Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/49

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Beaufort
Beaufort
45

order that documents should be searched, and the question was put off until the return of the king. Three weeks afterwards, however, Gloucester was more successful in the privy council, where the number of bishops was larger in proportion to the lay councillors than in the general council. This preponderance of the clerical element was contrary to Beaufort's interest; for Archbishop Chichele naturally bore him no good will, and the chance of a vacancy of the see of Winchester excited the hopes of the other bishops. Accordingly, in this council writs were sealed of præmunire and attachment upon the statute against the cardinal. Some valuable jewels also belonging to him were seized at Sandwich. The cardinal boldly faced the danger. He returned to England and attended the parliament which met in May 1432. There, in the presence of the king and of the Duke of Gloucester, he demanded to hear what accusations were brought against him. He had come back, he said, because the defence of his name and fame and honour was more to him than earthly riches. Gloucester was foiled by this appeal to the estates, and in answer to his demand the cardinal was assured that the king held him loyal. He further demanded that this answer should be delivered under the great seal, which was accordingly done. The parliament then proceeded to consider the seizure of his jewels. In order to get them at once into his possession the cardinal deposited the sum of 6,000l.; and as in 1434 an order was made that this money should be repaid, it is evident that on inquiry the seizure was shown to have been made unlawfully. He also lent the crown another sum of 6,000l., and further respited a debt of 13,000 marks. Beaufort owed his victory in this, which was the greatest crisis of his life, to the support of the parliament; and on the petition of the commons a statute was framed exonerating him from the penalties of any offences which he might have committed against the Statute of Provisors, or in the execution of any papal bulls.

On 16 Feb. 1433 the cardinal obtained leave to attend the council of Basel. As he received license to take with him the large sum of 20,000l., it seems probable that he desired to make interest for himself in the hope that he might at some future time be chosen pope. Although he did not take advantage of this permission to attend the council, he did not abandon his intention of doing so, and in the June of the next year he presented a series of 'demands' to the king, in which, after asking. for securities for his loans, he stated that he was bound by certain vows, and that since it would be to his jeopardy if the time or end of his journey should be known, he desired license to go when and whither he pleased and to take with him such money as he might choose. In answer to this request he was told that he might attend the council and take with him the sum allowed in the previous year. Meanwhile, on the return of Bedford in 1433, the cardinal upheld him against Gloucester, and, in common with other lords, agreed with the request made by the commons that the duke should remain in England, and help to carry on the government. The change in the administration was followed by a vigorous attempt to introduce economy into the disordered finances of the kingdom, and the cardinal, together with some other members of the council, following the example set by Bedford, agreed to give up their wages as councillors, provided that their attendance was not enforced in vacation.

In 1435 the cardinal was present at the famous European congress, held at Arras, for the purpose, if possible, of making peace. In common with the other ambassadors from England, he had power to treat for a marriage between the king and the eldest or other daughter of his adversary of France. He joined his colleagues on 19 Aug. Failing in their preliminary negotiations with the French, and convinced that the Duke of Burgundy was about to desert their alliance, the English ambassadors returned on 6 Sept. The death of the Duke of Bedford, which took place a few days afterwards, had a considerable effect on the position of the cardinal. With Bedford the Lancastrian house lost almost all that remained of the strength of the days of Henry V. From this time the house of York began to occupy a prominent place, and in doing so it naturally entered into a rivalry with the Beauforts, who had no other hope than in the fortunes of the reigning house. When Bedford was dead, the cardinal was the only Englishman 'who had any pretension to be called a politician.' His policy was now plainly marked out, and from this time he began to labour earnestly for peace (Stubbs, Constit. Hist. iii. c. 18). Gloucester, who had of late made his brother Bedford the chief object of his opposition, now turned all his strength to thwart the policy of his uncle, even, as it seems, trying to use against him the hostile family interest of the house of York.

Although by the decision of the council in 1429 the attendance of the cardinal was not required when questions between the king and the papacy were in debate, he took part