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Thomas Wolsey (1471)

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Thomas Wolsey (c. March 1473 – 29 November 1530; sometimes spelled Woolsey) was an English political figure and cardinal of the Roman 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 was extremely powerful within the Church. The highest political position he attained was Lord Chancellor, the King's chief adviser, enjoying great freedom and often depicted as an alter rex . Within the Church he became Archbishop of York, the second most important seat in England, and then was made a cardinal in 1515, giving him precedence over even the Archbishop of Canterbury. His main legacy is from his interest in architecture, in particular his old home of Hampton Court Palace, which stands today.


 early life
Thomas Wolsey was born circa 1473, the son of Robert Wolsey of Ipswich and his wife Joan Daundy. His father was widely thought to have been a butcher and a cattle dealer, but sources indicate that Robert Wolsey died at the Battle of Bosworth Field and was a significant casualty. Robert may have been a respected and wealthy cloth merchant, and the butcher story was perhaps invented to demean Wolsey and show how high he had climbed in terms of status.

Thomas Wolsey attended Ipswich School and Magdalen College School before studying theology at Magdalen College, Oxford. On 10 March 1498, he was ordained 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 the living of Church of Saint Mary, Limington, in Somerset. In 1502 he left and 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 trusted Wolsey to be the executor of his estate. After Nanfan's death in 1507, Wolsey entered the service of Henry VII.

It was to Wolsey’s advantage that Henry VII had introduced measures to curb the power of the nobility and was prepared to favour those from more humble backgrounds. Henry VII appointed Wolsey royal chaplain. In this position Wolsey was 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 can be attributed to his high level of intelligence and organisation, his extremely industrious nature, his driving ambition for power, and the rapport he was able to achieve with the King. In 1509 Henry VIII appointed Wolsey to the post of Almoner, a position that gave him a seat on the Privy Council, providing an opportunity to raise his profile and to establish a rapport with the King. His rise coincided with the accession of the new monarch, Henry VIII, whose character, policies and diplomatic mindset differed significantly from those of his father, Henry VII. A factor in Wolsey's rise was that the young Henry VIII was not particularly interested in the details of governing during his early years. Under the tight personal monarchy of Henry VII, Wolsey was unlikely to have obtained so much trust and responsibility.

 Rise to prominence
The primary counsellors whom Henry VIII inherited from his father – Richard Foxe and William Warham – were cautious and conservative, advising the King to be 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 was able to adapt to the King's mindset 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, fell from power 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 Wolsey, and Henry appointed Wolsey in his place.

Wolsey carefully tried to destroy or neutralise the influence of other courtiers. He was blamed for 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 attempted to win his favour instead, by his actions after the Duke secretly married Henry’s sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France, much to the King’s displeasure. Wolsey advised the King not to execute the newlyweds, but to embrace them.

Wolsey's rise to a position of great secular power paralleled increased responsibilities in the Church. He became a Canon of Windsor in 1511, the same year in which he became a member of the Privy Council. In 1514 he was made Bishop of Lincoln, and then Archbishop of York in the same year. Pope Leo X made him a cardinal in 1515, with the titular church S. Cæciliæ trans Tiberim. As tribute to the success of his campaign in France and subsequent peace negotiations, Wolsey was further rewarded by the church: in 1523 he became Prince-Bishop of Durham.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Thomas Wolsey", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.