In December 1546, Henry VIII had a little more than a month left to live. Although he likely didn’t see the time frame as being quite so end-stage, he was putting his kingdom in order for his son. This involved consolidating his land holdings into blocs – by making courtiers trade properties with him, on varying terms. Gardiner got all huffy that some people were being treated better than others, and refused. Now, the last person to do this was Nicholas Carew – and his refusal led in a relatively straight line to his execution so you would think that Gardiner would not be so stupid. But you’d be wrong.
Henry kicked Gardiner out and gave instructions that he was not to be permitted back into the royal presence. Try as he might, he never was. The letter below – the two letters below – were Gardiner’s first attempts to beg forgiveness (and basically they fall into the “you misunderstood me!” category brand of explanation). After this, he would do things like hang around the King’s apartments just in case Henry passed by. Or, to hide the fact that he was out of favor, he would linger outside of the Council chamber to pretend he’d been in there the whole time (As you may imagine, I had a field day with this whole sequence in The Path to Somerset!).
Here’s his letter to the King (it’s from L&P so it’s the abstract):
Having no opportunity of making suit to his presence, begs pardon for molesting him with these letters, only to desire a continuance of favour. Has ever esteemed the King’s benefits and declared the joy he felt in the King’s favour; “and if for want of circumspection my doings or sayings be otherwise taken in this matter of land[s] wherein I was spoken with,” I on my knees desire pardon. I never said nay, to resist your pleasure but only to be a suitor, as emboldened by past favours; for I would gladly supply my want could I have such help from you as others have had. London, 2 Dec.
And here’s the extra plea he makes to Paget to ask for his help:
I trusted to have seen you here ere this, but “your letters may be diverse”; and, therefore, instead of writing to the King by you, I have thought requisite to write to his Majesty and pray you to deliver my letters and learn whether I may come myself, for I am here appointed for the execution of a commission, and others who now come to the Court were specially sent for. I hear “confusedly” that in this matter of lands my doings are not well taken, and am sorry; for, as you know I ever made the King’s favour my worldly foundation.[…]. I pray you send me some word.” Southwark, 2 Dec.
As I mentioned, Stephen Gardiner never saw Henry again. Henry explained the exclusion to his counselors by telling them he was saving them – that only Henry could control the wily Bishop of Winchester. Henry also continued his longstanding favoritism towards Cranmer…and yet Gardiner was the one chosen to officiate the royal funeral. What was THAT about?
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