Wolsey's Domestic Policy

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Legal Reforms

  • Wolsey's main concern was to tackle the problem of slow and unfair delivery of justice
  • The centre of Wolsey's work was the Court of the Star Chamber where he sat in judgement several times a week
  • Wolsey used the Star Chamber much more frequently than Henry VII did, to attack nobles and local officials who abused their power - this gave him the reputation of being a friend of the poor
  • In 1516 Wolsey put forward a plan intending to end corruption. He asked for cases to be brought to him, promising that social status would be no protection, and by doing so increased the number of cases to be heard each year to about 120
  • An example of this was in 1516 the Earl of Northumberland was committed to prison for contempt of court
  • The success of these reforms were limited by the number of courts available and the inability of the legal system to cope with demands. This also made Wolsey enemies.
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Financial reforms

  • Shortage of money was a problem for Henry VIII, where as Henry VII had made do by avoiding expensive foreign policy, this was not in keeping with the new kings desire for war
  • Wolsey realised existing forms of finance could not be exploited much further, so to overcome this he proposed a more flexible tax - a subsidy. This would still be collected by parliament's authority, but was based on income rather than property
  • The subsidy was collected four times, each time to help fund the war in France
  • Wolsey also examined the possibility of asking for further loans from tax payers
  • In 1522 he undertook an investigation in to national finances and concluded there was sufficient wealth to demand new loans
  • In March and April1525 he proposed an 'Amicable Grant' from both church and taxpayers based on his valuations of their property
    The gave people 10 weeks to find the necessary money. Resistance was immediate and widespread, forcing Wolsey to begin admitting exceptions to the tax
  • As news of these spread, more regions demanded that they too should be exempted
  • Henry responded to the unrest by stepping in to suspend it 
  • This provoked the only significant rebellion in the first half of Henry's reign
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Economic Policies

  • Wolsey involved himself in the growing problem of enclosures
  • Enclosing meant abandoning the old srip farming system and replacing it with individual divided farms
  • There had been tentative attempts to tackle the issue under Henry VII, but he had been too concerned not to annoy landowners
  • However Wolsey had the view that enclosing fields destroyed villiage lifes and jobs
  • Following a national enquiry in 1517 legal proceedings were begun against 260 landowners. 222 of these actually came to court, indicating Wolsey's active involvement and concern
  • Further investigations were conducted in 1518, although opposition from land owners in Parliment in 1523 forced him to suspend these enquiries until 1526
  • Such efficiency had little practical effect, as enclosing continued to take place and the most practical result was further opposition against Wolsey from land-owning class
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The Church

  • Wolseys attempts at reform were not significant enough to quieten the demands of Protestants
  • In his capacity as papal legate  Wolsey instructed English bishops to carry out their duties more scrupulously and ordered inspections of the quality of religious life in monasteries and other religious institutions
  • As a result over 2 dozen religious houses were dissolved (closed down and their assets confiscated)
  • Wolsey was also interested in promoting religious teaching and planned to fund a school in Ipswich and establish Cardinal College in Oxford, but fell from power before these could be established
  • To some, Wolsey embodied everything that needed changing about the church
  • Wolsey continued collecting his range of religious titles during th3 1520's. He became bishop of Durham in 1523, Bishop of Winchester in 1529 and abbot of St Albans, all attracting good incomes
  • Of course, Wolsey could not hope to fulfil his religious duties in any of these posts, so was permanently absent whilst a deputy acted for him
  • Because of this, Wolsey attracted criticism for the twin vices of absenteeism and plurality (the holding of more than one office at a time)
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