« PreviousContinue »
Brittaine by accident of the Duke's death. The insurrection of the Lord Lovell, and that of Perkin at Exeter and in Kent, by flight of the rebels before they came to blows. So that his fortune of arms was still inviolate. The rather sure, for that in the quenching of the commotions of his subjects he ever went in person : sometimes reserving himself to back and second his lieutenants, but ever in action. And yet that was not merely forwardness, but partly distrust of others.
He did much maintain and countenance his laws; which (nevertheless) was no impediment to him to work his will. For it was so handled that neither prerogative nor profit went to diminution. And yet as he would sometimes strain up his laws to his prerogative, so would he also let down his prerogative to his Parliament. For mint and wars and martial discipline (things of absolute power) he would nevertheless bring to Parliament. Justice was well administered in his time, save where the king was party; save also that the counsel-table intermeddled too much with meum and tuum. For it was a very court of justice during his time; especially in the beginning. But in that part both of justice and policy which is the durable part, and
cut as it were in brass or marble, which is the mak✓ing of good laws, he did excel. And with his justice he was also a merciful prince : as in whose time there were but three of the nobility that suffered; the Earl of Warwick; the Lord Chamberlain ; and the Lord Audley : though the first two were instead of numbers in the dislike and obloquy of the people. But there were never so great rebellions expiated with so little blood drawn by the hand of justice, as the two rebellions of Blackheath and Exeter. As for the severity used
1 The war of Brittany, had Bacon's account of it been accurate, must have been accounted an exception to Henry's usual fortune in war. It might be an accident, but still it was a failure. But if we substitute the true history of it, which I have given in my note p. 154, we may fairly count it among the examples of his habitual success. The army accomplished all it was sent to accomplish; the ultimate frustration of Hevry's object was due to an error of policy, not to an accident of war.
I may take this opportunity of correcting the statement in note 3. p. 97. as to the spelling of the name Brittaine. It is so spelt in the MS. in that place and one or two others immediately following. But afterwards it is always, or almost always, spelt Britaine.
upon those which were taken in Kent, it was but upon a scum of people. His pardons went ever both before and after his sword. But then he had withal a strange kind of interchanging of large and inexpected pardons with severe executions : which (his wisdom considered) could not be imputed to any inconstancy or inequality ; but either to some reason which we do not now know, or to a principle he had set unto himself, that he would vary, and try both ways in turn. But the less blood he drew the more he took of treasure : and as some construed it, he was the more sparing in the one that he might be the more pressing in the other; for both would have been intolerable.
Of nature assuredly he coveted to accumulate treasure ; and was a little poor in admiring riches. The people (into whom there is infused for the preservation of monarchies a natural desire to discharge their princes, though it be with the unjust charge of their counsellors and ministers) did impute this unto Cardinal Morton and Sir Reignold Bray; who as it after appeared (as counsellors of ancient authority with him) did so second his humours, as nevertheless they did temper them. Whereas Empson and Dudley that followed, being persons that had no reputation with him otherwise than by the servile following of his bent, did not
give way only (as the first did) but shape him way to those extremities, for which himself was touched with remorse at his death; and which his successor renounced, and sought to purge. This excess of his had at that time many glosses and interpretations. Some thought the continual rebellions wherewith he had been vexed had made him grow to hate his people : Some thought it was done to pull down their stomachs and to keep them low: Some, for that he would leave his son a golden fleece: Some suspected he had some high design upon foreign parts.
But those perhaps shall come nearest the truth that fetch not their reasons so far off ; but rather impute it to nature, age, peace, and a mind fixed upon no other ambition or pursuit: whereunto I should add, that having every day occasion to take notice of the necessities and shifts for money of other great Princes abroad, it did the better by comparison set off to him the felicity of full coffers. As to his expending of treasure, he never spared charge which his affairs required : and in his buildings was magnificent; but his rewards were very limited. So that his liberality was rather upon his own state and memory than upon the deserts of others. He was of an high mind, and loved his own will and his own way; as one that revered himself, and would reign indeed. Had he been a private man he would have been termed proud: but in a wise Prince, it was but keeping of distance ; which indeed he did towards all; not admitting any near or full approach either to his power or to his secrets.
For he was governed by none. His Queen (notwithstanding she had presented him with divers children; and with a crown also, though he would not acknowledge it)
could do nothing with him. His mother he reverenced much, heard little. For any person agreeable to him for society (such as was Hastings to King Edward the Fourth, or Charles Brandon after to King Henry the Eighth), he had none; except we should account for such persons Foxe and Bray and Empson, because they were so much with him. But it was but as the instrument is much with the workman. He had nothing in him of vain-glory, but yet kept state and majesty to the height; being sensible that majesty maketh the people bow, but vain-glory boweth to them.
To his confederates abroad he was constant and just; but not open. But rather such was his inquiry and such his closeness, as they stood in the light towards him, and he stood in the dark to them ; yet without strangeness, but with a semblance of mutual communication of affairs. As for little envies or emulations upon foreign princes (which are frequent with many Kings), he had never any ; but went substantially to his own business. Certain it is, that though his reputation was great at home, yet it was greater abroad. For foreigners that could not see the passages of affairs, but made their judgments upon the issues of them, noted that he was ever in strife and ever aloft. It grew also from the airs which the princes and states abroad received from their ambassadors and agents here, which were attending the court in great number; whom he did not only content with courtesy, reward, and privateness; but (upon such conferences as passed with them) put them in admiration to find his universal insight into the affairs of the world: which though he did suck chiefly from themselves, yet that which he had gathered from them all seemed adinirable to every one.
So that they did write ever to their superiors in high terms concerning his wisdom and art of rule. Nay when they were returned, they did commonly maintain intelligence with him ; such a dexterity he had to impropriate to himself all foreign instruments.
He was careful and liberal to obtain good intelligence from all parts abroad; wherein he did not only use his interest in the liegers here, and his pensioners which he had both in the court of Rome and other the courts of Christendom, but the industry and vigilancy of his own ambassadors in foreign parts. For which purpose his instructions were
ever extreme curious and articulate; and in them more articles touching inquisition than touching negotiation : requiring likewise from his ambassadors an answer, in particular distinct articles, respectively to his questions.
As for his secret spials which he did employ both at home and abroad, by them to discover what practices and conspiracies were against him ; surely his case required it; he had such moles perpetually working and casting to undermine him. Neither can it be reprehended; for if spials be lawful against lawful enemies, much more against conspirators and traitors. But indeed to give them credence by oaths or curses, that cannot be well maintained; for these are too holy vestments for a disguise. Yet surely there was this further good in his employing of those flies and familiars; that as the use of them was cause that many conspiracies were revealed, so the fame and suspicion of them kept (no doubt) many conspiracies from being attempted.
Towards his Queen he was nothing uxorious; nor