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ing him some treacherous friends, and buying of those scoun-
drels the secrets they disclosed or invented. Some arrests and
executions took place in consequence. In the end, the king,
on a promise of not taking his life, obtained possession of the
person of Edmund de la Pole, and shut him up in the tower.

This was his last enemy. If he had lived much longer he
would have made many more among the people^ by the grind-
ing exaction to which he constantly exposed them, and by the
tyrannical acts of his two prime favorites in all money-raising
matters, Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson. But Death —
the enemy who is not to be bought off or deceived, and on
whom no money and no treachery has any effect — presented
himself at this juncture, and ended the king's reign. He died
of the gout, on the 2 2d of April, 1509, and in the fifty-third
year of his age, after reigning twenty-four years. He was
buried in the beautiful chapel of Westminster Abbey, which he
had himself founded, and which still bears his name.

It was in this reign that the great Christopher Columbus,
on behalf of Spain discovered what was then called the New
World. Great wonder, interest and hope of wealth being
awakened in England thereby, the king and the merchants of
London and Bristol fitted out an English expedition for further
discoveries in the New World, and intrusted it to Sebastian
Cabot of Bristol, the son of a Venetian pilot there. He was
very successful in his voyage, and gained high reputation, both
for himself and England.



england under henry the eighth, called bluff king
hal, and burly king harry.

Part the First.

We now come to King Henry the Eighth, whom it has been
too much the fashion to call " Bluff King Hal " and " Burly
King Harry," and other fine names ; but whom I shall take
the liberty to call plainly one of the most detestable villains
that ever drew breath. You will be able to judge, long be-
fore we come to the end of his life, whether he deserves the

He was just eighteen years of age when he came to the
throne. People said he was handsome then ; but I don't be-
lieve it. He was a big, burly, noisy, small-eyed, large-faced,
double-chinned, swinish-looking fellow, in later life (as we know
from the likenesses of him, painted by the famous Hans Hol-
bein), and it is not easy to believe that so bad a character can
ever have been veiled under a prepossessing appearance.

He was anxious to make himself popular ; and the people,
who had long disliked the late king, were very willing to be-
lieve that he deserved to be so. He was extremely fond o£
show and display, and so were they. Therefore there was
great rejoicing when he married the Princess Catherine, and
when they were both crowned. And the king fought at tour-
naments, and always came off victorious, — for the courtiers took
care of that ; and there was a general outcry that he was a
wonderful man. Empson, Dudley, and their supporters were
accused of a variety of crimes they had never committed, in-
stead of the offences of which they really had been guilty ; and
they were pilloried, and set upon horses with their faces to the
tails, and knocked about and beheaded, to the satisfaction of
the people, and the enrichment of the king.

The pope, so indefatigable in getting the world into trouble,
had mixed himself up in a war on the continent of Europe, oc-
casioned by the reigning princes of little quarrelling states in
Italy having at various times married into other royal families,
and so led to their claiming a share in those petty govern-
ments. The king, who discovered that he was very fond of the



pope, sent a herald to the King of France to say, that he must
not make war upon that holy personage, because he was the
father of all Christians. As the French king did not mind this
relationship in the least, and also refused to admit a claim
King Henry made to certain lands in France, war was declared
between the two countries. Not to perplex this story with an
account of the tricks and designs of all the sovereigns who
were engaged in it, it is enough to say that England made a
blundering alliance with Spain, and got stupidly taken in by
that country, which made its own terms with France when it
it could, and left England in the lurch. Sir Edward Howard,
a bold admiral, son of the Earl of Surrey, distinguished himself
by his bravery against the French in this business; but unfor-
tunately he was more brave than wise, for, skimming into the
French harbor of Brest with only a few row-boats, he attempted
(in revenge for the defeat and death of Sir Thomas Knyvett,
another bold English admiral) to take some strong French
ships, well defended with batteries of cannon. The upshot was,
that he was left on board of one of them (in consequence of its
shooting away from his own boat), with not more than about a
dozen men, and was thrown into the sea and drowned, — though
not until he had taken from his breast his gold chain and gold
whistle, which were the signs of his office, and had cast them
into the sea to prevent their being made a boast of by the en-
emy. After this defeat, — which was a great one, for Sir Ed-
ward Howard was a man of valor and fame, the king took it
into his head to invade France in person ; first executing that
dangerous Earl of Suffolk, whom his father had left in the
Tower, and appointing Queen Catherine to the charge of his
kingdom in his absence. He sailed to Calais, where he was
joined by Maximilian, Emperor of Germany, who pretended to
be his soldier, and who took pay in his service, — with a good
deal of nonsense of that sort, flattering enough to the vanity of
a vain blusterer. The king might be successful enough in
sham fights ; but his idea of real battles chiefly consisted in
pitching silken tents of bright colors, that were ignominiously
blown down by the wind, and in making a vast display of gaudy
flags and golden curtains. Fortune, however, favored him bet-
ter than he deserved; for after much waste of time in tent-
pitching, flag-flying, gold-curtaining, and other such masquer-
ading, he gave the French battle at a place called Guinegate ;
where they took such an unaccountable panic, and fled with
such swiftness, that it was ever afterwards called by the Eng-
lish the Battle of Spurs. Instead of following up his advan-



tage, the k?ng, finding that he had had enough of real fighting;
came home again.

The Scottish king, though nearly related to Henry by mar-
riage, had taken part against him in this war. The Earl of
Surrey, as the English general, advanced to meet him when he
came out of his own dominions, and crossed the river Tweed.
The two armies came up with one another when the Scottish
king had also crossed the river Till, and was encamped upon
the last of the Cheviot Hills, called the Hill of Flodden.
Along the plain below it, the English, when the hour of battle
came, advanced. The Scottish army, which had been drawn
up in five great bodies, then came steadily down in perfect
silence. So they, in their turn, advanced to meet the English
army, which came on in one long line ; and they attacked it
with a body of spearmen, under Lord Home. At first they
had the best of it ; but the English recovered themselves so
bravely, and fought with such valor, that, when the Scottish
king had almost made his way up to the royal standard, he was
slain, and the whole Scottish power routed. Ten thousand
Scottish men lay dead that day on Flodden Field ; and among
them numbers of the nobility and gentry. For a long time af-
terwards, the Scottish peasantry used to believe that their king
had not been really killed in this battle, because no English-
man had found an iron belt he wore about his body as a pen-
ance for having been an unnatural and undutiful son. But
whatever became of his belt, the English had his sword and
dagger, and the ring from his finger, and his body too, cov-
ered with wounds. There is no doubt of it ; for it was seen
and recognized by English gentlemen who had known the
Scottish king well.

When King Henry was making ready to renew the war in
France, the French king was contemplating peace. His queen
dying at this time, he proposed, though he was upwards of fifty
years old, to marry King Henry's sister, the Princess Mary,
who, besides being only sixteen, was betrothed to the Duke of
Suffolk. As the inclinations of young princesses were not
much considered in such matters, the marriage was concluded,
and the poor girl was escorted to France, where she was imme-
diately left as the French king's bride, with only one of all her
English attendants. That one was a pretty young girl named
Anne Boleyn, niece of the Earl of Surrey, who had been made
Duke of Norfolk, after the victory of Flodden Field. Anne
Boleyn's is a name to be remembered, as you will presently


And now the French king, who was very proud of his young
wife, was preparing for many years of happiness, and she was
looking forward, I daresay, to many years of misery, when he
died within three months, and left her a young widow. The
new French monarch, Francis the First, seeing how important
it was to his interests that she should take for her second hus-
band no one but an Englishman, advised her first lover, the
Duke of Suffolk, when King Henry sent him over to France to
fetch her home to marry her. The princess being herself so
fond of that duke as to tell him that he must either do so then,
or forever lose her, they were wedded ; and Henry afterwards
forgave them. In making interest with the king, the Duke of
Suffolk had addressed his most powerful favorite and adviser,
Thomas Wolsey, — a name very famous in history for its rise
and downfall.

Wolsey was the son of a respectable butcher at Ipswich, in
Suffolk, and received so excellent an education that he became
a tutor to the family of the Marquis of Dorset, who afterwards
got him appointed one of the late king's chaplains. On the
accession of Henry the Eighth, be was promoted, and taken
into great favor. He was now Archbishop of York ; the pope
had made him a cardinal besides ; and whoever wanted influ-
ence in England, or favor with the king,— whether he were a
foreign monarch or an English nobleman, — was obliged to make
a friend of the great Cardinal Wolsey.

He was a gay man, who could dance and jest and sing and
drink ; and those were the roads to see much, or rather so little,
of a heart as King Henry had. He was wonderfully fond of
pomp and glitter ; and so was the king. He knew a good deal
of the church learning of that time ; much of which consisted in
finding artful excuses and pretences for almost any wrong thing,
and in arguing that black was white, or any other color. This
kind of learning pleased the king too. For many such reasons,
the cardinal was high in estimation with the king , and, being
a man of far greater ability, knew as well how to manage him,
as a clever keeper may know to manage a wolf or a tiger, or
any other cruel and uncertain beast, that may turn upon him and
tear him any day. Never had there been in England such
state as my lord cardinal kept. His wealth was enormous j
equal, it was reckoned, to the riches of the crown. His palaces
were as splendid as the king's, and his retinue was eight hun-
dred strong. He held his court, dreesed out from top to toe in
flaming scarlet ; and his very shoes were golden, set with
precious stones. His followers rode on blood horses ; while he,


with a wonderful affection of humility in the midst of his great
splendor, ambled on a mule with a red velvet saddle and bridle
and golden stirrups.

Through the influence of this stately priest, a grand meeting
was arranged to take place between the French and English
kings in France, but on ground belonging to England. A pro-
digious sliow of friendship and rejoicing was to be made on the
occasion ; and heralds were sent to proclaim with brazen trum-
pets through all the principal cities of Europe, that, on a certain
day, the kings of France and England, as companions and
brothers in arms, each attended by eighteen followers, would
hold a tournament against all knights who might choose to come.

Charles, the new Emperor of Germany (the old one being
dead), wanted to prevent too cordial an alliance betweefi these
sovereigns, and came over to England before the king could
repair to the place of meeting ; and, besides making an agree-
able impression upon him, secured Wolsey's interest by promis-
ing that his influence should make him pope, when the nex(
vacancy occurred. On the day when the emperor left England,
the king and all the court went over to Calais, and thence to the
place of meeting, between Ardres and Guisnes, commonly called
the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Here all manner of expense
and prodigality was lavished on the decorations of the show ;
many of the knights and gentlemen being so superbly dressed
that it was said they carried their whole estates upon their

There were sham castles, temporary chapels, fountains run-
ning wine, great cellars full of wine free as water to all comers,
silk tents, gold lace and foil, gilt lions, and such things without
end ; and, in the midst of all, the rich cardinal out-shone and
out-glittered all the noblemen and gentlemen assembled. After
a treaty made between the two kings, with as much solemnity as
if they had intended to keep it, the lists, nine hundred feet long
and three hundred and twenty broad, were opened for the
tournament ; the Queens of France and England looking on
with great array of lords and ladies. Then for ten days the two
sovereigns fought five combats every day, and always beat their
polite adversaries ; though they do write that the King of Eng-
land, being thrown in a wrestle one day by the King of France,
lost his kingly temper with his brother in arms, and wanted to
make a quarrel of it. Then there is a great story belonging to
this PMeld of the Cloth of Gold, showing how the English were
distrustful of the French, and the French of the English, until
Francis rode alone one morning to Henry's tent, and, going in



before he was out of bed, told him in joke that he was his pris-
oner ; and how Henry jumped out of bed and embraced Francis,
and how Francis helped Henry to dress and warmed his linen
for him ; and how Henry gave Francis a splendid jewelled col-
lar, and how Francis gave Henry, in return, a costly bracelet.
All this and a great deal more was so written about, and sung
about, and talked about at that time (and, indeed, since that
time too), that the world has had good cause lo be sick of it

Of course, nothing came of all these fine doings but a speedy
renewal of t-lie war between England and France, in which the
two royal companions and brothers in arms longed very earnestly
to damage one another. But, before it broke out again, the
Duke of Buckingham was shamefully executed on Tower Hill,
on the evidence of a discharged servant, — really for nothing,
except the folly of having believed in a friar of the name of
Hopkins, who had pretended to be a prophet, and who had
mumbled and jumbled out some nonsense about the duke's son
being destined to be very great in the land. It was believed
that the unfortunate duke had given offence to the great car-
dinal by expressing his mind freely about the expense and
absurdity of ^the whole business of the Field of the Cloth of
Gold. At any rate, he was beheaded, as I have said, for noth-
ing. And the people who saw it done were very angry, and
cried out that it was the work of " the butcher's son ! "

The new war was a short one, though the Earl of Surrey in-
vaded France again, and did some injury to that country. It
ended in another treaty of peace between the two kingdoms,
and in the discovery that the Emperor of Germany was not such
a good friend to England in reality as he pretended to be.
Neither did he keep his promise to Wolsey to make him pope,
though the king urged him. Two popes died in pretty quick
succession ; but the foreign priests were too much for the car-
dinal, and kept him out of the post. So the cardinal and king
together found out that the Emperor of Germany was not a man
to keep faith with; broke off a projected marriage between the
king's daughter Mary, Princess of Wales, and that sovereign,
and began to consider whether it might not be well to marry
the young lady either to Francis himself, or to his eldest son.

There now arose at Wittemberg, in Germany, the great
leader of the mighty change in England which is called The
Reformation, and which set the people free from their slavery
to the priests. This was a learned doctor, named Martin
Luther, who knew all about them ; for he had been a priest, and



even a monk, himself. The preaching and writing of Wyckliffe
had set a number of men thinking on this subject; and Luther
finding one day, to his great surprise, that there really was a
book called the New Testament which the priests did not allow
to be read, and which contained truths that they suppressed,
began to be very vigorous against the whole body, from the
pope downward. It happened, while he was yet only beginning
his vast work of awakening the nation, that an impudent fellow
named Tetzel, a friar of very bad character, came into his neigh-
borhood selling what were called indulgences, by wholesale, to
raise money for beautifying the great Cathedral of St. Peter's at
Rome. Whoever bought an indulgence of the pope was sup-
posed to buy himself off from the punishment of Heaven for
his offences. Luther told the people that these indulgences
were worthless bits of paper before God, and that Tetzel and his
masters were a crew of impostors in selling them.

The king and the cardinal were mightily indignant at this
presumption ; and the king (with the help of Sir Thomas -More,
a wise man, whom he afterwards repaid by striking off his head)
even wrote a book about it, with which the pope was so well
pleased, that he gave the king the title of Defender of the Faith.
The king and the cardinal also issued flaming warnings to the
people not to read Luther's books, on pain of excommunication.
But they did read them for ail that ; and the rumor of what was
in them spread far and wide.

When this great change was thus going on, the king began
to show himself in his truest and w^orst colors. Anne Boleyn,
the pretty little girl who had gone abroad to France with his
sister, was by this time grown up to be very beautiful, and was
one of the ladies in attendance on Queen Catherine. Now
Queen Catherine was no longer young or handsome, and it is
likely that she was not particularly good tempered ; havi.ig been
always rather melancholy, and having been made more so by
the deaths of four of her children, when they were very young.
So the king fell in love with the fair Anne Boleyn, and said to
himself, " How can I be best rid of my own troublesome wife,
whom I am tired of, and marry Anne ? "

You recollect that Queen Catherine had been the wife of
Henr)^'s brother. What does the king do, after thinking it over,
but calls his favorite priests about him, and says, O, his mind
is in such a dreadful state, and he is so frightfully uneasy, be-
cause he is afraid it was not lawful for him to marry the queen !
Not one of those priests had the courage to hint that it was
rather curious he had never thought of that before, and that his


mind seemed to have been in a tolerable jolly condition during
a great many years, in which he certainly had not fretted him-
self thin ; but they all said, Ah ! that was very true, and it was
a s rious business ; and perhaps the best way to make it right,
would be for his majesty to be divorced ! The king replied,
Yes ; he thought that would be the best way certainly ; so they
all went to work.

If I were to relate to you the intrigues and plots that took
place in the endeavor to get this divorce, you would think the
History of England the most tiresome book in the world. So
[ shall say no more than, that, after a vast deal of negotiation
and evasion, the pope issued a commission to Cardinal Wolsey
and Cardinal Campeggio (whom he sent over from Italy for the
purpose) to try the whole case in England. It is supposed — and
I think with reason — that Wolsey was the queen's enemy, be-
cause she had reproved him for his proud and gorgeous manner
of life. But he did not at first know that the king wanted to
marry Anne Boleyn ; and, when he did know it, he even went
down on his knees, in the endeavor to dissuade him.

The cardinals opened their court in the Convent of the
Black Friars, near to where the bridge of that name in London
now stands ; and the king and queen, that they might be near it
took up their lodgings at the adjoining Palace of Bridewell r '
which nothing now remains but a bad prison. On the opti.ii ;;
of the court, when the king and queen were called on to appear,
that poor ill-used lady with a dignity and firmness, and yet with
a womanly affection worthy to be always admired, went and
kneeled at the king's feet, and said that she had come a stran-
ger to his dominions ; that she had been a good and true wife
to him for twenty years ; and that she could acknowledge no
power in those cardinals to try whether she should be consid-
ered his wife after all that time, or should be put away. With
that she got up and left the court, and would never afterwards
come back to it.

The king pretended to be very much overcome, and said, O
my lords and gentlemen, what a good woman she was to be sure,
and how delighted he would be to live with her unto death, but
for that terrible uneasiness in his mind which was quite wearing
him away ! So the case went on, and there was nothing but
talk for two months. Then Cardinal Campeggio, who, on be-
half of the pope, wanted nothing so much as delay, adjourned
it for two more months ; and, before that time was elapsed, the
pope himself adjourned it indefinitely, by requirip«*^-)e king and
quLien to come to Rome and have it tried there. \ by good


luck for the king, word was brought to him by some of his
people, that they had happened to meet at supper Thomas
Cranmer, a learned doctor of Cambridge, who had proposed to
urge the pope on, by referring the case to all the learned doc-
tors and bishojDs, here and there and everywhere, and getting
their opinions that the king's marriage was unlawful. The
king, who was now in a hurry to marry Anne Boleyn, thought
that such a good idea, that he sent for Cranmer, post-haste, and
said to Lord Rochfort, Anne Boleyn's father, " Take this learned
doctor down to your country-house, and there let him have a
good room for a study, and no end of books out of which to
prove that t may marry your daughter." Lord Rochfort, not
at all reluctant, made the learned doctor as comfortable as he
could ; and the learned doctor went to work to prove his case.
All this time, the king and Anne Boleyn were writing letters to
one another almost daily, full of impatience to have the case
settled ; and Anne Boleyn was showing herself (as I think) very
worthy of the fate which afterwards befell her.

It was bad for Cardinal Wolsey that he had left Cranmer to
render this help. It was worse for him that he had tried to
dissuade the king from marrying Anne Boleyn. Such a servant
as he, to such a master as Henry, would probably have fallen
in any case ; but between the hatred of the party of the queen
that was, and the hatred of the party of the queen that was to
be, he fell suddenly and heavily. Going down one day to the
court of chancery, where he now presided, he was waited upon
by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, who told him that they
brought an order to him to resign that office, and to withdraw
quietly to a house he had at Esher, in Surrey. The cardinal
refusing, they rode off to the king ; and next day came back
with a letter from him on reading which the cardinal submitted.
An inventory was made out of all the riches in his palace at
York Place (now Whitehall), and he went sorrowfully up the
river in his barge to Putney. An abject man he was, in spite
of his pride; for being overtaken, riding out of that place to-
wards Esher, by one of the king's chamberlains who brought

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 23 of 38)