Thomas Wolsey, dean of Lincoln, and almoner to the king, surpassed in favour all his ministers, and was fast advancing towards that unrivalled grandeur, which he afterwards attained. This man was son of a butcher at Ipswich; but having got a learned education, and being endowed with an excellent capacity, he was admitted into the marquis of Dorset's family as tutor to that nobleman's children, and soon gained the friendship and countenance of his patron. He was recommended to be chaplain to Henry VII. and being employed by that monarch in a secret negociation, which regarded his intended marriage with Margaret of Savoy, Maximilian's daughter, he acquitted himself to the king's satisfaction, and obtained the praise both of diligence and dexterity in his conduct. That prince, having given him a commission to Maximilian, who at that time resided in Brussels, was surprized, in less than three days after, to see Wolsey present himself before him; and supposing that he had protracted his departure, he began to reprove him for the dilatory execution of his orders. Wolsey informed him, that he had just returned from Brussels, and had successfully fulfilled all his majesty's commands.
But on second thoughts, said the king,
I found that somewhat was omitted in your orders; and have sent a messenger after you, with fuller instructions.
I met the messenger, replied Wolsey,
on my return: But as I had reflected on that omission, I ventured of myself to execute what, I knew, must be your majesty's intentions. The death of Henry, soon after this incident, retarded the advancement of Wolsey, and prevented his reaping any advantage from the good opinion, which that monarch had entertained of him: But thenceforwards he was looked on at court as a rising man; and Fox, bishop of Winchester, cast his eye upon him as one, who might be serviceable to him in his present situation. This prelate, observing that the earl of Surrey had totally eclipsed him in favour, resolved to introduce Wolsey to the young prince's familiarity, and hoped, that he might rival Surrey in his insinuating arts, and yet |be content to act in the cabinet a part subordinate to Fox himself, who had promoted him. In a little time, Wolsey gained so much on the king, that he supplanted both Surrey in his favour, and Fox in his trust and confidence. Being admitted to Henry's parties of pleasure, he took the lead in every jovial conversation, and promoted all that frolic and entertainment, which he found suitable to the age and inclination of the young monarch. Neither his own years, which were near forty, nor his character of a clergyman, were any restraint upon him, or engaged him to check, by any useless severity, the gaiety, in which Henry, who had small propension to debauchery, passed his careless hours. During the intervals of amusement he introduced business, and insinuated those maxims of conduct which he was desirous his master should adopt. He observed to him, that, while he entrusted his affairs into the hands of his father's counsellors, he had the advantage indeed of employing men of wisdom and experience, but men who owed not their promotion to his favour, and who scarcely thought themselves accountable to him for the exercise of their authority: That by the factions, and cabals, and jealousies, which had long prevailed among them, they more obstructed the advancement of his affairs, than they promoted it by the knowledge, which age and practice had conferred upon them: That while he thought proper to pass his time in those pleasures, to which his age and royal fortune invited him, and in those studies, which would in time enable him to sway the scepter with absolute authority, his best system of government would be to entrust his authority into the hands of some one person, who was the creature of his will, and who could entertain no view but that of promoting his service: And that if this minister had also the same relish for pleasure with himself, and the same taste for science, he could more easily, at intervals, account to him for his whole conduct, and introduce his master gradually into the knowledge of public business, and thus, without tedious constraint or application, initiate him in the science of government.