These hopes were defeated by his great victory at Marignano. But Francis in the moment of triumph saw himself confronted by a new rival. Masterof Castile and Aragon, of Naples and the Netherlands, the new Spanish King, Charles the Fifth, rose into a check on the French monarchy such as the policy of Henry or Wolsey had never been able to construct before. The alliance of England was eagerly sought by both sides, and the administration of Wolsey, amid all its ceaseless diplomacy, for seven years kept England out of war. The Peace, as we have seen, restored the hopes of the New Learning; it enabled Colet to reform education, Erasmus to undertake the regeneration of the Church, More to set on foot a new science of politics. But peace as Wolsey used it was fatal to English freedom. In the political hints which lie scattered over the "Utopia" More notes with bitter irony the advance of the new despotism. It was only in " Nowhere" that a sovereign was "removeable on suspicion of a design to enslave his people." In England the work of slavery was being quietly wrought, hints the great lawyer, through the law. " There will never be wanting some pretence for deciding in the King's favour; as that equity is on his side, or the strict letter of the law, or some forced interpretation of it; or if none of these, that the royal prerogative ought with conscientious judges to outweigh all other considerations." We are startled at the precision with which More maps out the expedients by which the law courts were to lend themselves to the advance of tyranny till their crowning judgement in the case of ship-money. But behind these judicial expedients lay great principles of absolutism, which partly from the example of foreign monarchies, partly from the sense of social and political insecurity, and yet more from the isolated position of the Crown, were gradually winning their way in public opinion. "These notions," he goes boldly on, "are fostered by the maxim that the king can do no wrong, however much he may wish to do it; that not only the property but the persons of his subjects are his own; and that a man has a right to no more than the king's goodness thinks fit not to take from him." In the hands of Wolsey these maxims were transformed into principles of State. The checks which had been imposed on the action of the sovereign by the presence of great prelates and nobles at his council were practically removed.
All authority was concentrated in the hands of a single minister. Henry had munificently rewarded Wolsey's services to the Crown. He had been promoted to the See of Lincoln and thence to the Archbishoprick of York. Henry procured his elevation to the rank of Cardinal, and raised him to the post of Chancellor. The revenues of two sees whose tenants were foreigners fell into his hands; he held the bishoprick of Winchester and the abbacy of St. Albans; he was in receipt of pensions from France and Spain, while his official emoluments were enormous. His pomp was almost royal. A train of prelates and nobles followed him wherever he moved; his household was composed of five hundred persons of noble birth, and its chief posts were held by knights and barons of the realm. He spent his vast wealth with princely ostentation. Two of his houses, Hampton Court and York House, the later Whitehall, were splendid enough to serve at his fall as royal palaces. His school at Ipswich was eclipsed by the glories of his foundation at Oxford, whose name of Cardinal College has been lost in its later title of Christ-church. Nor was this magnificence a mere show of power.
The whole direction of home and foreign affairs rested with Wolsey alone; as Chancellor he stood at the head of public justice; his elevation to the office of Legate rendered him supreme in the Church. Enormous as was the mass of work which he undertook, it was thoroughly done: his administration of the royal treasury was economical; the number of his despatches is hardly less remarkable than the care bestowed upon each; even More, an avowed enemy, confesses that as Chancellor he surpassed all men's expectations. The court of Chancery, indeed, became so crowded through the character for expedition and justice which it gained under his rule that subordinate courts had to be created for its relief. It was this concentration of all secular and ecclesiastical power in a single hand which accustomed England to the personal government which began with Henry the Eighth; and it was, above all, Wolsey's long tenure of the whole Papal authority within the realm, and the consequent suspension of appeals to Rome, that led men to acquiesce at a later time in Henry's claim of religious supremacy.
For proud as was Wolsey's bearing and high as were his natural powers he stood before England as the mere creature of the King. Greatness, wealth, authority he held, and owned he held, simply at the royal will. In raising his low-born favourite to the head of Church and State Henry was gathering all religious as well as all civil authority into his personal grasp. The nation which trembled before Wolsey learned to tremble before the King who could destroy Wolsey by a breath.
The rise of Charles of Austria gave a new turn to Wolsey's policy. Possessor of the Netherlands, of Franche Comté", of Spain, the death of his grandfather Maximilian added to his dominions the heritage of the House of Austria in Swabia and on the Danube, and opened the way for his election as Emperor. France saw herself girt in on every side by a power greater than her own; and to Wolsey and his master the time seemed come for a bolder game. Disappointed in his hopes of obtaining the Imperial crown on the death of Maximilian, Henry turned to the dream of "recovering his French inheritance," which he had never really abandoned, and which was carefully fed by his nephew Charles. Nor was Wolsey forgotten. If Henry coveted France, his minister coveted no less a prize than the Papacy; and the young Emperor was lavish of promises of support in any coming election. The result of these seductions was quickly seen. In May, 1520, Charles landed at Dover to visit Henry, and King and Emperor rode alone to Canterbury. It was in vain that Francis strove to retain Henry's friendship by an interview near Guisnes, to which the profuse expenditure of both monarchs gave the name of the Field of Cloth of Gold. A second interview between Charles and his uncle as he returned from the meeting with Francis ended in a secrot confederacy of the two sovereigns, and the promise of the Emperor to marry Henry's one child, Mary Tudor. Her right to the throne was asserted by a deed which proved how utterly the baronage now lay at the mercy of the King. The Duke of Buckingham stood first in blood as in power among the English nobles; he was the descendant of Edward the Third's youngest son, and if Mary's succession were denied he stood heir to the throne.