Illness Of The Pope

Human pity is due to the unfortunate Pope--Vicar of Christ, supreme judge

in Europe, whose decrees were the inspirations of the Holy Ghost--spinning

like a whipped top under the alternate lashes of the King of England and

the Emperor. He had hoped that his decretal would not be known. It could

not be concealed from Mendoza, who discovered, putting the worst

interpretation upon it, "that the Pope and King had been endeavouring to
intimidate the Queen into retiring into a convent." Finding that he, too,

could put no faith in Clement, the Emperor's representative at Rome now

forced a new promise from him. The proceedings in England were not to be

opened without a fresh direct order from the Pope, and this the Pope was

to be forbidden to give. If the King was obstinate and the Queen demanded

it, Campeggio was to leave England, and, notwithstanding his engagements

to the contrary, Clement was to advocate the cause to Rome. The new brief

was sufficient plea. Without it the Legates could come to no conclusion,

"the whole right of the Queen being based upon its contents." The Emperor

had it in his hands, and by refusing to allow it to be examined, except at

Rome, might prevent them from moving.

There was little doubt that the brief had been forged for the occasion.

The Pope having sent a commission to England, the King considered that he

had a right to the production of documents essential to the case. He

required Catherine to write to Charles to ask for it. Catherine did as he

desired, and the messenger who carried her letter to the Spanish Court was

sworn to carry no private or separate missive from her. Mendoza dared not

write by the same hand himself, lest his despatches should be examined. He

made the messenger, therefore, learn a few words by heart, telling the

Emperor that the Queen's letter was not to be attended to. "We thought,"

he said, "that the man's oath was thus saved." Thus time drifted on.

The new year came, and no progress had been made, though Campeggio had

been three months in England. The Pope, more helpless than dishonest,

continued to assure the King that he would do all that by law could be

required of him, and as much as he could do ex plenitudine potestatis.

No peril should prevent him. "If the King thought his resigning the Papacy

would conduce to his purpose, he could be content, for the love he bore

his Highness, rather than fail to do the same."

If the Pope was so well disposed, the King could not see where the

difficulty lay. The Queen had refused his entreaty that she should enter

religion. Why should not the Pope, then, allow the decretal to be put in

execution? But Cardinal Salviati informed Casalis that a sentence given

in virtue of the decretal would have no effect, but would only cause the

Pope's deposition. Visibly and unpleasantly it became now apparent to

Henry to what issues the struggle was tending. He had not expected it.

Wolsey had told him that the Pope would yield; and the Pope had promised

what was asked; but his promises were turning to vapour. Wolsey had said

that the Emperor could not afford to quarrel with him. The King found that

war with the Emperor in earnest was likely enough unless he himself drew

back, and draw back he would not. The poor Pope was as anxious as Henry.

He had spoken of resigning. He was near being spared the trouble. Harassed

beyond his strength, he fell ill, and was expected to die; and before

Wolsey there was now apparently the strange alternative either of utter

disgrace or of himself ascending the chair of St. Peter as Clement's

successor. His election, perhaps, was really among the chances of the

situation. The Cardinals had not forgiven the sack of Rome. A French or

English candidate had a fair prospect of success, and Wolsey could command

the French interest. He had boundless money, and money in the Sacred

College was only not omnipotent. He undertook, if he was chosen, to resign

his enormous English preferments and reside at Rome, and the vacancy of

his three bishoprics and his abbey would pour a cataract of gold into the

Cardinals' purses. The Bulls for English bishoprics had to be paid for on

a scale which startled Wolsey himself. Already archbishop of York, bishop

of Winchester, and abbot of St. Albans, he had just been presented to

Durham. He had paid 8,000 ducats to "expedite" his Bulls for Winchester.

The Cardinals demanded 13,000 ducats for Durham. The ducat was worth five

shillings, and five shillings in 1528 were worth fifty shillings of modern

money. At such a rate were English preferments bled to support the College

of Cardinals; and if all these great benefices were again vacated there

would be a fine harvest to be gathered. For a week or two the splendid

vision suspended even the agitation over the divorce; but the Pope

revived, and the Legates and he had to resume their ungrateful burden.

It was still really uncertain what Clement would do. Weak, impulsive men

often leave their course to fate or chance to decide for them. Casalis,

when he was able to attend to business again, told him in Wolsey's name

that he must take warning from his late danger. "By the wilfully suffering

a thing of such high importance to be unreformed to the doing whereof

Almighty God worked so openly he would incur God's displeasure and peril

his soul." The Imperialists were as anxious as Wolsey, and equally

distrustful. In the Sacred College English gold was an influence not to be

despised, and Henry had more to give than Charles. Micer Mai, the Imperial

agent at Rome, found, as the spring came on, that the Italian Cardinals

were growing cold. Salviati insisted to him that Catherine must go into a

convent. Casalis denounced the new brief as a forgery, and the Sacred

College seemed to be of the same opinion. The fiery Mai complained in the

Pope's presence of the scant courtesy which the Ministers of the Emperor

were meeting with, while the insolent and overbearing were regaled like

the Prodigal Son. The Pope assured him that, come what might, he

would never authorise the divorce; but Mai only partially believed him. At

trying moments Mai was even inclining to take the same view of the Papacy

as Lope de Soria. "At other times," he said, "many things could be got out

of the Pope by sheer intimidation; but now that could not be tried, for he

would fall into despair, and the Imperialists would lose him altogether.

They owed him something for what he had done for them before, otherwise he

would be of opinion that it would be for God's service to reduce them to

their spiritual powers."

Occasionally Mai's temper broke through, and he used language worth

observing. One of the Cardinals had spoken slightingly of the Emperor.

"I did not call on his Holiness," he wrote to Charles, "but sent him a

message, adding that, if ever it came to my notice that the same Cardinal,

or any member of the College, had dared to speak in such an indecent

manner of the Emperor, I took my most solemn oath that I would have him

beheaded or burnt alive within his own apartment. I had this time

refrained out of respect for his Holiness; but should the insult be

repeated I would not hesitate. They might do as they would with their

Bulls and other rogueries--grant or refuse them as they liked; but they

were not to speak evil of princes, or make themselves judges in the

affairs of kingdoms."

This remarkable message was conveyed to the Pope, who seemed rather

pleased than otherwise. Mai, however, observed that the revolt of the

Lutherans was not to be wondered at, and in what they said of Rome he

considered that they were entirely right, except on points of faith.

Cardinals had been roughly handled in the sack of the Holy City at but a

year's distance. The possibility was extremely real. The Imperial

Minister, it appeared, could still command the services of the Spanish

garrisons in the Papal territories if severity was needed, and the members

of the Sacred College had good reason to be uneasy; but King Henry might

reasonably object to the trial of his cause in a country where the

assessors of the supreme judge were liable to summary execution if they

were insubordinate. That Charles could allow his representative to write

in such terms to him proves that he and Mai, and Henry himself, were in

tolerable agreement on Church questions. The Pope knew it; one of his

chief fears was that the Emperor, France, England, and the German Princes,

might come to an understanding to his own disadvantage. Perhaps it might

have been so had not the divorce kept Henry and Charles apart. Campeggio

wrote to Sanga on the 3rd of April that certain advances had been made by

the Lutherans to Henry, in which they promised to relinquish all heresies

on articles of faith, and to believe according to Divine law if he and the

King of France would reduce the ecclesiastical state to the condition of

the Primitive Church, taking from it all its temporalities. He had told

the King this was the Devil dressed in angel's clothing, a mere design

against the property of the Church; and that it had been ruled by councils

and theologians that it was right for the Church to hold temporal

property. The King said those rules had been made by Churchmen

themselves, and now the laity must interfere. He said also that Churchmen

were said to be leading wicked lives, especially about the Court of


Growled at on both sides, in terror for himself, in terror for the Church,

the Pope drifted on, hoping for some accident to save him which never

came, and wishing perhaps that his illness had made an end of him.

The Emperor complained of Campeggio as partial to the King because he held

an English bishopric. "If the Pope leaves the succession undetermined,"

insisted Wolsey, on the other side, "no Prince would tolerate such an

injury." "Nothing was done," wrote the Pope's secretary to Campeggio, "and

nothing would be done. The Pope was in great trouble between the English

and Imperial Ambassadors. He wished to please the King, but the King and

Cardinal must not expect him to move till they had forced the Venetians to

restore the Papal territories." Stephen Gardiner, who knew Clement well

and watched him from day to day, said: "He was a man who never resolved

anything unless compelled by some violent affection. He was in great

perplexity, and seemed willing to gratify the King if he could, but when

it came to the point did nothing. He would be glad if the King's cause

could be determined in England by the Legates; and if the Emperor made any

suit against what should be done there, they would serve him as they now

served the King, and put off the time." So matters would go on, "unless

Campeggio would frankly promise to give sentence in the King's favour;

otherwise such delays would be found as the counterfeit Brief had

caused." Sir Francis Bryan, who was also at the Papal court, wrote to

the King that the Pope would do nothing for him, and whoever had told the

King that he would, had not done him the best service. "He was very sorry

to write thus, but the King must not be fed with their flattering


To wait longer on the Pope's action was now seen in England to be useless.

The Pope dared not offend the Emperor further, and the Emperor had

interposed to prohibit future action. Clement had himself several times

suggested that the best way was to decide the case first in England in the

Legate's court, and leave Catherine to appeal; he had promised Charles

that no judgment should be given in England by the Legates; but he had

worn so double a face that no one could say which truly belonged to him.

Gardiner and Bryan were recalled. The King, finding the Pope's

ingratitude, "resolved to dissemble with him, and proceed on the

commission granted to Wolsey and Campeggio." The Cardinal of York

encouraged his brother Legate by assuring him that if the marriage was now

dissolved means would be found to satisfy the Emperor. Catherine would be

left with her state undiminished, would have anything that she desired

"except the person of the King." The Emperor's natural daughter might be

married to the Duke of Richmond, and all would be well.

So Wolsey wrote, but his mind was less easy than he pretended. Unless

Henry was supported actively by the French, he knew that the Pope would

fail him in the end; and Francis had been disappointed in the hope that

Henry would stand actively by him in the war. Without effectual help from

that quarter, Wolsey saw that he was himself undone. The French Ambassador

represented to his Court that Wolsey was sincerely attached to the French

alliance, that the King had only been induced to enterprise the affair by

the assurance which the Cardinal had always given that he had nothing to

fear from the Emperor; Wolsey had advanced the divorce as a "means to

break off for ever the alliance with the Emperor"; and Francis, by now

declaring himself, would confer a very great favour on the King, and would

oblige Wolsey as much as if he had made him pope. His master was not

only now concerned for the discharge of his conscience and his desire to

have issue, but the very safety and independence of England was at stake.

He could not have it said that he left the succession to the throne

uncleared for the threats of his enemy.

The Duke of Suffolk was despatched to Paris to bring Francis to the point.

Francis professed the warmest good-will to his brother of England. He

undertook to advise the Pope. He assured Suffolk that if the Emperor

attempted force Henry would find him at his side; but further he would not

pledge himself. The time was past for a Wolsey patriarchate, and Francis,

curiously enough, expressed doubts whether Wolsey was not after all

betraying Henry. "There are some," he said, "which the King my brother

doth trust in that matter that would it should never take effect.

Campeggio told me he did not think the divorce would be brought about, but

should be dissembled well enough. When the Cardinal of England was with

me, as far as I could perceive, he desired the divorce might take place,

for he loved not the Queen; but I advise my brother not to trust any man

too much, and to look to his own matters. The Cardinal has great

intelligence with the Pope, and Campeggio and they are not inclined to


Things could not go on thus for ever. There would have been an excuse for

Clement, if with a consciousness of his high office he had refused to

anticipate a judgment till the case had been heard and considered. But

from the first the right or wrong of the cause itself had been disregarded

as of no moment. Nothing had been thought of but the alternate dangers to

be anticipated from the King or the Emperor. Had the French driven the

Imperialists out of Italy, the divorce would have been granted without

further question. The supreme tribunal in Christendom was transparently

influenced by no motive save interest or fear. Clement, in fact, had

anticipated judgment, though he dared not avow it. He had appointed a

commission, and by the secret decretal had ruled what the decision was to

be. The decretal could not be produced, but, with or without it, the King

insisted that the court should sit. Campeggio had been sent to try the

cause, and try it he should. Notice was given that the suit was to be

heard at the end of June. Wolsey perhaps had chosen a date not far from

the close of term, that the vacation might suspend the process, and give

time for further delay.

Since a trial of some kind could not be avoided, final instructions were

sent from Rome to Campeggio. "If," wrote Sanga to him, "the Pope was not

certain that he remembered the injunctions which he gave him by word of

mouth, and which had been written to him many times, he would be very

anxious. His Holiness had always desired that the cause should be

protracted in order to find some means by which he could satisfy the King

without proceeding to sentence. The citation of the cause to Rome, which

he had so often insisted on, had been deferred, not because it was doubted

whether the matter could be treated with less scandal at Rome than there,

but because His Holiness had ever shrunk from a step which would offend

the King. But, since Campeggio had not been able to prevent the

commencement of the proceedings, His Holiness warned him that the process

must be slow, and that no sentence must in any manner be pronounced. He

would not lack a thousand means and pretexts, if on no other point, at

least upon the brief which had been produced."

According to Casalis the view taken of the general situation at Rome was


"The Pope would not declare openly for the Emperor till he saw how matters

went. He thought the Emperor would come to Italy, and if there was a war

would be victorious, so that it would be for His Holiness's advantage to

obtain his friendship beforehand. If peace was made the Emperor would

dictate terms, and more was to be hoped from his help than from the

French King. The Emperor was the enemy of the Allies, and sought to

recover the honour which he lost by the sack of Rome by making himself

protector of the Pope."

Wolsey's dream was over, and with it the dreams of Lope de Soria and Micer

Mai. The fine project to unite France and England in defence of the Papacy

was proving baseless as the sand on which it was built. Henry VIII. was to

lead the reform of the Church in England. Charles, instead of beheading

cardinals, was to become the champion of the Roman hierarchy. The air was

clearing. The parties in the great game were drifting into their natural

situations. The fate which lay before Wolsey himself, the fate which lay

before the Church of England, of the worst corruptions of which he was

himself the chief protector and example, his own conscience enabled him

too surely to foresee.

Mendoza was recalled, and before leaving had an interview with the King.

"The Emperor," he said, "was obliged to defend his aunt. It was a private

affair, which touched the honour of his family." The King answered that

the Emperor had no right to interfere. He did not meddle himself with the

private affairs of other princes. Mendoza was unable to guess what was

likely to happen. The suit was to go on. If a prohibitory mandate arrived

from the Pope, it was uncertain whether Wolsey would obey it, and it was

doubtful also whether any such mandate would be sent. He suspected Clement

of possible deliberate treachery. He believed that orders had been sent to

the Legate to proceed, and give sentence in virtue of the first

commission. In that case the sentence would certainly be against the

Queen, and not a moment must be lost in pressing an appeal to Rome.