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WOLSEY ENTERTAINS THE AMBASSADORS.
Venetian ambassador could not depend on being received by him. “I have been several times," relates Giustinian, “to the right reverend Cardinal, but could never obtain audience ; true is it that he was always occupied either with the ambassadors aforesaid (of Spain) or with those of France, so that there was no room for me.” “No one,” he declares else
THE MASTER CARPENTER'S COURT ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE
FIRST COURT OF WOLSEY'S PALACE.
where, “obtains audience of him, unless at the third or fourth attempt. As he adopts this fashion with the Lords and Barons of England I made light of it."
In truth, however, to those who sought him on business of real and national importance, Wolsey was generally accessible enough, though he doubtless found it sometimes convenient to refuse to answer importunate questioners. But, by the world in general, his demeanour was looked upon as the arrogance of an upstart. As such it did not escape his implacable satirist, John Skelton, who, in his satire, “Why come ye not to Courte,” touches on it in the following lines :
“ His countenance like a Cayser, (Kaiser)
And yet be never the nere." So many concurrent testimonies compel us to admit that in his dealings with other men there was frequently an abruptness and imperiousness which they could not fail to resent. Sometimes, when his plans were thwarted, he became transported with anger. On one occasion he is reported to have sent for the Papal Nuncio, taken him into his private chamber, and, regardless of his sacred character and his immunity as an ambassador, to have violently seized him, fiercely demanding what had been the nature of his communications with France, adding that if he did not reveal them he should be put on the rack.
Still we cannot ascribe such irritability to badness of disposition, for we have it from several sources that he was by nature a kindly and considerate man,
“Lofty and sour, to them that loved him not,
But to those men that sought him sweet as summer. We ought, perhaps, to attribute it, with Mr. Brewer, “to the impatience of a man of great genius and penetration, at the interruptions, follies and contradictions to which he was exposed by conceited mediocrity or pertinacious selfinterest.” From whatever cause it sprung, it naturally excited the resentment of many with whom he had to transact business and to raise against him a host of enemies.
WOLSEY'S ABSORPTION IN AFFAIRS.
In the Star Chamber and the Privy Council he reigned supreme, the other lords scarce daring to question his
proposals, much less to prevent or impede the execution of his plans. His peremptoriness is thus reflected on by Skelton :
“ He is set so high
And saith, 'How say ye my Lords?
Outbursts, such as these, were undoubtedly greatly due to the excessive, and rarely relaxed, mental strain of the whole internal and foreign affairs, both political and ecclesiastical, which were entirely directed by him, and not less to the state of his health. His constitution appears to have never been robust; and when he first selected Hampton Court as a residence, he is said to have been influenced by the qualities of the springs in the vicinity, which are alleged to be beneficial for the stone-a disease from which he suffered. He was a victim, besides, to dropsy, and was several times, also, attacked by the sweating sickness-that strange and dreadful plague which for two centuries ravaged the homes of England, and he was constantly suffering from ague, quinsy, and colic. His condition in the summer of 1517 was such as to cause the gravest anxiety; and the King wrote affectionately to him, urging him to take air and exercise, and correct the weakness of his stomach.
Recommendations like these were easier to give than to follow, for Wolsey had no time for recreation; and, as he wrote to Henry, his digestion was so impaired that he could eat only tender food, and on this account he had been compelled to procure a dispensation from the Pope for the Lenten observances. This also was adroitly seized on by the venomous Skelton to point the arrows of his invective:
“To drynke and for to eate Swete
ypogras and swete meate To kepe his flesshe chast In Lent for a repast He eateth capons stewed Fesaunt and partriche mewed Hames, checkynges and pygges.”
WOLSEY'S PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION.
and again that he:
“May ete pigges in Lent for pikys
The King, however, fully understood the difficulties of Wolsey's position, and appreciated the trials to which his ill-health subjected him, and the sacrifices which he made in his master's service. All his letters, indeed, at this period show the same easily familiarity, and cordial sympathy and affection for his “own good Cardinal.”
And good cause had he to be grateful for Wolsey's devotion. While everyone else about the Court was thinking only of his own personal safety, Wolsey alone remained at his post, and through danger, infection, and sickness kept in view only his duty to his King and the State.
In addition to his office as Chief Minister, which combined all the departments that modern usage distributes among a cabinet of thirteen or fourteen ministers, he was now Lord Chancellor; and, as Mr. Brewer observes, “his administration of that great legal office was characterised by the same energy and fearlessness as distinguished his conduct in all other departments. For his zeal and ability as a judge we have the best testimony that could be had—the testimony of Sir Thomas More. His regularity, decision, and despatch cannot be questioned; his impartiality to all classes was never disputed. These formed the topics of satire and complaint. The lawyers hated him for his strict adherence to justice, his discouragement of petty legal artifices, endless forms, and interminable verbosity; the nobles hated him still more, because riches and nobility were no recommendation to partiality or favour, as they had been in the days of his predecessors." In confirmation of this estimate can be cited the view of the Venetian ambassador, who, though no friend of his, is found stating that "he favours the people exceedingly, and especially the poor, hearing their suits and seeking to despatch them instantly. He also makes the lawyers plead gratis for all paupers.'