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Thomas Wolsey: One of the Most Fascinating Figures of the Entire Tudor Period

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Henry (at that point young, carefree and little interested in matters of state) was willing to pay a price for such a talented and industrious individual and realised that, whatever Wolsey's material wealth, such a low-born subject would not be able to challenge the authority of the monarch, although he could (and did) frequently put the nobility in their place--much to Henry's amusement and satisfaction. Nevertheless, it is usually accepted that Henry was no fool and only allowed Wolsey to do as he pleased in so far as he agreed with it--for example when Wolsey appointed his own nominee as Abbess to the nunnery of Wilton against the express wishes of Henry he was forced into a grovelling apology.

Henry was not easily manipulated: the very fact that he maintained Wolsey over 15 years, despite all the attacks on the Cardinal, serves to prove this. Despite his close relationship with the King, Wolsey was always on the lookout for possible threats to his position. He sent servants abroad if they seemed too close to the King; he imprisoned Polydore Vergil; he was rumoured to have had a part in the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521.

Because Wolsey was always dependent on the support of the King, those who sought to discredit him by direct words to Henry found the Cardinal completely merciless. Whether by throwing his opponents in jail or by beginning expensive lawsuits against them, Wolsey was obsessive in the destruction of his enemies, his wrath all the more feared since he often chose to wait until the original slight was well in the past before `punishing' the offender for some supposedly unconnected incident.

In this way, all were kept very much on their toes. If Wolsey really was so intelligent, so efficient, so charming, so politically able, why was it that he fell from power so suddenly and so spectacularly? Part of the explanation can be found in what we have already examined. Luck can change; charm can be seen as insincerity; one man's pragmatic realism is another man's unprincipled time-server. Wolsey wasn't kind to people on his way up, and they were, therefore, quick to `put the boot in' on his way down.

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preview essay on Thomas Wolsey: One of the Most Fascinating Figures of the Entire Tudor Period
  • Pages: 14 (3500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Biographies
  • Level: High School
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