Cardinal Wolsey

Cardinal Wolsey

“The Only Book About Cardinal Wolsey Written Specifically
To Help YOU Get An ‘A*’ In A-Level History”

Meticulously Researched and Referenced – Your Long Search For Reliable Information About Wolsey Is Over

This fully updated (2013) book covers every Wolsey-related topic relevant to the AS/A2-level syllabus…

The Rise of Cardinal Wolsey

  • Wolsey’s rise to power
  • How and why he came to emerge as the King’s chief minister
  • The political power of Cardinal Wolsey

Wolsey and Henry VIII

  • Was Wolsey a dominant figure or the King’s faithful servant?
  • Wolsey and the royal authority of Henry VIII
  • Wolsey, Henry VIII, and the marriage to Catherine of Aragon

Domestic policies of Cardinal Wolsey

  • Successes and failures
  • Cardinal Wolsey and the Church
  • Opposition to his reforms
  • Could Wolsey have done more to reform government?
  • Strengthening the royal authority of Henry VIII

Foreign policy of Cardinal Wolsey

  • Cardinal Wolsey’s desire for peace
  • Satisfying the ambitions of Henry VIII
  • Wolsey and the Field of the Cloth of Gold
  • Wolsey and the promomtion of peace
  • The degree to which Wolsey’s foreign policy was defensive
  • The effectiveness of Wolsey’s foreign policy
  • Success and failures

The Fall of Cardinal Wolsey

  • Why Wolsey fell from power
  • The role of Wolsey’s enemies in his fall
  • Wolsey fall and his failure to achieve an annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon


Thomas Wolsey was born in St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, in around 1471, the son of a butcher and innkeeper. His father, Robert, was often in trouble in the local court, which usually met on a Tuesday in Whitsun week, when he would have to answer up to a dozen charges. On one occasion he was accused of keeping a house of ill fame – of ‘fostering harlots and adulterers within his house against the king’s peace’ – and was fined 40d., little short of a week’s wages for a skilled craftsman.

A clever boy at school, Thomas went on to attend Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating B.A. aged fifteen. He subsequently graduated M.A. and was elected, in turn, a fellow and bursar of the college (1498-1500), but was severely criticized for (allegedly) misapplying college funds on the building works that ensured the completion of Magdalen tower. He was ordained a priest in March 1498. Briefly master of Magdalen School, he was appointed Dean of Divinity in 1500. He probably resigned from the college in 1502, but stayed on the best of terms with it, continuing to make it gifts throughout his life.

On leaving Oxford, Wolsey was presented to several parish benefices, the first of which was the rectory of Lymington, Somerset. His patron was Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, whose three younger sons he had tutored, possibly at Magdalen College School. Wolsey moved on to serve as a chaplain, successively, to Archbishop Henry Deane (1501-3) and to Sir Richard Nanfan, one of Henry VII’s veteran courtiers and the (largely absentee) deputy of Calais. In Calais, Wolsey undertook many of Nanfan’s official duties and was recommended to Henry VII in 1507. Duly impressed, the king appointed him to be one of his own chaplains and sent him on embassies to Scotland and Flanders. And that Wolsey was an instant success is proved by his early promotion to the deaneries of Lincoln and Hereford.

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