However great might be his own personal reluctance,
it was not possible for him to remain passive; and
if he declined to resort at once to the more extreme
exercise of his power, the hesitation was merely until
the emperor was prepared to enforce the censures of
the church with the strong hand. It stood not
“with his honour to execute such censures,”
he said, “and the same not to be regarded."
But there was no wish to spare Henry; and if Francis
could be detached from his ally, and if the condition
of the rest of Christendom became such as to favour
the enterprise, England might evidently look for the
worst which the pope, with the Catholic powers, could
execute. If the papal court was roused into so
menacing a mood by the mere intimation of the secret
marriage, it was easy to foresee what would ensue
when the news arrived of the proceedings at Dunstable.
Bennet entreated that the process should be delayed
till the interview; but the pope answered coldly that
he had done his best and could do no more; the imperialists
were urgent, and he saw no reason to refuse their
petition. This was Clement’s usual language,
but there was something peculiar in his manner.
He had been often violent, but he had never shown
resolution, and the English agents were perplexed.
The mystery was soon explained. He had secured
himself on the side of France; and Francis, who at
Calais had told Henry that his negotiations with the
see of Rome were solely for the interests of England,
that for Henry’s sake he was marrying his son
into a family beneath him in rank, that Henry’s
divorce was to form the especial subject of his conference
with the pope, had consented to allow these dangerous
questions to sink into a secondary place, and had
relinquished his intention, if he had ever seriously
entertained it, of becoming an active party in the
The long-talked-of interview was still delayed.
First it was to have taken place in the winter, then
in the spring; June was the date last fixed for it,
and now Bennet had to inform the king that it would
not take place before September; and that, from the
terms of a communication which had just passed between
the parties who were to meet, the subjects discussed
at the conference would not be those which he had
been led to expect. Francis, in answer to a question
from the pope, had specified three things which he
proposed particularly to “intreat.”
The first concerned the defence of Christendom against
the Turks, the second concerned the general council,
and the third concerned “the extinction of the
Lutheran sect." These were the points which the
Most Christian king was anxious to discuss with the
pope. For the latter good object especially, “he
would devise and treat for the provision of an army.”
In the King of England’s cause, he trusted “some
means might be found whereby it might be compounded;"
but if persuasion failed, there was no fear lest he
should have recourse to any other method.