CHAPTER VII. HENRY VIII (iii), 1527-29 - THE FALL OF WOLSEY
The Pope's one object was to evade the responsibility of any pronouncement. The Imperialist cause in Italy was progressing: Charles was growing steadily stronger. Clement dared not pronounce in Henry's favour; he was only less afraid of pronouncing against him. He told the agents that the King should act on his own responsibility on the ground of dissatisfaction with Campeggio's conduct; whereas the King was quite resolved to act, but also quite resolved to force the responsibility for his action on Clement. There was a limit to the possibilities of procrastination, but it was not till June 1529 that the Court opened proceedings, citing the King and Queen to appear. Fisher of Rochester, appearing on behalf of the Queen, boldly declared that the marriage was valid and could not be dissolved. Standish supported him, less vigorously. The Queen challenged the jurisdiction of the Court, and appealed from it to the Pope. She regarded Wolsey as the source of her woes; Anne believed that the procrastination was due to his machinations; the King was quite capable of crushing the Cardinal to relieve his own feelings. Popular sentiment was entirely on the Queen's side, but held the Cardinal to blame rather than the King: though even in Court Henry declared, in answer to Wolsey's appeal, that the minister had not suggested but had deterred him from the course adopted. Campeggio prorogued the Court in July. At about the same time, Clement, acting under Imperial pressure, formally revoked the case to Rome. Before the revocation reached England, a desperate attempt was made to persuade Katharine to place herself in the King's hands: it failed. A sharp public altercation between Wolsey and Suffolk showed how the current was setting.
[The storm gathers]
During the following months, Wolsey's loss of the royal favour became increasingly evident, and the opposition to him on the part of the nobility more and more open. Steven Gardiner, who had proved his conspicuous ability, was made the King's private secretary, and became the normal medium of communication - the close personal intercourse hitherto prevalent was at an end. Wolsey's European policy was thrown over by Henry, who allowed Francis and Charles to come to terms without his claiming any voice in the negotiation. A treaty of amity was signed at Cambrai, which terminated all prospect of Francis being induced to assist Henry in bringing pressure to bear either on the Emperor or the Pope, and released Clement from serious alarms as to the results of his accepting the Imperial policy. England had deliberately vacated the position of arbiter, because Henry was too thoroughly engrossed with the divorce to care about anything else. Since both Francis and Charles were for the time satisfied to restrict their ambitions so as not to collide with each other, there was no further demand for the Cardinal's diplomatic genius. The best to which Wolsey could now look forward was that he might be permitted to turn his vast talents to the reform of administration, ecclesiastical, legal, and educational, which he had always postponed to what he regarded as the more vital demands of international politics.
[The storm breaks (Oct.)]
It was not long before even these hopes were destroyed. At the beginning of October, Campeggio departed from England. At Dover, his baggage was ransacked by the King's authority, in the hope of discovering documents which would enable Wolsey to deal with the divorce in his absence. The documents were not forthcoming. Wolsey was of no more use to his master. The day after Campeggio reached Dover a writ was demanded by the King's attorney against the Cardinal for breach of the statute of Praemunire in acting as Legate.
[Sidenote 1: Wolsey's fall] [Sidenote 2: 1530] [Sidenote 3: Wolsey's death (Nov.)]
The fatal blow had been struck. From that hour, the Cardinal's doom was sealed. He ceased absolutely to be a political force and became merely an object for the King, and for every enemy he had raised up against himself, to buffet. A week later, on October 16th, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk demanded the seals from Wolsey as Chancellor; he was deprived of all his benefices and retired to his house at Esher, where he abode in poverty. This contented Henry for the time, and he sent gracious messages - but restricted them to words. Even Thomas More, who succeeded him as Chancellor, is said to have acted so far out of character as to speak of him publicly in insulting terms. Parliament had been summoned for November; a bill depriving him for ever of office was introduced in the Lords: in the Commons, it was boldly resisted by Thomas Cromwell who won thereby great credit for his loyalty; and it was dropped - not against the wishes of the King, who was as yet disinclined to deprive himself of the chance of resuscitating the great minister. In February Wolsey was restored to the see of York, whither he departed to act in the novel capacity of a diocesan devoted solely to his duties - duties which he so discharged as to change bitter unpopularity into warm affection. The King kept a firm hold on his forfeited properties, Gardiner was advanced to his see of Winchester: the college at Ipswich was dissolved. Wolsey was rash enough to attempt to open secret communications with Francis I., in the hope that his influence might be exercised to restore to favour the man who had done so much for him. But Norfolk, in power, had to cultivate Francis; and Francis, finding him a much simpler diplomatic antagonist, had no wish to reinstate the Cardinal. The attempted correspondence became known, and in November, without warning, Wolsey was arrested for high treason. Sick and worn, he started on his last journey towards London; but was stricken with mortal illness, and could travel no further than Leicester Abbey where the end came.