Wolsey's Domestic Policies

A quick and easy breakdown of Wolsey's domestic policies, and an assessment of how successful they were.

  • Created by: Tiula
  • Created on: 13-03-11 11:39

Wolsey and Law Enforcement

As Lord Chancellor (1515 onwards) Wolsey was presiding judge in the Court Chancery.

  • successful work
  • heard about 7% more cases p.a. (1515-1529) than it had done before

Wolsey also reformed the Court of Star Chamber, unveiling his policy of law enforcement and impartial justice before king and Council in May 1516.

  • overall very successful
  • heard 10 times more cases than it had done under Henry VII, overflow courts had to be set up to deal with them all
  • high percentage of cases came to judgement
  • powerful -- was capeable of prosecuting nobles


  • Wolsey enjoyed prosecuting nobles -- maybe acted too harshly on occasion?
  • had to re-iterate his plans in 1517 and 1519. If the policy was successful, this should not have been necessary
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Wolsey and Enclosure

enclosure = fencing off of common land in order to make a private profit

engrossing = buying up many small plots of land to make one larger plot of land

Wolsey sent out commissioners in 1517-18 to investigate the extent of the problem:

  • 1518-29 legal action taken against 264 people and institutions
  • 83% came to a verdict (very high proportion at the time)
  • legal proceedings set in place very quickly


  • not much actually achieved
  • perhaps done to hurt nobles?
  • Wolsey was happy to abandon his policy a few years later in return for money in taxes
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Wolsey against Vice and High Prices

Wolsey desired to work against profiteering in grain markets (everyone raising prices so they all gain money).

  • called many London butchers before the Council
  • attempted to regulate poultry prices in 1518
  • unsuccessful -- not followed up
  • 1519 -- ordered a swoop on London's thieves, pickpockets, criminals, vagrants and prostitutes
  • again, little was done
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Wolsey and the Royal Finances

Wolsey's job was, in short, to give Henry what he wanted, and Henry, at this point in time, wanted war. As war costed money, it was Wolsey's job to get Henry enough money to go to war.

  • used his enclosure policy as a "bargaining tool" in Parliament. Agreed to abandon it for over £150,000 in taxes
  • borrowed money from taxpayers in what he called "forced loans", promising to repay it (though he never did)
  • the Tudor subsidy
    • taxpayers paid tax on how much they owned and earned, not a fixed amount
  • Wolsey raised:
    • £151,215 from enclosure
    • £260,000 from enforced loans
    • £322,099 from subsidy


  • Henry quickly spent all the money, as Wolsey did not raise enough
  • Wolsey attempted another tax, the "Amicable Grant". This caused a tax rebellion in Suffolk, and it was eventually abandoned
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Wolsey and the Church

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Wolsey was the most senior churchman in the Catholic Church in England. He was very pious, if not the best example of a churchman, his servant George Cavendish claiming "he heard most commonly every day two masses".

  • reformed corrupt/decayed monastries, closed 29
  • founded a new school in Ipswich
  • founded Cardinal College, Oxford (a college which is still there today, under the name of Christchuch)
  • planned to create 13 new bishoprics but nothing finalised before his fall
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he was never arch bishop of canterbury! only york

khadjia Karim


he outranked archbishop of Canterbury he never became him :)

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