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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Wolsey was conversant with the scholastic philosophy


good stead that another favourite,

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who had married Henry's sister (Louis XII's widow), and was the King's comrade in knightly exercises and the external show of court-life, for a long time remained in intimate friendship with him. Wolsey was conversant with the scholastic philosophy, with Saint Thomas Aquinas; but that did not hinder him from cooperating also in the revival of classical studies, which were just coming into notice at Oxford: he had a feeling for the efforts of Art which was then attaining a higher estimation, and an inborn talent for architecture, to which we owe some wonderful works.[81] The King too loved building; the present of a skilfully cut jewel could delight him; and he sought honour in defending the scholastic dogmas against Luther's views; in all this Wolsey seconded and supported him, he combined state-business with conversation. He freed the King from the consultations of the Privy Council, in which the intrinsic importance of the matter always weighs more than one's own will; Henry VIII first felt himself to be really King when business was managed by a favourite thoroughly dependent on him, trusted by him, and in fact very capable. Wolsey showed the most many-sided activity and an indefatigable power of work. He presided in court though he was not strong in law; he mastered the department of finance; the King named him Archbishop of York, the Pope Cardinal-Legate, so that the whole control of ecclesiastical matters fell into his hands; foreign affairs
were peculiarly his own department. We have a considerable number of his political writings and instructions remaining, which give us an idea of the characteristics of his mind. Very circumstantially and almost wearisomely do they advance--not exactly in a straight line--weighing manifold possibilities, multiplied reasons: they are scholastic in form, in contents sometimes fantastic even to excess, intricate yet acute, flattering to the person to whom they are addressed, but withal filled with a surprising self-consciousness of power and talent. Wolsey is celebrated by Erasmus for his affability, and to a great scholar he may have been accessible, but to others he was not so. When he went to walk in the park of Hampton Court, no one would have dared to come within a long distance of him. When questions were asked him he reserved to himself the option of answering or not. He had a way of giving his opinion so that every man yielded to him; especially as the possession of the King's favour, which he enjoyed, made it impossible to oppose him. If the government was spoken of, he was wont to say, 'the King and I,' or 'we,' or at last 'I.' Just because he was of humble origin, he wished to shine by splendid appearance, costly and rare furniture, unwonted expenditure. Early one morning his appointment as Cardinal arrived, that same morning at mass he displayed the insignia of his new dignity. He required outward tokens of reverence, and insisted on being served on bended knee. He had many other passions, of which the chief was ecclesiastical ambition pervaded by personal vanity.

It gave him high satisfaction that both the great powers emulously courted the favour and friendship of his King, of which he seemed to have the disposal.

In June 1520 took place within the English possessions on French soil the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I, which is well designated as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It was properly a great tournament, proclaimed in both nations, to which the chief lords yet once more gathered in all their splendour. With the festivities were mingled negociations in which the Cardinal of York played the chief part.


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