Part Seventeen - Wolsey Bids Anew for Papal Power
Above - The Papal Palace at Avignon
Henry VIII, the Reign
Wolsey Bids Anew for Papal Power
The Mighty Cleric Leaves England with the Pomp of a Viceroy – Wolsey Calls on the Cardinals to Come to Him in Avignon – Charles Blames Wolsey for Henry’s Marital State
The capture of Pope Clement VII presented another opportunity for Wolsey to further his ambitions for control of the papacy. He set off to France with ‘title of the king’s lieutenant, the powers of a plenipotentiary [full power] and the pomp of viceroy’, ostensibly to ratify the treaties of the previous April.
George Cavendish, who was with Wolsey, describes their departure from London:
Then marched he forward out of his own house at Westminster, passing through all London, over London Bridge, having before him of gentlemen a great number, three in a rank, in black velvet livery coats, and the most part of them with great chains of gold about their necks, and all his yeomen, with noblemen’s and gentlemen’s servants following him in French tawny livery coats; having embroidered upon the backs and breasts of the said coats these letters: T. and C., under the cardinal’s hat. His sumpter mules, which were twenty in number and more, with his carts and other carriages of his train, were passed on before, conducted and guarded with a great number of bows and spears. He rode like a cardinal, very sumptuously, on a mule trapped with crimson velvet upon velvet, and his stirrups of copper and gilt; and his spare mule following him with like apparel. And before him he had his two great crosses of silver, two great pillars of silver, the great seal of England, his cardinal’s hat, and a gentleman that carried his valaunce, otherwise called a cloakbag; which was made altogether of fine scarlet cloth, embroidered over and over with cloth of gold very richly, having in it a cloak of fine scarlet. Thus passed he through London, and all the way of his journey, having his harbingers passing before to provide lodgings for his train.
Charles Blamed Wolsey
By 4 August 1527 he was at Amiens, where Francis had come to meet him. Wolsey had devised a plan. While the pope was held captive, he would take control of the papacy himself and preside from Avignon. He explained to Henry that this device was also for the ‘advancement of your particular affair’, the affair being the divorce.
Within the detail of this plan was the assembly of all the cardinals. Those who had not been taken prisoner would go to Wolsey in Avignon to prevent the government of the church becoming subservient to Charles. Wolsey intended to assume the full authority of the pope during Clement’s captivity. He would use this mission to ratify the treaties with the French and, in the name of the papacy, pronounce the king’s marriage invalid. But Charles was prepared for him. He blamed the over-mighty Wolsey for Christendom’s woes and accused him of contriving the divorce to gratify his own ambitions. He entreated the pope to revoke the legatine power conferred on the cardinal of England. At the same time he exonerated Henry because, he said, ‘It is not to be presumed that his Serenity the King would consent to have her [Princess Mary] and her mother [Catherine] dishonoured, a thing in itself so unreasonable that there is no example of it in ancient or modern history.’