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CHAPTER XX.

HAMPTON COURT.

Most visitors allow themselves to be carried through the avenues of Bushy Park straight to the gateway of Hampton Court, and then, with as little delay as possible, commence the tour of the apartments. But in so doing they do amiss. That way is not the best way. The judicious visitor will take a more leisurely course.

He will approach it, as we shall, from the Surrey side, and if he come in a carriage he will not fail to alight at the foot of the crazy-looking bridge which connects Hampton Court with East Moulsey. Eight pleasant and refreshing it is, on a bright summer's day, to linger awhile "with heart at ease," on the crown of the old wooden fabric, and admirably does it prepare the mind for the banquet which is in store for it. On both sides of the bridge are views of considerable beauty. Looking up the river, you have a luxuriant prospect of the valley of the Thames, upon whose placid surface rest a number of well cultivated islets; and through the foliage so abundantly spread around peers out many a lowly, and more than one lordly roof, and from many a chimney curls up the light smoke, gracefully contrasting with the dark hue and heavy forms of the trees, till it loses itself against the hazy sky; while in front Moulsey lock and weir, with the wide sheet of water rushing over it, impart strength and motion and a picture-like completeness to the view. On the right, looking down the stream, " the silent Mole " creeps stealthily into the broad bosom of the Thames;—but the quiet rusticity that rendered the view below so pleasing is quite destroyed by the sheds and terminus, and long straight cutting of the railway just formed. On the left are seen the hall, and turrets and gables, with the battlements and multiform projections, and variously grouped and carven chimney-shafts of "Royal Hampton's pile," partly hidden by the venerable elms, and backed by other majestic trees beyond. The irregular mass of the older palace looks picturesque wherever seen ; from this spot, as the varying outline is still more broken by the noble trees, and the dull red brick of which it is constructed is rendered more effective by contrast with the dusky green of their foliage, its impressiveness is greatly heightened; and even King William's straight and formal addition has its formality somewhat relieved.

And while gazing upon these roofs, how busily will the teeming fancy repeople the royal pile, as the memory runs over its history, and recals the tenants who have followed each other in this caravansary, from its early glories in the days of its builder, "the o'er-great Cardinal," till, in the strange lapse of events, it is now the Palace of the People!

Of none of our palaces could so rich a domestic history be written as of this. There are now scattered in memoirs and letters, materials in abundance for relating all that concerns it, with almost Boswellian minuteness—and with almost Boswellian interest also. But of course that is not to be thought of here. The matter of volumes cannot be compressed into half a dozen pages.

The first palace is of the time of Henry VIII. In the Domesday Survey the manor of Hamntone (as it is there spelled) is stated to belong to Walter de St. Waleric, and " the whole value" to be thirty-nine pounds. The right of fishing and laying nets in the Thames is estimated at three shillings. Early in the thirteenth century, the manor and manorhouse were bequeathed by the pious widow of Sir Robert Grey, to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. In their possession it remained till Wolsey induced the prior of that order to grant him a lease of it, for the purpose of erecting a mansion on the site. About 1515 the KingCardinal commenced the building of his palace, and in a few years it was so far completed as to allow him to make it his residence.

The stately style in which it was built, says Stow, "excited much envy;" and the manner in which contemporary writers speak of it, sufficiently confirms his assertion. But the splendour with which Wolsey surrounded himself here, and the haughtiness with which he treated those who came to him, were still more provoking to the old nobility, who looked with little complacency on the "upstart priest." Skelton (whose poetry ought to be familiar to those who would know the real manners of that period), in his bitter satire, on Wolsey, 'Why come ye not to Court?' written, as Mr. Dyce conjectures, about 1522, affords a pretty strong proof of the current feeling. Addressing the nobles, Skelton says—

"Why come ye not to court ?—
To which court?

To the king's court,

Or to Hampton Court ?—

Nay, to the king's court;

The king's court

Should have the excellence;

But Hampton Court

Hath the pre-eminence."

(Skelton's Works, Dyce's ed., ii. 39.)

Thomas Allen, chaplain to the Earl of Shrewsbury, makes doleful complaint, in a letter to his master (printed in Lodge's Illustrations, and in Dyce's Notes to Skelton), of the manner in which, after waiting " since Monday sennight" at Hampton, in "attendance upon the Cardinal's pleasure," he had seen " no remedy, but came away without answer, except I would have done as my Lord Dacre's servant doth, who came with letters for the King's service five months since, and yet hath no answer." And the good chaplain declares, " This is truth; I had rather your Lordship commanded me to Rome than deliver him letters, and bring answers to the same." Thomas had been snubbed by the Cardinal for venturing to address " his Grace as he walked in the park at Hampton Court," where "when he walketh he will suffer no servant to come nigh him, but commands them far away as one might shoot an arrow:" and he might be thought to write rather angrily in consequence of his rebuff; but Skelton tells us that it was not servants alone whom Wolsey kept at such a distance :—

"No man dare come to the speech
Of this gentle jack breech,
Of what estate he be,
Of spiritual dignity,
Nor duke of high degree,
Nor marquis, earl, nor lord.

My lord is not at leisure;

Sir, ye must tarry a stound,

Till better leisure be found;

And, Sir, ye must dance attendance,

And take patient sufferance,

For my lord's grace

Hath now no time nor space

To speak with you as yet.

And thus they shall sit,

Choose them sit or flit,

Stand, walk, or ride,

And his leisure abide,

Perchance half a year

And yet never the near."

(Ibid. ii. 46.)

The virulence of Skelton's satire is itself the strongest testimony of the extent to which the feeling against the Cardinal had spread. Wolsey was not ignorant of the efforts that were making to undermine his influence. He saw that his foes were taking a course that was but too likely to be successful. He well knew that Henry was one of the last men to listen unmoved to any insinuations of his minister's " pre-eminence," either in power or splendour; and he knew also that he had all his father's selfishness and avarice, and that his own wealth as well as magnificence had been exaggerated, in order to induce the King to give readier credence to the suggestions of his enemies. When he found, therefore, that his noble house "began to excite great envy at Court," he at once presented it, with all its sumptuous furniture, to his rapacious master. The King accepted the gift without compunction, and not only expressed his pleasure with the gift, but spoke with fondness of the giver, though in his heart he had already resolved on his ruin. It was in 1526 that Wolsey made this royal

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