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of those that were desirous to know the truth,-giving to my word credit, and seeing my servants of an honest life, and conforming themselves to the laws of God, they began to bless them, as so lightly deluded by common rumours, that now, lauded be his Majesty, waxeth so weak and feeble every where, as I trust they shall perish with their author, a plain Gentile, a traitor, and an heretic. This I write to your Lordship to the intent you may perceive what service that wretch did our Sovereign Lord, that neither regarded his master's honour, nor his own honesty."-State Papers, vol. viii., p. 397.
“He that is low need fear no fall;" and, Cromwell once down, it became the fashion to accuse him of every description of crime and misdemeanour. One amongst other charges was that he had presumed to aspire to the hand of the King's elder, but then illegitimatized, daughter, the Lady Mary. Wallop, the English agent at Paris, reporting a conversation with Cardinal du Bellay, writes :
“He showed me further than he did before, and that the said Privy Seal's intent was to have married my Lady Mary; and that the French King and he had much debated the same matter, three quarters of a year past, reckoning at length, by the great favour Your Majesty did bear to him, he should be made some Earl or Duke; and thereupon presumed your said Majesty would give to him in marriage the said Lady Mary, your daughter, as before-time you had done the French Queen unto my Lord of Suffolk. These things they gathered of such bruits as they had heard of the said Privy Seal before, knowing him to be fine-witted, in so much as at all times, when any marriage was treated of for my said Lady Mary, he did always his best to break the same. All these things considered together, the said French King and Cardinal conceived in their heads, he minded surely at length to have had the said Lady Mary, and thereby to come to all his determined evil purposes. As to the Ambassador of Portugal, I have done my best to know of whom he heard first the said bruits ; he protesting by a great oath, that he could not call it to his remembrance, but heard it often communed of, among Ambassadors, two years past, and, in a manner, had forgotten the same, saving now hearing of the said Privy Seal's abominable determination, which did put him somewhat in memory thereof.”—Ibid., p. 379.
The rumour that any subject had ventured to entertain the bare idea of marrying his daughter, enraged the King, and he bade his agent strongly to affirm,
“ That neither we go about nor intend to marry our said daughter at home, in such sort as he pre-supposed unto you; nor that there is any man within our realm that dare presume to press or persuade us thereunto; but rather that we bear such natural and entire affection to our said daughter, as, when we shall happen to bestow her, it shall well appear that we have no less regard to our honour and the advancement of our blood than appertaineth.”—Ibid., p. 455.
Henry VIII. had bandied about the name and rights of his daughter, to pander to his own disgraceful passions; but he
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would permit no one to trifle with her save himself. The same temperament pervaded his conduct in other respects : he could act the boon companion amongst his courtiers, with a complete abandon of the exclusiveness of royalty ; but woe to the man that, for an instant, presumed upon his Sovereign's freedom! A certain man, named William Webb, got into trouble for reporting that, as —“he rode upon a good gelding, and a fair gentlewoman behind him, the King's Grace met him, and said unto him, “Whom hast thou behind thee there, Will ?' and he made answer again, saying, 'A friend of mine, an it like Your Grace.' And with that the King stepped to her, and plucked down her muffler, and kissed her, saying, "Well, Will, thou art never without such fair stuff about thee; but we will give her a gown of damask, for thy sake, and see she have it.'" The anecdote was true, and not denied; but the repetition of it gave offence.
On one occasion, Cromwell feared to repair to Court without special leave, because a man in his house had died under circumstances suspicious of plague. The King said he might repair to Court safely enough within a day or two; but when he talked to the Queen (Jane Seymour) about it, her countenance betrayed alarm; and as the King had his own reasons for wishing to remove every cause of anxiety from her, he said it would be better for Cromwell to stay at the house of some friend in the neighbourhood, without coming to the palace ;
“And to meet with His Grace at hunting, and keep him company all day till night, and then to repair to where you shall be lodged, till such time as His Grace and you shall perceive further in the matter; assuring your Lordship, that His Grace is very sorry that the chance happened so now that ye might not be here to make good cheer, as we all do, and the King, who useth himself more like a good fellow than like a King among us that be here; and, thanked be God, I never saw him merrier in his life than he is now.”- Miscellaneous Letters, Second Series, vol. xxxvi., p. 288.
The King was passionately fond of hunting, and his favourites were frequently presented with game killed by the royal hand. The two following are from courtiers to Wolsey :
“And forasmuch as, in your journey, ye shall not by chance have always venison after your appetite, His Highness hath sent unto Your Grace at this time a red deer, by a servant of his own; and that, not because that it is a deer excellent, but forasmuch as it is at this time novelty, and dainty, and moreover slain of his own hand.”—State Papers, vol. i., p. 209.
“ The King's Highness commendeth him heartily unto Your Grace, and sends unto Your Grace, by this bearer, the greatest red deer that was killed by His Grace, or any of his hunters, all this year. Yesterday His Highness took marvellous great pain in hunting of the red
deer, from nine of the clock in the morning to seven of the clock at night; and, for all his painstaking, he, nor all his servants, could kill no more than this one, notwithstanding they hunted in four several parts.”—State Papers, vol. i., p. 325.
His sports did not, however, divert the King's attention from business, in which he frequently interfered to an extent annoying to the officials. Secretary Pace, writing to Wolsey on one occasion, says,
“ And as for one of my letters, which was unto Your Grace very displeasant, as it appeared by your answer to the same, I had, at that time, devised a letter in the same matter, far discrepant from that ye received; but the King would not approve the same, and said, that he would himself devise an answer to Your Grace's letters sent to him at that time, and commanded me to bring your said letters unto his privy chamber, with pen and ink, and there he would declare unto me what I should write. And when His Grace had your said letters, he read the same three times, and marked such places as it pleased him to make answer unto, and commanded me to write and to rehearse, as liked him, and not further to meddle with that answer. So that I herein nothing did but obeyed the King's commandment, as to my duty appertaineth, and especially at such time as he would, upon good grounds, be obeyed, whosoever spake to the contrary.”—Ibid., p. 79.
The King was accustomed to manage the Parliament by paying the Speaker, and even Sir Thomas More, with all his singleheartedness, accepted the remuneration; whilst the commonalty had but small share in any political duty, beyond that of blindfold obedience.
“And, Sire," writes Wolsey to Henry VIII., “ where it hath been accustomed that the Speakers of the Parliaments, in consideration of their diligence and pains taken, have had, though the Parliament hath been right soon finished, above the £100 ordinary, a reward of £100, for the better maintenance of their household, and other charges sustained in the same; I suppose, Sir, that the faithful diligence of the said Sir Thomas More, in all your causes treated in this your late Parliament, as well for your subsidy right honourably passed, as otherwise considered, no man could better deserve the same than he hath done; wherefore, your pleasure known therein, I shall cause the same to be advanced unto him accordingly.”—Ibid., p. 124.
Cromwell, writing to Henry VIII. on the election of a Member of Parliament, says,
“Amongst others, for Your Grace's Parliament, I have appointed Your Majesty's servant, Mr. Morrison, to be one of them; no doubt, he shall be ready to answer, and take up such as would crack or face with literature of learning, or by indirected ways, if any such shall be, as I think there shall be few or none; forasmuch as I and other your dedicate Counsellors be about to bring all things so to pass, that Your Majesty had never more tractable Parliament. I have thought the said Morrison very meet to serve Your Grace therein; wherefore I beseech the same to have him in your good favour, as ye have had hitherto. I know his heart so good, that he is worthy favour indeed."-State Papers, vol. i., p. 603.
The election of Knights of the Shire, as Members of Parliament, long considered a troublesome tax on the wealthier gentry, was now beginning to rank as a privilege, though with but a glimmering perception of its ultimate importance. The following is, perhaps, the earliest record in existence of a “contested election," and shows us how those matters were managed three hundred years ago : it is from the mother of the disappointed candidate :
“Pleaseth it your master to be advertised, that at the coming down of the King's writ in Salopshire (Shropshire) to the Sheriff, to choose the Knights for the Parliament, there were of the worshipful of the shire, with the Justices, that sent unto me, and willed me to make labour that my son, George Blount, should be one of them; and so I did, my son being at the Court; and moreover, the shire laboured the Sheriff that the election should not be appointed at Shrewsbury, because the plague reigned there so sore; but in any wise the Sheriff would it should be there, to the intent that the inhabitants burgesses, with the franchise of the town, should assemble themselves to choose one Trentham; and so they assembled themselves riotously, that the worshipful of the shire were not content, (saying their voice cannot be heard,) and had much to do to keep the King's peace. Whereupon they titled their names, and went to the Sheriff, willing him to return George Blount, for they would have no other ; but in any wise he would not, because the Under-Sheriff is a dweller in the said town: and then the gentlemen delivered their names to this bearer, being an honest gentleman, to make report, who can advertise you more plainly than I can write, (to whom it may please you to give credence,) beseeching you to be good master unto my son in this, as you have been unto me, and all those that mine be, at all times.”—Letters, &c., vol. ii., p. 168.
A great disproportion existed between the former and the present value placed upon the courtly, but purely honorary, distinctions which the King alone had power to bestow; a disproportion easily accounted for, when we find that the King endeavoured to replenish his empty exchequer by a compulsory sale of these honours. He issued a mandate for all who possessed landed property to the value of £40 a year, equivalent to about £200 of our present money, to come up to Court and receive the honours of knighthood, by paying certain fees into the Royal Exchequer. This mandate sorely disquieted many of the proposed recipients of chivalrous rank. The Princess Mary wrote to Cromwell on behalf of the father of one of her servants resident in Cheshire, begging that he might be excused, on account of the distance, and of his age,—upwards of fourscore years; and the Countess Dowager of Oxford excuses one of her servants, who is willing to take oath that his land is worth but £38:
“And as for husbandry or other provisions, he occupieth none, but liveth only upon his land ; nor he hath no fashion to provide otherwise; for he hath always been a serving-man, and hath continued in my Lord my husband's service this twenty years.”—Letters, &c., vol. i., p. 67.
In the following extract, we have an account of the first attempt made in England to establish Parish Registers, and the alarm which it created amongst the people :
“It is now come to my knowledge, this 20th day of April, by a right true honest man, a servant of mine, that there is much secret and several communications amongst the King's subjects; and that many of them, in sundry places within the shires of Cornwall and Devonshire, be in great fear and mistrust what the King's Highness and his Council should mean, to give in commandment to the Parsons and Vicars of every parish, that they should make a book, and surely to be kept, wherein to be specified the names of as many as be wedded, and the names of them that be buried, and of all those that be christened. Now ye may perceive the minds of many : what is to be done, to avoid their uncertain conjectures, and to continue and stablish their hearts in true natural love, according their duties, I refer to your wisdom. Their mistrust is, that some charges, more than hath been in times past, shall grow to them by this occasion of registering of these things; wherein, if it shall please the King's Majesty to put them out of doubt, in my poor mind, shall increase much hearty love.”—State Papers, vol. i., p. 612.
We find the administration of justice capricious and insecure, and frequently retarded, or interfered with by private interests.
servant who, in a drunken frolic, had spoken disrespectfully of the King, and, although clearly acquitted of wilful misdemeanour by a jury of his countrymen, was still kept in prison, “not only to the great loss and destruction of his goods, but also to the destruction and making lame his limbs." Great rigour was often exercised against such parties as expressed freely their opinions respecting the King's conduct; for Henry VIII. was too conscious of deserving censure, to be able to endure it with tolerance. Nor was he more patient of practical offences which bore upon himself personally. Discovery was made of a design, on the part of some thieves, to break open the gate of Windsor Castle, and plunder the building, the King being absent from London. It was betrayed to the Earl of Hertford, who allowed the miscreants, in fancied security, to proceed to the perpetration of their crime, and then apprehended them in the very fact; and, after examining them apart, committed them to Newgate. The King was informed of these facts, and expressed some discontent at the leniency of the proceeding, and at the whole affair not being made of more importance :