THOMAS WOLSEY (c. March 1473 – 29 November 1530; sometimes spelled
Woolsey or Wulcy) was an English churchman , statesman and a cardinal
Catholic Church . When
Henry VIII became King of England in
1509, Wolsey became the King's almoner . Wolsey's affairs prospered,
and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in virtually all
matters of state and extremely powerful within the Church , as
Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York , a cleric in England junior only to the Archbishop
of Canterbury . His appointment in 1515 as a cardinal by Pope Leo X
gave him precedence over all other English clerics.
The highest political position Wolsey attained was
Lord Chancellor ,
the King's chief adviser (formally, as his successor and disciple
Thomas Cromwell was not). In that position, he enjoyed great freedom
and was often depicted as an alter rex (other king). After failing to
negotiate an annulment of Henry's marriage to
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon ,
Wolsey fell out of favour and was stripped of his government titles.
He retreated to York to fulfill his ecclesiastical duties as
Archbishop of York, a position he nominally held, but had neglected
during his years in government. He was recalled to London to answer to
charges of treason—a common charge used by Henry against ministers
who fell out of favour—but died en route of natural causes.
* 1 Early life
* 1.1 Rise to prominence
* 2 Foreign policy
* 2.1 War with France
* 2.2 Papal legate
Field of the Cloth of Gold
Field of the Cloth of Gold
* 2.4 Alliance with Spain
* 2.5 The
* 3 Domestic achievements
* 3.1 Taxation
* 3.2 Justice
* 3.3 Church reforms
* 3.4 Relationships
* 3.5 Failures with the Church
* 4 Downfall and death
* 5 Mistress and issue
* 6 Fictional portrayals
* 7 Memorials
* 8 Other
* 9 Arms
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 Further reading
* 13 External links
Thomas Wolsey was born about 1473, the son of Robert Wolsey of
Ipswich and his wife Joan Daundy. Widespread traditions identify his
father as a butcher. Wolsey attended
Ipswich School and Magdalen
College School before studying theology at
Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College, Oxford .
On 10 March 1498 he was ordained as a priest in Marlborough ,
Wiltshire and remained in Oxford, first as the Master of Magdalen
College School, before quickly being appointed the dean of divinity.
Between 1500 and 1509 he held a living as rector of St Mary\'s church
Limington , in
Somerset . In 1502, he became a chaplain to Henry
Deane , archbishop of Canterbury, who died the following year. He was
then taken into the household of Sir Richard Nanfan, who made Wolsey
executor of his estate. After Nanfan's death in 1507, Wolsey entered
the service of King Henry VII .
Wolsey benefitted from Henry VII's introduction of measures to curb
the power of the nobility – the king was willing to favour those
from more humble backgrounds. Henry VII appointed Wolsey royal
chaplain . In this position Wolsey served as secretary to Richard
Foxe , who recognized Wolsey's innate ability and dedication and
appreciated his industry and willingness to take on tedious tasks.
Thomas Wolsey's remarkable rise to power from humble origins testifies
to his intelligence, administrative ability, industriousness, ambition
for power, and rapport with the King. In April 1508, Wolsey was sent
to Scotland to discuss with King James IV rumours of the renewal of
Auld Alliance .
Wolsey's rise coincided with the accession in April 1509 of Henry
VIII, whose character, policies and attitude to diplomacy differed
significantly from those of his father. In 1509 Henry appointed Wolsey
to the post of Almoner, a position that gave him a seat on the Privy
Council and gave him an opportunity for greater prominence and for
establishing a personal rapport with the King. A factor in Wolsey's
rise was the young Henry VIII's relative lack of interest in the
details of government during his early years.
RISE TO PROMINENCE
Banner of the arms of Cardinal Wolsey as
Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York ,
impaling his personal arms (viewer's right) with the arms of his
Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York (viewer's left)
The primary counsellors whom
Henry VIII inherited from his father
Richard Foxe (c. 1448–1528,
Bishop of Winchester
Bishop of Winchester 1501–1528)
William Warham (c. 1450–1532, Archbishop of Canterbury
1503–1532). These were cautious and conservative, advising the King
to act as a careful administrator like his father. Henry soon
appointed to his
Privy Council individuals more sympathetic to his own
views and inclinations. Until 1511, Wolsey was adamantly anti-war.
However, when the King expressed his enthusiasm for an invasion of
France, Wolsey adapted his views to those of the King and gave
persuasive speeches to the
Privy Council in favour of war. Warham and
Foxe, who failed to share the King's enthusiasm for the French war
which started in 1512, fell from power (1515/1516) and Wolsey took
over as the King's most trusted advisor and administrator. In 1515,
Warham resigned as
Lord Chancellor , probably under pressure from the
King and from Wolsey, and Henry appointed Wolsey in his place.
Wolsey made careful moves to destroy or neutralise the influence of
other courtiers. He helped cause the fall of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke
of Buckingham , in 1521; and in 1527 he prosecuted Henry's close
friend William Compton and Henry's ex-mistress Anne Stafford, Countess
of Huntingdon , through the ecclesiastical courts for adultery. In the
case of Charles Brandon, Duke of
Suffolk , Wolsey adopted a different
strategy, attempting to win Charles' favour by his actions after the
Duke secretly married Henry's sister
Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Mary Tudor, Queen of France ,
much to the King's displeasure. Wolsey advised the King not to execute
the newlyweds, but to embrace them; whether this was through care for
the couple or on account of the threat they represented for his own
safety is unclear. The bride, as both sister to Henry and Dowager
Queen of France, had high royal status that could potential mean a
threat to Wolsey should she so choose.
Wolsey's rise to a position of great secular power paralleled his
increased responsibilities in the Church. He became a Canon of Windsor
in 1511. In 1514 he was made
Bishop of Lincoln
Bishop of Lincoln , and then Archbishop
of York in the same year.
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X made him a cardinal in 1515, with
the titular church of St Cecilia in Trastevere . Following the success
of his campaign in France and the peace negotiations that followed,
Wolsey's ecclesiastical career advanced further: in 1523 he became
Bishop of Durham
Bishop of Durham , a post with wide political powers and
for that reason known as
Prince-Bishop of Durham.
"Cardinal Woolsey" (an archaic spelling ) by an unknown artist
c.1520. Detail from an oil on panel in the National Portrait Gallery ,
WAR WITH FRANCE
The war against France in 1512–1514 was the most significant
opportunity for Wolsey to demonstrate his talents in the foreign
policy arena. A convenient justification for going to war came in 1511
in the form of a plea for help from
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , who was beginning
to feel threatened by France. England formed an alliance with the
Ferdinand V of Spain , and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis XII of France
Louis XII of France .
The first campaign against France was not a success, partly due to
the unreliability of the alliance with Ferdinand. Henry learned from
the mistakes of the campaign and in 1513, still with papal support,
launched a joint attack on France with Maximilian, successfully
capturing two French cities and causing the French to retreat.
Wolsey's ability to keep a large number of troops supplied and
equipped for the duration of the war was a major factor in its
success. Wolsey also had a key role in negotiating the Anglo-French
treaty of 1514, which secured a temporary peace between the two
nations. Under this treaty, the French king,
Louis XII , would marry
Henry's young sister, Mary. In addition England was able to keep the
captured city of
Tournai and to secure an increase in the annual
pension paid by France.
Meanwhile, a turnover of rulers in Europe threatened to diminish
England’s influence. Peace with France in 1514 had been a true
achievement for Wolsey and the King. With Henry’s sister, Mary,
married to the French King, Louis XII, an alliance was formed, but
Louis was not in good health. Less than three months later, Louis died
and was replaced by the young and ambitious Francis I .
Queen Mary had allegedly secured a promise from Henry that if Louis
died, she could marry whomever she pleased. On Louis' death, she
secretly married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of
Suffolk , with Francis
I's assistance, which prevented another marriage alliance. As Mary was
the only princess Henry could use to secure marriage alliances, this
was a bitter blow. Wolsey then proposed an alliance with Spain and the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire against France.
The death of King Ferdinand of Spain , the father-in-law of Henry
VIII, and England's closest ally, in 1516 was a further blow.
Ferdinand was succeeded by Charles V , who immediately proposed peace
with France. On the death of
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor , in
1519, Charles was elected in his stead; thus Charles ruled a
substantial portion of Europe and English influence became limited on
Wolsey, however, managed to assert English influence through another
means. In 1517,
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X sought peace in Europe to form a crusade
Ottoman Empire . In 1518 Wolsey was made
Papal Legate in
England, enabling him to work for the Pope's desire for peace by
organising the Treaty of London . The Treaty showed Wolsey as the
arbiter of Europe, organising a massive peace summit involving twenty
nations. This put England at the forefront of European diplomacy and
drew her out of isolation, making her a desirable ally. This is well
illustrated by the Anglo-French treaty signed two days afterwards. It
was partly this peace treaty that caused conflict between France and
Spain. In 1519, when Charles V ascended to the throne of the Holy
Roman Emperor, Francis I , the King of France, was infuriated. He had
invested enormous sums in bribing the electorate to elect him as
emperor, and thus, he used the Treaty of London as a justification for
the Habsburg-Valois conflict. Wolsey appeared to act as mediator
between the two powers, both of whom were vying for England’s
FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD
Another of his diplomatic triumphs was the Field of the Cloth of Gold
, in 1520. Wolsey organised much of this grandiose meeting between
Francis I of France
Francis I of France and
Henry VIII , accompanied by some five thousand
followers. Though it seemed to open the door to peaceful negotiations
with France, if that was the direction the King wished to go, it was
also a chance for a lavish display of English wealth and power before
the rest of Europe. With both France and Spain vying for England’s
allegiance, Wolsey could choose the ally that better suited his
policies. Wolsey chose Charles mainly because England's economy would
suffer from the loss of the lucrative cloth trade industry between
England and the Netherlands had France been chosen instead.
Under Wolsey's guidance, the chief nations of Europe sought to outlaw
war forever among Christian nations. Garret Mattingly studied the
causes of wars in that era, finding that treaties of nonaggression
such as this one could never be stronger than the armies of their
sponsors. When those forces were about equal, these treaties typically
widened the conflict. That is, diplomacy could sometimes postpone war,
but could not prevent wars based on irreconcilable interests and
ambitions. What was lacking, Mattingly concludes, was a neutral power
whose judgements were generally accepted either by impartial justice
or by overwhelming force.
ALLIANCE WITH SPAIN
The Treaty of London is often regarded as Wolsey's finest moment, but
it was abandoned within a year. Wolsey developed links with Charles in
1520 at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Later at the Calais Conference
(1521) Wolsey signed the Secret Treaty of Bruges (1521) with Charles,
stating that they would join Spain in a war against France if France
refused to sign the peace treaty; ignoring the Anglo-French treaty of
1518. Wolsey's relationship with Rome was also ambivalent. Despite his
links to the papacy, Wolsey was strictly Henry's servant. Though the
Treaty of London was an elaboration on Pope Leo's ambitions for
European peace, it was seen in Rome as a vain attempt by England to
assert her influence over Europe and steal some papal thunder.
Furthermore, Wolsey's peace initiatives prevented a crusade to the
Holy Land , which was the catalyst for the Pope's desire for European
Lorenzo Campeggio , who represented the Pope at the Treaty
of London, was kept waiting for many months in Calais before being
allowed to cross the Channel and join the festivities in London;
thereby, Wolsey was asserting his independence of Rome. An alternative
hypothesis is that Campeggio was kept waiting until Wolsey received
his legacy, thus asserting Wolsey's attachment to Rome.
Though the English gain from the wars of 1522–23 was minimal, their
contribution certainly aided Charles in his defeat of the French,
particularly in 1525 at the
Battle of Pavia
Battle of Pavia , where Charles' army
captured the French king, Francis I. Henry then felt there was a
realistic opportunity for him to seize the French crown, to which the
kings of England had long laid claim. Parliament, however, refused to
raise taxes. This led Wolsey to devise the
Amicable Grant , which was
met with even more hostility, and ultimately led to his downfall. In
1525, after Charles had abandoned England as an ally, Wolsey began to
negotiate with France, and the
Treaty of the More was signed, during
Francis' captivity, with the Regent of France – his mother, Louise
of Savoy .
The closeness between England and Rome can be seen in the formulation
League of Cognac
League of Cognac in 1526. Though England was not a part of it,
the League was organized in part by Wolsey with papal support.
Wolsey's plan was that the League of Cognac, composed of an alliance
between France and some Italian states, would challenge Charles'
League of Cambrai
League of Cambrai . This initiative was both a gesture of allegiance
to Rome and an answer to growing concerns about Charles V's dominance
The final blow to this policy came in 1529, when the French made
peace with Charles. Meanwhile, the French also continued to honour the
Auld Alliance " with Scotland, stirring up hostility on England's
border. With peace between France and the Emperor, there was no-one to
free the Pope from Charles, who had effectively held Clement VII
captive since the Sack of Rome in 1527. Therefore, there was little
hope of securing Henry an annulment from his marriage to Charles’
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon . Since 1527, Wolsey’s foreign policy had
been dominated by his attempts to secure an annulment for his master,
and, by 1529, none of his endeavours had succeeded.
Henry's marriage to
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon had produced no sons who
survived infancy; the
Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses were still within living
memory, leading to the fear of a power struggle after Henry's death.
Henry felt the people would only accept a male king, and not his
daughter Mary. Henry believed God had cursed him for the sin of
marrying the widow of his elder brother. He also believed that the
papal dispensation for his marriage to Catherine was invalid because
it was based upon the claim that Catherine was still a virgin after
her first husband's death. Henry argued that Catherine's claim was not
credible, and thus, the original papal dispensation must be withdrawn
and their marriage annulled. Henry's motivation has been attributed to
his determination to have a son and heir, and to his desire for Anne
Boleyn , one of his wife's maids-of-honour . Catherine had no further
pregnancies after 1519; Henry began annulment proceedings in 1527.
Catherine, however, maintained that she had been a virgin when she
married King Henry. Because Catherine was opposed to the annulment and
a return to her previous status as Dowager Princess of Wales, the
annulment request became a matter of international diplomacy, with
Catherine's nephew, Charles V , pressuring the Pope to not annul his
Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII was presented with a problem: he
could either anger Charles or else anger Henry. He delayed announcing
a decision for as long as possible; this infuriated Henry and Anne
Boleyn, who began to doubt Wolsey's loyalty to the Crown over the
Wolsey appealed to the Pope for an annulment on three fronts.
Firstly, he tried to convince the Pope that the original papal
dispensation was void as the marriage clearly went against
instructions in the Bible, found in the book of
Leviticus . Secondly,
Wolsey objected to the original dispensation on technical grounds, and
claimed it was incorrectly worded. (However, shortly afterwards, a
correctly worded version was found in Spain.) Thirdly, Wolsey wanted
the Pope to allow the final decision to be made in England, which of
course, as papal legate, he would supervise.
In 1528 the Pope decided to allow two papal legates to decide the
outcome in England: Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio . Wolsey was
confident of the decision. However, Campeggio took a long time to
arrive, and when he finally did arrive he delayed proceedings so much,
the case had to be suspended in July 1529, effectively sealing
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During his fourteen years of chancellorship, Cardinal Wolsey had more
power than any other Crown servant in English history. Professor Sara
Nair James says that in 1515–1529 Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, "would be
the most powerful man in England except, possibly, for the king". As
long as he was in the King's favour, Wolsey had a large amount of
freedom within the domestic sphere, and had his hand in nearly every
aspect of its ruling. For much of the time,
Henry VIII had complete
confidence in him, and as Henry's interests inclined more towards
foreign policy, he was willing to give Wolsey a free hand in reforming
the management of domestic affairs, for which Wolsey had grand plans.
Historian John Guy explains Wolsey's methods:
Only in the broadest respects was he taking independent decisions.
... It was Wolsey who almost invariably calculated the available
options and ranked them for royal consideration; who established the
parameters of each successive debate; who controlled the flow of
official information; who selected the king's secretaries,
middle-ranked officials, and JPs; and who promulgated decisions
himself had largely shaped, if not strictly taken.
Operating with the firm support of the king, and with special powers
over the church given by the Pope as legate, Wolsey dominated civic
affairs, administration, the law, the church, and foreign-policy. He
was amazingly energetic and far-reaching. In terms of achievements, he
built a great fortune for himself, and was a major benefactor of arts,
humanities and education. He projected numerous reforms, with some
success in areas such as finance, taxation educational provision and
justice. However from the king's perspective, his greatest failure was
an inability to get a divorce when
Henry VIII needed a new wife to
give him a son who would be the undisputed heir to the throne.
Historians agree that Wolsey was a man dogged by other men's failures
and his own ambition. In the end, abandoned by the king, his enemies
conspired against him and he died of natural causes before he could be
Wolsey made significant changes to the taxation system, devising,
with the treasurer of the Chamber, John Heron, the "Subsidy". This
revolutionary form of tax was based upon accurate valuations of the
taxpayer's wealth, where one shilling was taken per pound from the
income. The old fixed tax of 15ths and 10ths had meant that those who
earned very little money had to pay almost as much in tax as the
wealthy. With the new income tax the poorer members of society paid
much less. This more efficient form of taxation enabled Wolsey to
raise enough money for the King's foreign expeditions, bringing in
over £300,000. Wolsey was also able to raise considerable amounts of
capital through other means, such as through "benevolences" and
enforced loans from the nobility, which raised £200,000 in 1522.
As a legal administrator Wolsey reinvented the equity court, where
the verdict was decided by the judge on the principle of "fairness".
As an alternative to the Common Law courts, Wolsey re-established the
position of the prerogative courts of the
Star Chamber and the Court
of Chancery . The system in both courts concentrated on simple,
inexpensive cases, and promised impartial justice. He also established
Court of Requests
Court of Requests (although this court was only given this name
later on) for the poor, where no fees were required. Wolsey's legal
reforms were popular, and overflow courts were required to attend to
all the cases. Many powerful individuals who had felt themselves
invincible under the law found themselves convicted; for example, in
Earl of Northumberland
Earl of Northumberland was sent to
Fleet Prison and in 1516
Lord Abergavenny was accused of illegal retaining.
Wolsey also used his courts to tackle national controversies, such as
the pressing issue of enclosures . The countryside had been thrown
into discord by the entrepreneurial actions of landlords enclosing
areas of land and converting from arable farming to pastoral farming,
requiring fewer workers.
The Tudors valued stability, and this mass
urban migration represented a serious crisis. Wolsey conducted
national enquires in 1517, 1518 and 1527 into the presence of
enclosures. In the course of his administration he used the court of
Chancery to prosecute two hundred and sixty-four landowners, including
peers, bishops, knights, religious heads, and
Enclosures were seen as directly linked to rural unemployment and
depopulation, vagrancy, food shortages and, accordingly, inflation.
This pattern was repeated with many of Wolsey's other initiatives,
particularly his quest to abolish enclosure. Despite spending
significant time and effort in investigating the state of the
countryside and prosecuting numerous offenders, Wolsey freely
surrendered his policy during the parliament of 1523 to ensure that
Parliament passed his proposed taxes for Henry's war in France.
Enclosures remained a problem for many years.
Wolsey used the
Star Chamber to enforce his 1518 policy of Just
Price, which attempted to regulate the price of meat in London and
other major cities. Those found to be charging excessive amounts were
prosecuted by the Chamber. After the bad harvest of 1527, Wolsey took
the initiative of buying up surplus grain and selling it off cheaply
to the needy. This act of generosity greatly eased disorder and became
common practice after a disappointing harvest.
Although it would be difficult to find a better example of abuses in
the Church than the Cardinal himself, Wolsey appeared to make some
steps towards reform. In 1524 and 1527 he used his powers as papal
legate to dissolve thirty decayed monasteries where monastic life had
virtually ceased in practice including monasteries in
Oxford. However, he then used the income to found a grammar school in
Ipswich (The King\'s School,
Ipswich ) and
Cardinal College in Oxford
(in 1532, after Wolsey's fall, college was refounded as King Henry
VIII's College by
Henry VIII ; it is now known as Christ Church ). In
1528 he began to limit the benefit of clergy . He also attempted, as
legate to force reform on monastic orders like the Augustinian canons.
Wolsey died five years before Henry's dissolution of the monasteries
Wolsey's position in power relied solely on maintaining good
relations with Henry. He grew increasingly suspicious of the "minions"
– young, influential members of the
Privy chamber – particularly
after infiltrating one of his own men into the group. He attempted
many times to disperse them from court, giving them jobs that took
them to the Continent and far from the King. After the Amicable Grant
failed, the minions began to undermine him once again. Consequently,
Wolsey devised a grand plan of administrative reforms, incorporating
the notorious Eltham Ordinances of 1526. This reduced the members of
Privy Council from twelve to six, removing Henry's friends such as
Sir William Compton and Nicholas Carew .
One of Wolsey's greatest impediments was his lack of popularity
amongst the nobles at court and in Parliament. Their dislikes and
mistrusts partly stemmed from Wolsey's excessive demands for money in
the form of the Subsidy or through Benevolences. They also resented
the Act of Resumption of 1486, by which Henry VII had resumed
possession of all lands granted by the crown since 1455. These lands
had passed onto his heir, Henry VIII. Many nobles resented the rise to
power of a low-born man, whilst others simply disliked that he
monopolized the court and concealed information from the Privy
When mass riots broke out in
East Anglia , which should have been
under the control of the Dukes of Norfolk and
Suffolk , Henry was
quick to denounce the Amicable Grant, and began to lose faith in his
chief minister. During the relatively peaceful period in England after
the War of the Roses, the population of the nation increased. With
more demand for food and no additional supply, prices increased.
Landowners were forced to enclose land and convert to pastoral
farming, which brought in more profit. Wolsey's quest against
enclosure was fruitless in terms of restoring the stability of the
The same can be said for Wolsey's legal reforms. By making justice
accessible to all and encouraging more people to bring their cases to
court, the system was ultimately abused. The courts became overloaded
with incoherent, tenuous cases, which would have been far too
expensive to have rambled on in the Common Law courts. Wolsey
eventually ordered all minor cases out of the
Star Chamber in 1528.
The result of this venture was further resentment from the nobility
and the gentry.
FAILURES WITH THE CHURCH
As well as his State duties, Wolsey simultaneously attempted to exert
his influence over the Church in England. As cardinal and, from 1524,
lifetime papal legate, Wolsey was continually vying for control over
others in the Church. His principal rival was
William Warham , the
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury , who made it more difficult for Wolsey to
follow through with his plans for reform. Despite making promises to
reform the bishoprics of England and Ireland, and, in 1519,
encouraging monasteries to embark on a programme of reform, he did
nothing to bring about these changes.
DOWNFALL AND DEATH
In spite of having many enemies, Cardinal Wolsey retained Henry VIII
's confidence until Henry decided to seek an annulment of his marriage
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon , so that he could marry
Anne Boleyn . Wolsey's
failure to secure the annulment directly caused his downfall and
It was rumoured that
Anne Boleyn and her faction convinced Henry that
Wolsey was deliberately slowing proceedings; as a result, he was
arrested in 1529, and the Pope decided that the official decision
should be made in Rome, not England.
In 1529 Wolsey was stripped of his government office and property,
including his magnificently expanded residence of
Hampton Court ,
which Henry took to replace the
Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster as his own main
London residence. However, Wolsey was permitted to remain Archbishop
of York. He travelled to Yorkshire for the first time in his career,
North Yorkshire , he was accused of treason and
ordered to London by Henry Percy, 6th
Earl of Northumberland
Earl of Northumberland . In
great distress, he set out for the capital with his personal chaplain,
Edmund Bonner . He fell ill on the journey, and died at
29 November 1530, around the age of 57. Just before his death he
reputedly spoke these words:
I see the matter against me how it is framed. But if I had served God
as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over
in my grey hairs.
In keeping with his practice of erecting magnificent buildings at
Hampton Court, Westminster and Oxford, Wolsey had planned a
magnificent tomb at Windsor by
Benedetto da Rovezzano
Benedetto da Rovezzano and Giovanni da
Maiano , but he was buried in
Leicester Abbey (now Abbey Park )
without a monument.
Henry VIII contemplated using the impressive black
sarcophagus for himself, but Lord Nelson now lies in it, in the crypt
of St. Paul\'s Cathedral . Henry often receives credit for artistic
patronage that properly belongs to Wolsey.
MISTRESS AND ISSUE
Wolsey lived in a "non-canonical" marriage for around a decade with a
Joan Larke (born circa 1490) of Yarmouth , Norfolk. The
edict that priests, regardless of their functions or the character of
their work, should remain celibate had not been wholeheartedly
accepted in England. Wolsey subsequently had two children, both born
before he was made bishop. These were a son,
Thomas Wynter (born circa
1510) and a daughter, Dorothy (born circa 1512), both of whom lived
to adulthood. The son was sent to live with a family in
was tutored in his early years by Maurice Birchinshaw. He later
married and had children of his own. Dorothy was adopted by John
Clansey, and was in due course placed in Shaftesbury Nunnery, which
had a fine reputation as a "finishing school". Following the
dissolution of the monasteries (under
Thomas Cromwell ) she was
awarded a pension. Following his rapid promotion, Larke became a
source of embarrassment to Wolsey who arranged for her marriage to
George Legh of Adlington, in Cheshire, circa 1519. He himself provided
Henry VIII had a mansion built for Legh at Cheshunt Great
* Wolsey plays a major role in the early stages of the Autobiography
Henry VIII by
Margaret George .
* Wolsey is the primary antagonist of
William Shakespeare 's Henry
VIII , which depicts him as an arrogant power-grabber.
Henry Irving ,
Walter Hampden and
John Gielgud were well known for their stage
performances of the role, and
Timothy West played him in the 1979 BBC
Television Shakespeare production of that play. Henry Irving's reading
of Wolsey's Farewell survives on a rare wax cylinder recording.
* Wolsey is a minor but important character in
Robert Bolt 's play A
Man for All Seasons ; he was played in the two film versions of the
Orson Welles (1966 ) and
John Gielgud (1988 ), respectively.
* Wolsey was portrayed somewhat more sympathetically in the film
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)—a performance that earned Anthony
Academy Award nomination.
* Wolsey was played by
John Baskcomb in The Six Wives of Henry VIII
(1970) and by
John Bryans when this series was made into the film
Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972).
David Suchet plays him in
Henry VIII with
Ray Winstone .
Terry Scott portrayed a rather comical Wolsey in Carry On Henry
William Griffis played Wolsey in the Broadway musical Rex , which
Nicol Williamson as King Henry. (1976)
* In the Showtime series
The Tudors (2007), he is portrayed by Sam
Neill . The cable TV production interprets his death as suicide by
cutthroat, covered up by the King and his chief minister Thomas
Cromwell out of residual affection for him.
* He is one of the main characters in
Hilary Mantel 's novel Wolf
Hall (2009), played by
Paul Jesson in the RSC production and by
Jonathan Pryce in the television serial. He is portrayed through
Thomas Cromwell's eyes as a mentor and a loyal, if ruthless,
statesman. A desire to revenge Wolsey's downfall and ignominious death
fuel many of Cromwell's actions through the latter half of Wolf Hall
and its sequel,
Bring Up the Bodies , which was incorporated into the
stage and television adaptations.
* In the TVE series
Carlos, rey emperador (2015), he is portrayed by
* Wolsey appears in
The White Princess , STARZ, Season 1, Episode 8
(2017) played by Mark Edel-Hunt.
* Before Wolsey was removed from power, he planned to make his home
Ipswich a seat of learning. He built a substantial college,
which for two years, 1528–1530, was parent of the Queen Elizabeth
Ipswich Grammar School , which today flourishes on another
site. All that remains of the Wolsey structure is the former waterside
gate, figured by
Francis Grose in his Antiquities, which can still be
seen on College Street.
* In 1930 Wolsey was commemorated in
Ipswich with a substantial
* He is far from forgotten in the town of Ipswich, an appeal having
been launched in October 2009 to erect a statue there as a permanent
commemoration. Arising from this project, a more-than-life-sized
bronze statue to Cardinal Wolsey, shown seated facing south towards St
Peter's Church (the former mediaeval Augustinian Priory Church of St
Peter and St Paul, which Wolsey annexed as the chapel of his College
of Ipswich), teaching from a book, with a familiar cat at his side,
was unveiled from beneath a covering flag on 29 June 2011 near the
site of the Wolsey home on St Nicholas Street, Ipswich. After a civic
procession from the Tower Church, the image, created by sculptor David
Annand , was dedicated by blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity by
the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and
Ipswich , and launched in the civic
capacity by the Mayor of Ipswich, in the presence of a crowd of
* A statue of Wolsey stands in Leicester's Abbey Park close to the
site of his burial. It was donated by the Wolsey hosiery company , a
major employer in the city and also named after the cardinal.
* Cardinal Wolsey's bust was used in the 1980s above the London
Transport roundel on London\'s buses in west and south-west London as
the symbol of the Cardinal bus district, which was named after him and
his residence at Hampton Court.
Coat of arms
Coat of arms of
Notes Cardinal Wolsey's arms were granted to him by the College
of Arms in 1525. They are now used by Christ Church, Oxford.
Escutcheon Sable, on a cross engrailed argent a lion passant gules
between four leopards' faces azure; on a chief Or a rose gules barbed
vert and seeded or between two Cornish choughs proper Symbolism The
silver cross is derived from the arms of the Ufford Earls of Suffolk,
and the four leopards' faces from the de la Pole Earls and Dukes of
Suffolk, Wolsey being a
Suffolk native. The Cornish choughs, or
"beckets" as they are sometimes known, are a reference to Wolsey's
namesake, Thomas Becket. The red lion symbolises Wolsey's patron, Pope
Leo X, while the rose symbolises his king, Henry VIII.
* ^ "Alastair Armstrong, Henry VIII: Authority, Nation and Religion
* ^ A B C
Oxford Dictionary National Biography, Thomas Wolsey.
Thomas Wolsey (1473–1530), royal minister, archbishop of
York, and cardinal by Sybil M. Jack in Dictionary of National
* ^ Plaque #2710 on Open Plaques.
* ^ "Church of Saint Mary". Images of England. English Heritage.
Archived from the original on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
Oxford Dictionary National Biography, Henry VII.
* ^ Williams p.26
Oxford Dictionary National Biography, Richard Fox
* ^ Macdougall, Norman, James IV, Tuckwell (1997), p.254: Letters
of James IV, Scottish History Society (1953) pp. xlii, 107–111
* ^ Williams, p. 26
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Henry VIII"; 2004
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "William Warham";
* ^ Sir Egerton Brydges (16 July 2007). Censura literaria:
Containing titles, abstracts, and opinions of old English books, with
original disquisitions, articles of biography, and other literary
antiquities. Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.
Retrieved 25 June 2009.
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII pp 31-36.
* ^ J.D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, 1485–1558 (1952), pp.
* ^ Harris, Barbara (1989). "Power, Profit, and Passion: Mary
Tudor, Charles Brandon, and the Arranged Marriage in Early Tudor
England". Feminist Studies. 15: 59–88 – via JSTOR.
* ^ Gwyn, The King's Cardinal pp 58-103.
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII pp 74-80.
* ^ Mackie, Earlier Tudors pp 310-12.
* ^ Garret Mattingly, "An Early Nonaggression Pact," Journal of
Modern History, (1938) 10#1 pp 1–30 in JSTOR
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII pp 31-36.
* ^ G.W. Bernard, War, Taxation, and Rebellion in Early Tudor
England: Henry VIII, Wolsey, and the
Amicable Grant of 1525 (Palgrave
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII pp 140-62.
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII pp 149-59.
* ^ Scarisbrick,
Henry VIII ch 7, 8.
* ^ Sara Nair James, "Cardinal Wolsey: The English Cardinal
Italianate" in Christopher Cobb, ed. (2009). Renaissance Papers 2008.
Camden House. p. 1. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ John Guy, Tudor England (1988) p 87.
* ^ S. T. Bindoff, Tudor England (1950), p. 78.
* ^ J. D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors 1485–1558 (1952), pp.
* ^ "History Learning Site". History Learning Site. 30 March 2007.
Retrieved 14 May 2012.
* ^ Early Tudor Tombs by
* ^ Matusiak, John (2014-09-01). Wolsey: The Life of King Henry
VIII\'s Cardinal. The History Press. ISBN 9780750957762 .
* ^ A B Cardinal Wolsey: A Life in Renaissance Europe by Stella
* ^ The Cardinal and the Secretary by Neville Williams
Oxford Dictionary National Biography, Thomas Wynter.
* ^ Kilgarriff, Michael. "\'HENRY IRVING and the PHONOGRAPH:
BENNETT MAXWELL\'". Theirvingsociety.org.uk. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
* ^ The Wolsey Statue appeal Archived 3 September 2011 at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Ipswich, Evening Star, 30 June 2011. Wolsey\'s Gate
* ^ Crosby, Colin. "Cardinal Wolsey Statue (Leicester) - Colin
Crosby Heritage Tours". Colin Crosby Heritage Tours.
* ^ "London Transport - Local Bus Maps". eplates.info. Retrieved 26
Thomas Wolsey (1471–1530), royal minister, archbishop of York,
and cardinal" by Sybil M. Jack in
Oxford Dictionary of National
Henry VIII and His Court by Neville Williams (1971).
Edward Chaney (1 May 2000). The Evolution of the Grand Tour:
Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance. Frank Cass
Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7146-4474-5 .
* Bernard, G. W. War, Taxation & Rebellion in Early Tudor England:
Henry VIII, Wolsey online vol 2
* Fletcher, Stella. Cardinal Wolsey: A Life in Renaissance Europe
* Gunn, S. J. and P.G. Lindley. Cardinal Wolsey: Church, State & Art
* Guy, John. Tudor England (1988) pp 80-115.
* Gwyn, Peter. The King's Cardinal: The Rise and fall of Thomas
Wolsey (London: Barrie the major scholarly biography
* Gwyn, Peter. "Wolsey's foreign policy: the conferences at Calais
and Bruges reconsidered." Historical Journal 23.4 (1980): 755-772.
* Mackie, J. D. The Earlier Tudors, 1485–1558 (1952) pp. 286-334
* Pollard, A. F. Wolsey. (1929). online
* Ridley, Jasper. Statesman and Saint: Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas
More and the Politics of Henry VIII. Viking, 1983. online
* Scarisbrick, J. J.
Henry VIII (1968) online, scholarly biography
* Williams, Neville. The Cardinal and the Secretary: Thomas Wolsey
and Thomas Cromwell, 1975.
* Williams, Robert Folkestone. Lives of the English Cardinals...,
* Wilson, Derek (6 April 2002). In the Lion's Court: Power,
Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII. St Martins
Press. ISBN 978-0-312-28696-5 .
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