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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Wolsey's idea was that the Pope


In

other times relations of this kind would have probably been reckoned as in themselves sufficient reason for a divorce: but not so in that age. The very essence of marriage lies in this, that it raises the union, on which the family and the order of the world rests, above the momentary variations of the will and the inclination; by the sanction of the Church it becomes one of that series of religious institutions which set limits on every side to individual caprice. No one yet dared so far to deny the religious character of marriage, as to have avowed mere political views in wishing for a separation, either before the world, or even to himself. But now there was no want of spiritual reasons which might be brought forward for it. The King's own confessor revived the doubts in him which had once been raised before his marriage with his brother's widow. And when the King was then reminded that such a marriage had been expressly forbidden in the books of Moses, and threatened with the punishment of childlessness, how could it fail to make an impression on him, when this threat seemed to be strictly fulfilled in his case? Two boys had been born to him from this marriage, but both had died soon after their birth. Even within the Catholic Church it had been always a moot point whether the Pope could dispense with a law of Scripture. The divine punishment inflicted on the King, as he thought, seemed to prove that the Pope's dispensation (encroaching as it did on the region of the divine
power), on the strength of which the marriage had been concluded, had not the validity ascribed to it. Scruples of this sort cannot be said to be a mere pretence; they have something of the half belief, half superstition, so peculiarly characteristic of the spirit of the age and of that of the King. And none could yet foresee what results they implicitly involved.

It still appeared possible that the Pope would revoke the dispensation given by one of his predecessors, especially as some grounds of invalidity could be found in the bull itself. Wolsey's idea was that the Pope, in the pressing necessity he was under of ranging England and France against the preponderance of the Emperor, could be brought to consent to recall the dispensation, and this would make the marriage null and void from the beginning. Always full of arrogant assumption of an influence to which nothing could be impossible, Wolsey assured the King that he would carry the matter through.[92]

When tidings of this proposal first reached Rome, those immediately around the Pope took special notice of the political advantages that might accrue from it. For hitherto there was a doubt whether Henry VIII was really so decidedly in favour of France as was said: a project like this, which would make him and the Emperor enemies for ever, left no room for doubt about it. When the Pope saw himself secure of this support in reserve, his word, in a matter which concerned the highest personal and civil interests, acquired new weight even with the Emperor.[93]

It is undeniable that the Pope at first expressed himself favourably. It appeared to make an especial impression on him, that the want of a male heir might cause a civil war in England, and that this must be disadvantageous to the Church as well.[94] He only asked not to be pressed as long as he was in danger of experiencing the worst extremities from the overwhelming power of the Emperor. In the spring of 1528, when the French army advanced victoriously into the Neapolitan territory and drove back the Emperor's forces to the capital, Wolsey's request for full powers to inquire into the affair in England was taken into earnest consideration by the Pope. It was at Orvieto, in the Pope's working room, which was also his sleeping-chamber: a couple of cardinals, the Dean of the Roman Rota, and the English plenipotentiaries sat round the Pope, to talk over the case thoroughly. One of the cardinals declared himself against the Commission demanded by Wolsey, since such a grant contravened the usage of the last centuries in the Roman tribunals; the Pope answered, that in a matter concerning a King who had done such service to the Holy See, they might well deviate from the usual forms; he actually delegated this Commission to Cardinal Campeggi, whom the English esteemed as their friend, and to Wolsey.


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