Wolsey

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Wolsey and Political Power

  • He was head of the secular legal system.
  • Also the most prominent churchman in England.
  • Parliament only met twice and it was percieved that Wolsey did not trust it's members, he only used it when needed.
  • This caused resentment among the members of parliament.
  • It's powers were limited and it was seen as a place to carry out the king's wishes.
  • Gentlemen of the privy chamber were ambitious young men that served the king and hoped to further their careers.
  • They may have been politcal rivals to Wolsey. The purge of the privy chamber in 1519 expelled men and ensured that they were given mundane jobs away from court.
  • Wolsey secured the Eltham Ordinances which cut the number of gentlemen of the bedchamber from 12 to 6- however some historians argue that this was a cost-cutting exercise.
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Ecclesiastical Extravagance

  • Appointment as Legate a Latere enhanced his ecclesiastical authority and allowed him to establish probate courts- this dealt with wills left by the laity which often included monetary donations.
  • His wealth created jealousy and resentment.
  • Wolsey was in a strong position to reform the church.
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Monastic Reform

  • Wolsey initiated visitations of monastic houses.
  • Some abbots and monks were replaced.
  • Statutes for Benedictines and Augustinians drawn up.
  • Creation of 13 new episcopal sees.
  • Achievements modest and not without opposition.
  • Many objected to the heavy handed way in which Wolsey tried to carry out reform.
  • Dissolution of 30 religious houses to pay for building of Cardinal college caused upset.
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Pluralism, Nepotism and Absenteeism.

  • Wolsey held bishoprics in plurality.
  • Used eccleiastical patronage to support his illegitimate son, Thomas Winter.
  • Never visited his sees of Lincoln, Bath, Wells and Durham.
  • However, these abuses had been happening for many years.
  • Adds to the idea that Wolsey wanted to exploit the church for his own financial gain.
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Noble Conspiracy against Wolsey?

  • The idea that Wolsey deliberately kept ambitious courtiers away from Henry was exaggerated.
  • Anne Boleyn may have caused his downfall.
  • There seems to be no long term conspiracy.
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