Henry the Seventh by James Gairdner (pub. 1899)
PROSPERITY AND ALLIANCES
THE capture and confession of Perkin Warbeck put an end to the chief source of trouble that Henry had yet encountered, and covered with confusion the intrigues of his enemies abroad. And just about the same time, after an unpleasant revival of hostilities with Scotland, a seven years' truce was at length made with some faint hope of a lasting settlement.
It was not effected, we are told, without a great deal of discussion, and this we can readily believe. The inveterate hostility between the two countries was not easily eradicated; and the arts by which Henry had sought to keep James in check were not altogether laudable. He had an understanding with the Earl of Angus, who pledged himself under certain circumstances to take the part of England against his own sovereign. He had a spy at the Scotch Court in the person of Lord Bothwell, a favourite minister of James III., who had never forgiven the reigning king his complicity in the rebellion against his father. Bothwell had induced James IV.'s own brother, the Duke of Ross, the Earl of Buchan, and the Bishop of Moray to promise Henry their assistance in frustrating any attempt to invade England. He had also arranged a plot for the kidnapping of Warbeck in his tent while he was in Scotland and sending him up to Henry. Such underhand conspiracies were evidently considered justifiable as a means of counteracting the designs of an enemy like the Scots, who were habitually reproached by their southern neighbours with bad faith in treaties. And it must be owned that the reproach was not altogether unmerited; for it was difficult to deal with a nation whose cohesion was so loose among themselves that they were not wholly subject to authority, and among whom there was at all times a strong party against England, to which even pacific kings, if they had such, could not but occasionally give way.
James IV. was a king possessed of many noble qualities, as well as of many accomplishments hardly to be looked for in one so far removed from continental civilisation. He was not only a good Latin scholar, and could talk Gaelic with the Highlanders as well as Lowland Scotch, but he had the command of all the leading European languages. A student of nature and a lover of experiment, his acquaintance with medicine and surgery seems to have been more than respectable for those days. His strict observance of religious ordinances was no doubt quickened by the remorse he felt for the part he had taken against his father. His temperance both in eating and drinking was almost unexampled. His sincerity, truthfulness, and love of justice made him an admirable ruler; while his humanity, courage, and bravery endeared him to his subjects. But he was a lover of war, even for its own sake. He personally enjoyed its dangers; and he was not the man to think lightly of any provocation he received that might kindle anew those flames whose violence both Henry and Ferdinand were so anxious to assuage.
Henry's astute councillor, Richard Fox, Bishop of Durham, whose diocese was much exposed to the incursions of the Scots, had done his best to compose the differences between the two kingdoms. He had negotiated on the Borders with Angus and Lord Hume, who, though committed to a certain extent to Henry's interests, could not offer on their sovereign's behalf terms entirely to his satisfaction; for James would not agree to surrender Warbeck, a point on which Henry absolutely insisted, so long as the adventurer remained in Scotland. Nor was it with any avowed aim of facilitating a peace that he finally thought it expedient to send him away; for immediately afterwards he again invaded England in person and laid siege to Norham. Fox, however, who had beforehand strongly garrisoned the castle and prepared it to stand a siege, gave notice at once to the Earl of Surrey, the king's Lieutenant of the North, then in Yorkshire, to come to the rescue; who thereupon summoned all the powerful noblemen of the northern counties -- such as the Earl of Westmoreland, Lords Dacre, Nevill, Clifford, Lumley, Darcy, and many others, with the principal gentry -- to join his standard, and was soon at the head of a force of nearly 20,000 men, while a fleet under Lord Willoughby de Broke was sent northwards to assist the expedition by sea.
On hearing of the approach of this great army James felt it necessary to abandon the siege of Norham and retire within his own realm. Surrey entered Scotland, threw down a number of fortresses, and summoned the Captain of Ayton Castle, one of the strongest places between Berwick and Edinburgh, to yield it up. The captain refused, hoping for succours, and ere long King James and his army drew nigh. But James, seeing, no doubt, that the force at his command was quite inade quate to cope with the English forces, offered to settle the questions in controversy by a single combat between him and Surrey, in which, if he were victorious, the earl was to deliver to him as his ransom the town of Berwick, with the fish-garths belonging to it. The earl said he was highly honoured by such a challenge from so noble a king, and would be delighted to accept it, but the town of Berwick was not his own; it belonged to the king his master. The earl accordingly prepared to meet the onset of the Scots, but James withdrew his army in the night season. Surrey, on the other hand, finding he could not maintain so large an army in that barren, inhospitable country, the weather, too, being extremely foul and tem pestuous, withdrew for a time to Berwick. Meanwhile peace negotiations were resumed. The Scots, under the influence of Don Pedro de Ayala, were at length brought to reason; and the seven years' truce was concluded at Ayton on the 30th of September 1497.
Ayala feared greatly that, notwithstanding the pacific disposition of the English King and of Fox, Bishop of Durham, the truce would not last so long. The Borderers were not easy to control, and James's high spirit would rather seek than avoid an opportlmity of renewing hostilities. And in fact, just about a twelvemonth later, the work of the peacemakers was very nearly un done by an incident which occurred on the banks of the Tweed at Norham. It was observed that some Scotch gentlemen crossed the river on two successive days, apparently to view the castle. They were fully armed, and being asked their object, replied with haughty words not likely to allay suspicions. Blows were presently exchanged, and the Scotchmen, being on foreign ground, naturally had the worst of it. Several of them were wounded and some killed; the rest took flight. Redress was demanded of the Wardens of the Marches, but their procedure did not satisfy King James, who, swearing "by sweet St. Ninian" that there was no reliance to be placed on Englishmen for the observance of the peace, sent up Marchmont Herald to Henry with an angry message. Nor was he greatly softened on receiving an answer as conciliatory as could reasonably have been expected; for Henry was really vexed at the occurrence, and promised full inquiry and punishment of the offenders if any of his subjects were found to be in fault. But the work of pacification lay with Bishop Fox, who, heartily desiring the preservation of peace, sent many letters to the Scotch king expressive of the utmost possible regret, and assuring him that no countenance would be given by his sovereign to any acts tending to the renewal of hostilities.
Fox doubtless had made a favourable impression upon James already, and he not only succeeded in appeasing his anger, but was requested to come and confer with him in his own kingdom as to the best means of promoting more amicable relations between the two countries. On receiving Henry's authority for this purpose the bishop repaired to Melrose, where James gave him an interview, and after the Norham incident had been fully apologised for in presence of the Scotch Council, spoke with him apart on the possibility of inducing Henry, in whose counsels he knew that the bishop had great in fluence, to give him his eldest daughter Margaret in marriage. Fox promised to advance the project to the utmost of his power, and on repairing to Henry urged the conclusion of a regular peace, to be followed by a treaty for the marriage. All which took effect in due time, the treaty being made on the 12th of July next year (1499), and the bishop himself receiving a commission to negotiate the marriage on the 11th of September following.
Meanwhile the death of Charles VIII. of France had created a new state of things in Europe. Its immediate effect seemed likely to be to weaken France by separating once more the duchy of Britanny from the French Crown. For Charles's only son had died before him, and his widowed queen was still Duchess of Britanny in her own right. And to Britanny she actually returned, to resume her sovereignty there, issuing edicts and assembling the Estates of the duchy as in the days of old. The new king, however, Louis XII., had known very well, even in past times, what the independence of Britanny meant to the French monarchy; for he was that Louis, Duke of Orleans, who had taken refuge in the duchy during Charles VIII.'s minority, and stirred up trouble from thence for the regent, Madame de Beaujeu. It was he too who in later years, when Charles invaded Italy, had excited the jealousy of Ludovico Sforza by putting forth an ancestral claim to the duchy of Milan, and was accordingly shut up for a time in Novara. What was he going to do now as King of France? In spite of past mishaps, endeavour to make Milan a fief of the French Crown? And if foreign princes took alarm once more, how was he going to secure himself on the side of Britanny, where England and Spain would again come to the rescue if the duchess called for aid? His policy in these matters remained for a whils a secret, but ere long it was very distinctly unfolded.
His first aim was to secure the friendship of England, not merely for fear of interference in Britanny (where he had reasons not known to the world as yet for believing himself tolerably safe), but with a view to promote division among the confederates in the Holy League. He accordingly sent, immediately after his accession, first a king-at-arms and then a regular embassy to Henry; but Henry declined to treat with him apart from Spain, and sent spies over both to France and to Britanny to see what factions were likely to arise, and whether it would be an advantageous time to attack. Louis, however, made it his next object to win the favour of Pope Alexander VI., so as not only to detach his Holiness from the league, but also to procure for himself a divorce from his queen, Jeanne, daughter of Louis XI., in order that he might marry Anne of Britanny, and secure himself on that side also. Political reasons had begun to be recognised at the Papal Court as sufficient in certain cases for separating man and wife or for permitting marriages within prohibited degrees; and the policy of maintaining the union between France and Britanny was held to be a sufficient justification in this case. Not that tile hull was issued from this con sideration alone. Louis quite expected that some scruples would be raised as to such an extreme exercise of pontifical power, but he knew also how to allay them. He created Caesar Borgia, the Pope's too notorious son, Duke of Valentinois, and desired the Pope to send him into France, where he might take possession of his duchy, and to send the bull along with him. There was no opposition, and in the course of a few months the thing was done. Louis had got rid of his old wife and married Anne of Britanny. He had, moreover, broken up the league. Henry VII. saw that none of the Italian powers was to be depended on. Ludovico Sforza had become of small account. The Venetians were preparing to follow the Pope's example, and very soon did so. Louis had also won over the Archduke Philip as an ally, while his father, Maximilian, remained hostile, fearing what would evidently soon take place -- a second French descent upon Italy, which the Italian powers generally, with the single exception of Sforza, seemed very well disposed to welcome. Not one of the confederates had much regard for the other, except England and Spain; and even these two each agreed to make peace with France on terms approved by the other -- rather better terms in Henry's case than he had exacted from Charles VIII.
So the way was cleared for Louis to invade Italy and make good his ciaim to Milan, whose duke, Ludovico Sforza, he ultimately shut up in a French prison; to invade it again and divide with Ferdinand the kingdom of Naples, driving out the last successor of the Arragonese line of sovereigns, who had held the throne for more than forty years; to be then overreached by Ferdinand, and compelled ultimately to yield up Naples to him entirely. But these further issues concerned England comparatively little, their importance in after years being mainly in connection with events which have yet to be referred to.
Meanwhile, but for one or two uncomfortable incidents, Henry might be said to have reached the climax of his prosperity. He was at peace with all his neighbours, and had a good understanding especially with France, Spain, and the Archduke Philip. Warbeck was for ever discredited by his own confession, and seems to have been detained in some kind of lax custody about the Court as one whom there was no occasion to punish severely. Even Henry's Juno, the old Duchess of Burgundy, was compelled to ask his pardon for the support she had given to impostors. Negotiations for the projected marriage of Prince Arthur with Katharine of Arragon were proceeding rapidly with the utmost goodwill on both sides; and other negotiations, as we have seen, were going on for a settled peace with Scotland; when first a somewhat disagreeable impression was produced by an effort of Perkin to escape. He took to his heels "without any reason," as the Spanish ambassador remarked, and made for the sea-coast. The thing caused a momentary flutter; but pursuit was made, and diligent search wherever he was likely to have gone, and he soon found it advisable to give up his attempt and take sanctuary at the Priory of Sheen. The prior begged his life of the king, who agreed to spare him when delivered, and put him in the stocks, where he was exhibited first at Westminster and then in Cheapside; after which he was committed to the Tower for greater security in future.
Perhaps the king really did mean at that time to spare his life, for he was too contemptible an object in himself to be worth putting to death. But very shortly after the madness of faction was exhibited in the setting up of a new pretender, Ralph Wilford, who was educated by an Augustinian friar, to personate the imprisoned Earl of Warwick. Rash and hopeless as the attempt was, it touched the king in the sorest point of his apprehensions, for it showed that the wrong he had done to the earl in keeping him in prison had not mitigated the danger of Yorkist conspiracies in his favour. Wilford was hanged in February 1499; but in March it was observed that Henry had come to look twenty years older in the course of a single fortnight. A report, too, not altogether unworthy of credit, said that he had consulted a priest, who was credited with the gift of prophecy, how long he had to live, and received answer that his life would be in danger for a whole year. He grew particularly devout. The time of year was Lent, and he listened to a sermon every day besides other observances. But one dark thought was certainly haunting his mind, destined to bear unpleasant fruit in the course of a very few months.
Warbeck's place of confinement in the Tower was not far removed from that of the Earl of Warwick, and it could hardly have been quite an accident that the two found themselves able to communicate with each other. Warbeck, in fact, either drew his gaolers, or, as is more likely, was drawn by some of them, into a plot for his own and the Earl of Warwick's liberation. The poor earl, who was but four-and-twenty years old, and had been from early boyhood continually in prison, knew nothing of the world, and yielded an easy assent to a project framed in his own interest. Of course the matter was soon disclosed, and of course also it was then quite clear that it involved much more than an attempt to break from prison. Gathering together all the fragments of private conversation sworn to by the informers, it would have been strange if the Crown lawyers had not been able to twist out of them a design to levy war against the king. The earl was formally charged with a conspiracy to seize the Tower and make himself king, and Warbeck was indicted as his accomplice. That the former was absolutely innocent of any such design, even if the plan was not in itself preposterous, was admitted frankly in the Act by which his attainder was reversed in the succeeding reign. But it was clear his life had to be sacrificed to a supposed necessity of State, and the thing was done with all judicial formalities. He was duly tried before his peers, the Earl of Oxford acting as High aonstable of England, and being found guilty, was beheaded a week after on Tower Hill; while Perkin and three of his accomplices expiated their offences at Tyburn.
We are told by Bacon that Henry, to shield himself to some extent from unpleasant comments on the subject of Warwick's death, caused letters from Spain to be shown, in which Ferdinand wrote plainly "that he saw no assurance of his succession as long as the Earl of Warwick lived, and that he was loth to send his daughter to troubles and dangers." This is probably an over-statement, for the diplomatic correspondence between Spain and England is now pretty fully known to us, and there is no trace in it of any such explicit declaration. But we do find by that correspondence that very great importance was attached by the Spanish ambassador, if not by his master, to the Earl of Warwick's execution, and to the fact that there remained in the kingdom "not a doubtful drop of royal blood," or any possible rival by inheritance to the claims of the king and queen; so that Prince Arthur's right to the succession would be undisputed. The kingdom, De Puebla assured Ferdinand, was now really more secure than it had been for five hundred years.
The Spanish sovereigns were of the same opinion. They were now more convinced than ever of the value of Henry as an ally, and they readily ratified two new treaties which had been drawn up in London, the one for a political alliance and the other for the marriage. Henry on his side was eager that Katharine should be sent to England that very year (1500); but his councillors were more particular about the terms of the new alliance than those of Ferdinand and Isabella, and De Puebla declared that after long negotiations he had almost despaired of satisfying them. Henry had in the meantime gone over to Calais, partly perhaps, as men supposed, to avoid the plague then raging in London. But another object was to lure the Archduke Philip to an interview, which accordingly took place between them at St. Peter's church, just outside Calais; for Philip declined to enter a walled town, as he had refused to do so already at the French king's invitation, and although he professed greater confidence in Henry, he would not establish a bad precedent. And this interview seems to have led, for the time at least, to important results in the way of cementing old alliances and making them more cordial, for there had recently been commercial disputes between the two countries. To crown all, after various conferences, an agreement was come to for a marriage between Henry, Duke of York, the king's second son, and a daughter of the archduke; and another between the archduke's son and heir Charles (afterwards the Emperor Charles V.), at that time not four months old, and Henry's second daughter Mary. Neither of these matches ultimately took effect, but the second was persistently kept in view for many years, and was not dropped for some time after Henry VII.'s death.
But when the news of Henry's crossing to Calais -- or perhaps of his intention to go thither -- reached Ferdinand and Isabella, it put them for a time in a considerable state of alarm. What was the meaning of it? Was the marriage between Arthur and Katharine, to which Henry had so fully pledged himself, and which, in fact, had been already celebrated more than once by proxy, going to be set aside in favour of some better offer from Maximilian, King of the Romans? Ferdinand could not help judging others by his own standard in such matters, and despatched a special ambassador in hot haste through France to Henry, the real object of whose mission was only to spy out truths that he could not trust even De Puebla to communicate. And in truth as the envoy neared Calais, from which Henry before his arrival had already taken ship again for England, he heard pretty definite rumours that a marriage had been positively concluded between the Prince of Wales and Maximilian's daughter Margaret, now the widow of Ferdinand and Isabella's son Juan, who had just returned from Spain to Flanders. There was, however, no real ground for the rumour; and though Henry, at the urgent request of the Spanish sovereigns, agreed to allow Katharine's voyage to England to be delayed till next year, there was no further obstacle to the consummation of the marriage.
Meanwhile there came to England from Pope Alexander VI. a nuncio, named Gaspar Pons, to distribute to those who were not able to visit Rome in that year of jubilee (1500) the indulgences they might have gained by doing so, on their making a sufficient contribution to the papal treasury. Pons also brought a brief from the Pope to urge him to enter on a crusade in person against the Turks, whose progress in Europe was creating considerable alarm; insomuch that there were fears that they might land in Italy and even drive the Pope from Rome. To this object it was intimated that the sum collected for the indulgence would be applied. Henry, though he allowed the money to be collected, replied to this appeal for a crusade with a letter of polite excuse, in which, besides pleading the long distance and the time and expense that would be involved in his case in fitting out and sending an expedition, he rather insinuated that even if the Turk did come to Italy it would not greatly disturb his repose in England. But in truth he was not so indifferent to the project if he could only see it carried out in good faith. It was thought by many that he shared the proceeds of the collection made for the Pope in his kingdom. This was what all other princes did by arrangement with the Holy See; but Henry did not. He ultimately handed over £4000 to the papal nuncio, though he had some correspondence before doing so with Ferdinand of Spain as to the possibility of using the money really for its ostensible purpose, and keeping it out of the Pope's clutches, who would certainly use it otherwise.
That Henry was most in earnest of all princes about the defence of Christendom against the Turk seems to have been recognised by the Knights of Rhodes, who constituted him protector of their order. If there was yet some reality anywhere in the old crusading sentiment it was in him, and towards the end of his reign, instead of waiting to be exhorted by the Pope, he positively urged the project upon Julius II., when the latter, seeing no prospect of a union among Christian princes, took the matter more coolly.
To return to the Spanish marriage. Katharine at length left the Court of her parents at Granada in May 1501 for Coruna, where she was to embark. Even the land journey was slow, from the intense heat, and after taking ship she was obliged by adverse winds to return to Spain. At last, however, the voyage was successfully accomplished, and she landed at Plymouth on the 2d of October. No pains or cost had been spared to give her a magnificent reception, and on the 14th of November she was married to Prince Arthur at St. Paul's amid universal rejoicings.
Prince Arthur was at the time little more than fifteen years of age; Katharine a year older. The extreme youth of the prince, and possibly some appearance of a weakly constitution, rendered it advisable, in the opinion of some at least of the Council, to delay their cohabitation; and though Henry wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella as if for Katharine's sake he had overruled this advice, there is considerable ground for believing that it was really acted upon. The young couple, however, were not kept very far apart, but were sent down together to the borders of Wales, where the Princes of Wales were accustomed to hold their Court to keep order in the marches. Here they seem to have spent barely three or, at the utmost, four months together, when their union was dissolved by a painful and unexpected blow. But this perhaps had better be related in the words of an unknown contemporary, whose brief narrative of the fact and the reception of the news at Court is invaluable, as showing us the more human aspects of a character often represented untruly as cold and unloving: --
No doubt, being a politician above all things, Henry, after these first emotions were over, must have thought seriously what was now to be done with Katharine, how she was henceforth to live, and whether she should be sent back to Spain. But it was her father who, as soon as the news reached him, was most deeply concerned, first about his daughter, and secondly, perhaps not less, about the marriage portion given along with her. The amount of this was 200,000 scudos, of which as yet he had only paid one-half; for it had been arranged that only one-half was to be paid at first, the rest being pay able afterwards in two instalments, and that Henry, to whom the whole was made over by an act of renunciation on Katharine's part, should receive the third instalment in plate and jewels, which the princess brought along with her, at a just valuation. Ferdinand, on carefully considering how matters now stood, came to the conclusion, first, that he was no longer called upon to pay any more; and secondly, that Henry was bound to repay him even the first instalment of this dower, and at the same time to put Katharine in full possession of the lands and revenues set apart for her jointure, so that she should have no occasion to borrow for her necessary expenses. These demands, he considered, were fully borne out both by civil and by canon law; but he evidently did not expect them to be complied with, and therefore empowered an ambassador, whom he sent to England on the business, to settle all disputes by the conclusion of a new marriage for Katharine with the king's second son, Henry, Duke of York, who afterwards (ten months after his brother's death) was created Prince of Wales in Arthur's place.
Henry, the father, did not see the justice of Ferdinand's demands. He was quite ready, even unasked, to put Katharine in possession of her jointure, but he demurred to the repayment of the first instalment of her dower, of which he considered the whole ought rightfully to come to him. The Spanish sovereigns had soon cause to feel that they had pitched their demands too high, and probably they regretted their mistake when they found immediately after that they wanted England's help again against France, which was making war upon them both in Naples and at Perpignan. Isabella in particular became most anxious that the second marriage should be concluded, and when Henry showed himself rather cool on this subject, instructed her ambassador to demand the return of Katharine to Spain, telling the king he had instructions to freight vessels for her voyage.
But while these matters were in suspense another cloud passed over Henry's home, a heavier and darker cloud than the death of Arthur. On the l1th of February 1503 he lost his queen, Elizabeth of York, a woman much beloved by the people, who undoubtedly had exercised much influence over him for good, although it is true, in the words of Bacon, that towards her "he was nothing uxorious." Henry, indeed, was too much a king to be greatly under the control of women, and with matters political she had certainly nothing to do. But we notice a deterioration of Henry's character after he became a widower; not that we hear of ordinary scandals either before or after his bereavement, and it may be that as regards these his life was pure. He was, moreover, careful in the education of his children, and the little glimpse of his family circle given us by Erasmus is altogether pleasing. But we have many evidences that towards the end of his days he yielded to coarser and more sordid influences than he had done before. Nor was the queen the only good friend and counsellor of whom death had at this time deprived him; for Sir Reginald Bray died about the same time, and Cardinal Morton had passed away less than three years before. And these were the men whose advice had prevailed most in dissuading him from acts of tyranny.
A year before the queen's death, in January 1502, the Earl of Bothwell, as proxy for James IV. of Scotland, had solemnly espoused the Princess Margaret in his master's name at Richmond. In June following she herself was accompanied by her father from Richmond to Collyweston in Northamptonshire, on the way towards Scotland. There he took leave of her on the 8th of July, and from thence, moving northwards by slow stages accompanied by a splendid retinue, she was conducted to Scotland by the Earl of Surrey, who was joined on the way by the Earl of Northumberland and many of the northern lords. On the 8th of August the marriage was celebrated between the parties themselves at Edinburgh -- a union which, as the reader is well aware, ultimately brought England and Scotland under the same Crown.
An interesting tradition in connection with the negotiation of this marriage is recorded by Lord Bacon. Some of Henry's Council are said to have put to him the case which actually happened exactly a hundred years afterwards, that owing to this marriage, on failure of the issue of Henry's only surviving son, the future Henry VIII., a King of Scotland might succeed to the English throne. Would not this, it was suggested, be to the prejudice of England? But Henry's answer was clear that Scotland would in that case be an accession to England, not England to Scotland, "for that the greater would draw the less, and that it was a safer union for England than that of France." It was a wise and statesmanlike answer, and showed well, what was often remarked of Henry, that he was quite free from ordinary English prejudices.