Britain, 1483- 1529 Wolsey and the Church

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condition of the church

  • before the reformation in England, Roman Caltholic Church wiht its round of services and sacraments was widely accepted as the spiritual basis of daily living 
  • over-whelming majority of ordinary people believed and worshipped without criticism of the Church
  • there were critics who were in the minority and came from educated elites
  • Humanists wanted to see Roman Catholic CHurch reained but improvd by removal of abuses
  • among the critics were very few people who were converts to the new Protestant faith
  • they believed the Roman Catholic Church contained fundamental flaws
  • Protestants who challenged the fundamental ideas and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church were known as heretics
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humanism and anticlericalism

  • in the early days of HVIII's reign humansists were optimistic that the 'proven abuses' in Church could be addressed
  • 1511, John Colet, a Dean at St. Paul's Cathedral preached a sermon to assembled clergy in Convocation in which he outlined major problems and abuses in Church
  • Colet was addressing senior churchmen who had not been appointed by HVIII for their spirituality but for the education and admin skills
  • Thomas More also worked to reform the Church, writting the book 'Utopia' about an ideal fictional island, criticised by contemporary society, especially the RC Church. He wanted to cleanse the church of its abuses and make it into a more effective institution by reuturning to its true faith
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proven abuses

  • lower clergy lacked knowlegde about the Faith - many parish priests had limited education of knowledge of Latin - 1511-12 Archbishop Warham visited 60 parishes in Kent and found 4 ignorant priests 
  • financial abuse - main complaint against tithes paid directly to the Church. The sale of induldgences to secure time off from purgatory was a sig abuse 
  • simony - an offence to buy/sell any church office
  • nepotism - practice of making church appointments to members of your own family
  • absenteesim - linked to pluarlism, sometimes a king kept a post vacant so the revenue would pass to the crown 
  • pluralism - many clergymen held more than 1 position in office Wolsey the best example
  • church services relied on pomp & ceremony - church had become more superstitious 
  • religious houses were rich institutions that failed to use their wealth to support education and charitable purposes - thise was poart of the church most criticised
  • privileges of church courts - the church had its own law courts ran under canon law 
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protestantism

  • most sig protestant critic of the church in eng before 1529 was William Tyndale a humanist and scholar
  • strongly influence by Luther after 95 theses an event that marked the Reformation in Germ
  • Tyndale openly criticised the Church for the poor quality of the clery, sale of indulgences , the doctrine of purgatory and most importantly, the use of latin in churches when no one could understand it 
  • Tyndale's impact on relgious affairs in ENgland before the reformation was limited because he lived abroad where he translate the bible into eng
  • he published it abraod although many copies found their way into England 
  • not 1 member of all nobility became Luterhan but instead most noblemen remained loyal to the Catholic Church before 1529 
  • many humanists rejected Tyndale 

Thomas Cranmer:

  • a humanist-educated Cambridge scholar and was chaplain to Anne Boleyn's father and was an ally of the family and a staunch supporter of HVIII trhough the break from Rome
  • a keen reformer who wrote 'collectanea satis copiosa' a collections of precedents from the sciptures, the early Church and British history drawn together as proof that HVIII was an imperial power not subject to any other earthly authority. he was burned for heresy in reign of MAry Tudor 
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protestantism

  • most sig protestant critic of the church in eng before 1529 was William Tyndale a humanist and scholar
  • strongly influence by Luther after 95 theses an event that marked the Reformation in Germ
  • Tyndale openly criticised the Church for the poor quality of the clery, sale of indulgences , the doctrine of purgatory and most importantly, the use of latin in churches when no one could understand it 
  • Tyndale's impact on relgious affairs in ENgland before the reformation was limited because he lived abroad where he translate the bible into eng
  • he published it abraod although many copies found their way into England 
  • not 1 member of all nobility became Luterhan but instead most noblemen remained loyal to the Catholic Church before 1529 
  • many humanists rejected Tyndale 

Thomas Cranmer:

  • a humanist-educated Cambridge scholar and was chaplain to Anne Boleyn's father and was an ally of the family and a staunch supporter of HVIII trhough the break from Rome
  • a keen reformer who wrote 'collectanea satis copiosa' a collections of precedents from the sciptures, the early Church and British history drawn together as proof that HVIII was an imperial power not subject to any other earthly authority. he was burned for heresy in reign of MAry Tudor 
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continuing support for the RC Church

  • considerable evidence that few questions liturgy (form of public worship of a specific religious group) or practices of the RCC
  • the Church had many loyal defenders during the years leading up to 1529 who followed the public lead given by their King
  • HVIII's response to Luther was to write assertio spetem sacramentorum - a defence of the 7 sacraments at the heart of the catholic faith
  • the Pope demonstrated gratitude to the King by awarding him Defender of the Faith
  • further evidence that Catholicsm was flourishing in the 1520s was the way in which ordinary citixens were leaving significant amounts of money in their will to the church or relgious causes 
  • historian Crhistopher Haigh, on the whole, people in Eng semmed to have accepted the condition of the RCC without question 
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the extent of anticlerical feeling

  • support for anticlerical ideas was localised, tending to emerge in urban communities with higher numbers of educated people oftern with access to Protestant idead from the European mainland
  • Merchants, Lawyers and crhoniclers in LDN and in the main ports and intellectuals from OXbridge determined the anticlerical hives of activity
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wolsey and policy towards the Church

  • humanists were optimistic that WOlsey would introduce effective church reforms in the spirit of Erasamus
  • Wolsey listened sympathetically to the case put by leading Humanists such as Colet and More 
  • 1519, Wolsey announded he would summon a legatine Counsel to overhaul the Church
  • as papal legate (presitigious appointment by pope meant he was most powerful churchman in eng) from 1518, he had sweeping powers to reform both regular and secular clergy but was ineffective
  • he planned to reform the lifestyle of the regular clergy but took limited action when he introduced new statutes fir the Benedictine and Augustian Orders
  • he planned to set up 13 new eng bishoprics in the secular clergy but this failed
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fall of Wolsey & 'great matter'

the question of annulment:

  • 1st question of royal marriage is to ensure succession
  • CofA had several miscarriages, gave birth to 3 infants who were still-born and 2 infants who died within weeks of birth
  • she had 1 surviving child, Princess Mary born in 1516
  • 1527, H had acust succession problem and decided to annul his marriage to CofA
  • he had no prospect of a legitimate son because C was 42 and unlikely to concieve another child
  • his marriage to CofA now had less pol value than in 1509 because Spanish-Imperial alliance had been replaced after 1525 with por-French relations 
  • Wolsey drew up League of Cognac in 1526 as anti-imperialist stance after Charles V's victory over france @ Battle of Pavia
  • H had become infatuated with Anne Boleyn who refused to become his mistress
  • Anne had served H's younger sister Mary while Queen of France 
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the case for annulment

  • H was a devout Catholic and interpreted the absence of a male heir as God's will 
  • he became convinced that by marrying CofA he had broken the law of God from the Old Testament and that the Pope had been incorrect to give papal dispensation in 1509
  • H found a passage in the Old Testament - Leviticus that confirmed his judgement, then concluded his marriage had never been lawful before God 
  • this was the case for annulment rather than divorce
  • Leviticus 'if a man marries his brother's wife, they will die childless. he has done a riutally unclean thing and had disgraced his brother'
  • H recruited Richard Wakefield, a hebrew at Oxford to give his opionion wherby he declared 'childless' meant 'male childless' in Hewbrew texts 
  • the Bible was not straightforward as opponents put forward and another section of leviticus contradicted the previous verse
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the role of cardinal Wolsey

  • after H decided to proceed with the annulment, known as the 'Great Matter' he presumed success was guaranteed
  • he consulted his chief minister then asked him to liase with the Pope and secure the annulment
  • Wolsey advised the King tha all he needed was the pope to declare the papal dispensation invalid so ruling H and C should never legally have been wed 
  • in reality should not have been difficult as there were many precedents for annulment and the pope owed H a favour for his intervention and defence against Luther
  • in hindsight, this decision was a atershed in the reign of HVIII
  • H directed the Great Matter as he had not directed any previous policy, as he insisted the nature of the arguments to present to the Pope 
  • the minister advised the King to not take a technical approach and adopt a more diplomatic one as FP and domestic public opinion swung against annulment 
  • he worked for 2 years to gain the annulment knowing he had to keep the King in his favour 
  • Wolsey made the Great Matter public in 1527 when as Papal Legate summoned H to appear before a stage-managed court to address the issues concerning the salvation of the royal soul
  • the search for annulment was then in public domain
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Catherine's response

  • CofA was devout Catholic, a dedicated wife and a proud and politically astute queen who had been trained from childhood to fight to defend her own interests
  • she opposed the annulment from the start as it meant her only daughter would be declared illegitimate 
  • she argued her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated and that she had been a virgin when she married Henry so the Leviticus argument was wrong
  • she knew she had judicial right to oppose the annulment by appealing to the Pope in Rome 
  • her sustained opposition was key in H's failure to secure the annulment and for Wolsey's ultimate fall
  • she was popular in England and came to be seen as a victim of H's sexual lust for another woman by many at court 
  • the marriage had been happy and pol successful so Cath came to believe her husband's head was filled by deviations from adivers including Wolsey
  • further reasons for the failure in the annulment was H was undiplomatic in asking the current Pope to agree that a previous pope was wrong and the Pope wasn't free to make this decision anyway after he was Charles V's prisoner. Charles V was Catherine's nephew and wanted to protect Hapsburg family pride 
  • Wolsey was aware that he needed to campaign hard for the annulment but his diplomatic position was precarious and he relied on a succession of individual missions to Rome 
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Catherine's response continued...

  • intense activity and fevered speculation throughout 1528 over the annulment
  • Wolsey's agents' journey were long and dangerous and created delays 
  • H's annoyment was extended when rumours of forgery of the annulement speculated and also the outbreak of a sweating disease commenced 
  • the pope temporairily escped capture from Charles V and was able to appear willing to hear the case for annulment and Wolsey subsquently sent a second legate Cardinal Campeggio 
  • H was encouraged by this apointment b/c Campeggio was the absentee Bishop of Sailsbury so favoured the King
  • he arrived in Dec 1528 and became clear he was playing for time 
  • he tried to suggest C going to a nunnery, this would have solved the problem as it would have ended her marriage to the King while safeguarding Princess Mary's legitimacy claim but C refused
  • at Bridewell Palace LDN he made a speech to counter growing hostility towards the scandolous affairs
  • the legatine court presided over the Wolsey & Campeggio opened at Blackfriars on 18th June 1528 where CAtherine spoke first, emotionally and made a confirmation of her marriage to H and her right to appeal to ROme 
  • 18th June Pope recalled the case to Rome 
  • as proceeding went against H & Wolsey, their FP unravelled, 5th Agugust 1529 France made peace with HRE and Cambrai and ended the hope Wolsey had of being able to influence pope
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decline of Wolsey

  • by August 1529 Wolsey was a spent fol force in England and an easy tagert for pol opponents who aimed to prosper from Wolsey's fall 
  • there was no doubt Wolsey was in disgrace and that Anne Boleyn and the rest of the faction wished to abolish him
  • H protected Wolsey from wrath and vengeance of his enemies after the failure of the legatine court in July 1529 by not dismissing him but waiting until the start of the Michaelmas law term on 9th October 1529 wherby Wolsey as Lord Chancellor was required to be present at the opening of the courts of Chancery and Star Chamber 
  • the King had to act against Wolsey and removed him from power who was expelled from law courts, dismissed from his position as Lord Chancellor and prosecuted for praemunire and surrendered himself and his possessions to the King
  • H allowed him to retire to his house at Esher and keep the title Archbishop of York although is wealth was confiscated
  • in April 1530 he retired to York where he started correspondance w/ French and Imperial agents, trying to launch a pol comeback but was presented to the King as treason by his pol enemies 
  • following his arrest in Nov 1530, he died of dysentery at Leicester Abbey on 29th Nov 
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reasons for the fall of Wolsey

political enemies:

  • chief minister had retained pol power form 1515 ro 1525 because he could outsmart his opponents 
  • he had made sig numbers of enemies who were waiting to get revenge. over 10 years he had cronfronted noblemen, londoners, tax payers and church men
  • contemporaries resented his lavish lifestyle and percieved him to be the other king 

failiure of the Amicable Grant:

  • Wolsey began to lose influence after this failure as it began his pol enemies to undermine the minister's influence over the King 
  • he did hold some of the blame as he had failed to raise sufficient revenue from the 1523 subsidy so had to resort to a forced loan and benevolences in 1525 to fund war against France
  • the benevolence had been approved by the Counsel but was Wolsey's fault when it failed with the revolt in East Anglia 
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fall of Wolsey continued...

opposition to Wolsey's foreign policy:

  • majority of H's courtiers were pro-imperial Burgundy so opposed W's FP reversal after 1525 when he created a French alliance in the League of Cognac in 1526 against HRE
  • foreign relations proved key to W's fall as his departure for Amiens in 1527 to agree a new anglo-french treaty intended to put pressure on Charles V  meant he was absent from court on unpopular business 
  • his position was further weakened when the French were defeated by Charles V in Italy and the pope then made a treaty w/ Charles V in 1529 and French followed his example, leaving eng isolated 

increasing isolation from the king:

  • great weakeness in Wolsey's downfall was apparent as he was often separated from the King in times of Crucial neccessities when access to him was required 
  • previously, Wolsey had remained at Hampton Court or Westminister when the King travelled on summer progress around the country to continue the business of govt for the king
  • he had comminicated w/ H by letter or messenger up until 1525 and this had worked to protect his position
  • Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and Anne Boleyn's father had been based at the court in Greenwhich where from 1525 they replaced Wolsey as the King's chief confidants as he begain to consult them on FP without Wolsey
  • Wolsey's introduction of the Eltham Ordiances for the Regualtion of Court was designed to restrict other advisor's access to the King & the King demanded Wolsey to appoint more counsellors, threatening his position 
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fall of Wolsey continued...

  • Wolsey executed a triumph of style over substance with the Eltham Ordinances and appeared to give the King the counsellors he desired, while in practice they reinforced Wolsey's ministerial power for 18mnths 
  • he nominated a counsel of 20 men to adice the King but acknowledged that many would be absent on their own and the King's business so made the provision that just 2 counsellors would be on hand to adivse, and he wished to be 1 of them

Anne Boleyn:

  • rise of Annye Boleyn factionw as beyond Wolsey's control 
  • he was defeated by a potent pol mix, the Kings infatuation, Anne's skills & intelligence, the Boleyn's pol contacts and adverse European power politics 
  • conservative faction joined forces w/Boleyns and Aragonese in bringing down the Cardinal 
  • H was angry at Wolsey's inability to secure the annulment 
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political life after Wolsey

  • the nature of pol life changed w/ Wolsey's fall from power as the King no longer relied on his chief minister but on various counsellors from a range of competing factions 

conservatives:

  • 1 faction known by historians as the conservatives for they rebutted religious reform and were hostile to Wolsey and opposed his pro-french FP. most celebrated men in the faction were dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk

Boleyn family:

  • Boleyns were members of the Norfolk family
  • Anne's father was closely associated w. the Dukes of Norf and Suffolk but had enormous family interest vested in his daughters pol ascendancy
  • Boleyn faction was not anti-Wolsey but considered the chief minister their best hope of securing the annulment 
  • they were reformists prepared to consider a radical religious solution if necessary
  • was a weak faction and was backed by only a few members of the Privy Chamber 
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political life after Wolsey continued...

Aragonese:

  • final faction was more discrete being a group of counsellors centred on Wolsey's replacement as Lord Chancellor Thomas More 
  • included conservatives who were loyal to CofA 
  • in the highly-charged pol situation H called parliament and proved to be the 1st step in domestic resolution of the Great Matter 
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