Henry VIII) Authority, nation and religion 1509-1549 [ UNIT 3 - The structure of government)

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Key Questions

  • How did Wolsey rise to power under Henry VIII?
  • How did Wolsey maintain his position?
  • Why did Wolsey fall in 1529?

How did Wolsey rise ro power under Henry VIII?

  • his rise to political pre-eminence- down to luck and skill
  • luck- Henry VII's leading ministers ageing, settling quiter life- increasing chances succes 
  • skill- wolsey= ambitous and able 
  • wolsey fine mind- 15 years old oxford grad. 1498- holy orders chaplain Archbishop of Canterbury 
  • 1509- chaplain of Henry VII
  • Came to notice last years Henry VII- served Bishop Foxe of Winchester
  • proved be efficient administrator in diplomatic missions
  • death of Henry VII gave Wolsey chance to shine 
  • new reign vibrant atmosphere- hope + optimism 
  • Henry VIII- tired surrounded fathers old ministers- cautious and unwilling to act decsively- stick to old policies characterised fathers reign.
  • 1509- Wolsey=  royal almoner (king's charity) meant part of royal council - leading advisory body 
  • this meant: could see king regularly + oppurtinity to shine= ministerial success
  • Henry found someone carry out will effectively and quickly 
  • inevitable - Wolsey cross poltical figures- anyone disturbed him- sidelined ruthlessly
  • next years, awarded many titles: 
  • 1514- Bishop of Tournai and licoln and Archbihop of York 
  • 1515- cardinal and lord chancellor [ key turning point]
  • cardinal meant also bolstered power over church
  • 1518- legate a latere power to appoint benefices- most powerful man in england

Was Wolsey's rise down to luck or skill?

Wolsey's Luck 

  • right man at right time
  • Henry looking someone carry out administrative matters of state- Wolsey= that man 
  • G.R ELTON- Wolsey lucky ministers giving up their position

Wolsey's Skill

  • Polydore Vergil - politically astute- matter casually then present gift
  • George Cavendish- oppurtunist- personal ambition tied in with ambitions of king 

How did wolsey maintain his power in the period 1515- 1529?

1) Wolsey's political relationship with Henry 

2) Wolsey's wealth 

3) Wolsey's ruthlessness

1) Wolsey's political relationship with Henry 

  • after invasion France 1513- Henry trusted Wolsey 
  • Wolsey realised as long as served king loyally+ effeciently= position secure

Traditional historians-wolsey= 'alter rex' held real power in court- resigned Henry passive role within government- puppet and puppet master 

Recent historians- relationship= political partnership - Henry give Wolsey latitude whilst hunt. King always made final decision important matter.

  • Not always see 'eye- to -eye' 1522- foolhardy attack on french navy 
  • Henry no fool not easily manipulated- 15 years- shows own man 
  • Cracks appear amicable grant 
  • final nail- annulment 

2) Wolsey's wealth 

  • wealth served potical power, created awe and envy- mainly due low birth 
  • court= magnificent DAVID STARKEY- 'quasi royal'
  • highlights point used trappings political power set self most important man 
  • foreigners treated with banquets of 'grandeur'
  • largest disposable income in England:
  • 1) multiple bishoprics 
  • 2) fees charged ecclesiatical courts and gifts 

3) Wolsey's ruthlessness

  • ruthlessness much exaggerated
  • inevitable court envy and criticism at court 
  • allegations- misleading king, misreport evnts and deliberatley alienate political rivals 
  • 1515 -polydore vergil imprisoned- failure cardinal title
  • responsible execution buckingham
  • evidence wolsey did consult nobles…


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