Henry VIII, the Reign
As Henry braced himself to marry Anne of Cleves, the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of France spent Christmas together in Paris.
Eleven days of Christmas passed peacefully and then on the twelfth day a diplomatic incident blew up.
Travelling with Charles was one Robert Branceter, sometime servant of Reginald Pole and now in Charles’s service. He had been attained in absentia by Parliament in January 1539 at the same time as Pole.
Cromwell discovered Branceter was in the Imperial entourage. Because in England Branceter was a wanted man, Cromwell instructed Thomas Wyatt, English ambassador to the Imperial court, to have Branceter arrested by the French authorities, which Wyatt succeed in doing. The Provost of Paris took Branceter into custody.
When Charles found out that one of his valued servants had been arrested by the French at the behest of the English, he was furious.
Francis, the bewildered host, was bemused and embarrassed by the incident and quickly had Branceter released.
The release of Branceter was an affront to Henrican pride, and it was vital that Charles and Francis be held to account for the insult. The English ambassador to France, Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, whom Francis detested at the best of times, waded into the fracas by launching a barrage of insults, face to face, at the King of France. Meanwhile, across Paris, Charles was trading invectives with Wyatt.
By accident or design, England’s two most senior diplomats had outraged the two most powerful men in Christendom. Worse, as they were agents of the king, convention had it that Henry VIII himself had affronted Charles and Francis personally.
Neither the emperor nor the King of France, however, believed this was Henry’s personal doing. During the rant, Francis had roared at Bonner, ‘If Henry himself had said so, I would have punched him in the eye but you do not speak by order of the king.’
Both princes had, after all, experienced Wolsey’s power over the enthralled King of England, but the two rulers and their advisers now agreed that it was high time something was done about the problems the current de facto ruler of England was creating for them – not only in terms of this incident but also in the wider problem of Cromwell’s recruitment of Germanic states to facilitate the exit of northern Christendom from the Roman Catholic jurisdiction of the south.
Cromwell’s evangelical ambitions began to unravel at the hands of the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of France.
Notes and Links Part 40
Wyatt’s report to Henry VIII. LP 38
For detailed account of the maelstrom see Susan Brigden Thomas Wyatt The Hearts Forest. Pg 501-7
Francis’ demand that Bonner be replaced. LP 121
Read this to the King of England without omitting a word. LP 122