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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Wolsey who had diminished the consequence of the great lords


In

the presence of the counsellors given her at her wish, both legates repeated two days later in a formal audience their admonition to the Queen not to insist on a definite decision; but already Campeggi had little hope left; he was astonished that the lady, usually so prudent, should in the midst of peril so obstinately reject judicious advice.[95]

The question between King and Queen was, we might say, also of a dogmatic nature. Had the Pope the right to dispense with the laws of Scripture or had he not? The Queen accepted it as it had been accepted in recent times, especially as the presupposed conditions of a marriage had not been fulfilled in her case. The King rejected it under all circumstances, in agreement with scholars and the rising public opinion.

But into this question various other general and personal reasons now intruded themselves. If the question were answered in the negative Wolsey held firmly to the view of forming an indissoluble union between France and England, of securing the succession by the King's marriage with a French princess, of restoring universal peace; to this he added the project, as he once actually said in confidential discourse, of reforming the English laws, doubtless in an ecclesiastical and monarchic sense; if he had once accomplished all this, he would retire, to serve God during the rest of his life.

But he had already (and a sense of

it seems almost to be expressed in these last words so unlike his usual mode of thought) ceased to be in agreement with his King. Henry VIII wished for the divorce, the establishment of his succession by male offspring, friendship with France, and Peace: but he did not care for the French marriage. He was some years younger than his wife, who inclined to the Spanish forms of strict devotion, and regarded as wasted the hours which she spent at her dressing table. Henry VIII was addicted to knightly exercises of arms, he loved pleasant company, music, and art; we cannot call him a gross voluptuary, but he was not faithful to his wife: he already had a natural son; he was ever entangled in new connexions of this kind. Many letters of his survive, in which a tincture of fancy and even of tenderness is coupled with a thorough sensuousness; just in the fashion of the romances of chivalry which were then being first printed and were much read. At that time Anne Boleyn, a lady who had lately returned from France, and appeared from time to time at Court, saw him at her feet; she was not exactly of ravishing beauty, but full of spirit and grace and with a certain reserve. While she resisted the King, she held him all the faster.[96]

The reasons of home and foreign policy mentioned above, and even the religious scruples, have their weight; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that this new passion, nourished on the expectation of the divorce which was not unconditionally refused by the spiritual power, gave the strongest personal impulse to carry the affair through.

The position of parties in the State also influenced it. Wolsey who had diminished the consequence of the great lords, and kept them down, and offended them by his pride, was heartily hated by them. Adorned though he was with the most brilliant honours of the Church, yet for the great men of the realm he was nothing but an upstart: they had never quite given up the hope of living to see his fall. But if he brought the French marriage to pass, as he designed, he would have won lasting support and have become stronger than ever. Besides the great men took the Burgundian side, not that they wished to make the Emperor lord of the world, but on the other hand they did not want a war with him: merchants and farmers saw that a war with the Netherlands, where they sold their wool, would be an injury to all. When Wolsey flattered the Pope with the hope of an attack on the Netherlands, he was, the Bishop of Bayonne assures us, the only man in the country who thought of it. He felt keenly the universal antipathy which he had awakened, and spoke of the efforts and devices he would have need of, to maintain himself.


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