Thursday, April 07, 2011

Question from Guy - Henry VIII quote of the Duke of Suffolk

David Hume wrote about the death of Henry VIII's friend, Suffolk:
"during the whole course of their friendship, his brother-in-law had never made one attempt to injure an adversary, and had never whispered a word to the disadvantage of any person. 'Is there any of you, my lords, who can say as much' When the king subjoined these words, he looked round in all their faces, and saw that confusion which the consciousness of secret guilt naturally threw upon them"

Is this true - firstly did Henry VIII say this (I can't find it elsewhere?) and secondly was he really that nice? I thought he was publicly rude to Anne Boleyn and to Wolsey?


Foose said...

Hume cites Edward Coke's Institutes of the Laws of England as his source for this incident. Coke was Lord Chief Justice of England under James I and his various volumes of the Institutes were published between 1628 and the 1640s. I ran his version to earth in Volume 3 ("Concerning High Treason, and Other Pleas of the Crown, and Criminal Causes"), Chapter 99, "On Flatterers":

But that right be done to him, who was a faithfull favorite and counseller to this king, we have seen a manuscript [emphasis mine] that relateth, that Charles Brandon duke of Suffolk a wise and warlike person, was for many years before his decease the greatest favourite the king had, upon whom he chiefly relied in all his weightiest affairs. This noble duke deceased in August in the 37 year of the reign of king H. 8. After whose death the next time the king sat with his councell, and missing the good duke, grievously lamented for him, and said, that when I was offended with any (as often I was) and acquainted him therewith, that he ever endeavoured to mitigate my displeasure, and never spake to me evill of any of them. And the king looking upon the lords of his councell one after another, said, and so (my lord) cannot you say, perusing them all throughout. A royall commendation of this great Duke, and a great argument of his piety and honour, that no subject had ever the indignation or displeasure, of his sovereign, by any private whispering of his.

Unfortunately, I can't find what that "manuscript" was that Coke apparently got hold of. The 19th-century writer S. Hubert Burke attributes Henry's tribute to Edward Hall's Chronicle; I looked and it's not there. Lord Herbert of Cherbury says of Brandon's passing that the dukes was "withal so discreet and affable, as he was beloved of all sorts." Wriostheley puts in a posthumous plug for his military prowess. Couldn't find anything resembling this incident in Holinshed, Stowe, Camden or Letters & Papers. This doesn't mean there isn't some foundation for it, though.

Gunn cites it in his biography of Suffolk, but gives no source: "Henry himself allegedly told the council that throughout his career Suffolk had never sought by word or deed to injure anyone."

Coke might have had some genuine source for his anecdote - he was connected to the Cecils, and a diligent discoverer and consulter of sources in preparing his legal opinions and works. On the other hand, he might have considerably amplified whatever material on Brandon's death he had available, for his own purposes. Coke lived under James I and Charles I, two kings infamous for their dependence on favorites, and fell afoul of both the Earl of Somerset and the Duke of Buckingham, the most egregious examples of the detested breed. His version of Brandon might have offered a welcome "good old days" type of contrast with these hated contemporary figures.

tudor princess said...

The version I have from Richardson's "Mary Tudor, the White Queen", reads:

"The highest compliment Brandon ever received was paid him by the King just after his death in 1545 when Henry told the Council in open meeting that for as long as the Duke had served him, he had never betrayed a friend or intentionally taken unfair advantage of an adversary. He then challenged the lords to silence, with the avowal that none of them could say as much".

Unfortunately there are no references in this book, only a bibliography. Perhaps someone else could pin down a reference?