In Search of a Moral
"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess, "and the
moral of that is--'Be what you would seem to be'
--or, if you'd like it put more simply--'Never im
agine yourself not to be otherwise than what it
might appear to others that what you were or might
have been was not otherwise than what you had
been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
DIPLOMACY: THE WORD SITS like an undigested pudding upon a rebellious stomach; the hypocrisy, monotonous verbiage, deliberate obfuscation and, above all, the monumental triviality engender a sodden feeling in even the most avid enthusiast for the sixteenth century. Yet diplomacy, along with her champion, war, were the paramount preoccupations of kings, and they took the lion's share of their working hours. The kettledrums of war, the staking out of rival dynastic claims, the exchange of royal greetings and, most sacred of all, the defense of honor: these were the proper concerns of sovereigns, not those "ruiners of home life" and muddiers of the mind, the quiddities of theology and the trifles of trade and finance. Crudely but unmistakably, Henry made the point clear: Cromwell, he informed the French Ambassador in May 1538, was "a good household manager, but not fit to intermeddle in the affairs of kings." 1
Ponderously and myopically, Henry looked about the diplomatic board and made his moves, and no one has ever described the results as outstandingly successful. Mistaken or inept are the kindest words to describe the King's diplomatic and military labors during the 1540s, and more often than not the chorus of condemnation includes wanton, extravagant, frivolous, stupid, and even criminal, culminating in a cre-