Page images
PDF
EPUB

riches, and the perpetual constancy of his prosperous successes, but an opportune death, to withdraw him from any future blow of fortune : which certainly (in regard of the great hatred of his people, and the title of his son, being then come to eighteen years of age, and being a bold Prince 5 and liberal, and that gained upon the people by his very aspect and presence) had not been impossible to have come

upon him.

To crown also the last year of his reign, as well as his first, he did an act of piety, rare, and worthy to be taken 10 into imitation. For he granted forth a general pardon : as expecting a second coronation in a better kingdom. He did also declare in his will, that his mind was, that restitution should be made of those sums which had been unjustly taken by his officers.

15 And thus this Solomon of England, for Solomon also was too heavy upon his people in exactions, having lived two and fifty years, and thereof reigned three and twenty years, and eight months, being in perfect memory, and in a most blessed mind, in a great calm of a consuming sick- 20 ness passed to a better world, the two and twentieth of April 1508, at his palace of Richmond, which himself had built.

THIS King, to speak of him in terms equal to his deserving, was one of the best sort of wonders; a wonder 25 for wise men. He had parts, both in his virtues and his fortune, not so fit for a common place, as for observation. Certainly he was religious, both in his affection and observance. But as he could see clear, for those, times, through superstition, so he would be blinded, now and

30 then, by human policy. He advanced churchmen; he was tender in the privilege of sanctuaries, though they

wrought him much mischief. He built and endowed many religious foundations, besides his memorable hospital of the Savoy: and yet was he a great almsgiver in secret; which shewed, that his works in public were dedicated 5 rather to God's glory than his own. He professed always

to love and seek peace : and it was his usual preface in his treaties, that when Christ came into the world, peace was sung; and when he went out of the world, peace was

bequeathed. And this virtue could not proceed out of 10 fear or softness; for he was valiant and active, and there

fore, no doubt, it was truly Christian and moral. Yet he knew the way to peace was not to seem to be desirous to avoid wars: therefore would he make offers and fames

of wars, till he had mended the conditions of peace. It 15 was also much, that one that was so great a lover of peace,

should be so happy in war. For his arms, either in foreign or civil wars, were never unfortunate; neither did he know what a disaster meant. The war of his coming in, and

the rebellions of the earl of Lincoln, and the lord Audley, 20 were ended by victory. The wars of France and Scotland,

by peaces sought at his hands. That of Britain, by accident of the duke's death. The insurrection of the lord Lovel, and that of Perkin at Exeter, and in Kent, by flight

of the rebels before they came to blows. So that his 25 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

30 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 5 administered in his time, save where the King was party: save also, that the council-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, 10 and cut, as it were, in brass or marble, which is the making 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 15 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 upon those which were taken in 20 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 incon- 25 stancy 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, 30 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 5 cardinal Morton and Sir Reginald 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 10 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 15 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 20 had some high design upon foreign parts : but those per

haps 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 25 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, 30 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 lagh 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 :5 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 10 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, Fox, and Bray, and Empson, because they were so much with him: but it was but as the instrument is much with 15 the workman. He had nothing in him of vainglory, but yet kept state and majesty to the height: being sensible, that majesty maketh the people bow, but vainglory boweth to them.

To his confederates abroad he was constant and just, 20 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 sovereign princes, 25 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, 30 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 attend

« PreviousContinue »