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not worth its cost; but as the money was not paid punctually, the remark might have been fairly made. A league * had been made a few years before between Henry, Charles, and Francis, which was certainly “ flaw'd” by a declaration of war between the two latter; and, in 1523, the King of France sequestered English goods at Bourdeaux, and the French ambassador was consequently « commanded to keep his house.”+ This French aggression appears to have arisen immediately out of Henry's resenting the support given by France to the Duke of Albany in Scotland ; but Henry was, during the whole of this time, plotting against France. Of these plots Francis had probably sufficient information to account for, and perhaps to justify, his hostile measures.
Buckingham accuses the cardinal of being bribed by the emperor to break the peace between England and France. I find no autho- 1) rity for the accusation of Wolsey by the duke ; ||| but as the cardinal had received, at the hand of Charles, some valuable preferment in Spain, I and hoped for his interest towards attaining the papacy, it was not unnatural that he should be
* Oct. 1518; Lingard, 39; Rymer, xiii. 626. + Hol., 676; Hall, 633; Lingard, 60, 62. 1 Mackintosh's Life of Wolsey, i. 141.
suspected of a bias towards the Austrian interest...
Shakspeare follows his authority,* and the general belief, in ascribing to Wolsey the proceedings against Buckingham, who is now arrested for high treason ;t which event occurred / in April 1521,1 some time before the proceedings at Bourdeaux, which he mentions in the play. The duke being accused, was summoned from Gloucestershire to London, and there arrested and conveyed to the Tower, without previous intimation. Hall says, that he discovered, when at Windsor in his way up, that he was a prisoner; that he went in his barge to call upon Wolsey at York-house, but was told that the cardinal was sick ; that he nevertheless landed, and went to the cellar to drink, but was very ill received; and, when he had returned to his barge, was arrested and conveyed to the Tower; some of his followers had been previously apprehended.g
* Hol., 658; Hall; 622.
† Act i. Sc.3. He is styled Duke of Buckingham, and Earl of Hereford, Stafford, and Northampton. He was Earl of Stafford by paternal descent. He assumed Hereford, and perhaps Northampton, as representative of the Bohuns; from whom the present Viscount Hereford is descended. [ Lingard, 54.
§ In the play, the duke is arrested by Brandon. His name does not occur in the Chronicles. Sir Henry
But Shakspeare interrupts these proceedings to introduce Queen Catherine, who comes to represent to the king
“ the subjects' grief Comes through commissions, which compel from each The sixth part of his substance, to be levied Without delay."
She charges this exaction especially upon Wolsey,* who avers that what was done was the act of the privy council and judges. Henry disclaims all knowledge of the affair, and challenges his minister to produce a precedent, and directs the commission to be recalled, which order Wolsey thus cunningly executes : “Let there be letters writ to every shire Of the king's grace and pardon. The griev'd com
Hardly conceive of me; let it be nois'd
This commission to ascertain every man's property is from Holinshed :
“ Order was taken by the cardinal that the true
Marne, or Marney, captain of the king's guard, made the arrest.
* Mrs. Jameson says (p. 256) this is true to history. I know not where she found it.
value of all men's substance might be known, and he would have every man sworn to have uttered the true valuation of that they were worth, and required the tenth part thereof to be granted towards the king's charges, now in his wars, in like case as the spi. ritualty had granted a fourth part, and were content to live on the other three parts.*
This was in 1523. I rather think it was of a
ing what followed upon the rebellion in Suffolk,
“ The king then came to Westminster to the cardinal's palace, and assembled there a great council, in the which he openly protested that his mind was never to ask anything of his commons that might lead to the breach of his laws; wherefore he willed to know, by whose means the commissions were so strictly given forth to demand the sixth part of every man's goods. The cardinal excused himself and said, that when it was moved in council how to levy money to the king's use, the king's council, and namely the judges, said that he might lawfully demand any sum by commission, and that by consent of the whole council it was done ; and took God to witness that he never desired the hindrance of the commons, but, like a true counsellor, desired how to enrich the king. The king, indeed, was much offended that his commons were thus entreated, and thought it touched his honour
that his council should attempt such a doubtful matter in his name, and to be denied both of the spiritualty and temporality. Therefore he would no more of that trouble, but caused letters to be sent into all shires, that the matter should no further be talked of; and he pardoned all them that had denied the demand, openly or secretly. The cardinal, to deliver himself of the evil will of the commons, purchased by procuring and advancing of this demand, affirmed and caused it to be bruited abroad, that through his intercession the king had pardoned and released all things."*
Shakspeare is thus justified by his usual authority in this scene, as to the exactions from the people, and Wolsey's ministerial finesse ; but not so in the introduction of the queen. It is a gratuitous addition, which must have been made, not for political, but for dramatic reasons.
Though it is probable that the obnoxious commission was devised by Wolsey, it is not so that the king was ignorant of the proceeding. But if undue praise has been ascribed to Henry, Hall is to be blamed, not Shakspeare.
Our poet has put sentiments into Wolsey's mouth, which are generally just, though not applicable to the particular case.
* Hol., 710; Hall, 700; see Grove, iii. 235, 347; Hallam’s Const. Hist., i. 25, 32.