Thomas Wolsey bigraphy, stories - Statesman and Cardinal

Thomas Wolsey : biography

March 1473 - 1530

Thomas Wolsey (c. March 1473"Alastair Armstrong, Henry VIII: Authority, Nation and Religion 1509–1540" – 29 November 1530; sometimes spelled Woolsey) was an English political figure and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. When Henry VIII became king of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King's almoner.Oxford Dictionary National Biography, Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey's affairs prospered, and by 1514 he was the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state and extremely powerful within the Church. The highest political position he attained was Lord Chancellor, the King's chief adviser. In that position, he enjoyed great freedom, and was often depicted as an alter rex (other king).

Within the Church, he became Archbishop of York, the second most important seat in England, and then was made a cardinal in 1515, giving him precedence, even over the Archbishop of Canterbury. His main legacy is from his interest in architecture, in particular his old home of Hampton Court Palace, which stands today.

Fictional portrayals

  • Wolsey plays a major role in the early stages of the Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George.
  • Wolsey is the primary antagonist of William Shakespeare's Henry VIII, which depicts him as an arrogant power-grabber. Henry Irving, Walter Hampden and John Gielgud were well known for their stage performances of the role, and Timothy West played him in the 1979 BBC Television Shakespeare production of that play. Henry Irving's reading of Wolsey's Farewell survives on a rare wax cylinder recording.
  • Wolsey is a minor but important character in Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons; he was played in the two film versions of the play by Orson Welles (1966) and John Gielgud (1988), respectively.
  • Wolsey was portrayed somewhat more sympathetically in the film Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)—a performance that earned Anthony Quayle an Academy Award nomination.
  • Wolsey was played by John Baskcomb in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and by John Bryans when this series was made into the film Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972).
  • David Suchet plays him in Henry VIII with Ray Winstone.
  • Terry Scott portrayed a rather comical Wolsey in Carry On Henry (1970).
  • William Griffis played Wolsey in the Broadway musical Rex, which starred Nicol Williamson as King Henry. (1976)
  • In the Showtime series The Tudors (2007), he is portrayed by Sam Neill. The TV production interprets his death as suicide by cutthroat, covered up by the King and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell out of residual affection for him.
  • He is one of the main characters in Hilary Mantel's novel Wolf Hall (2009).


Foreign policy

War with France

The war against France in 1512–14 was the most significant opportunity for Wolsey to demonstrate his talents in the foreign policy arena. A convenient justification for going to war came in 1511 in the form of a plea for help from Pope Julius II, who was beginning to feel threatened by France. England formed an alliance with the Pope, Ferdinand V of Spain, and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor against Louis XII of France.

The first campaign against France was not a success, partly due to the unreliability of the alliance with Ferdinand. Henry learned from the mistakes of the campaign and in 1513, still with papal support, launched a joint attack on France with Maximilian, successfully capturing two French cities and causing the French to retreat. Wolsey's ability to keep a large number of troops supplied and equipped for the duration of the war was a major factor in its success. Wolsey also had a key role in negotiating the Anglo-French treaty of 1514, which secured a temporary peace between the two nations. Under this treaty, the French king, Louis XII would marry Henry’s young sister, Mary. In addition England was able to keep the captured city of Tournai and to secure an increase in the annual pension paid by France.Mackie, J. D., Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558, Oxford (1952), pp. 271-7

Living octopus

Living octopus

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