a prince of most royal courage, and hath a princely heart; for, rather than miss or want any part of his will, he will endanger one half of his kingdom. And I do assure you, I have often kneeled before him in his privy chamber sometimes for three hours together, to persuade him from his appetite, and could not prevail. And, Master Kingston, this I will say—Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs. Howbeit, this is my just reward for my pains and diligence, not regarding my service to God, but only my duty to my prince." Here his voice failed him, and the abbot of the house, being summoned, administered extreme unction. The clock then struck eight, and in the striking thereof the Cardinal breathed his last. He was in the sixtieth year of his age.[60]

Kingston immediately sent one of his guards post to London, and ordered the funeral for the very next day, he being in a great hurry to get back to court. The mayor of Leicester and others of the town were brought into the abbey to see that the Cardinal was "personally dead," and so prevent false reports that he was yet alive. His body was laid in a coffin; his shirt of hair and his over-shirt of fine holland were taken off and put within the coffin; and his mitre, cross, ring, pallium, and other insignia were laid upon the coffin. They buried him in the Ladie Chapel in the church of Leicester Abbey, at three o'clock in the afternoon. The morning after the interment a grand funeral-service was performed; and then, adds Cavendish, "We prepared for our journey to the court, where we attended his Majesty. The next day I was sent for to the king, conducted by Master Norris, where the king was in his nightgown of Rochet velvet, furred with sables, before whom I kneeled the space of an hour, during which time his Majesty examined me of divers particulars concerning my Lord Cardinal, wishing rather than twenty thousand pounds that he had lived. He asked me concerning the four[Pg 132]teen hundred pounds which Master Kingston moved to my lord:" Quoth I, "I think I can perfectly tell your grace where it is and who hath it." "Can you;" quoth the king. "I pray tell me, and you shall not be unrewarded." "Sir," quoth I, "after the departure Master Vincent from my lord at Scrooby, who had the custody, leaving it with my lord in divers bags, he delivered it to a certain priest, safely to be kept to his use." "Is this true?" quoth the king. "Yea," quoth I, "without doubt the priest will not deny it before me, for I was at the delivery thereof, who hath gotten divers other rich ornaments which are not registered in the book of my lord's inventory or other writings, whereby any man is able to charge him therewith but myself." "Then," said the king, "let me alone for keeping this secret between me and you: howbeit three may keep counsel if two be away; and if I knew my cap were privy to my counsel, I would cast it into the fire and burn it; and for your honesty and truth, you shall be our servant in our chamber, as you were in your master's." Such was the manner in which the prince of most royal courage and princely heart dwelt upon the death of the servant and bosom friend of twenty years; of his favourite who had sacrificed soul and conscience in his service, and whose worst deeds had assuredly been done for his selfish gratification.

When far worse ministers succeeded, supplanting and being rapidly supplanted by court-intrigue and their own base treachery; when the people were bitten not only nearer to the bone, but into the bone; when capital executions and insurrections, which had been but little known in Wolsey's time, became things of almost daily occurrence, and when England was turned into a shambles, men tenderly remembered and regretted the great Cardinal, and sighed for the by-gone times. If their conduct be fairly and carefully examined, and if the truth be honestly spoken without the Protestant bias which is calculated to do far more harm than good to the cause of the Protestant Church of England, it will be allowed that there was not one minister or statesman of any note, either in the[Pg 133] remaining years of Henry VIII. or during the reign of his son Edward VI., but was as eager for money and power as Wolsey, without having his liberality, his munificence, his taste, his passionate love of letters and the arts and his generosity to all who could advance them in the country. Wolsey, out of the revenues of a few suppressed nunneries and monasteries, endowed colleges and schools: his successors, after throwing a part at the feet of the tyrant Henry or the corrupt and low-minded protector Somerset, divided among themselves the vast spoils of the whole monastic world and clergy of England, and did nothing for our seats of learning, nothing for the education of the people, nothing for the relief of the poor, and next to nothing for the solace of the sick, the maimed, and the blind. What they got, they kept for themselves. After laying their hands upon everything else, they seriously debated whether they should not suppress, as useless or as unsound in doctrine, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and divide their lands and revenues. The little that was gotten out of their greedy hands was gotten after a hard struggle, and almost by miracle. In some cases the spoilers were visited by death-bed compunctions, and bequeathed to schools or charitable institutions property which they could no longer enjoy. But Wolsey, in the year 1525, when his health was sound and his faculty for enjoyment unimpaired, founded the Cardinal's, now Christchurch College, Oxford, and gave to that university several new professorships. About 1527 he began to erect a college in his native town of Ipswich, giving an ample and apparently a magnificent endowment out of the lands and tenements belonging to the monastery of St. Peter and other suppressed priories or cells in that town or neighbourhood, intending, as he himself said, that "Many scholars" should be "brought up and maintained" therein, and "always trained in virtue—to the end that a perpetual memory of God shall be kept and honoured."[61] He wrote to the French court[Pg 134] to request that a new quarry might be opened at Caen to supply him with good stone for the buildings, which he intended to be magnificent as well as enduring. Ipswich College was never finished; the portions which had been erected were destroyed soon after his sudden fall from greatness, and the appropriated revenues were seized. Nothing now remains of the edifice except the gateway, which is mostly built of compact red brick, and much in the style of the Cardinal's buildings at Hampton Court. Even this interesting and very picturesque relic is going to decay, and will soon disappear unless the good feeling and taste of the people of Ipswich should do something to preserve it as a memorial of the most illustrious man that was ever native of their town. This college lay very near the Cardinal's heart. In 1528, when the divorce case of his master was commencing, and when he was oppressed with business and cares of all kinds, he drew up in Latin the rules of his school in Ipswich, which are yet extant. They have been printed in an 'Essay on a System of Classical Instruction,'[62] and contain the course of Latin studies which Wolsey prescribed for the eight classes into which he divided the school. It appears to have been his intention that this noble establishment at Ipswich should be preparatory for youths whose studies were to be finished in his own college at Oxford. Christchurch College survived the storm of violence and rapine, and still survives, but the several professorships he had established were soon suppressed.

Wolsey had a natural son, who went by the name of Thomas Winter, and who received from his father no fewer than eleven benefices. He is said to have had two other children, but there is no good evidence of the fact. In judging of him we must always bear in mind the general loose morality of the times in which he lived, a period of nepotism and debauchery among the highest of the Roman churchmen. There can be no doubt that he used his influence, abroad as well as at home, for his[Pg 135] own aggrandizement; but if he loved to get, he loved to spend; he was never sordid, and a great part of his wealth always went to objects which tended to raise the civilization of his country. The splendid Gothic church architecture had been elaborated into wonderful richness, at the expense of its original grand simplicity, in the time of Henry VII.; but Wolsey was one of the first, if not the very first, to attempt to give beauty and magnificence as well as comfort to our domestic architecture. "His part in the death of the Duke of Buckingham," says Sir James Mackintosh, "was his most conspicuous crime: the circumstance most favourable to him is the attachment of dependants." We still hold it as being at the least doubtful whether he took any active part against Buckingham, or even whether he could have prevented the legal murder of that nobleman. The man who had often pleaded on his knees for three hours together without success, may have pleaded for Buckingham in vain, or may have been deterred by fear from making any attempt to persuade Henry from his appetite for blood. Wolsey was never a man of high courage. For many a year he must have felt that he was living encaged with a lion that could be kept quiet only by submission and coaxing. At the very first and very faint show of a different conduct, the royal monster struck his claws to his heart. The great redeeming circumstance of the attachment of his dependants is indisputable. His servants adhered to him even when there was danger in so doing, and they wept for him when he died. Thus there is at least one inaccuracy in the well-known lines which Samuel Johnson wrote upon his fall:—

"At length his sovereign frowns—the train of state
Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate.
Where'er he turns, he meets a stranger's eye,
His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly;
Now drops at once the pride of awful state,
The golden canopy, the glittering plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liveried army, and the menial Lord.[Pg 136]
With age, with cares, with maladies opprest,
He seeks the refuge of monastic rest;
Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings,
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings."[63]


[44] Warton, Hist. Eng. Poet.—G. L. Craik, Sketches of the History of Literature and Learning in England.

[45] Bishop Godwin wrote his History of the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Mary, in the time of King James. It was first published in 1616. Godwin also has the story of Wolsey's father being a butcher.

[46] Wolsey received the great seals on Christmas-eve, the 24th of December, 1515. The solemn act of delivering them to him, and the oath of office he took, are given in Rymer's Fœdera. The last clause of the oath is worth notice. It is this:—"And ye shall do and purchase the king's profit in all that ye may, as God help you and the Holy Evangelists." It must have been found difficult to reconcile this part of the oath with a preceding clause, which says, "And ye shall do right to all manner of people, poor and rich, after the laws and usages of this realm."

[47] Cavendish.

[48] Original Letters illustrative of English History, edited by Sir Henry Ellis. The originals are in the British Museum.

[49] Hall.

[50] Bishop Godwin.

[51] Hall's Chronicles.

[52] Guicciardini.

[53] Letters from Wolsey to the king, in State Papers, published by order of government.

[54] Guicciardini.

[55] Cavendish.

[56] Letters written at the moment, from the English court, by the French ambassador, the Bishop of Bayeux.

[57] Cavendish.

[58] Cavendish

[59] Cavendish.

[60] Cavendish.

[61] Letter to the Count de Beaumont, grand master and marshal of France.

[62] London: John Taylor, 1825.

[63] Vanity of Human Wishes.

[Pg 137]


Thomas More was born in Milk-street, Cheapside, in the city of London, in the year 1480, or nine years after the birth of Cardinal Wolsey. He was the son of Sir John More, one of the justices of the Court of King's Bench. Sir John lived to the advanced age of ninety, dying in 1533, only two years before his great son, who had so much reverence for him, that when he was Chancellor of England, in passing through Westminster Hall to the Chancery, he never failed to fall on his knees and ask his father's blessing if he saw the old man sitting in the court. Thomas was educated at St. Anthony's school in Threadneedle-street, one of the many free schools which then existed in London, "to teach all that will come." The master of St. Anthony's was Nicholas Hart, a scholar of some celebrity. About his fifteenth year young More was placed in the household of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England. This was in accordance[Pg 138] with the custom of those times, when the sons even of great noblemen were sent to be brought up in the houses of great prelates. Thus, as we have seen in the life of Cardinal Wolsey, the young Earl of Northumberland had been trained in that great churchman's household. These prelates seem always to have entertained some men of learning, from whose instructions the young men committed to their charge or service derived many advantages. In after times More neatly characterised Morton as "a man of great natural wit, very well learned, and honorable in behaviour, lacking nowise ways to win favor." The Cardinal, who loved natural wit in others, became much attached to him. At Christmas there were merry plays given in the lord cardinal's palace. "At Christmas-tide," says his son-in-law and biographer, Roper, "More would suddenly sometimes step in among the players, and, never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently among them, which made the lookers on more sport than all the players beside. In whose wit and towardness the Cardinal much delighting, would often say of him to the nobles that dined with him—'This child here, waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man.'"[64] When Thomas More entered the household of the primate Morton he became known to the learned John Colet, the founder of St. Paul's school, who used to say—"There was but one wit in England, and that was young Thomas More." Having remained about two years with the Cardinal, More, in 1497, went to Oxford. He had rooms in St. Mary's Hall, but carried on his studies at Canterbury College. Here he studied Greek, which was now beginning to be publicly taught in the University, though not without strong opposition. More was uncommonly fortunate in his instructors; his Greek professor was the learned and pains-taking Grocyn, one of the great revivers of true classical literature, a native of Bristol, an alumnus of Winchester school and a student of New College, Oxford, whose great object it had been[Pg 139] to obtain a perfect knowledge of the Greek language, and who for that end had gone into Italy and had spent two or three years in that country, studying under Demetrius Chalcondylas, Poliziano, and Hermolaus Barbarus. Grocyn had returned to Oxford, and had begun to teach Greek—for the first time as it ought to be taught—about six years before More repaired to that university, the members of which were now divided into two factions, called the Greeks and the Trojans. More, from his first arrival, appears to have rallied under the Greek banner, and to have laughed at those who considered that religion and morality were endangered by reading Homer. Grocyn was an enthusiast, not only for his Greek, but for every species of learning; contemned riches and honours, and was so generous and open-handed as to be always ready to give, out of the little he possessed, to friends and scholars: he was, if not a wit, a great humourist, and his admiring pupil More seems to have caught some of his eccentricities. More also derived instruction in Greek from the learned Lynacer, who like Grocyn had travelled in Italy to study the language under scholars who had fled from Constantinople at the taking of that city by the Turks. His son-in-law Roper indeed calls Lynacer his Greek master; but it appears that the learned physician only gave occasional lectures at Oxford, while Grocyn was established there as a regular teacher of Greek. More had not been long at Oxford (probably only a few weeks) when he became acquainted with Erasmus, who resided there in constant communion and fellowship with Grocyn during the greater part of the years 1497 and 1498. The learned Dutchman, who was thirty years old, formed a most intimate friendship with More, who was only in his eighteenth year; and this friendship continued for life. When More had risen high in the world, and had the power of serving men of learning and merit, nothing seems to have given him more delight than the attending to any recommendation sent him from the Continent by Erasmus in favour of a poor scholar. It was during his happy residence at Oxford that More wrote the greater[Pg 140] part of his English poems. He seems to have been held in the highest esteem as well for his wit and humour and sociable qualities, as for his industry and learning. Upon quitting Oxford he took up the study of the law, first at New Inn and afterwards at Lincoln's Inn. He must have laboured very hard at his new studies, for he was soon as noted a man among lawyers as he had been at Oxford among classical scholars. His legal knowledge and reputation obtained for him the post of reader at Furnival's Inn, where, for the space of three years, he delivered lectures on the law. About the same time he delivered theological lectures at St. Lawrence's Church in the Old Jewry, on the work of St. Augustin, 'De Civitate Dei.' Roper mentions that these lectures were attended by the erudite Grocyn, and "by all the chief learned of the city of London." He was always fond of theology, and for some time balanced in the choice of a profession between the church and the law; but at last he decided for the paternal profession. To prepare himself by diligent and uninterrupted study, he took up his lodging among the monks of the Charter-house, the Chartreux or Carthusians of London, where he remained for the space of four years, and "until he resorted to the house of one Mr. Colte, a gentleman of Essex." This worthy gentleman had three fair daughters; More preferred the second, as being rather "the fairest and best favoured," but he took pity on the eldest, considering that it would be "great grief and some shame to her" to see a younger sister married first; and so he "framed his affections towards the eldest." But Jane Colte made him an excellent and loving wife, and he was fondly attached to her as long as she lived. He lodged her in Bucklersbury, and resumed his studies at Lincoln's Inn. The date of his becoming a barrister is uncertain. It appears that he soon acquired an extensive practice. He was appointed one of the under sheriffs of London, at that time a post of considerable importance, for the under sheriff was judge of the sheriff's court, which then possessed a far more extensive jurisdiction than it does now. Lord Herbert of Cherbury calls him Judge of[Pg 141] the Sheriff Court in London. He was considered one of the most eloquent speakers of his day; and it is said that even before the accession of Henry VIII. there was no case of consequence before any court of law in which he was not engaged as counsel. Roper says that he was returned to parliament before he had finished reading in the inns of court. In the last parliament of Henry VII. More was of the House of Commons, where he boldly opposed a subsidy demanded by the king for the marriage of his eldest daughter Mary. Henry VII., a prince who never forgave what he considered an injury, and who, as Bacon says of him, "would sometimes strain up his laws to his prerogative," allowing the laws to be "no impediment to him to work his will," was in the habit of letting loose those terrible finers and extortioners Empson and Dudley upon the parliamentary opposition, and, not unfrequently, to wreak his vengeance upon person as well as upon property. A gentleman of the bed-chamber who had attended the debate in the Commons told the king that a beardless boy had disappointed all his purpose. Hereupon there was much royal wrath; and "forasmuch as he nothing having, nothing could lose, his Grace devised a causeless quarrel against his father, keeping him in the Tower till he had made him pay to him one hundred pounds in fine."[65] More, it is said, was so alarmed that he made up his mind to fly the country; but the old king died shortly afterwards and saved him from this hard necessity. As the connexion between the royal court and the city was then very close, and as Henry VIII. and Wolsey were very frequently in the city and in very familiar communication with the principal citizens, the learned, witty, and alert More must have become known to both these personages at an early period.

Soon after the accession of the young king, we find More, by his Majesty's consent, sent abroad by the English merchants to settle "certain great causes betwixt them and the merchants of the Steel-yard." He[Pg 142] was greatly applauded for his success in this mission. The government seized at Southampton a rich ship belonging to the pope. The pope's ambassador retained More as counsel, none being so meet as he, who could readily translate and repeat in Latin all that was said on either side. More gained the cause, and much honour thereby.[66] Already he had been repeatedly urged by Wolsey to enter the king's service; but he was well satisfied with the emoluments of his profession, and was very shy of going to court. But the capital was now ringing with his fame and his witty sayings, and the absolute Henry would no longer be refused. Having no better place then vacant, he made More Master of Requests; and thus commenced a faithful service which lasted twenty years and above. "A good part thereof," says his son-in-law, "used the king upon holidays, when he had done his own devotions, to send for him into his traverse, and there sometimes in matters of astronomy, geometry, divinity, and such other faculties, and sometimes of his worldly affairs, to sit and confer with him; and otherwise in the night would he have him up into the leads, there to consider with him the diversities, courses, motions, and operations of the stars and planets. And because he was of so pleasant a disposition, it pleased the king and Queen Catherine, after the court had supped—yea, at the time of their supper—to send for him to be merry with them. When he perceived them to delight so much in his talk, that he could not in a month get leave to go home to his wife and children (whose company he most desired), or be absent from the court two days together, but that he should be thither sent for again: he much misliking this restraint of liberty, began hereupon somewhat to dissemble his nature; and so, by little and little from his former accustomed mirth, to disuse himself, that he was by them no more so frequently sent for."[67] In 1515 he was sent with Tunstall, Master of the Rolls, and afterwards Bishop of Durham, to transact some important diplomatic business in the Netherlands[Pg 143] and in France. He appears to have corresponded directly with Wolsey, and to have sought that powerful man's patronage and friendship with much assiduity. The Cardinal was much pleased with his services, and favoured his promotion without any visible sign of jealousy. In 1516 More was admitted into the privy council, and received other signal marks of royal favour. It was about this time that More wrote his 'History of Richard the Third,' and his more celebrated work, 'Utopia, or the Happy Republic.' The history was written in good bold vernacular English, the political romance in elegant Latin. The history is but a fragment, breaking off suddenly at the point when Morton, Bishop of Ely (afterwards primate and chancellor, and More's patron) endeavours to persuade the Duke of Buckingham to declare against Richard as a tyrant and usurper, and leaving untold the miserable failure and fate of Buckingham, the complicated intrigues of the Earl of Richmond, and the grand catastrophe of Bosworth field. But what More tells us is in many respects valuable: he evidently derived much information from his patron, Morton, who was one of the chief actors in those revolutions, and some portions of the narrative are given with extraordinary vigour and effect. Shakspere has followed, and has scarcely improved upon, the terrible scene in the Tower, where Richard arrests the members of the council, and sends Lord Hastings to the block. More imitates Livy in putting long-winded speeches into the mouths of historical personages, and in explaining, by means of such speeches, many of the circumstances of the story, and the feelings with which they were regarded at the time of their occurrence. On the whole, however, the narrative is easy and flowing, and far superior to any prose composition of the sort which preceded it in England. More, indeed, may be taken as the first historian England produced: those who had gone before him were, indeed, only chroniclers and annalists. The 'Utopia' was published first at Louvain in 1516, and afterwards at Basle in 1518. The object of this work was to exhibit a perfect commonwealth in an imaginary island. The ima[Pg 144]ginary society existing in this fabled island is constructed on the principle that no one in the state shall have a right to separate property, since separate property is said to involve an inequality of distribution, and thus to occasion great suffering to those who are obliged to labour, and mental depravation to those who live on the labours of others. Slavery, however, is admitted as an element, but no family possesses more than two slaves. Agriculture, and a taste for rural pursuits, are kept alive by a residence in the country; but the civilization of city life is not lost sight of, for one half of a household passes two years in the town, while the other half lives in the country, and they all take the town and country life, turn and turn about, and each time for a space of two years. It is reasonably doubted whether the fundamental principles of this republic, and the political opinions expressed in the 'Utopia,' are to be seriously considered as More's real sentiments, or as a model which he would have men to imitate. Such a republic, if it could be made, would be a dead flat, without variety or spirit; a dry, hard, rectangular thing; a moral chess-board; a formality more stiff and chilling than that of the Chinese empire: but the indestructible feelings of human nature should seem to be eternally opposed to its construction. Nevertheless this romance in politics is very pleasant and improving reading, abounding with noble and original thoughts, and being exceedingly suggestive of wholesome and humane reflections. Even at that period, when the law was so merciless that thieves and footpads were gibbeted so fast that there were frequently twenty on one gibbet, he made the discovery that crime was not diminished by this terrible abuse of capital punishments; and he not only recommended the adoption of a humane penal code as favourable to the diminution of crime, but he also earnestly advocated, in his 'Utopia,' a better education and training for the people, as the surest of all means for bettering the condition of the poor and the general morality of the country. "Not only you in England," said he, "but a great part of the world, follow the example of some bad schoolmasters, that are readier[Pg 145] to chastise their scholars than to teach them." And in another page: "If you suffer your people to be ill educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded but that you first make thieves, and then punish them?" This was said at the beginning of the sixteenth century under Henry the Eighth, when it was a novel and startling truth. Alas! we may still repeat it, and in good measure as a reproach, in the middle of the nineteenth century. The work abounds with pleasantry and humour, and a subdued and unmalicious irony. The humour and the quiet satire are, indeed, the most prominent characteristics of this little book, which is much more frequently named than read. The title of 'Utopia' has passed into a proverb; but very few people peruse the romance either in its original Latin or in its very satisfactory English translation. It may certainly be included among the various old works to which Swift was considerably indebted in conceiving 'Gulliver's Travels.' But More has none of Swift's gall and black bile. The same stories were told of the 'Utopia' that were afterwards related about 'Gulliver's Travels.' People took the imaginary island for a real one, "inasmuch that many great learned men, as Budeus and Johannes Paludanus, upon a fervent zeal, wished that some excellent divines might be sent thither to preach the Gospel; yea, there were here amongst us at home sundry good men and learned divines very desirous to undertake the voyage, to bring the people to the faith, whose manners they did so well like."[68]

More, the busiest man in a busy and absorbing profession, had but little leisure to devote to his literary pursuits. He tells us himself, in his introduction to that work, that be wrote the 'Utopia' by snatches when he was overwhelmed with business; and that, indeed, all the time which he could gain for himself was that which he stole from his sleep and meals.[Pg 146]

In the year 1517, when the London apprentices, in their wanton turbulence and ignorant hatred of foreigners, made the terrible riot or insurrection which got the name of the "Evil May-day," More went out among the desperate mobs and endeavoured to restore tranquillity by reasoning with them; but, though he was much respected and beloved, "as being a native of that city," he could do no good. The subdued rioters were not forgiven until four or five of them were hanged, drawn, and quartered; about ten of them hanged on gibbets erected in the streets of the city; and some four hundred of them brought before the king in Westminster Hall, with halters round their necks, barefooted, stripped to their very shirts, and bound, one by one, to a long thick rope. In the course of the year 1519 More resigned his office of under-sheriff, or Judge of the Sheriff's Court, and in the second year after this (in 1521) he was knighted and made treasurer of the Exchequer. He was now very frequently at court, where the king appears to have consulted him on all matters connected with learning and education. The hostility of a part of the clergy to Greek still continued, and one of the Trojans or Scotists ventured to abuse the language of Homer in a sermon preached before the king. After sermon-time Henry called the priest into his presence, and ordered him to discuss the subject with Sir Thomas More. More, with his wit, learning, and long-practised skill in debate, beat the poor preacher so completely that he had no argument to produce; and so, falling on his knees before the king, he begged pardon, and said that the words he had spoken in the pulpit against Greek had been put into his mouth by the Holy Ghost. "Not so," said Henry, "but by the spirit of foolishness." "And pray," continued the king to the perplexed and abashed monk, "have you ever read any of the works of Erasmus?" ("For the king had been told," says Erasmus, the relater of this story, "that the preacher had abused me.") To the king's question the fallen Trojan replied, "Alas! No!" "Then," rejoined the king, "are you not a very great fool to pretend to criticize that which you have never[Pg 147] read?" The forlorn preacher, bethinking himself, said that now he did remember having once perused a thing they called Moria—meaning Erasmus's little book, 'Encomium Moriæ,' or 'The Praise of Folly.' "And may it please your highness," said Sir Richard Pace, who was present, and a true Greek, "was not the reader made for the book? Could he have chosen better?" The poor Trojan was dismissed with strict orders never more to presume to preach before the king.[69] Sir Thomas was employed by Henry in other public missions to France and the Netherlands; and when he was at home and Wolsey was abroad, Henry often made use of his hand in writing his instructions to the cardinal. Several of these letters in More's handwriting are preserved in the British Museum and in the State-Paper Office.[70] In his private letters to Erasmus he laments his hard fate in being obliged to leave his friends and his books to discharge these perplexing and disagreeable commissions. And certainly little pleasure or honour for such a man as More was to be gained by serving in Henry's crooked and always tricky diplomacy. In the year 1522, when the Emperor Charles V. paid his second visit to England, and was conducted into the city of London in triumph, More was selected, on account of his wit and scholarship, to welcome the emperor at the city gates; and there he delivered in choice Latin an eloquent oration, which greatly pleased Charles without displeasing the jealous Henry.

In the parliament which met in 1523 More was chosen Speaker. He maintained the dignity of his post at the risk of giving offence to the all-potent cardinal. Finding the Commons slow in passing some money bills, Wolsey resolved to go down to the house in person in order to make them quicken their speed. Although such a visit was a breach of privilege, the Commons, after some debate, agreed that the cardinal should be ad[Pg 148]mitted and heard, but not answered in the house. The gorgeous favourite, in all his pomp, and attended by an army of servants and retainers, entered the house, and after dwelling upon the great expenses of the war against Francis I., demanded forthwith a vote of the fifth of every man's goods. When he had done he looked to More, as the Speaker, for an answer; but More sat as silent as a statue. He then spoke to a member; but the member only rose from his seat to show his respect, and then sat down again without saying a word. The cardinal then spoke to another gentleman, but he only rose and sat down again. All the members were determined not to commit the privileges of the house: they were as silent in their seats as a set of Chinese mandarins on a mantel-piece. The fiery cardinal soon lost his little patience. "Gentlemen," said he, "as I am sent here immediately from the king, it is not unreasonable to expect an answer; yet here is without doubt a surprising and most obstinate silence!" As none spoke, he turned once more to the Speaker, and demanded an explanation. More, reverently falling on his knees, to express, we suppose, his reverence to the king, excused the silence of the members. "They were abashed," he insinuated, "at the sight of so noble a personage, his presence being enough to overcome the wisest and most learned men in the realm; but his coming thither," he observed, "was far from expedient, and contrary to the ancient liberties of the house; and as to requiring a reply from him individually, the thing was simply impossible. The members had, indeed, trusted him with their voices; but unless each could infuse the essence of their several wits into his head, he alone, in so weighty a matter, was unable to make his grace an answer."[71] The cardinal rose up in a rage and quitted the house. It appears, however, that in the debates which followed the departure of the cardinal, Sir Thomas More spoke stiffly for the court, and pleaded that four shillings in every pound was not too much to vote for the king. The demand[Pg 149] was lessened by one-half; but the Commons would not consent to pay even two shillings in the pound, and the most stormy debate that had ever yet been known was kept up for fifteen or sixteen days. The cardinal again went down to the house, but with no better success than before; no words could he get from them except that it was not their practice to answer strangers or debate in their presence. The king then sent for Montague, a leading member of the house, who was afterwards chief justice. When Montague fell on his knees before the king, Henry clapped his hand upon his head, and exclaimed, "Ho! man, will they not suffer my bill to pass? Get my bill passed by to-morrow, or else to-morrow this head of yours shall be off!" The bill was passed, but not until the amount of the tax had been considerably diminished. It is said that Wolsey took great offence at More's conduct on this occasion, and at some satirical expressions he had used in the house against the cardinal's pomp and pride; but the feeling of resentment could not have been strong, for More continued to thrive and rise, and in 1525 the king made him Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Perhaps his pleadings for the four shillings in the pound may have conciliated both the king and cardinal. Yet from his conduct to More, Wolsey seems entitled to the benefit of the doubt that he was much less jealous and vindictive than he has been generally represented. The presenting of the Speaker by the Commons for the recognition of the sovereign was then a great deal more than the mere matter of form which it now is. Wolsey considered that it was he that had put More in the Speaker's chair; and after the parliament had risen, he, "in his gallery at Whitehall," complained and said—"Would to God you had been at Rome, Mr. More, when I made you Speaker!" Sir Thomas, who had had nothing but labour and anxiety in the office, said—"Your grace not offended, so would I too!" and then, "to wind such quarrel out of the cardinal's head, he began to talk of the gallery, saying, 'I like this new gallery of yours even better than your gallery at Hampton Court.'" Roper says that Wolsey, as a punishment, would have[Pg 150] sent More on an unpleasant embassy to Spain, but it is quite clear from the narrative of this best of biographers that neither the anger of Wolsey nor that of the king lasted long. It is, indeed, immediately after this little storm that the biographer mentions that the king, "for the pleasure he took in his company, would suddenly sometimes come home to his house at Chelsea to be merry with him," and to walk with him in his "fair garden." The correspondence between More and the cardinal continued to be rather friendly and familiar than otherwise, More's humility and deference being generally reserved for the conclusion of his letters, which he invariably signed (after prayer for the cardinal's honour and health) "your humble orator and most bounden beadsman, Thomas More:" compliments there are, indeed, in abundance, and a sort of admission throughout that he, More, has owed his fortune or promotion to Wolsey.

Wherever his religious scruples were touched, More was wonderfully bold and upright. When Henry was making up his mind to the extreme measure of divorcing Queen Catherine, he put into More's hands a treatise he had written on the subject, requesting his advice. Sir Thomas tried to excuse himself by saying he was no divine. The king bade him confer with some of the bishops. More, knowing how difficult and impossible it would be to get an unbiassed judgment from any of the tyrant's own subjects, entreated Henry to consult such "as neither in respect of their own worldly commodity, nor for fear of his princely authority," would be led to deceive him. The king asked who were those to whom he would refer him for an opinion. More replied by naming St. Jerome, St. Augustin, and the great fathers of the church. The king was disappointed and displeased, but he did not make Sir Thomas feel any present effect of his displeasure. More, however, became very uneasy, foreseeing the violence and bloodshed that this perplexing business of the divorce would occasion. He told his son-in-law Roper that he would gladly die or be put into a sack and cast into the Thames, upon condition that three things were well determined: "The first, that whereas[Pg 151] the most part of Christian princes be at mortal wars, they were all at universal peace: the second, that whereas the church of Christ is at this present sore afflicted with many errors and heresies, it were settled in perfect uniformity of religion: the third, that whereas the matter of the king's marriage is now come in question, it were to the glory of God and the quietness of all parties brought to a good conclusion."

When this "matter of the king's marriage" drove Wolsey in disgrace from the court, the king looked about for some lawyer of high reputation and influence over his brethren to succeed him as Lord Chancellor. In the whole profession there was none stood so high as More; but the king appears to have doubted whether he would be sufficiently submissive, or whether he would, in every case, place the prerogative of the crown above the law. After some hesitation Sir Thomas was, however, named to the vacant dignity on the 25th of October, 1529. In taking his seat as Chancellor, More spoke honourably and tenderly of his predecessor Wolsey, and very humbly of his own qualifications. "But when I look upon this seat," said he; "when I think how great and what kind of personages have possessed this place before me; when I call to mind who he was that sat in it last of all—a man of what singular wisdom, of what notable experience, what a prosperous and favourable fortune he had for a great space, and how at the last he had a most grievous fall, and died inglorious—I have cause enough by my predecessor's example to think honour but slippery, and this dignity not so grateful to me as it may seem to others; for both is it a hard matter to follow with like paces or praises a man of such admirable wit, prudence, authority, and splendour, to whom I may seem but as the lighting of a candle when the sun is down; and also the sudden and unexpected fall of so great a man as he was, doth terribly put me in mind that this honour ought not to please me too much, nor the lustre of this glistering seat dazzle my eyes."[72] Yet, when Wolsey's impeachment was brought into Parliament, More was obliged to[Pg 152] make a sacrifice of his good feelings to please the tyrant, and to call Henry "the father and shepherd of his people," and Wolsey "a great rotten wether," that had been separated from the sound sheep, because he had juggled with the good king craftily and untruly.[73] More, however, discharged the duties of his new dignity with astonishing impartiality and integrity. This made him many enemies. But not even the bitterest of these ever attempted to charge him with a corrupt exercise of his power as chancellor. Though, like his friend Erasmus, and many of the learned and disinterested professors of the ancient faith, More—who, in his 'Utopia,' had satirized the idle and luxurious monks more severely than any other class of men—was not indisposed to extensive changes in the discipline, rituals, and management of the Roman church, he was still, in all capital points of faith, a believing and devout Catholic, looking with consternation upon the doctrines of Luther and the other reformers, and regarding the schism in the Christian church as the sure source of long and terrible wars, if not as the origin of a universal anarchy. But fear, which is one of the greatest sources of cruelty, did not make More cruel. Fox, the Martyrologist, who wrote with the zeal of a partisan, at a time when the horrors of the Marian persecution were fresh and vivid in the recollection of the nation, and who was not unfrequently incorrect, appears to have been the first to assert in print that More was guilty of great cruelty in persecuting the Protestants during his chancellorship. Burnet, in his 'History of the Reformation,' followed Fox without inquiry; and as later writers followed Burnet, the cruel charge has been very generally affixed to the otherwise applauded and pure reputation of More. It has been well said that, even if the fact were true it could not justly be brought as a serious charge against More's character in an age in which all sects and parties that had the power persecuted their opponents.[74] But we have, on the contrary, the strong testimony of Erasmus, that[Pg 153] "whilst More was chancellor, no man was put to death for these pestilent dogmas." This, too, is confirmed by More's own expressed declarations, in his 'Apology,' published in 1533, the year after his downfall from power, when he was surrounded by busy and powerful enemies, and when his assertion, if false, could easily have been contradicted. It appears to have been a few days after, and not before More's retirement, that Thomas Bilney, a learned and amiable man, was burned at Smithfield for having attempted to expose the doctrinal errors of popery.

It is said that More's attention to business was so exemplary, and his despatch of it so wonderful, that he left not a single cause depending in the Chancery Court. The following epigram is an old one:—

When More some years had chancellor been,
No more suits did remain;
The same shall never more be seen,
Till More be there again.

While he held the great seal, More was obliged to perform several offices which went against his conscience. Thus, as chancellor, he was sent down to the House of Commons with twelve peers, spiritual and temporal, to declare all that the king had done for dissolving his marriage with Catherine; to repeat the fiction the king had set up as sufficient justification of the divorce; and to show that Henry, like a virtuous prince, and for the safety of his conscience and the peace of his kingdom, had consulted divers universities, not only at home, but also abroad, even in the pope's dominions. At this time no man seemed to stand better than he did with the king. More, however, seems never to have forgotten the selfish, capricious, and tyrannical character of his royal master. The king, says his best biographer, one day paid More an unexpected visit, coming to dine with him at his house at Chelsea, and after dinner walked with him for an hour in his garden with his arm round the chancellor's neck. As soon as his majesty was gone, Mr. Roper, son-in-law to Sir Thomas, observed to him[Pg 154] how happy he was, since the king had treated him with a familiarity which he had never shown to any person before, except once to Cardinal Wolsey. "I thank the Lord," said More, "I find his grace a very good lord indeed; and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as any subject within the realm. However, son Roper, I may tell thee I have no cause to be proud thereof; for if my head would win him a castle in France, it would not fail to go."[75]

He was constant in his attendance at church, and, being a good musician, he always sang in the choir. "The Duke of Norfolk coming on a time to Chelsea to dine with him, fortuned to find him in the church in the choir, with a surplice on his back, singing; to whom, after service, as they went homeward arm in arm, the duke said—'God's body, God's body, my Lord Chancellor! What! a parish clerk! a parish clerk! You dishonour the king and his office!' 'Nay,' quoth Sir Thomas, smiling on the duke, 'your grace may not think that your king and mine will be offended with me for serving God his master, or thereby account his office dishonoured.'"[76]

When the king again pressed him "about the marriage with Mistress Anne," the chancellor fell upon his knees and reminded Henry of his own words, on his delivering the great seal to him—"First look upon God, and after God upon me;" and he protested that though it pained him not to be able to serve his grace in that matter, he could in nowise commit a breach of that original injunction. Henry said he was content to accept his service otherwise, and would continue his favour, never more molesting his conscience with that matter. But More was too well acquainted with the king's unsteadiness, with the influence which Mistress Anne exercised over him, and with the vindictive spirit of her party, to feel any security in this solemn promise. The faction which had overthrown the powerful Wolsey would not hesitate to attempt his ruin, and could hardly[Pg 155] fail in their object. He foresaw that the rapid progress of events which were bringing on the king's marriage with Anne would call for the use of the great seal, which his conscience would not allow him to use in that matter. Nor could he possibly be blind to the temper of the court and the occurrences of the day, which went to prove that all law was to be laid prostrate, that a reign of terror was at hand, and that the religious fury of contending faiths would be superadded to the dark intrigues and spites of selfish political factions. Thus situated, More drew his honest cloak about him, and retired from the stage. It was not until he had made long and importunate suit through "his singular dear friend" the Duke of Norfolk, that he obtained permission to resign the great seal into his majesty's hands.[77] Henry received it with thanks and praise for his past conduct, and promised to be a good and gracious master unto him in all time to come. And after this the Duke of Norfolk was commanded to declare in the most public manner that his majesty had, with much pain, yielded to the prayer of Sir Thomas More to be released from his office.

So honest in his office as chancellor, and at all times, had been this successful lawyer, diplomatist, and statesman, that, after resigning the chancellorship, and paying his debts, his whole fortune in gold and silver was not worth a hundred pounds, and his whole income, independent of grants from the crown, did not amount to more than fifty pounds per annum. Though never rich, he was much richer than this before he entered the king's service. He had spent much for his sovereign, whose royal grants did not exceed, all together, fifty pounds a-year. He indulged his merry humour when other men's hearts would have been well nigh broken. His wife Alice[Pg 156] (the second of his bed), like most other women, was fond of rank and titles, and other worldly vanities, and delighted in hearing her husband called My Lord. On the morning after his resignation More went with his lady to Chelsea church, where, as was his custom, he sat with other gentlemen in the choir, while the ladies sat or kneeled by themselves in the body of the church. In the days of his chancellorship it had been usual for one of his household to go to the lady at the end of the service and say, "My Lord is gone." This morning Sir Thomas went himself to his wife, and pulling off his cap, and bowing humbly, said, "Madam, my Lordship is gone." His wife being but slow in understanding a joke—although she must have had great practice, as More was always joking—could not conceive what he meant; and when the light broke upon her, she thought it no joke at all, but gave way to a fit of passion and mortification. But when More called his family together to discuss seriously how they were all to live upon the little that was left to him, he could not restrain his merry happy humour. Seeing his children and grandchildren perplexed and silent, he said—"Well! I have been brought up at Oxford, at an Inn of Chancery, at Lincoln's Inn, and also in the King's Court, from the lowest degree to the highest, and yet I have at present left me little above a hundred pounds the year; so that now, if we like to live together, we must be content to be contributaries together. But we must not fall to the lowest fare first: we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where many right worshipful men, and of good years, do live full well; which, if we find not ourselves the first year able to maintain, then will we the next year go one step to New Inn fare, wherewith many an honest man is well contented: if that year exceed our ability, we will the next year descend to Oxford fare, where many grave, learned and ancient fathers are continually conversant. If our abilities stretch not to maintain either; then may we yet with bags and wallets go a-begging together, and, hoping for charity, at every man's door to sing Salve Regina, and so still keep company and be merry to[Pg 157]gether."[78] That a contrast is this to the manner in which the gorgeous and extra-dependent Wolsey bore his misfortunes!

More went both manfully and merrily to work in the trying task of reducing his establishment, so as to fit his altered income. Every great man entertained his fool or jester. There was no amusing fashionable company without a fool. The king had his fool, and one of great celebrity; his ministers had each his fool; his archbishops and bishops could not do without them. Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor, in whose house More had been trained, had a fool of good repute; and More has given that fool an imperishable existence in the first book of his 'Utopia.' Upon attaining to greatness, More himself retained a fool—Henry Patenson, the Henricus Patensonus Morio of Erasmus, who salutes him in the dedication to More of the 'Praise of Folly,' and who mentions him in several of his epistles; but these men of the cap and bells were expensive, and the ex-chancellor must now part with his; and casting about him where he might best bestow his fool, he sent him to the lord mayor for the time being. His gentlemen and yeomen he recommended to the service of some peers and prelates; and his eight lusty watermen, and his state-barge (state-carriages were not as yet, and the river Thames was "the silent highway"), he sent to Sir Thomas Audley, his successor in the chancellorship. Having provided for his dependants, he felt no sting in poverty. In his common intercourse with his friends he was serene and facetious, and his serenity was not disturbed when tyranny and danger were present to his mind's eye. He said to his beloved family that there was a happiness in suffering for conscience' sake and the love of God, and that if his wife and children would but hold up their hearts, and not weaken his, he would run merrily to death. It required a fiend-like malice to strike at such a man!

When obliged to appear in public, he retained all his wit and readiness at repartee. A member of the house of Manners, who by the king's capricious favours had come[Pg 158] suddenly to some title or dignity, was inflated by the accident: he had been a great friend to More in his prosperity, but perceiving the king and world to frown upon him, he wanted to insult and pick a quarrel with the ex-chancellor, and so said, in More's hearing, "Honores mutant mores." "Sir," replied Sir Thomas, "Honours change a Manners, but not More."

In the month of January, 1533, Henry was privately married to Anne Boleyn in a remote garret of the palace of Whitehall, formerly York House, and the residence of Cardinal Wolsey, by Dr. Lee, one of the court chaplains, who was told by the king that the church of Rome had granted a divorce, and that the pope's instrument to that effect was under lock and key in the royal closet. On the 30th of March Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury, taking the oaths of canonical obedience to the pope. On the 12th of May Cranmer declared the discarded Queen Catherine to be truly and manifestly contumacious; on the 23rd of May he pronounced her marriage to be null and void; and on the 28th of the same month he declared that his master had already been lawfully married to the Lady Anne; that their marriage was and had been public and manifest; and that he now confirmed it by his judicial and pastoral authority. On the 1st of June, only four days after the confirmation of her marriage at Lambeth, Anne Boleyn, "being somewhat big with child," was crowned and anointed at Westminster, Cranmer officiating and setting the crown upon her head. Henry, who had all along been excessively anxious to obtain at least More's tacit assent to these proceedings, had commanded his old friend and brother diplomatist, Cuthbert Tunstall (now Bishop of Durham), and other prelates, to desire his attendance at the coronation. These bishops wrote a letter to persuade More to comply with the wishes of the tyrant, and knowing his honest poverty, they sent him twenty pounds to buy a court dress. The ex-chancellor who knew right well that the court of Rome had not granted, and never would grant, the divorce from Catherine, and who felt that all the recent proceedings in which Cran[Pg 159]mer had taken so conspicuous a part were contrary to the Christian law, and abhorrent to his own conscience, not only declined going to the abbey, but warned his friends the bishops as to the consequences which might follow their attendance at the coronation. He said: "Take heed, my lords: by procuring your lordships to be present at the coronation, they will next ask you to preach for the setting forth thereof, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof." We have little doubt that this answer was as much as a death-warrant to him that made it. On the 11th of July the pope annulled the judgment given by Cranmer, and published his bull of excommunication against Henry and Anne. Then began in earnest the terrible storm, which lasted with scarcely any interruption for twenty years, and which was accompanied by an amount of misery, bloodshed, crime, and meanness never equalled in the history of this country. Henry, retaining all the dogmas of the old religion, and being readier than ever to burn Protestants, threw off entirely the authority of the pope, and declared himself supreme head of the English church. A fearful persecution was commenced against all such priests and monks as would not submit to and applaud the sudden changes; and because these ecclesiastics, and the great body of the people, expressed much sympathy for the king's discarded wife, poor Catherine, in her retirement or prison at Ampthill, was treated with execrable barbarity. These persecutions only gave a louder tongue to the discontents and murmurings they were meant to repress. Two monks from the pulpit, Friar Peto and Friar Elstow, preaching before the king at Greenwich, told him to his face that his marriage with Anne Boleyn was unlawful, and would provoke the vengeance of heaven. Other people, who were rather to be set down as enthusiasts than as impostors, began to see supernatural visions and to utter prophecies; and they found a credulous people prone to believe whatever they uttered. The most famed of the seers was Elizabeth Barton, a young woman of Allington, called the "Holy Maid of Kent." She had been subject to fits[Pg 160] and a strange kind of disease, and when the fits were upon her there came from her distorted mouth very strange sounds and words. The incoherent sentences which the maid uttered were caught up as prophecies, and she herself was induced to believe that she was a prophetess. Her epilepsy and her fancied revelations were of no recent date: they had been known in the country for years. They seem to have first attracted notice at the time when Cardinal Wolsey, with the pope's licence, was suppressing some few nunneries and friaries. The Holy Maid of Kent, however, was not seriously molested during the time of Wolsey, who had a mind superior to such persecutions. Some discontented priests took up the maid and her awful vaticinations. She announced that in a dream she had seen God and Cardinal Wolsey together, and had heard the Almighty declare that unless the lord cardinal used his authority properly, it should be sorely laid to his charge. The priests not only took down her words in writing, but caused them to be printed and circulated. The king showed some of these sibylline leaves to More, of whose learning and wit he then made so much account, and More told him that he found nothing in the maid's words worth notice; "for, seeing that some part fell in rhythm, and that, God 'wot, full rude also, for any reason that he saw therein, a right simple woman might speak it of her own wit well enough." His learned friend John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, agreed with More that the maid might do what she had done without accomplices, and that her pretended miraculous gifts were undeserving of further notice. It appears, however, that as the stream of the prophecy went on in a broader and clearer channel, both Fisher and More were excited by it. The learned of that age were seldom entirely exempt from superstition: it was a part of the Catholic faith to believe miracles, as well new as old, and perhaps the sudden fall and miserable death of Wolsey were considered as the fulfilment of the prophecy. More, in a letter written in the end of 1532, while he was yet chancellor, told Thomas Cromwell that[Pg 161] he durst not and would not be bold in judging the maid's miracles. In the course of the same year, More is said to have been induced by some monks, who were afterwards executed as the maid's accomplices, to see the prophetess. But it is said that he refused to hear her speak any words about the king. The doom of the prophetess was precipitated by her venturing to prophesy (apparently at the beginning of 1533) that if Henry put away Catherine, he would die some infamous death before seven months, and be succeeded on the throne by Catherine's daughter, the pious princess Mary. The jealous eye of the government was now upon her: of a sudden, Elizabeth and a number of her alleged accomplices were apprehended and brought to that tyrannical and terrible court the Star Chamber. According to a contemporary annalist, the matter was investigated "by the great labour, diligence, and pains-taking of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Cranmer) and the Lord Cromwell, and one called Hugh Latimer, a priest, which shortly after was made Bishop of Worcester."[79] In the month of November, 1533, the Holy Maid and her friends were sentenced by the Star Chamber to stand on a sort of pillory at Paul's Cross, and there publicly declare that the whole business of the visions and prophesyings had been a deliberate piece of imposture. They all confessed as commanded, but evidently in the hope of saving their lives and escaping any further punishment. It is even believed that the ministers who had tried them had given a promise to this effect, in order to extract from them the public declaration. As the king gave a much better proof of the maid's being no true prophetess, by doing that which she had warned him not to do, and by outliving the term she had fixed for his death, the maid and her companions might have been safely dismissed with contempt. But they were all sent back to prison; and when the slavish and brutalized parliament met in the month of January of the following year, 1534, they passed a bill of at[Pg 162]tainder of treason against the maid; Bocking, a monk of Canterbury; Maister, the rector of her parish of Allington; Dering, a monk; Gold, bachelor of divinity; Rich, a friar; and Risby, a gentleman; and then a bill of misprision of treason against several other persons of greater note, who were charged with having had communications with the false prophetess, and with having concealed her treasonable predictions. On the 21st of April, the poor maid and the six men attainted of treason were conveyed to Tyburn, and there hanged, drawn, and quartered in the old bestial manner. According to the somewhat suspected authority of the contemporary annalists who belonged to the party adverse to her, the poor prophetess, at the place of execution, not only repeated the declaration which she had made at St. Paul's Cross, but also confessed that she had been prompted by learned men, who had endeavoured to turn her prophesyings to their own advantage. Among those accused of holding correspondence with the holy maid were Edward Thwaites, gentleman; Thomas Laurence, registrar to the Archdeacon of Canterbury; John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester; and Sir Thomas More, late lord chancellor. But More's name was struck out of the bill of misprision of treason before the bill was submitted to parliament. This was done by the king, in the vain belief that he could terrify a fearless man by the prospect of so narrow an escape, and win him over to compliances by his present gratitude or by his fears for the future. Accordingly the attempt was made; More was summoned before the present Chancellor Audley, the Lord Archbishop Cranmer, the Duke of Norfolk, and the unscrupulous Thomas Cromwell; but he stood firm and erect, and was neither to be moved by their entreaties nor by their threats, although these last were delivered in the king's name, and were loud and terrible. Hereupon Henry swore that More's name should be put into the bloody statute, and that he would go himself to the House to see the bill pass quickly. The chancellor and some of his colleagues, more anxious to save appearances than to support law and justice, had implored their[Pg 163] master to forbear, lest he should be dishonoured throughout Christendom. These ministers said that More's innocence with respect to the prophesyings of the Kentish maid was so clear, that mayhap the parliament would not pass the bill at all if his name were in it; that it would be better for the king to wait awhile for the gratification of his vengeance against More, and they doubted not soon to find a meet occasion "to serve his turn." To the last cheering prospect the bloodthirsty tyrant yielded, and More's name was not inserted. When his beloved daughter Margaret Roper spoke with a transport of joy to her father about this escape, More said, "In faith, Meg, what is put off is not given up—quod differtur non aufertur." When the Duke of Norfolk said to him, "By the mass! Master More, it is perilous striving with princes! The anger of a prince brings death!" the imperturbable man replied, "Is that all, my Lord? Then the difference between you and me is but this, that I shall die to-day and you to-morrow." And before this reign of terror closed, the great Norfolk was attainted of treason, his accomplished son the Earl of Surrey was beheaded, and he himself only escaped by Henry's dying in the night before the morning fixed for his execution.

Ministers soon found the opportunity they wished for to serve their master's turn. An infamous statute was hurried through parliament, making it high treason after the 1st of May, 1534, to write, speak, do, or say anything against the king's lawful matrimony with Queen Anne, and enjoining all persons to take an oath to maintain the whole contents of the statute. On the 30th of March, the day of closing the session, when there was no time for debating upon it, the Chancellor Audley read the king's letters patent prescribing the form of the oath to be taken, and appointing Archbishop Cranmer, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and the chancellor to be commissioners for exacting and receiving the said oath. This was a trap for More and Fisher, but it caught many others. Within a fortnight Sir Thomas was summoned from his quiet house at Chelsea, to which he never re[Pg 164]turned again, to the archiepiscopal palace at Lambeth, there to appear before Cranmer and the three other oath-commissioners. On his way across the river he whispered to his son-in-law, "Son Roper! I thank our Lord the field is won!" By this he meant that he had triumphed over his natural affections, and was ready to die rather than sully his conscience. The commissioners made him read the statute and the form of the oath, and then called upon him to swear. This More declined doing, but at the same time offered to swear to the maintenance of the order of succession to the throne as established by parliament. He could not, he said, swear to the whole contents without offending against his own conscience; but he was quite ready to take an oath that in the refusal he was actuated by nothing but pure scruples of conscience. The commissioners said that Lords and Commons and Bishops had taken the oath without any scruple at all, and that he was the first recusant; but the prisoner, knowing that no sincere Catholic could take it except with mental reservation, and being determined not to make the pliability of their consciences the rule of his, was not to be moved. He was committed to the custody of the abbot of Westminster, and on the 17th of April, 1534, the fourth day after his summons before the commissioners, he was sent to the Tower, from which there was now no issue to prisoners except to the scaffold. His friend Fisher was there before him, and although they were confined in separate cells, they contrived to comfort one another by an interchange of messages and notes. His wife Alice, who could no more comprehend his scruples than his wit, was an indifferent comforter to More.[80] She said to him bluntly, "How can a man taken for wise, like you, play the fool in this close filthy prison, when you might be[Pg 165] abroad at your liberty, if you would but do as the bishops have done?" She tried to tempt him into weakness and submission by speaking of his fair house at Chelsea, his garden and orchard, his gallery and library, his desolate wife and weeping children. His affectionate daughter, Margaret Roper, had a nobler soul, and she administered to his moral strength, instead of trying to create a weakness within him. By the savage order of the king they deprived the glorious wit and scholar of the solace of his books, and of the use of pen, ink, and paper. But some commiserating jailor put scraps of paper in his way, and upon them, and with pieces of charcoal, he wrote notes to Fisher and to the daughter that was so worthy of him. Not filthy prison, nor the imminent scaffold, could quench the old spirit in him. His witty concerts flowed from him in that dungeon as readily as Fuller's flowed from his pen when that rich humourist was writing at his ease in happier times in his own pleasant study. When they took his books and pens from him, he shut up his prison-window, saying, "Now the wares are gone and the tools taken away, we must shut up shop." In one of the last letters he wrote with charcoal to his high-minded daughter Margaret, he said—"If I were to declare in writing how much pleasure your daughterly loving letters give me, a peck of coals would not suffice to make the pens." For a long period he was denied all resort of family or friends; and when his dearest child was first admitted into the Tower to see him, it appears to have been in the expectation that her grief and tenderness would soften him. Without any need of the spirit of prophecy, but from a mere reviewal[Pg 166] of the character of the king and his court, he could easily foretell the fate that awaited the fair cause of all his misfortunes. On one occasion he asked Margaret Roper how it fared with Queen Anne? "In faith, father," said she, "never better." "Never better, Meg," quoth he; "alas! Meg, it pityeth me to remember into what misery, poor soul, she shall shortly come!" On the 2nd or 3rd of May, 1535, when he had been more than a year in his foul and hungry prison, he was visited by Cromwell, the attorney and solicitor-general, and certain civilians, who urged him to recognise the statute which made the king supreme head of the church. More replied, "I am the king's true and faithful subject and daily beadsman. I pray for his highness, and all his, and all the realm. I do nobody harm, I say no harm, I think none harm, and wish everybody good; and if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith, I long not to live. I am dying already, and since I came here have been divers time in the cases that I thought to die within one hour. And I thank our Lord I was never sorry for it, but rather sorry when I saw the pang past; and therefore my poor body is at the king's pleasure. Would to God my death might do him good."[81] This fruitless visit was followed by another in a few days, when Cromwell was accompanied by Archbishop Cranmer, Audley the chancellor, the Duke of Suffolk, and the Earl of Wiltshire, the said earl being Anne Boleyn's father. They reasoned and threatened; and Cromwell told him that unless he yielded he must die, for that "his grace the king would follow the course of his laws towards such as he should find obstinate." Cranmer, who too often followed evil counsels with his eyes open to their wickedness, but who often leaned to mercy and justice, without having the courage to risk the displeasure of his tyrannical master by opposing his will in anything—Cranmer, who ought never to have entered upon such business at all, but who had taken a very prominent part in all its stages, as is proved by his own letters, now wrote a persuasive but timid letter to Cromwell, praying[Pg 167] that the king might be induced to rest satisfied with More's engagement to maintain the succession as voted by parliament.[82] Bishop Fisher, who had been visited and tormented as his illustrious friend, had given nearly the same answers and had offered to take the same engagement. But more than this Fisher would not do. Cranmer's letter produced no effect.

On the 6th of May Sir Thomas was brought out of the Tower, led on foot through the crowded streets to Westminster Hall, and there arraigned of high treason. He was clad in a coarse woollen gown, and bore about him frightful evidences of a rigorous confinement: his hair had become white, his beard very long and matted, his face was pale and emaciated, and he was obliged to support himself on his staff. But the mind was much less bowed and bent, and some of his old wit and vivacity soon lighted up his sunken eye; and his vile judges—the slavish remorseless instruments of a despot—shrunk from his eloquence, and dreaded the sympathy which the mere sight of the man created. These judges were the Lord Chancellor Audley, the chief justice, six puisne judges, and the Duke of Norfolk. They attempted to overpower and confound the prisoner with the length and wordiness of the indictment. But, after declining an offer of pardon upon condition of doing the king's will, More entered upon a clear and eloquent defence, stripping the clauses of their verbiage and false coverings, and exposing them in their nakedness and nothingness. He maintained that neither by word nor by deed had he done anything against the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn; he had, indeed, in his conscience, disapproved of that business, but he had never expressed this disapprobation to any other person than the king, who had commanded him on his allegiance to give his real opinion. He said "that it could never be treason for one of the king's advisers to give him honest advice." As to his having sought to deprive the king of his new title of supreme head of the church, he said that all that he had done was to be silent thereon, and that silence was not treason. Robin Rich,[Pg 168] infamous solicitor-general, who had tried to entrap More by professing great friendship to him while in the Tower, and leading him into familiar and confidential discourse, now said that the prisoner's silence was malicious. To this More replied that "he had a right to be silent where his language was likely to be injuriously misconstrued." As to the charge that he had called the act of settlement "a two-edged sword which would destroy his soul if he complied in it, and his body if he refused," he made answer that "he supposed the reason of his refusal to be equally good, whether the question led to an offence against his conscience or to the necessity of criminating himself." The prosecutors were reduced to the necessity of examining one of their own number. Rich, who was soon afterwards created a peer for these and similar services, stood up and said that he had gone to More in the Tower as to a friend, and had asked him whether an act of parliament could not make a pope as well as a king;—that More had answered another question affirmatively, but had evaded the question about the pope. Rich then went on to swear that Sir Thomas had said in the most decided manner that the parliament could not make the king supreme head of the church, because parliament is a civil tribunal without authority in spiritual matters. The prisoner denied that he had spoken these words; and he remarked upon the character which Rich had borne in the world. "I am more sorry," said he, "for your perjury than for mine own peril. Neither I nor any man ever took you to be a person of such credit as I could communicate with on such matters. For we long dwelt together in the same parish, where, as yourself can tell (I am sorry you compel me to say it), you were esteemed very light of your tongue, a great dicer, and of no commendable fame." Two witnesses, Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer, were now brought forward to prop Rich's tottering evidence; but, in their case, conscience so far got the better of authority, that they declared that when they had gone to the Tower with Rich, and were in More's room or dungeon, they did not pay attention to the words[Pg 169] that were there spoken. But the judges who had been appointed to condemn and sentence, and who were kept in mind of their duty by the Duke of Norfolk, who sat with them, and by other great men who were sent into court by the king, laid it down as good law that silence was treason; and a jury of twelve Englishmen, without any hesitation, returned a verdict of guilty.[83] Audley, the chancellor, who was at the head of this iniquitous court, or special commission, was for pronouncing sentence at once, but More claimed the common and legal privilege of being heard, to show that judgment should not be passed. When he was allowed to speak, More urged that his scruples of conscience were at least sufficient to free his refusal to take the oaths from the imputation of disaffection, or of what the law calls malice. The chancellor, who was a very impatient listener, asked him again, as the prisoner had often been asked before, how he could set up his scruples against the weight of the parliament, people, and church of England. "Would you," said Audley, "be esteemed wiser or of purer conscience than all the bishops, doctors, nobility, and commons in this land?" More replied, as he had always done, that if the weight of authority was to be thrown into the balance, it was all on his side. "Nine out of ten of Christians now in the world think with me," said he: "for one bishop on your side, I can produce a hundred bishops on mine. Nearly all the learned doctors and holy fathers, who are now dead, agree with me: and, therefore, I think myself not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the general consent of all Christendom." The chancellor pronounced the frightful and disgusting doom which the statute awarded to treason. When this sentence had been pronounced, More rose to address the court: he was[Pg 170] coarsely interrupted. He tried again, and was again interrupted; but on a third attempt he was allowed to proceed. He told them that what he had hitherto been silent upon he would now openly declare; and he did boldly declare that the oath of supremacy was utterly unlawful, and that after seven years' diligent study "he could find no colour for holding that a layman could be head of the church." He regretted to differ from the noble lords whom he saw on the bench, but his conscience would not permit him to do otherwise. He protested that he had no animosity against them, and that he hoped that, even as St. Paul was present and consentient to the death of Stephen, and yet was afterwards a companion saint in heaven, so they and he should all meet together hereafter. "And so," he concluded, "may God preserve you all, and especially my lord the king, and send him good counsel!" As he moved from the bar, his son rushed through the hall, fell upon his knees, and begged his blessing. With the axe turned towards him, and with Sir W. Kingston, the constable of the Tower, weeping at his side, he went back to his dark prison, amid the great wonderment and commiseration of the citizens. On the Tower wharf his dear daughter Margaret forced her way through the officers and halberdiers, clasped him round the neck, kissed him, and sobbed aloud. Sir Thomas consoled her and gave her his blessing, and she collected sufficient strength to bid him farewell for ever: but as her father moved on, she again rushed through the crowd, and threw herself upon his neck. Here the weakness of nature overcame him, and he wept as he repeated his blessing and his Christian consolation. The people wept too; and his guards, though used to sights of woe, were so overpowered by their feelings, that they could hardly summon up resolution to separate the father and daughter. After this bitter trial the anguish of death was passed.

But there was a long and very unusual delay in carrying the sentence into execution. The tyrant still hoped to reduce More to some compliances. Bishop Fisher was still in the Tower and untried; and as he and his friend[Pg 171] More were universally esteemed the most learned men in the country, and as they were the only two that had as yet refused the oaths, it was deemed expedient to make further experiments on their constancy. On the 14th of June interrogatories were separately administered to them in the Tower by Mr. Bedle, Dr. Aldridge, Dr. Layton, and Dr. Curwen, in the presence of Pelstede, Whalley, and Rice. Among the objects proposed to themselves by the inquisitors were these:—to entrap the prisoners into some confession that they had had communications, since their coming to the Tower, with people who shared in their scruples—to lead More to make use of words that might be turned against Fisher at his approaching trial. The inquisitors were completely disappointed; nothing was to be gotten from More, and Fisher was equally firm. To some of the interrogatories he replied that he would promise obedience, saving always his conscience: to others he would not speak, desiring that he might not be driven to answer, lest he should fall thereby into the dangers of the statutes.[84] Three days after these inquisitorial proceedings, Fisher was put upon his trial in Westminster Hall: as a matter of course he was condemned as a traitor, and on the 22nd of June he was dragged out of the Tower to execution. Fisher was in his eightieth year; he was the king's oldest friend. More was left to linger in his dungeon another fortnight. His wit flashed brightly in his last moments. When told that the king had been graciously pleased to commute the hanging, drawing, and quartering into simple decapitation, he said, "God preserve all my friends from such royal favours." On Tuesday, the 6th of July, the eve of St. Thomas, 1535, "his singular good friend" Sir Thomas Pope went to him very early with a message from the king and council to signify that he was to die before nine o'clock that morning. The time and the messenger appear to have been selected in cruel mockery by Henry and his creatures, who were much given to this kind of sport. Pope told him that "it[Pg 172] was the king's pleasure he should not use many words on the scaffold." "I did purpose," said More, "to have spoken somewhat, but I will conform myself to the king's commandment; and I do beseech you to obtain from him that my daughter Margaret may be present at my burial." Pope told him that the king had already consented that his wife, children, and friends might be present thereat. He then put on his best attire; but as the lieutenant advised him to put it off, "for he that should have it was but a javel," he composedly changed his suit, and sent the executioner an angel of gold. The lieutenant of the Tower at the time appointed conducted him to the scaffold. The framework was so weak that some fears were expressed that the scaffold might break down. "Master lieutenant," said More, "see me safe up; and for my coming down, let me shift for myself." Although prohibited from addressing the spectators, he ventured to declare from the scaffold that he died a faithful subject and a true Catholic. The executioner, as usual, asked his forgiveness. "Friend," said More, "thou wilt render me to-day the greatest service in the power of man: but my neck is short; take heed, therefore, that thou strike not awry, for the sake of the credit of thy profession." After prayers said, he placed his head upon the block, but he bade the headsman hold his hand until he removed his long white beard, saying with a smile, "My beard has never committed any treason." Then the axe fell, and the neck was severed at once. His head was picked up, and fixed for some time on London Bridge, by the side of the head of his friend Fisher. This was the common practice in such cases, but two such heads had not often been seen together. After a time his darling daughter obtained permission to take down and keep the head of More; and when Margaret died some nine years after her father, the head was laid upon her breast and buried with her.[85]

These detestable murders spread a panic through the[Pg 173] nation; and the expression of the popular feeling, however timid, went with the inward workings of his own conscience to increase the tyrant's suspicion and fear. We are told that Henry himself threw the blame of More's death upon his young wife, who perished on the scaffold on the 19th of May following; that, when an account of that execution was brought to him, he was playing at tables with the queen; that thereupon he looked sternly at her, and, saying "Thou art the cause of this man's death," withdrew, in evident perturbation, to the solitude of his chamber. The story is probable, and quite consistent with the character of the brutal king. In the month of August following the execution, Erasmus wrote to a friend that the English were living in such a state of terror that they durst not write to foreigners or receive letters from them. In Italy, in France, in every country where civilization had made any progress, the fate of Fisher, and still more that of the author of the 'Utopia,' excited universal execration, and there, at least, men could speak their minds loudly. No greater mistake can be committed than in believing that this vehement and lasting feeling proceeded from the prejudices of Catholics, or was only a part of the religious feeling of those countries. Men wept for More who would have joined hands with our church reformers (who were not really Protestants until after the death of Henry VIII.). They wept for the wit and scholar, for the friend of humanity and the man of lofty principle, who, whether right or wrong in his judgment, had braved a slow torture and death rather than soil his conscience. The lofty eloquence of Cardinal Pole, the classical point of Erasmus, the writings of[Pg 174] Paolo Giovio, and other popular authors, recorded the crime, and awakened throughout Europe a hatred and detestation of the tyrant who had consummated it. Wherever Henry had ambassadors, men shunned them as the agents and slaves of a monster. The Emperor Charles V. said that if he had had such a servant as More, he would rather have lost the best city in his dominions than so able and worthy a counsellor. Nor did Charles's rival Francis I. feel a less lively emotion.

More's English writings were collected and printed in the year 1557, at the instance of Queen Mary. The Life written by Roper, the husband of his darling daughter Margaret, was not then ready for the press, and after the death of Mary (in 1558) none durst publish it in England. In fact, this exquisite and thoroughly authentic piece of biography, though copies of it seem to have been known in MS., did not appear in print until the year 1626, in the reign of Charles I., and even then it was printed at Paris. It is a small 18mo. volume, and entitled 'The Mirrour of Vertue in worldly Greatness, or the Life of Sir Thomas More, Knight, sometime Lord Chancellor of England.' It is an exceedingly rare book. Mr. Singer, who edited and reprinted it in 1817, knew at that time of no copy except the one in his possession. There is a copy of it—a venerable and precious relic—in the library of the British Museum; but it is irreverently bound up under one coarse cover, with other old books that have no connection with the subject, and the last page is torn out and missing. The Life of More, by Cresacre More, the chancellor's great-grandson, is little more than an amplified copy of Roper's book, but it contains a few anecdotes and family traditions, which give it a value.


[64] Roper, Life of Sir Thomas More, edited by Singer.

[65] Roper.

[66] Roper.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Fuller, Worthies.

[69] Erasmi Epist.

[70] Some of them have been published by the Record Commission, in State Papers relating to the Reign of Henry VIII.

[71] Roper.

[72] More, Life of More.

[73] Parl. Hist., vol. iii. p. 41.

[74] Penny Cyclopædia, art. More.

[75] Roper.

[76] Ibid.

[77] More pleaded bad health, and apparently not without reason. He says, in a letter to Thomas Cromwell, "This disease of mine is thought to have grown by the stooping and leaning on my breast that I have used in writing."

[78] Roper.

[79] Hall.

[80] This second wife, by whom he had no children, was Mrs. Alice Middleton, a widow in London when he married her. In his book of 'Comfort in Tribulation,' he calls this second wife "a jolly master-woman," and says that she would oft times rate her husband because he had no mind to set himself forward in the world, saying to him, "Tillie vally, Tillie vally! will you sit and make goslings in the ashes? My mother has often said unto me, it is better to rule than to be ruled." Possibly this hatching of goslings in the ashes may have had reference to some experiments or amusements of More, who may have learned in Herodotus the process of the ancient Egyptians, and who says, in his political romance, that the Utopians hatch their poultry by means of a gentle artificial heat.

Mistress Alice, however, had many good qualities, and More, whose temper could not be ruffled, seems to have lived happily with her.

[81] Roper.

[82] State Papers.

[83] These twelve jurymen seem to have been nearly all of superior condition. They were Sir T. Palmer, Sir T. Bent, G. Lovell, esquire, Thomas Burbage, esquire, G. Chamber, gentleman, Edward Stockmore, William Brown, Jasper Leake, Thomas Bellington, John Parnell, Richard Bellamy, and G. Stoakes, gentleman.

[84] State Papers, published by government.

[85] "Her body," says Granger, "is in the Roper's vault, at St. Dunstan's church, Canterbury, near which part of their ancient seat is still remaining. In the wall of this vault is a small niche, where, behind an iron grate, is kept a skull, called Sir Thomas More's, which Mr. Gosling, a learned and worthy clergyman of Canterbury, informs me he has seen several times on the opening of the vault for some of the late Sir Edward Dering's family, whose first lady was a descendant of the Ropers."—Biographical History of England.



Transcriber's Note

Punctuation errors have been corrected.

The following suspected printer's errors have been addressed.

Page 14. carring changed to carrying. (carrying provisions for eight days).

Page 31. rythmical changed to rhythmical. (in its rhythmical construction).

Page 52. eventally changed to eventually. (who eventually became).

Page 107. dissappointed changed to disappointed. (his disappointed rival).

Page 112. irreconcileable changed to irreconcilable. (two rivals irreconcilable).

Page 129. me changed to he. (as he seemed).

Page 142. succcess changed to success. (his success in this mission).

Page 157. traimed changed to trained. (More had been trained).

Page 160. rythm changed to rhythm. (some part fell in rhythm).

[The end of The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies Vol 2 of 12 by Cox and Knight]