The Divorce

The marriage with Anne Boleyn was now a fixed idea in Henry's mind. He had

become passionately attached to her, though not perhaps she to him. The

evidence of his feeling remains in a series of letters to her--how

preserved for public inspection no one knows. Some of them were said to

have been stolen by Campeggio. Perhaps they were sold to him; at any rate,

they survive. A critic in the "Edinburgh Review" described them as such as
br />
"might have been written by a pot-boy to his girl." The pot-boy must have

been a singular specimen of his kind. One, at any rate, remains to show

that, though Henry was in love, he did not allow his love to blind him to

his duty as a prince. The lady, though obliged to wait for the full

gratification of her ambition, had been using her influence to advance her

friends, while Wolsey brought upon himself the rebuke of his master by

insufficient care in the distribution of Church patronage. The

correspondence throws an unexpected light upon the King's character.

The Abbess of Wilton had died. The situation was a pleasant one. Among

the sisters who aspired to the vacant office was a certain Eleanor Carey,

a near connection of Anne, and a favourite with her. The appointment

rested virtually with the Crown. The Lady Anne spoke to the King. The King

deputed Wolsey to inquire into the fitness of the various candidates, with

a favourable recommendation of Eleanor Carey's claims. The inquiry was

made, and the result gives us a glimpse into the habits of the devout

recluses in these sacred institutions.

"As for the matter of Wilton," wrote Henry to Anne, "my Lord Cardinal here

had the nuns before him, and examined them in the presence of Master Bell,

who assures me that she whom we would have had Abbess has confessed

herself to have had two children by two different priests, and has since

been kept not long ago by a servant of Lord Broke that was. Wherefore I

would not for all the gold in the world clog your conscience nor mine, to

make her ruler of a house which is of so ungodly demeanour, nor I trust

you would not that, neither for brother nor sister, I should so

distain mine honour or conscience. And as touching the Prioress [Isabella

Jordan] or Dame Eleanor's elder sister, though there is not any evident

cause proved against them, and the Prioress is so old that of many years

she could not be as she was named, yet notwithstanding, to do you pleasure

I have done that neither of them shall have it, but that some other good

and well-disposed woman shall have it, whereby the house shall be better

reformed, whereof I assure you it hath much need, and God much the better


This letter is followed by another to the Cardinal. Wolsey, in whose hands

the King had left the matter, in a second letter which is lost, instead of

looking out for the "good and well-disposed woman," though Isabella

Jordan's reputation was doubtful, yet chose to appoint her, and the King's

observations upon this action of his are worth attending to, as addressed

by such a person as Henry is supposed to have been to a Cardinal

Archbishop and Legate of the Holy See. Many of the letters signed by the

King were the composition of his ministers and secretaries. This to Wolsey

was his own.

"The great affection and love I bear you, causeth me, using the doctrine

of my Master, quem diligo castigo, thus plainly as now ensueth to break

to you my mind, ensuring you that neither sinister report, affection to my

own pleasure, interest, nor mediation of any other body beareth part in

this case, wherefore whatsoever I do say, I pray you think it spoken of no

displeasure, but of him that would you as much good both of body and soul

as you would yourself.

"Methinks it is not the right train of a trusty loving friend and servant

when the matter is put by the master's consent into his arbitre and

judgement--especially in a matter wherein his master hath both royalty and

interest, to elect and choose a person who was by him defended. And yet

another thing which displeaseth me more. That is to cloke your offence

made by ignorance of my pleasure, saying that you expressly knew not my

determinate mind in that behalf. Alas, my lord, what can be more evident

or plainer than these words, specially to a wise man--'His Grace careth

not who, but referreth it all to you, so that none of those who either be

or have been spotted with incontinence, like as by report the Prioress

hath been in her youth, have it;' and also in another place in the letter,

'And therefore his Highness thinketh her not meet for that purpose;'

thirdly, in another place in the same letter by these words, 'And though

his Grace speaketh not of it so openly, yet meseemeth his pleasure is that

in no wise the Prioress have it, nor yet Dame Eleanor's eldest sister, for

many considerations the which your Grace can and will best consider.'

"Ah, my Lord, it is a double offence both to do ill and to colour it too;

but with men that have wit it cannot be accepted so. Wherefore, good my

Lord, use no more that way with me, for there is no man living that more

hateth it. These things having been thus committed, either I must have

reserved them in pectore, whereby more displeasure might happen to

breed, or else thus soundly and plainly to declare them to you, because I

do think that cum amico et familiari sincere semper est agendum, and

especially the master to his best beloved servant and friend, for in so

doing the one shall be more circumspect in his doing, the other shall

declare and show the lothness that is in him to have any occasion to be

displeased with him.

"And as touching the redress of Religion [convent discipline], if it be

observed and continued, undoubtedly it is a gracious act. Notwithstanding,

if all reports be true, ab imbecillis imbecilla expectantur. How be it,

Mr. Bell hath informed me that the Prioress's age, personage and manner,

prae se fert gravitatem. I pray God it be so indeed, seeing she is

preferred to that room. I understand furthermore, which is greatly to my

comfort, that you have ordered yourself to Godward as religiously and

virtuously as any Prelate or father of Christ's Church can do, where in

so doing and persevering there can be nothing more acceptable to God, more

honour to yourself, nor more desired of your friends, among the which I

reckon myself not the least....

"I pray you, my Lord, think it not that it is upon any displeasure that I

write this unto you. For surely it is for my discharge before God, being

in the room that I am in, and secondly for the great zeal I bear unto you,

not undeserved in your behalf. Wherefore I pray you take it so; and I

assure you, your fault acknowledged, there shall remain in me no spark of

displeasure, trusting hereafter you shall recompense that with a thing

much more acceptable to me. And thus fare you well; advertising you that,

thanked be God, I and all my folk be, and have been since we came to

Ampthill, which was on Saturday last, July 11, in marvellous good health

and clearness of air.

"Written with the hand of him that is, and shall be your loving Sovereign

Lord and friend,--HENRY R."

Campeggio meanwhile was loitering on his way as he had been directed,

pretending illness, pretending difficulties of the road. In sending him at

all the Pope had broken his promise to Charles. He engaged, however, that

no sentence should be given which had not been submitted first to

Charles's approval. The Emperor, anxious to avoid a complete rupture with

England, let the Legate go forward, but he directed Mendoza to inform

Wolsey that he must defend his aunt's honour; her cause was his and he

would hold it as such. Wolsey, though afraid of the consequence of

opposing the divorce to himself and the Church, yet at heart had ceased

to desire it. Mendoza reported that English opinion was still

unfavourable, and that he did not believe that the commission would have

any result. The Pope would interpose delays. Wolsey would allow and

recognise them. Both Legates would agree privately to keep the matter in

suspense. The English Cardinal appeared to be against the Queen, but every

one knew that secretly he was now on her side. Catherine only was

seriously frightened. She had doubtless been informed of the secret

decretal by which the Pope appeared to have prejudged her cause. She

supposed that the Pope meant it, and did not understand how lightly such

engagements sate upon him. The same Clement, when Benvenuto Cellini

reproached him for breaking his word, replied, smiling, that the Pope had

power to bind and to loose. Catherine came before long to know him better

and to understand the bearings of this singular privilege; but as yet she

thought that words meant what they seemed to say. When she heard that

Campeggio was actually coming, she wrote passionately to the Emperor,

flinging herself upon him for protection. Charles calmed her alarm. She

was not, he said, to be condemned without a hearing. The Pope had assured

him that the Legates should determine nothing to her detriment. The case

should be decided at Rome, as she had desired. Campeggio's orders were to

advise that it should be dropped. Apart from his present infatuation, the

King was a good Christian and would act as one. If he persisted, she might

rely on the Pope's protection. She must consent to nothing which would

imply the dissolution of her marriage. If the worst came, the King would

be made conscious of his duties.

In the middle of October the Legate arrived. He had been ill in earnest

from gout and was still suffering. He had to rest two days in Calais

before he could face the Channel. The passage was wild. A deputation of

Peers and Bishops waited to receive him at Dover. Respectful

demonstrations had been prepared at the towns through which he was to

pass, and a state ceremonial was to accompany his entrance into London.

But he was, or pretended to be, too sick to allow himself to be seen. He

was eight days on the road from the coast, and on reaching his destination

he was carried privately in a state barge to the house provided for his

residence. Wolsey called the next morning. The King was absent, but

returned two days later to the Bridewell palace. There Campeggio waited on

him, accompanied by Wolsey. The weather continued to frown. "I wish,"

wrote Gerardo Molza to the Marchioness of Mantua, "that you could have

seen the two Cardinals abreast, one on his mule, the other carried in his

chair, the rain falling fast so that we were all drenched." The King,

simple man, believed that the documents which he held secured him. The

Pope in sending the Legate had acted in the teeth of the Emperor's

prohibition, and no one guessed how the affair had been soothed down. The

farce was well played, and the language used was what Henry expected.

Messer Floriano, one of Campeggio's suit, made a grand oration, setting

out the storming of Rome, the perils of the Church, and the misery of

Italy, with moving eloquence. The crowd was so dense in the hall of

audience that some of the Italians lost their shoes, and had to step back

barefoot to their lodgings through the wet streets.

The Legate was exhausted by the exertion, but he was not allowed to rest,

and the serious part of the business began at once behind the scenes. He

had hoped, as the Emperor said, that the case might be dropped. He found

Henry immoveable. "An angel from heaven," he wrote on the 17th of

October, "would not be able to persuade the King that his marriage was

not invalid. The matter had come to such a pass that it could no longer be

borne with. The Cardinal of York and the whole kingdom insisted that the

question must be settled in some way." One road out of the difficulty

alone presented itself. The Emperor had insisted that the marriage should

not be dissolved by Catherine's consent, objecting reasonably that a

judgment invalidating it would shake other royal marriages besides hers.

But no such judgment would be necessary if Catherine could be induced to

enter "lax religion," to take vows of chastity which, at her age and under

her conditions of health, would be a mere form. The Pope could then allow

Henry to take another wife without offence to any one. The legitimacy of

the Princess would not be touched, and the King undertook that the

succession should be settled upon her if he had no male heir. The Queen in

consenting would lose nothing, for the King had for two years lived apart

from her, and would never return to cohabitation. The Emperor would be

delivered from an obligation infinitely inconvenient to him, and his own

honour and the honour of Spain would be equally untouched.

These arguments were laid before the Queen by both the Legates, and urged

with all their eloquence. In the interests of the realm, in the interests

of Europe, in the interests of the Church, in her own and her daughter's

interest as well, it would have been wiser if she had complied. Perhaps

she would have complied had the King's plea been confined, as at first, to

the political exigencies of the succession. But the open and premature

choice of the lady who was to take her place was an indignity not to be

borne. She had the pride of her race. Her obstinacy was a match for her

husband's. She was shaken for a moment by the impassioned entreaties of

Campeggio, and she did not at once absolutely refuse. The Legate postponed

the opening of his court. He referred to Rome for further instructions,

complaining of the responsibility which was thrown upon him. Being on the

spot he was able to measure the danger of disappointing the King after the

secret commission, the secret decretal, and the Pope's private letter

telling Henry that he was right. Campeggio wrote to Salviati, after his

first interview with Catherine, that he did not yet despair. Something

might be done if the Emperor would advise her to comply. He asked Fisher

to help him, and Fisher seemed not wholly unwilling; but, after a few

days' reflection, Catherine told him that before she would consent she

would be torn limb from limb; she would have an authoritative sentence

from the Pope, and would accept nothing else; nothing should make her

alter her opinion, and if after death she could return to life, she would

die over again rather than change it.

Wolsey was in equal anxiety. He had set the stone rolling, but he could

not stop it. If Clement failed the King now, after all that he had

promised, he might not only bring ruin on Wolsey himself, but might bring

on the overthrow of the temporal power of the Church of England. Catherine

was personally popular; but in the middle classes of the laity, among the

peers and gentlemen of England, the exactions of the Church courts, the

Pope's agents and collectors, the despotic tyranny of the Bishops, had

created a resentment the extent of which none knew better than he. The

entire gigantic system of clerical dominion, of which Wolsey was himself

the pillar and representative, was tottering to its fall. If the King was

driven to bay, the favour of a good-natured people for a suffering woman

would be a poor shelter either for the Church or for him. Campeggio turned

to Wolsey for advice on Catherine's final refusal. The Pope, he said, had

hoped that Wolsey would advise the King to yield. Wolsey had advised. He

told Cavendish that he had gone on his knees to the King, but he could

only say to Campeggio that "the King--fortified and justified by reasons,

writings, and counsels of many learned men who feared God--would never

yield." If he was to find that the Pope had been playing with him, and the

succession was to be left undetermined, "the Church would be ruined and

the realm would be in infinite peril."

How great, how real, was the dread of a disputed succession, appears from

an extraordinary expedient which had suggested itself to Campeggio

himself, and which he declares that some perplexed politicians had

seriously contemplated. "They have thought," he wrote on the 28th of

October, "of marrying the Princess Mary to the King's natural son [the

Duke of Richmond] if it could be done by dispensation from His Holiness."

The Legate said that at first he had himself thought of this as a means

of establishing the succession; but he did not believe it would satisfy

the King's desire. If anything could be more astonishing than a

proposal for the marriage of a brother and sister, it was the reception

which the suggestion met with at Rome. The Pope's secretary replied that

"with regard to the dispensation for marrying the son to the daughter of

the King, if on the succession being so established the King would abandon

the divorce, the Pope would be much more inclined to grant it."

Clement's estimate of the extent of the dispensing power was large. But

the situation was desperate. He had entangled himself in the meshes. He

had promised what he had no intention of performing. He was finding that

he had been trifling with a lion, and that the lion was beginning to rouse

himself. Again and again Wolsey urged the dangers upon him. He wrote on

the 1st of November to Casalis that "the King's honour was touched, having

been so great a benefactor to the Holy See. The Pope would alienate all

faith and devotion to the Apostolic See. The sparks of opposition which

had been extinguished with such care and vigilance would blaze out to the

utmost anger of all, both in England and elsewhere." Clement and his

Cardinals heard, but imperfectly believed. "He tells us," wrote Sanga,

"that if the divorce is not granted the authority of the Apostolic See in

England will be annihilated; he is eager to save it because his own

greatness is bound up with ours." The Curia was incredulous, and thought

that Wolsey was only alarmed for himself. Wolsey, however, was right.

Although opinions might have varied on the merits of the King's request,

people were beginning to ask what value as a supreme judge a pope could

have, who could not decide on a point of canon law.

The excitement was growing. Certain knowledge of what was going on was

confined to the few who had access to the secret correspondence, and they

knew only what was meant for their own eyes. All parties, English and

Imperial alike, distrusted the Pope. He had impartially lied to both, and

could be depended on by neither, except so far as they could influence his

fears. Catherine was still the favourite with the London citizens. She had

been seen accidentally in a gallery of the Palace, and had been

enthusiastically cheered. The King found it necessary to explain himself.

On the 8th of November he summoned the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, the Privy

Council, and a body of Peers, and laid the situation before them from his

own point of view. He spoke of his long friendship with the Emperor, and

of his hope that it would not be broken, and again of his alliance with

France, and of his desire to be at peace with all the world. "He had

wished," he said, "to attach France more closely to him by marrying his

daughter to a French prince, and the French Ambassador, in considering the

proposal, had raised the question of her legitimacy. His own mind had long

misgiven him on the lawfulness of his marriage. M. de Tarbes' words had

added to his uneasiness. The succession to the crown was uncertain; he had

consulted his bishops and lawyers, and they had assured him that he had

been living in mortal sin.... He meant only to do what was right, and he

warned his subjects to be careful of forming hasty judgments on their

Prince's actions."

Apart from the present question the King was extremely popular, and

reports arriving from Spain touched the national pride. There was a talk

of calling Parliament. Mendoza and Catherine again urged Charles to speak

plainly. The Pope must inhibit Parliament from interfering. The Nuncio in

London would present the order, and Parliament, they thought, would

submit. They were mistaking the national temper. Mendoza's letters had

persuaded the Spanish Council that the whole of England was in opposition

to the King. The Spanish Chancellor had said publicly that if the cause

was proceeded with there would be war, and "the King would be dethroned by

his own subjects." The words were reported to Wolsey, and were confirmed

by an English agent, Sylvester Darius, who had been sent to Valladolid on

business connected with the truce. Darius had spoken to the Chancellor

on the probability of England taking active part with France. "Why do you

talk of the King of England?" the Chancellor had answered; "if we wished,

we could expel him from his kingdom in three months. What force had the

King? his own subjects would expel him. He knew how matters were." It

was one thing for a free people to hold independent opinions on the

arrangements of their own royal family. It was another to be threatened

with civil war at the instigation of a foreign sovereign. Wolsey quoted

the dangerous language at a public meeting in London; and a voice

answered, "The Emperor has lost the hearts of a hundred thousand

Englishmen." A fresh firebrand was thrown into the flames immediately

after. The national pride was touched on a side where it was already

sensitive from interest. There were 15,000 Flemish artisans in London.

English workmen had been jealous of their skill, and had long looked

askance at them. The cry rose that they had an army of traitors in their

midst who must be instantly expelled. The Flemings' houses were searched

for arms, and watched by a guard, and the working city population,

traders, shopkeepers, mechanics, apprentices, came over to the King's

side, and remained there.

Meantime the cause itself hung fire. A new feature had been introduced to

enable Campeggio to decline to proceed and the Pope to withdraw decently

from his promises. The original Bull of Pope Julius permitting the

marriage had been found to contain irregularities of form which were

supposed fatal to it. The validity of the objection was not denied, but

was met by the production of a brief alleged to have been found in Spain,

and bearing the same date with the Bull, which exactly met that objection.

No trace of such a brief could be found in the Vatican Register. It had

informalities of its own, and its genuineness was justly suspected, but it

answered the purpose of a new circumstance. A copy only was sent to

England, which was shown by Catherine in triumph to Henry, but the

original was detained. It would be sent to Rome, but not to London;

without it Campeggio could pretend inability to move, and meanwhile he

could refuse to proceed on his commission. Subterfuges which answer for

the moment revenge themselves in the end. Having been once raised, it was

absolutely necessary that a question immediately affecting the succession

should be settled in some way, and many of the peers who had been

hitherto cool began to back the King's demands. An address was drawn up,

having among others the Duke of Norfolk's signature, telling the Pope that

the divorce must be conceded, and complaints were sent through Casalis

against Campeggio's dilatoriness. The King, he was to say, would not

submit to be deluded.

Casalis delivered his message, and describes the effect which it produced.

"The Pope," he wrote, "very angry, laid his hand on my arm and forbade me

to proceed, saying there was but too good ground for complaint, and he was

deluded by his own councillors. He had granted the decretal only to be

shown to the King, and then burnt. Wolsey now wished to divulge it. He saw

what would follow, and would gladly recall what had been done, even with

the loss of one of his fingers."

Casalis replied that Wolsey wished only to show it to a few persons whose

secrecy might be depended on. Was it not demanded for that purpose? Why

had the Pope changed his mind? The Pope, only the more excited, said he

saw the Bull would be the ruin of him, and he would make no more

concessions. Casalis prayed him to consider. Waving his arms violently,

Clement said, "I do consider. I consider the ruin which is hanging over

me. I repent what I have done. If heresies arise, is it my fault? I will

not violate my conscience. Let them, if they like, send the Legate back,

because he will not proceed. They can do as they please, provided they do

not make me responsible."

Did the Pope mean, then, Casalis asked, that the commission should not

proceed? The Pope could not say as much as that; he had told Campeggio, he

said, to dissuade the King and persuade the Queen. "What harm could there

be," Casalis inquired, "in showing the decretal, under oath, to a few of

the Privy Council?"

The Pope said the decretal ought to have been burnt, and refused to

discuss the matter further.