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The wonderful success that had attended Wolsey’s policy during his seven years’ tenure of power, and the influential position to which he had raised England in the councils of Christendom, might well have disturbed the mental balance of a more modest and diffident man than the Cardinal; and it is scarcely surprising that he fancied himself, and sought to become, arbiter of the destinies of Europe. The condition of continental politics made his ambition seem less than extravagant. Power was almost monopolised by two young princes whose rivalry was keen, whose resources were not altogether unevenly matched, and whose disputes were so many and serious that war could only be averted by a pacific determination on both sides which neither possessed. Francis had claims on Naples, and his dependant, D’Albret, on Navarre. Charles had suzerain rights over Milan and a title to Burgundy, of which his great-grandfather Charles the Bold had been despoiled by Louis XI. Yet the Emperor had not the slightest intention of compromising his possession of Naples or Navarre, and Francis was quite as resolute to surrender neither Burgundy nor Milan. They both became eager competitors for the friendship of England, which, if its resources were inadequate to support the position of arbiter, was at least a most useful makeweight. England’s choice of policy was, however, strictly limited. She could not make war upon Charles. It was not merely that Charles had a staunch ally in his aunt Catherine of Aragon, who is said to have “made such representations and shown such reasons against” the alliance with Francis “as one would not have supposed she would have dared to do, or even to imagine". It was not merely that in this matter Catherine was backed by the whole council except Wolsey, and by the real inclinations of the King. It was that the English people were firmly imperialist in sympathy. The reason was obvious. Charles controlled the wool-market of the Netherlands, and among English exports wool was all-important. War with Charles meant the ruin of England’s export trade, the starvation or impoverishment of thousands of Englishmen; and when war was declared against Charles eight years later, it more nearly cost Henry his throne than all the fulminations of the Pope or religious discontents, and after three months it was brought to a summary end. England remained at peace with Spain so long as Spain controlled its market for wool; when that market passed into the hands of the revolted Netherlands, the same motive dictated an alliance with the Dutch against Philip II. War with Charles in 1520 was out of the question; and for the next two years Wolsey and Henry were endeavouring to make Francis and the Emperor bid against each other, in order that England might obtain the maximum of concession from Charles when it should declare in his favour, as all along was intended.

By the Treaty of London Henry was bound to assist the aggrieved against the aggressor. But that treaty had been concluded between England and France in the first instance; Henry’s only daughter was betrothed to the Dauphin; and Francis was anxious to cement his alliance with Henry by a personal interview. It was Henry’s policy to play the friend for the time; and, as a proof of his desire for the meeting with Francis, he announced, in August, 1519, his resolve to wear his beard until the meeting took place. He reckoned without his wife. On 8th November Louise of Savoy, the queen-mother of France, taxed Boleyn, the English ambassador, with a report that Henry had put off his beard. “I said,” writes Boleyn, “that, as I suppose, it hath been by the Queen’s desire; for I told my lady that I have hereafore time known when the King’s grace hath worn long his beard, that the Queen hath daily made him great instance, and desired him to put it off for her sake." Henry’s inconstancy in the matter of his beard not only caused diplomatic inconvenience, but, it may be parenthetically remarked, adds to the difficulty of dating his portraits. Francis, however, considered the Queen’s interference a sufficient excuse, or was not inclined to stick at such trifles; and on 10th January, 1520, he nominated Wolsey his proctor to make arrangements for the interview. As Wolsey was also agent for Henry, the French King saw no further cause for delay.

The delay came from England; the meeting with Francis would be a one-sided pronouncement without some corresponding favour to Charles. Some time before Henry had sent Charles a pressing invitation to visit England on his way from Spain to Germany; and the Emperor, suspicious of the meeting between Henry and Francis, was only too anxious to come and forestall it. The experienced Margaret of Savoy admitted that Henry’s friendship was essential to Charles; but Spaniards were not to be hurried, and it would be May before the Emperor’s convoy was ready. So Henry endeavoured to postpone his engagement with Francis. The French King replied that by the end of May his Queen would be in the eighth month of her pregnancy, and that if the meeting were further prorogued she must perforce be absent. Henry was nothing if not gallant, at least on the surface. Francis’s argument clinched the matter. The interview, ungraced by the presence of France’s Queen, would, said Henry, be robbed of most of its charm; and he gave Charles to understand that, unless he reached England by the middle of May, his visit would have to be cancelled. This intimation produced an unwonted despatch in the Emperor’s movements; but fate was against him, and contrary winds rendered his arrival in time a matter of doubt till the last possible moment. Henry must cross to Calais on the 31st of May, whether Charles came or not; and it was the 26th before the Emperor’s ships appeared off the cliffs of Dover. Wolsey put out in a small boat to meet him, and conducted Charles to the castle where he lodged. During the night Henry arrived. Early next day, which was Whitsunday, the two sovereigns proceeded to Canterbury, where the Queen and Court had come on the way to France to spend their Pentecost. Five days the Emperor remained with his aunt, whom he now saw for the first time; but the days were devoted to business rather than to elaborate ceremonial and show, for which there had been little time to prepare.

On the last day of May Charles took ship at Sandwich for Flanders. Henry embarked at Dover for France. The painting at Hampton Court depicting the scene has, like almost every other picture of Henry’s reign, been ascribed to Holbein; but six years were to pass before the great artist visited England. The King himself is represented as being on board the four-masted Henry Grace a Dieu, commonly called the Great Harry, the finest ship afloat; though the vessel originally fitted out for his passage was the Katherine Pleasaunce. At eleven o’clock he landed at Calais. On Monday, the 4th of June, Henry and all his Court proceeded to Guisnes. There a temporary palace of art had been erected, the splendour of which is inadequately set forth in pages upon pages of contemporary descriptions. One Italian likened it to the palaces described in Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso; another declared that it could not have been better designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Everything was in harmony with this architectural pomp. Wolsey was accompanied, it was said in Paris, by two hundred gentlemen clad in crimson velvet, and had a body-guard of two hundred archers. He was himself clothed in crimson satin from head to foot, his mule was covered with crimson velvet, and her trappings were all of gold. Henry, “the most goodliest prince that ever reigned over the realm of England,” appeared even to Frenchmen as a very handsome prince, “honnête, hault et droit," in manner gentle and gracious, rather fat, and in spite of his Queen with a red beard, large enough and very becoming. Another eye-witness adds the curious remark that, while Francis was the taller of the two, Henry had the handsomer and more feminine face! On the 7th of June the two Kings started simultaneously from Guisnes and Ardres for their personal meeting in the valley mid-way between the two towns, already known as the Val Dore. The obscure but familiar phrase, Field of Cloth of Gold, is a mistranslation of the French Camp du Drap d’Or. As they came in sight a temporary suspicion of French designs seized the English, but it was overcome. Henry and Francis rode forward alone, embraced each other first on horseback and then again on foot, and made show of being the closest friends in Christendom. On Sunday the 10th Henry dined with the French Queen, and Francis with Catherine of Aragon. The following week was devoted to tourneys, which the two Kings opened by holding the field against all comers. The official accounts are naturally silent on the royal wrestling match, recorded in French memoirs and histories. On the 17th Francis, as a final effort to win Henry’s alliance, paid a surprise visit to him at breakfast with only four attendants. The jousts were concluded with a solemn mass said by Wolsey in a chapel built on the field. The Cardinal of Bourbon presented the Gospel to Francis to kiss; he refused, offering it to Henry who was too polite to accept the honour. The same respect for each other’s dignity was observed with the Pax, and the two Queens behaved with a similarly courteous punctilio. After a friendly dispute as to who should kiss the Pax first, they kissed each other instead. On the 24th Henry and Francis met to interchange gifts, to make their final professions of friendship, and to bid each other adieu. Francis set out for Abbeville, and Henry returned to Calais.

The Field of Cloth of Gold was the last and most gorgeous display of the departing spirit of chivalry; it was also perhaps the most portentous deception on record. “These sovereigns,” wrote a Venetian, “are not at peace. They adapt themselves to circumstances, but they hate each other very cordially." Beneath the profusion of friendly pretences lay rooted suspicions and even deliberate hostile intentions. Before Henry left England the rumour of ships fitting out in French ports had stopped preparations for the interview; and they were not resumed till a promise under the broad seal of France was given that no French ship should sail before Henry’s return. On the eve of the meeting Henry is said to have discovered that three or four thousand French troops were concealed in the neighbouring country; he insisted on their removal, and Francis’s unguarded visit to Henry was probably designed to disarm the English distrust. No sooner was Henry’s back turned than the French began the fortification of Ardres, while Henry on his part went to Calais to negotiate a less showy but genuine friendship with Charles. No such magnificence adorned their meeting as had been displayed at the Field of Cloth of Gold, but its solid results were far more lasting. On 10th July Henry rode to Gravelines where the Emperor was waiting. On the 11th they returned together to Calais, where during a three days’ visit the negotiations begun at Canterbury were completed. The ostensible purport of the treaty signed on the 14th was to bind Henry to proceed no further in the marriage between the Princess Mary and the Dauphin, and Charles no further in that between himself and Francis’s daughter, Charlotte. But more topics were discussed than appeared on the surface; and among them was a proposal to marry Mary to the Emperor himself. The design proves that Henry and Wolsey had already made up their minds to side with Charles, whenever his disputes with Francis should develop into open hostilities.

That consummation could not be far off. Charles had scarcely turned his back upon Spain when murmurs of disaffection were heard through the length and breadth of the land; and while he was discussing with Henry at Calais the prospects of a war with France, his commons in Spain broke out into open revolt. The rising had attained such dimensions by February, 1521, that Henry thought Charles was likely to lose his Spanish dominions. The temptation was too great for France to resist; and in the early spring of 1521 French forces overran Navarre, and restored to his kingdom the exile D’Albret. Francis had many plausible excuses, and sought to prove that he was not really the aggressor. There had been confused fighting between the imperialist Nassau and Francis’s allies, the Duke of Guelders and Robert de la Marck, which the imperialists may have begun. But Francis revealed his true motive, when he told Fitzwilliam that he had many grievances against Charles and could not afford to neglect this opportunity for taking his revenge.

War between Emperor and King soon spread from Navarre to the borders of Flanders and to the plains of Northern Italy. Both sovereigns claimed the assistance of England in virtue of the Treaty of London. But Henry would not be prepared for war till the following year at least; and he proposed that Wolsey should go to Calais to mediate between the two parties and decide which had been the aggressor. Charles, either because he was unprepared or was sure of Wolsey’s support, readily agreed; but Francis was more reluctant, and only the knowledge that, if he refused, Henry would at once side with Charles, induced him to consent to the conference. So on 2nd August, 1521, the Cardinal again crossed the Channel. His first interview was with the imperial envoys. They announced that Charles had given them no power to treat for a truce. Wolsey refused to proceed without this authority; and he obtained the consent of the French chancellor, Du Prat, to his proposal to visit the Emperor at Bruges, and secure the requisite powers. He was absent more than a fortnight, and not long after his return fell ill. This served to pass time in September, and the extravagant demands of both parties still further prolonged the proceedings. Wolsey was constrained to tell them the story of a courtier who asked his King for the grant of a forest; when his relatives denounced his presumption, he replied that he only wanted in reality eight or nine trees. The French and imperial chancellors not merely demanded their respective forests, but made the reduction of each single tree a matter of lengthy dispute; and as soon as a fresh success in the varying fortune of war was reported, they returned to their early pretensions. Wolsey was playing his game with consummate skill; delay was his only desire; his illness had been diplomatic; his objects were to postpone for a few months the breach and to secure the pensions from France due at the end of October.

The conference at Calais was in fact a monument of perfidy worthy of Ferdinand the Catholic. The plan was Wolsey’s, but Henry had expressed full approval. As early as July the King was full of his secret design for destroying the navy of France, though he did not propose to proceed with the enterprise till Wolsey had completed the arrangements with Charles. The subterfuge about Charles refusing his powers and the Cardinal’s journey to Bruges had been arranged between Henry, Wolsey and Charles before Wolsey left England. The object of that visit, so far from being to facilitate an agreement, was to conclude an offensive and defensive alliance against one of the two parties between whom Wolsey was pretending to mediate. “Henry agrees,” wrote Charles’s ambassador on 6th July, “with Wolsey’s plan that he should be sent to Calais under colour of hearing the grievances of both parties: and when he cannot arrange them, he should withdraw to the Emperor to treat of the matters aforesaid". The treaty was concluded at Bruges on 25th August before he returned to Calais; the Emperor promised Wolsey the Papacy; the details of a joint invasion were settled. Charles was to marry Mary; and the Pope was to dispense the two from the disability of their kinship, and from engagements with others which both had contracted. The Cardinal might be profuse in his protestations of friendship for France, of devotion to peace, and of his determination to do justice to the parties before him. But all his painted words could not long conceal the fact that behind the mask of the judge were hidden the features of a conspirator. It was an unpleasant time for Fitzwilliam, the English ambassador at the French Court. The King’s sister, Marguerite de Valois, taxed Fitzwilliam with Wolsey’s proceedings, hinting that deceit was being practised on Francis. The ambassador grew hot, vowed Henry was not a dissembler, and that he would prove it on any gentleman who dared to maintain that he was. But he knew nothing of Wolsey’s intrigues; nor was the Cardinal, to whom Fitzwilliam denounced the insinuation, likely to blush, though he knew that the charge was true.

Wolsey returned from Calais at the end of November, having failed to establish the truce to which the negotiations had latterly been in appearance directed. But the French half-yearly pensions were paid, and England had the winter in which to prepare for war. No attempt had been made to examine impartially the mutual charges of aggression urged by the litigants, though a determination of that point could alone justify England’s intervention. The dispute was complicated enough. If, as Charles contended, the Treaty of London guaranteed the status quo, Francis, by invading Navarre, was undoubtedly the offender. But the French King pleaded the Treaty of Noyon, by which Charles had bound himself to do justice to the exiled King of Navarre, to marry the French King’s daughter, and to pay tribute for Naples. That treaty was not abrogated by the one concluded in London, yet Charles had fulfilled none of his promises. Moreover, the Emperor himself had, long before the invasion of Navarre, been planning a war with France, and negotiating with Leo to expel the French from Milan, and to destroy the predominant French faction in Genoa. His ministers were making little secret of Charles’s warlike intentions, when the Spanish revolt placed irresistible temptation in Francis’s way, and provoked that attack on Navarre, which enabled Charles to plead, with some colour, that he was not the aggressor. This was the ground alleged by Henry for siding with Charles, but it was not his real reason for going to war. Nearly a year before Navarre was invaded, he had discussed the rupture of Mary’s engagement with the Dauphin and the transference of her hand to the Emperor.

The real motives of England’s policy do not appear on the surface. “The aim of the King of England,” said Clement VII. in 1524, “is as incomprehensible as the causes by which he is moved are futile. He may, perhaps, wish to revenge himself for the slights he has received from the King of France and from the Scots, or to punish the King of France for his disparaging language; or, seduced by the flattery of the Emperor, he may have nothing else in view than to help the Emperor; or he may, perhaps, really wish to preserve peace in Italy, and therefore declares himself an enemy of any one who disturbs it. It is even not impossible that the King of England expects to be rewarded by the Emperor after the victory, and hopes, perhaps, to get Normandy.” Clement three years before, when Cardinal de Medici, had admitted that he knew little of English politics; and his ignorance may explain his inability to give a more satisfactory reason for Henry’s conduct than these tentative and far-fetched suggestions. But after the publication of Henry’s State papers, it is not easy to arrive at any more definite conclusion. The only motive Wolsey alleges, besides the ex post facto excuses of Francis’s conduct, is the recovery of Henry’s rights to the crown of France; and if this were the real object, it reduces both King and Cardinal to the level of political charlatans. To conquer France was a madcap scheme, when Henry himself was admitting the impossibility of raising 30,000 foot or 10,000 horse, without hired contingents from Charles’s domains; when, according to Giustinian, it would have been hard to levy 100 men-at-arms or 1000 light cavalry in the whole island; when the only respectable military force was the archers, already an obsolete arm. Invading hosts could never be victualled for more than three months, or stand a winter campaign; English troops were ploughmen by profession and soldiers only by chance; Henry VII.’s treasure was exhausted, and efforts to raise money for fitful and futile inroads nearly produced a revolt. Henry VIII. himself was writing that to provide for these inroads would prevent him keeping an army in Ireland; and Wolsey was declaring that for the same reason English interests in Scotland must take care of themselves, that border warfare must be confined to the strictest defensive, and that a “cheap” deputy must be found for Ireland, who would rule it, like Kildare, without English aid. It is usual to lay the folly of the pretence to the crown of France at Henry’s door. But it is a curious fact that when Wolsey was gone, and Henry was his own prime minister, this spirited foreign policy took a very subordinate place, and Henry turned his attention to the cultivation of his own garden instead of seeking to annex his neighbour’s. It is possible that he was better employed in wasting his people’s blood and treasure in the futile devastation of France, than in placing his heel on the Church and sending Fisher and More to the scaffold; but his attempts to reduce Ireland to order, and to unite England and Scotland, violent though his methods may have been, were at least more sane than the quest for the crown of France, or even for the possession of Normandy.

Yet if these were not Wolsey’s aims, what were his motives? The essential thing for England was the maintenance of a fairly even balance between Francis and Charles; and if Wolsey thought that would best be secured by throwing the whole of England’s weight into the Emperor’s scale, he must have strangely misread the political situation. He could not foresee, it may be said, the French debacle. If so, it was from no lack of omens. Even supposing he was ignorant, or unable to estimate the effects, of the moral corruption of Francis, the peculations of his mother Louise of Savoy, the hatred of the war, universal among the French lower classes, there were definite warnings from more careful observers. As early as 1517 there were bitter complaints in France of the gabelle and other taxes, and a Cordelier denounced the French King as worse than Nero. In 1519 an anonymous Frenchman wrote that Francis had destroyed his own people, emptied his kingdom of money, and that the Emperor or some other would soon have a cheap bargain of the kingdom, for he was more unsteady on his throne than people thought. Even the treason of Bourbon, which contributed so much to the French King’s fall, was rumoured three years before it occurred, and in 1520 he was known to be “playing the malcontent". At the Field of Cloth of Gold Henry is said to have told Francis that, had he a subject like Bourbon, he would not long leave his head on his shoulders. All these details were reported to the English Government and placed among English archives; and, indeed, at the English Court the general anticipation, justified by the event, was that Charles would carry the day.

No possible advantage could accrue to England from such a destruction of the balance of power; her position as mediator was only tenable so long as neither Francis nor Charles had the complete mastery. War on the Emperor was, no doubt, out of the question, but that was no reason for war on France. Prudence counselled England to make herself strong, to develop her resources, and to hold her strength in reserve, while the two rivals weakened each other by war. She would then be in a far better position to make her voice heard in the settlement, and would probably have been able to extract from it all the benefits she could with reason or justice demand. So obvious was the advantage of this policy that for some time acute French statesmen refused to credit Wolsey with any other. They said, reported an English envoy to the Cardinal, “that your grace would make your profit with them and the Emperor both, and proceed between them so that they might continue in war, and that the one destroy the other, and the King’s highness may remain and be their arbiter and superior". If it is urged that Henry was bent on the war, and that Wolsey must satisfy the King or forfeit his power, even the latter would have been the better alternative. His fall would have been less complete and more honourable than it actually was. Wolsey’s failure to follow this course suggests that, by involving Henry in dazzling schemes of a foreign conquest, he was seeking to divert his attention from urgent matters at home; that he had seen a vision of impending ruin; and that his actions were the frantic efforts of a man to turn a steed, over which he has imperfect control, from the gulf he sees yawning ahead. The only other explanation is that Wolsey sacrificed England’s interests in the hope of securing from Charles the gift of the papal tiara.

However that may be, it was not for Clement VII. to deride England’s conduct. The keen-sighted Pace had remarked in 1521 that, in the event of Charles’s victory, the Pope would have to look to his affairs in time. The Emperor’s triumph was, indeed, as fatal to the Papacy as it was to Wolsey. Yet Clement VII., on whom the full force of the blow was to fall, had, as Cardinal de Medici, been one of the chief promoters of the war. In August, 1521, the Venetian, Contarini, reports Charles as saying that Leo rejected both the peace and the truce speciously urged by Wolsey, and adds, on his own account, that he believes it the truth. In 1522 Francis asserted that Cardinal de Medici “was the cause of all this war"; and in 1527 Clement VII. sought to curry favour with Charles by declaring that as Cardinal de Medici he had in 1521 caused Leo X. to side against France. In 1525 Charles declared that he had been mainly induced to enter on the war by the persuasions of Leo, over whom his cousin, the Cardinal, then wielded supreme influence. So complete was his sway over Leo, that, on Leo’s death, a cardinal in the conclave remarked that they wanted a new Pope, not one who had already been Pope for years; and the gibe turned the scale against the future Clement VII. Medici both, Leo and the Cardinal regarded the Papacy mainly as a means for family aggrandisement. In 1518 Leo had fulminated against Francis Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, as “the son of iniquity and child of perdition," because he desired to bestow the duchy on his nephew Lorenzo. In the family interest he was withholding Modena and Reggio from Alfonso d’Este, and casting envious eyes on Ferrara. In March, 1521, the French marched to seize some Milanese exiles, who were harboured at Reggio. Leo took the opportunity to form an alliance with Charles for the expulsion of Francis from Italy. It was signed at Worms on the 8th of May, the day on which Luther was outlawed; and a war broke out in Italy, the effects of which were little foreseen by its principal authors. A veritable Nemesis attended this policy conceived in perfidy and greed. The battle of Pavia made Charles more nearly dictator of Europe than any ruler has since been, except Napoleon Bonaparte. It led to the sack of Rome and the imprisonment of Clement VII. by Charles’s troops. The dependence of the Pope on the Emperor made it impossible for Clement to grant Henry’s petition for divorce, and his failure to obtain the divorce precipitated Wolsey’s fall.

Leo, meanwhile, had gone to his account on the night of 1st-2nd December, 1521, singing “Nunc dimittis” for the expulsion of the French from Milan; and amid the clangour of war the cardinals met to choose his successor. Their spirit belied their holy profession. “All here,” wrote Manuel, Charles’s representative, “is founded on avarice and lies;" and again “there cannot be so much hatred and so many devils in hell as among these cardinals”. “The Papacy is in great decay” echoed the English envoy Clerk, “the cardinals brawl and scold; their malicious, unfaithful and uncharitable demeanour against each other increases every day." Feeling between the French and imperial factions ran high, and the only question was whether an adherent of Francis or Charles would secure election. Francis had promised Wolsey fourteen French votes; but after the conference of Calais he would have been forgiving indeed had he wielded his influence on behalf of the English candidate. Wolsey built more upon the promise of Charles at Bruges; but, if he really hoped for Charles’s assistance, his sagacity was greatly to seek. The Emperor at no time made any effort on Wolsey’s behalf; he did him the justice to think that, were Wolsey elected, he would be devoted more to English than to imperial interests; and he preferred a Pope who would be undividedly imperialist at heart. Pace was sent to join Clerk at Rome in urging Wolsey’s suit, and they did their best; but English influence at the Court of Rome was infinitesimal. In spite of Campeggio’s flattering assurance that Wolsey’s name appeared in every scrutiny, and that sometimes he had eight or nine votes, and Clerk’s statement that he had nine at one time, twelve at another, and nineteen at a third, Wolsey’s name only appears in one of the eleven scrutinies, and then he received but seven out of eighty-one votes. The election was long and keenly contested. The conclave commenced on the 28th of December, and it was not till the 9th of January, 1522, that the cardinals, conscious of each other’s defects, agreed to elect an absentee, about whom they knew little. Their choice fell on Adrian, Cardinal of Tortosa; and it is significant of the extent of Charles’s influence, that the new Pope had been his tutor, and was proposed as a candidate by the imperial ambassador on the day that the conclave opened.

Neither the expulsion of the French from Milan, nor the election of Charles’s tutor as Pope, opened Wolsey’s eyes to the danger of further increasing the Emperor’s power. He seems rather to have thrown himself into the not very chivalrous design of completing the ruin of the weaker side, and picking up what he could from the spoils. During the winter of 1521-22 he was busily preparing for war, while endeavouring to delay the actual breach till his plans were complete. Francis, convinced of England’s hostile intentions, let Albany loose upon Scotland and refused to pay the pensions to Henry and Wolsey. They made these grievances the excuse for a war on which they had long been determined. In March Henry announced that he had taken upon himself the protection of the Netherlands during Charles’s impending visit to Spain. Francis asserted that this was a plain declaration of war, and seized the English wine-ships at Bordeaux. But he was determined not to take the formal offensive, and, in May, Clarencieux herald proceeded to France to bid him defiance. In the following month Charles passed through England on his way to the south, and fresh treaties were signed for the invasion of France, for the marriage of Mary and for the extirpation of heresy. At Windsor Wolsey constituted his legatine court to bind the contracting parties by oaths enforced by ecclesiastical censures. He arrogated to himself a function usually reserved for the Pope, and undertook to arbitrate between Charles and Henry if disputes arose about the observance of their engagements. But he obviously found difficulty in raising either money or men; and one of the suggestions at Windsor was that a “dissembled peace” or a two years’ truce should be made with France, to give England time for more preparations for war.

Nothing came of this last nefarious suggestion. In July Surrey captured and burnt Morlaix; but, as he wrote from on board the Mary Rose, Fitzwilliam’s ships were without flesh or fish, and Surrey himself had only beer for twelve days. Want of victuals prevented further naval successes, and, in September, Surrey was sent into Artois, where the same lack of organisation was equally fatal. It did not, however, prevent him from burning farms and towns wherever he went; and his conduct evoked from the French commander a just rebuke of his “foul warfare". Henry himself was responsible; for Wolsey wrote on his behalf urging the destruction of Dourlens and the adjacent towns. If Henry really sought to make these territories his own, it was an odd method of winning the affections and developing the wealth of the subjects he hoped to acquire. Nothing was really accomplished except devastation in France. Even this useless warfare exhausted English energies, and left the Borders defenceless against one of the largest armies ever collected in Scotland. Wolsey and Henry were only saved, from what might have been a most serious invasion, by Dacre’s dexterity and Albany’s cowardice. Dacre, the warden of the marches, signed a truce without waiting for instructions, and before it expired the Scots army disbanded. Henry and Wolsey might reprimand Dacre for acting on his own responsibility, but they knew well enough that Dacre had done them magnificent service.

The results of the war from the English point of view had as yet been contemptible, but great things were hoped for the following year. Bourbon, Constable of France, and the most powerful peer in the kingdom, intent on the betrayal of Francis, was negotiating with Henry and Charles the price of his treason. The commons in France, worn to misery by the taxes of Francis and the ravages of his enemies, were eager for anything that might promise some alleviation of their lot. They would even, it appears, welcome a change of dynasty; everywhere, Henry was told, they cried “Vive roi d’Angleterre!" Never, said Wolsey, would there be a better opportunity for recovering the King’s right to the French crown; and Henry exclaimed that he trusted to treat Francis as his father did Richard III. “I pray God,” wrote Sir Thomas More to Wolsey, “if it be good for his grace and for this realm, that then it may prove so, and else in the stead thereof, I pray God send his grace an honourable and profitable peace." He could scarcely go further in hinting his preference for peace to the fantastic design which now occupied the minds of his masters. Probably his opinion of the war was not far from that of old Bishop Fox, who declared: “I have determined, and, betwixt God and me, utterly renounced the meddling with worldly matters, specially concerning war or anything to it appertaining (whereof, for the many intolerable enormities that I have seen ensue by the said war in time past, I have no little remorse in my conscience), thinking that if I did continual penance for it all the days of my life, though I should live twenty years longer than I may do, I could not yet make sufficient recompense therefor. And now, my good lord, to be called to fortifications of towns and places of war, or to any matter concerning the war, being of the age of seventy years and above, and looking daily to die, the which if I did, being in any such meddling of the war, I think I should die in despair." Protests like this and hints like More’s were little likely to move the militant Cardinal, who hoped to see the final ruin of France in 1523. Bourbon was to raise the standard of revolt, Charles was to invade from Spain and Suffolk from Calais. In Italy French influence seemed irretrievably ruined. The Genoese revolution, planned before the war, was effected; and the persuasions of Pace and the threats of Charles at last detached Venice and Ferrara from the alliance of France.

The usual delays postponed Suffolk’s invasion till late in the year. They were increased by the emptiness of Henry’s treasury. His father’s hoard had melted away, and it was absolutely necessary to obtain lavish supplies from Parliament. But Parliament proved ominously intractable. Thomas Cromwell, now rising to notice, in a temperate speech urged the folly of indulging in impracticable schemes of foreign conquest, while Scotland remained a thorn in England’s side. It was three months from the meeting of Parliament before the subsidies were granted, and nearly the end of August before Suffolk crossed to Calais with an army, “the largest which has passed out of this realm for a hundred years". Henry and Suffolk wanted it to besiege Boulogne, which might have been some tangible result in English hands. But the King was persuaded by Wolsey and his imperial allies to forgo this scheme, and to order Suffolk to march into the heart of France. Suffolk was not a great general, but he conducted the invasion with no little skill, and desired to conduct it with unwonted humanity. He wished to win the French by abstaining from pillage and proclaiming liberty, but Henry thought only the hope of plunder would keep the army together. Waiting for the imperial contingent under De Buren, Suffolk did not leave Calais till 19th September. He advanced by Bray, Roye and Montdidier, capturing all the towns that offered resistance. Early in November, he reached the Oise at a point less than forty miles from the French capital. But Bourbon’s treason had been discovered; instead of joining Suffolk with a large force, he was a fugitive from his country. Charles contented himself with taking Fuentarabia, and made no effort at invasion. The imperial contingent with Suffolk’s army went home; winter set in with unexampled severity, and Vendome advanced. The English were compelled to retire; their retreat was effected without loss, and by the middle of December the army was back at Calais. Suffolk is represented as being in disgrace for this retreat, and Wolsey as saving him from the effects of his failure. But even Wolsey can hardly have thought that an army of twenty-five thousand men could maintain itself in the heart of France, throughout the winter, without support and with unguarded communications. The Duke’s had been the most successful invasion of France since the days of Henry V. from a military point of view. That its results were negative is due to the policy by which it was directed.

Meanwhile there was another papal election. Adrian, one of the most honest and unpopular of Popes, died on 14th September, 1523, and by order of the cardinals there was inscribed on his tomb: Hic jacet Adrianus Sextus cui nihil in vita infelicius contigit quam quod imperaret. With equal malice and keener wit the Romans erected to his physician, Macerata, a statue with the title Liberatori Patriae. Wolsey was again a candidate. He told Henry he would rather continue in his service than be ten Popes. That did not prevent him instructing Pace and Clerk to further his claims. They were to represent to the cardinals Wolsey’s “great experience in the causes of Christendom, his favour with the Emperor, the King, and other princes, his anxiety for Christendom, his liberality, the great promotions to be vacated by his election, his frank, pleasant and courteous inclinations, his freedom from all ties of family or party, and the hopes of a great expedition against the infidel". Charles was, as usual, profuse in his promise of aid. He actually wrote a letter in Wolsey’s favour; but he took the precaution to detain the bearer in Spain till the election was over. He had already instructed his minister at Rome to procure the election of Cardinal de Medici. That ambassador mocked at Wolsey’s hopes; “as if God,” he wrote, “would perform a miracle every day". The Holy Spirit, by which the cardinals always professed to be moved, was not likely to inspire the election of another absentee after their experience of Adrian. Wolsey had not the remotest chance, and his name does not occur in a single scrutiny. After the longest conclave on record, the imperial influence prevailed; on 18th November De Medici was proclaimed Pope, and he chose as his title Clement VII.

Suffolk’s invasion was the last of England’s active participation in the war. Exhausted by her efforts, discontented with the Emperor’s failure to render assistance in the joint enterprise, or perceiving at last that she had little to gain, and much to lose, from the overgrown power of Charles, England, in 1524, abstained from action, and even began to make overtures to Francis. Wolsey repaid Charles’s inactivity of the previous year by standing idly by, while the imperial forces with Bourbon’s contingent invaded Provence and laid siege to Marseilles. But Francis still held command of the sea; the spirit of his people rose with the danger; Marseilles made a stubborn and successful defence; and, by October, the invading army was in headlong retreat towards Italy. Had Francis been content with defending his kingdom, all might have been well; but ambition lured him on to destruction. He thought he had passed the worst of the trouble, and that the prize of Milan might yet be his. So, before the imperialists were well out of France, he crossed the Alps and sat down to besiege Pavia. It was brilliantly defended by Antonio de Leyva. In November Francis’s ruin was thought to be certain; astrologers predicted his death or imprisonment. Slowly and surely Pescara, the most consummate general of his age, was pressing north with imperial troops to succour Pavia. Francis would not raise the siege. On 24th February, 1525, he was attacked in front by Pescara and in the rear by De Leyva. “The victory is complete,” wrote the Abbot of Najera to Charles from the field of battle, “the King of France is made prisoner.... The whole French army is annihilated.... To-day is feast of the Apostle St. Mathias, on which, five and twenty years ago, your Majesty is said to have been born. Five and twenty thousand times thanks and praise to God for His mercy! Your Majesty is, from this day, in a position to prescribe laws to Christians and Turks, according to your pleasure."

Such was the result of Wolsey’s policy since 1521, Francis a prisoner, Charles a dictator, and Henry vainly hoping that he might be allowed some share in the victor’s spoils. But what claim had he? By the most extraordinary misfortune or fatuity, England had not merely helped Charles to a threatening supremacy, but had retired from the struggle just in time to deprive herself of all claim to benefit by her mistaken policy. She had looked on while Bourbon invaded France, fearing to aid lest Charles would reap all the fruits of success. She had sent no force across the channel to threaten Francis’s rear. Not a single French soldier had been diverted from attacking Charles in Italy through England’s interference. One hundred thousand crowns had been promised the imperial troops, but the money was not paid; and secret negotiations had been going on with France. In spite of all, Charles had won, and he was naturally not disposed to divide the spoils. England’s policy since 1521 had been disastrous to herself, to Wolsey, to the Papacy, and even to Christendom. For the falling out of Christian princes seemed to the Turk to afford an excellent opportunity for the faithful to come by his own. After an heroic defence by the knights of St. John, Rhodes, the bulwark of Christendom, had surrendered to Selim. Belgrade, the strongest citadel in Eastern Europe, followed. In August, 1526, the King and the flower of Hungarian nobility perished at the battle of Mohacz; and the internecine strife of Christians seemed doomed to be sated only by their common subjugation to the Turk.

Henry and Wolsey began to pay the price of their policy at home as well as abroad. War was no less costly for being ineffective, and it necessitated demands on the purses of Englishmen, to which they had long been unused. In the autumn of 1522 Wolsey was compelled to have recourse to a loan from both spiritualty and temporalty. It seems to have met with a response which, compared with later receptions, may be described as almost cheerful. But the loan did not go far, and before another six months had elapsed it was found necessary to summon Parliament to make further provision. The Speaker was Sir Thomas More, who did all he could to secure a favourable reception of Wolsey’s demands. An unwonted spirit of independence animated the members; the debates were long and stormy; and the Cardinal felt called upon to go down to the House of Commons, and hector it in such fashion that even More was compelled to plead its privileges. Eventually, some money was reluctantly granted; but it too was soon swallowed up, and in 1525 Wolsey devised fresh expedients. He was afraid to summon Parliament again, so he proposed what he called an Amicable Grant. It was necessary, he said, for Henry to invade France in person; if he went, he must go as a prince; and he could not go as a prince without lavish supplies. So he required what was practically a graduated income-tax. The Londoners resisted till they were told that resistance might cost them their heads. In Suffolk and elsewhere open insurrection broke out. It was then proposed to withdraw the fixed ratio, and allow each individual to pay what he chose as a benevolence. A common councillor of London promptly retorted that benevolences were illegal by statute of Richard III. Wolsey cared little for the constitution, and was astonished that any one should quote the laws of a wicked usurper; but the common councillor was a sound constitutionalist, if Wolsey was not. “An it please your grace,” he replied, “although King Richard did evil, yet in his time were many good acts made, not by him only, but by the consent of the body of the whole realm, which is Parliament." There was no answer; the demand was withdrawn. Never had Henry suffered such a rebuff, and he never suffered the like again. Nor was this all; the whole of London, Wolsey is reported to have said, were traitors to Henry. Informations of “treasonable words” that ominous phrase became frequent. Here, indeed, was a contrast to the exuberant loyalty of the early years of Henry’s reign. The change may not have been entirely due to Wolsey, but he had been minister, with a power which few have equalled, during the whole period in which it was effected, and Henry may well have begun to think that it was time for his removal.

Whether Wolsey was now anxious to repair his blunder by siding with Francis against Charles, or to snatch some profit from the Emperor’s victory by completing the ruin of France, the refusal of Englishmen to find more money for the war left him no option but peace. In April, 1525, Tunstall and Sir Richard Wingfield were sent to Spain with proposals for the exclusion of Francis and his children from the French throne and the dismemberment of his kingdom. It is doubtful if Wolsey himself desired the fulfilment of so preposterous and iniquitous a scheme. It is certain that Charles was in no mood to abet it. He had no wish to extract profit for England out of the abasement of Francis, to see Henry King of France, or lord of any French provinces. He had no intention of even performing his part of the Treaty of Windsor. He had pledged himself to marry the Princess Mary, and the splendour of that match may have contributed to Henry’s desire for an alliance with Charles. But another matrimonial project offered the Emperor more substantial advantages. Ever since 1517 his Spanish subjects had been pressing him to marry the daughter of Emmanuel, King of Portugal. The Portuguese royal family had claims to the throne of Castile which would be quieted by Charles’s marriage with a Portuguese princess. Her dowry of a million crowns was, also, an argument not to be lightly disregarded in Charles’s financial embarrassments; and in March, 1526, the Emperor’s wedding with Isabella of Portugal was solemnised.

Wolsey, on his part, was secretly negotiating with Louise of Savoy during her son’s imprisonment in Spain. In August, 1525, a treaty of amity was signed, by which England gave up all its claims to French territory in return for the promise of large sums of money to Henry and his minister. The impracticability of enforcing Henry’s pretensions to the French crown or to French provinces, which had been urged as excuses for squandering English blood and treasure, was admitted, even when the French King was in prison and his kingdom defenceless. But what good could the treaty do Henry or Francis? Charles had complete control over his captive, and could dictate his own terms. Neither the English nor the French King was in a position to continue the war; and the English alliance with France could abate no iota of the concessions which Charles extorted from Francis in January, 1526, by the Treaty of Madrid. Francis surrendered Burgundy; gave up his claims to Milan, Genoa and Naples; abandoned his allies, the King of Navarre, the Duke of Guelders and Robert de la Marck; engaged to marry Charles’s sister Eleanor, the widowed Queen of Portugal; and handed over his two sons to the Emperor as hostages for the fulfilment of the treaty. But he had no intention of keeping his promises. No sooner was he free than he protested that the treaty had been extracted by force, and that his oath to keep it was not binding. The Estates of France readily refused their assent, and the Pope was, as usual, willing, for political reasons, to absolve Francis from his oath. For the time being, consideration for the safety of his sons and the hope of obtaining their release prevented him from openly breaking with Charles, or listening to the proposals for a marriage with the Princess Mary, held out as a bait by Wolsey. The Cardinal’s object was merely to injure the Emperor as much as he could without involving England in war; and by negotiations for Mary’s marriage, first with Francis, and then with his second son, the Duke of Orleans, he was endeavouring to draw England and France into a closer alliance. For similar reasons he was extending his patronage to the Holy League, formed by Clement VII. between the princes of Italy to liberate that distressful country from the grip of the Spanish forces.

The policy of Clement, of Venice, and of other Italian States had been characterised by as much blindness as that of England. Almost without exception they had united, in 1523, to expel the French from Italy. The result was to destroy the balance of power south of the Alps, and to deliver themselves over to a bondage more galling than that from which they sought to escape. Clement himself had been elected Pope by imperial influence, and the Duke of Sessa, Charles’s representative in Rome, described him as entirely the Emperor’s creature. He was, wrote Sessa, “very reserved, irresolute, and decides few things himself. He loves money and prefers persons who know where to find it to any other kind of men. He likes to give himself the appearance of being independent, but the result shows that he is generally governed by others." Clement, however, after his election, tried to assume an attitude more becoming the head of Christendom than slavish dependence on Charles. His love for the Emperor, he told Charles, had not diminished, but his hatred for others had disappeared; and throughout 1524 he was seeking to promote concord between Christian princes. His methods were unfortunate; the failure of the imperial invasion of Provence and Francis’s passage of the Alps, convinced the Pope that Charles’s star was waning, and that of France was in the ascendant. “The Pope,” wrote Sessa to Charles V., “is at the disposal of the conqueror." So, on 19th January, 1525, a Holy League between Clement and Francis was publicly proclaimed at Rome, and joined by most of the Italian States. It was almost the eve of Pavia.

Charles received the news of that victory with astonishing humility. But he was not likely to forget that at the critical moment he had been deserted by most of his Italian allies; and it was with fear and trembling that the Venetian ambassador besought him to use his victory with moderation. Their conduct could hardly lead them to expect much from the Emperor’s clemency. Distrust of his intentions induced the Holy League to carry on desultory war with the imperial troops; but mutual jealousies, the absence of effective aid from England or France, and vacillation caused by the feeling that after all it might be safer to accept the best terms they could obtain, prevented the war from being waged with any effect. In September, 1526, Hugo de Moncada, the imperial commander, concerted with Clement’s bitter foes, the Colonnas, a means of overawing the Pope. A truce was concluded, wrote Moncada, “that the Pope, having laid down his arms, may be taken unawares". On the 19th he marched on Rome. Clement, taken unawares, fled to the castle of St. Angelo; his palace was sacked, St. Peter’s rifled, and the host profaned. “Never,” says Casale, “was so much cruelty and sacrilege."

It was soon thrown into the shade by an outrage at which the whole world stood aghast. Charles’s object was merely to render the Pope his obedient slave; neither God nor man, said Moncada, could resist with impunity the Emperor’s victorious arms. But he had little control over his own irresistible forces. With no enemy to check them, with no pay to content them, the imperial troops were ravaging, pillaging, sacking cities and churches throughout Northern Italy without let or hindrance. At length a sudden frenzy seized them to march upon Rome. Moncada had shown them the way, and on 6th May, 1527, the Holy City was taken by storm. Bourbon was killed at the first assault; and the richest city in Christendom was given over to a motley, leaderless horde of German, Spanish and Italian soldiery. The Pope again fled to the castle of St. Angelo; and for weeks Rome endured an orgy of sacrilege, blasphemy, robbery, murder and lust, the horrors of which no brush could depict nor tongue recite. “All the churches and the monasteries,” says a cardinal who was present, “both of friars and nuns, were sacked. Many friars were beheaded, even priests at the altar; many old nuns beaten with sticks; many young ones violated, robbed and made prisoners; all the vestments, chalices, silver, were taken from the churches.... Cardinals, bishops, friars, priests, old nuns, infants, pages and servants the very poorest were tormented with unheard-of cruelties the son in the presence of his father, the babe in the sight of its mother. All the registers and documents of the Camera Apostolica were sacked, torn in pieces, and partly burnt." “Having entered,” writes an imperialist to Charles, “our men sacked the whole Borgo and killed almost every one they found... All the monasteries were rifled, and the ladies who had taken refuge in them carried off. Every person was compelled by torture to pay a ransom.... The ornaments of all the churches were pillaged and the relics and other things thrown into the sinks and cesspools. Even the holy places were sacked. The Church of St. Peter and the papal palace, from the basement to the top, were turned into stables for horses.... Every one considers that it has taken place by the just judgment of God, because the Court of Rome was so ill-ruled.... We are expecting to hear from your Majesty how the city is to be governed and whether the Holy See is to be retained or not. Some are of opinion it should not continue in Rome, lest the French King should make a patriarch in his kingdom, and deny obedience to the said See, and the King of England find all other Christian princes do the same."

So low was brought the proud city of the Seven Hills, the holy place, watered with the blood of the martyrs and hallowed by the steps of the saints, the goal of the earthly pilgrim, the seat of the throne of the Vicar of God. No Jew saw the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not with keener anguish than the devout sons of the Church heard of the desecration of Rome. If a Roman Catholic and an imperialist could term it the just judgment of God, heretics and schismatics, preparing to burst the bonds of Rome and “deny obedience to the said See,” saw in it the fulfilment of the woes pronounced by St. John the Divine on the Rome of Nero, and by Daniel the Prophet on Belshazzar’s Babylon. Babylon the great was fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit; her ruler was weighed in the balances and found wanting; his kingdom was divided and given to kings and peoples who came, like the Mèdes and the Persians, from the hardier realms of the North.