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“He is omnipotent,” says Erasmus, writing to Cardinal Grimani. * All the power of the State is centered in him,” in the observation of Giustinian ;“ he is, in fact, ipse rex, and no one in this realm dare attempt aught in opposition to his interests.” Such a position in the State could not fail to expose him to the bitter assaults of the envious. Skelton bursts out:
“Why come ye not to Court ?
But it was not only satirists and reformers who hated and maligned him. He had long been regarded with aversion by the aristocracy, who viewed with disgust the rise of the haughty upstart, and by the courtiers and politicians, who envied him, and disliked or could not understand his policy.
And now at last the influence of the King, on whom he had alone depended, was beginning to forsake him. One of the first indications of this was Henry's asking him, with unmistakable signs of jealousy and displeasure, “Why he had built so magnificent a house for himself at Hampton Court?” “To show how noble a palace a subject may offer to his sovereign,” is supposed to have been his adroit reply; whereon the King at once accepted the offer, and the lease of the manor of Hampton Court was surrendered into his hands. With the palace was included all its costly furniture, tapestries, and plate-forming assuredly the most magnificent gift ever made by a subject to his sovereign! This occurred in June, 1525; but he still, until the time of his disgrace, continued, some years after he had certainly parted with it technically to the King, to write, as he had previously done, in letters not addressed to the King, “From my manor at Hampton Court,” and to make use of it as though still entirely his own.
Towards the end of October in the year 1527, a great embassy, consisting of the Grand Master and Maréchal of France, Anne de Montmorency, Du Bellay, the Bishop of Bayonne, with a retinue of a hundred persons “of the most noblest and wealthiest gentlemen in all the Court of France,” with captains of the guard and their followers, to the number of five or six hundred horse, came over to England, solemnly to confirm the Treaty between France and England, and to invest Henry with the Order of St. Michael. After being received and regaled in London and at Greenwich, they were taken to visit Wolsey at Hampton Court, where the grand master and all his companions were, says Du Bellay, for four or five days, “festoyé de tous les festimens qui se pouraient souhaitter.” Of this entertainment Cavendish gives so delightfully quaint and vivid a description that, though somewhat long, it would be spoilt by abridgment, and consequently we offer no apology for quoting it here at length:
“Then was there no more to do but to make provision at Hampton Court for this assembly against the day appointed. My Lord Cardinal called for his principal officers of his house, as his Steward, comptroller, and the clerks of his kitchen-whom he commanded to prepare for this banquet at Hampton Court; and neither to spare for expenses or travail, to make them such triumphant cheer as they may not only wonder at here, but also make a glorious report in their country, to the King's honour and that of his realm. His pleasure once known, to accomplish his commandment they sent forth all the caterers, purveyors, and other persons, to prepare of the finest viands that they could get, either for money or friendship among my Lord's friends. Also they sent for all the expertest cooks, besides my lord's, that they could get in all England, where they might be gotten, to serve to garnish this feast. The purveyors brought and sent in such plenty of costly provisions, as ye would wonder at the same. The cooks wrought both night and day in divers subtleties and many crafty devices; where lacked neither gold, silver, ne any other costly thing meet for the purpose. The yeomen
WOLSEY'S BANQUET TO THE FRENCH EMBASSY.
and grooms of the wardrobes were busied in hanging of the chambers with costly hangings, and furnishing the same with beds of silks, and other furniture apt for the same in every degree.”
At this point we may notice the picturesque old doorway, which gave access into the acious cellars, where the Cardinal's vast stores of costly wines and provisions were kept. The cellars themselves were transformed and enlarged by Henry VIII., after Wolsey's death, but his arms were suffered to remain in the spandrels of the doorway. To resume Cavendish's narrative.
“Then my Lord Cardinal sent me, being his gentleman usher, with two other of my fellows, to Hampton Court, to foresee all things touching our rooms, to be nobily garnished accordingly. Our pains were not small or light, but travelling daily from chamber to chamber. Then the carpenters, the joiners, the masons, the painters, and all other artificers necessary to glorify the house and feast were set at work. There was carriage and re-carriage of plate, stuff, and other rich implements; so that there was nothing lacking or to be imagined or devised for the purpose. There were also fourteen score beds provided and furnished with all manner of furniture to them belonging, too long particularly here to rehearse. But to all wise men it sufficeth to imagine, that knoweth what belongeth to the furniture of such triumphant feast or banquet.
“The day was come that to the Frenchmen was assigned, and they ready assembled at Hampton Court, something before the hour of their appointment. Wherefore the officers caused them to ride to Hanworth, a place and park of the King's, within two or three miles, there to hunt and spend the time until night. At which time they returned again to Hampton Court, and every of them conveyed to his chamber severally, having in them great fires and wine ready to refresh them, remaining there until their supper was ready, and the chambers where they should sup were ordered in due form. The first waiting-chamber was hanged with fine arras, and so were all the rest, one better than another, furnished with tall yeomen.
There was set tables round about the chambers banquet-wise, all covered with fine cloths of diaper. A cupboard of plate, parcel gilt; having also in
the same chamber, to give the more light, four plates of silver, set with lights upon them, and a great fire in the chimney.
“The next chamber, being the chamber of presence, hanged with very rich arras, wherein was a gorgeous and precious cloth of estate hanged up, replenished with many goodly gentlemen ready to serve. The boards were set as the other boards were in the other chamber before, save that the high table was set and removed beneath the cloth of estate, towards the midst of the chamber, covered with fine linen cloths of damask work, sweetly perfumed.
“There was a cupboard, made for the time, in length of the breadth of the nether end of the same chamber, six desks high, full of gilt plate, very sumptuous, and of the newest fashions; and upon the nethermost desk garnished all with plate of clean gold, having two great candlesticks of silver and gilt, most curiously wrought, the workmanship whereof, with the silver, cost three hundred marks, and lights of wax as big as torches burning upon the same. This cupboard was barred in round about that no man might come nigh it; for there was none of the same plate occupied or stirred during this feast, for there was sufficient besides. The plates that hung on the walls to give light in the chamber were of silver and gilt, with lights burning in them, a great fire in the chimney, and all other things necessary for the furniture of so noble a feast.
“Now was all things in a readiness, and supper time at hand. My lord's officers caused the trumpets to blow to warn to supper, and the said officers went right discreetly in due order and conducted these noble personages from their chambers unto the chamber of presence where they should sup. And they, being there, caused them to sit down; their service was brought up in such order and abundance, both costly and full of subtleties, with such a pleasant noise of divers instruments of music, that the Frenchmen, as it seemed, were rapt into a heavenly paradise.
“Ye must understand that my lord was not there, ne yet come, but they being merry and pleasant with their fare devising and wondering upon the subtleties.
Before the second course, my Lord Cardinal came in among them, booted and spurred, all suddenly, and bade
WOLSEY'S LAST GREAT ENTERTAINMENT.
them proface; at whose coming they would have risen and given place with much joy. Whom my Lord commanded to sit still and keep their rooms; and straightways being not shifted of his riding apparel, called for a chair, and sat himself down in the midst of the table, laughing and being as merry as ever I saw in my life. Anon came up the second course with so many dishes, subtleties, and curious devices, which were above a hundred in number, of so goodly proportion and costly, that I suppose the Frenchmen never saw the like. The wonder was no less than it was worthy indeed. There were castles with images in the same; Paul's church and steeple, in proportion for the quantity as well counterfeited as the painter should have painted it upon a cloth or wall. There were beasts, birds, fowls of divers kinds, and personages, most lively made and counterfeited in dishes; some fighting, as it were, with swords, some with guns and crossbows; some vaulting and leaping; some dancing with ladies, some in complete harness, justing with spears, and with many more devices, than I am able with my wit to describe. Among all, one I noted: there was a chessboard, subtilely made of spiced plate, with men to the same; and for the good proportion, because that Frenchmen be very expert in that play, my Lord gave the same to a gentleman of France, commanding that a case should be made for the same in all haste, to preserve it from perishing in the conveyance thereof into his country.
“Then my Lord took a bowl of gold, which was esteemed of the value of five hundred marks, filled with hypocras, whereof there was plenty, putting off his cap, said, I drink to the King my Sovereign Lord and Master, and to the King your Master, and therewith drank a good draught. And when he had done he desired the Grand Master to pledge him, cup and all, the which cup he gave him ; and so caused all the other lords and gentlemen in other cups to pledge these two royal princes. Then went the cups merrily about, that many of the Frenchmen were fain to be led to their beds. Then went my Lord, leaving them sitting still, into his privy chamber to shift him; and making there a very short supper, or rather a small repast, returned again among them into the chamber of presence, using them so nobly, with so loving and familiar countenance