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that Cardinal Hadrian, and others who were well acquainted with French, yet always wrote to him in Latin.
For his pleasures, there is no mention found of them. Yet by his instructions to Marsin and Stile, with regard to the Queen of Naples, it appears he could very skilfully interrogate upon beauty, and the parts thereof. He did by pleasures, as great princes do by banquets of sweetmeats: look upon them a little, and go away. For never was prince more immersed in his own affairs, being wholly taken up with them, and himself wholly in them: insomuch that at justs, tournaments, or other mock fights, masks, and the like public assemblies, he seemed to be rather a princely and grave spectator, than much delighted.
Doubtless, as in all other men, and particularly in kings, his fortune influenced his nature; and his nature again influenced his fortune. He ascended to the throne, not only from a private fortune, which might teach him moderation; but from the fortune of an exiled man, which had given him the spurs of industry and sagacity. And his government being rather prosperous than calm, had raised his confidence by success; but in the mean time almost corrupted his nature by perpetual vexations. This prudence, by his frequent escapes from dangers (which had taught him to rely upon extempore remedies), was turned rather into a dexterity at extricating himself from misfortunes, when they pressed him, than into a foresight to prevent and remove them at a distance. Thus, the eyes of his mind were not unlike the corporeal eyes of those who see strong near at hand, but weak at a distance. For his prudence was suddenly roused by the occasion; and the more, if the occasion was sharpened by danger.
These influences his fortune had upon his nature; nor were there wanting, on the other hand, certain influences, which his nature had upon his fortune. For whether it was the shortness of his foresight, or the obstinacy of his will, or the dazzling of his suspicions, or what; certain it is, that the perpetual troubles in his fortune could not have arisen without some great defects in his nature, and riveted errors in the radical constitution of his mind; which he was obliged to salve and correct by a thousand little industries and arts; all which best appear in the history itself.
But to take him with all his defects, and compare him with the kings of France and Spain, his contemporaries, we shall find him more politic than Lewis XII. of France; and more faithful and sincere than Ferdinando of Spain. But to change Lewis XII. for Lewis XI. who reigned a little before, the comparisons will be more suitable, and the parallels more exact. For these three, Lewis XL, Henry, and Ferdinando, may be esteemed as the three magi among the kings of that age. To conclude, if this king did no greater matters, it was his own fault; for what he undertook he compassed.
He was comely in person; a little above the just stature; well and straight limbed; but slender. His countenance struck a reverence, somewhat resembling that of an ecclesiastic. And as it was not gloomy or supercilious, so neither was it winning or pleasing; but like the face of one composed and sedate in mind, though his was not happy for the painter, as being best when he spoke.
He had the fortune of a true Christian, as well as of a great king, in living exercised, and dying penitent. So that he triumphed victoriously, as well in spirituals as temporals; and succeeded in both conflicts, that of sin, and that of the cross.
He was born at Pembroke Castle, and buried at Westminster, in one of the noblest monuments of Europe, both for the chapel and the sepulchre. So that he dwells more richly dead, in the monument of his tomb, than when alive, either at Richmond, or any other of his palaces. I could wish he might do the like in this monument of his fame. Bacon.
To form a just estimate of the character of Henry we must distinguish between the young king, guided by the counsels of Wolsey, and the monarch of more mature age, governing by his own judgment, and with the aid of ministers selected and fashioned by himself. In his youth the beauty of his person, the elegance of his manners, and his adroitness in every martial and fashionable exercise, were calculated to attract the admiration of his subjects. His court was gay and splendid; a succession of amusements seemed to absorb his attention; yet his pleasures were not permitted to encroach on his more important duties: he assisted at the council, perused his dispatches, and corresponded with his generals and ambassadors: nor did the minister, trusted and powerful as he was, dare to act till he had asked the opinion, and taken the pleasure of his sovereign. His natural abilities had been improved by study; and his esteem for literature may be inferred from the learned education which he gave to his children, and from the number of eminent scholars to whom he granted pensions in foreign states, or on whom he conferred promotion in his own. The immense treasure which he inherited from his father was perhaps a misfortune; because it engendered habits of expense not to be supported from the ordinary revenue of the crown: and the soundness of his politics may be doubted, which, under the pretence of supporting the balance of power, repeatedly involved the nation in continental hostilities. Yet even these errors served to throw a lustre round the English throne, and raised its possessor in the eyes of his own subjects and of the different nations of Europe. But as the king advanced in age, his vices gradually developed themselves: after the death of YVolsey they were indulged without restraint. He became as rapacious as he was prodigal; as obstinate as he was capricious; as fickle in his friendships as he was merciless in his resentments. Though liberal of his confidence, he soon grew suspicious of those whom he had ever trusted; and, as if he possessed no other right to the crown than that which he derived from the very questionable claim of his father, he viewed with an evil eye every remote descendant of the Plantagenets; and eagerly embraced the slightest pretexts to remove those whom his jealousy represented as future rivals to himself or his posterity. In pride and vanity he was, perhaps, without a parallel. Inflated with the praises of interested admirers, he despised the judgment of others; acted as if he deemed himself infallible in matters of policy and religion; and seemed to look upon dissent from his opinions as equivalent to a breach of allegiance. In his estimation, to submit and to obey, were the great, the paramount duties of subjects: and this persuasion steeled his breast against remorse for the blood which he shed, and led him to trample without scruple on the liberties of the nation.
When he ascended the throne, there still existed a spirit of freedom, which, on more than one occasion, defeated the arbitrary measures of the court, though directed by an able minister, and supported by the authority of the sovereign: but in the lapse of a few years that spirit had fled, and before the death of Henry the king of England had grown into a despot, the people had shrunk into a nation of slaves. The cause of this important change in the relation between the sovereign and his subjects, may be found not so much in the abilities or passions of the former, as in the obsequiousness of his parliaments, the assumption of the ecclesiastical supremacy, and the servility of the two religious parties which divided the nation. Ungard.