Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England

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Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Death: November 29, 1530 (54-62)
Leicester, Leicestershire, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Wolsey and Joan Wolsey
Husband of Jane Paulet
Father of Thomas Wyner Wolsey and William Wolsey
Brother of William Wolsey, Knight; Andrew Wolsey; Elizabeth Fayrechild; Robert Wolsey; Agnes Wolsey and 2 others

Managed by: Arthur Rexford Whittaker
Last Updated:

About Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England

Thomas Wolsey, English cardinal and statesman. He served as papal legate (1518-30) and lord chancellor of England (1515-29). Of humble birth, he was an ambitious man who rose quickly in church affairs, becoming Henry VII's chaplain and then dean of Lincoln (1509). Appointed a privy councillor (1511) by Henry VIII, he soon virtually controlled English politics. He became archbishop of York and was granted the two bishoprics of Lincoln and Tournal (1514). He aimed to secure international prestige in Europe for both his country and himself. Eventually he incurred the jealousy of the nobility, and his failure to obtain Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon finally brought his ruin.

One of the most famous, or infamous, as one considers the name, was probably Thomas Wolsey or Thomas Wulcey, born about 1471, at Ipswich, in Suffolk County, England. He distinguished himself at Magdalen college, Oxford, where he received the degree of B.A. at the age of fifteen. He came to the attention of the marquis of Dorset, and soon after attracted the interest of Henry Dean, archbishop of Canterbury, who made him his domestic chaplain. After the death of Dean he served in the same capacity. Sir John Nanfan spoke of Wolsey in such favorable terms that Henry VII made him chaplain to the royal household, and at Henry VII´s death, was introduced to Henry VIII by Fox, Bishop of Winchester. Wolsey served Henry VIII so well that he soon acquired first place in Henry VIII´s favor and became uncontrolled minister. His progress and advancement was rapid.

He was made rector of Torrington, canon of Windsor, registrar of the garter, prebendary and dean of York, dean of Hereford, and precentor of St. Paul´s, London. In the expedition to France, in 1513, he attended the king, to direct the supplies and the provisions for the army, and on the taking of Tournay;, in Flanders, he was appointed bishop of that city. In 1514 he was advanced to the see of Lincoln, and eight months after was translated to that of York; the next year he was made cardinal of St. Cicilia, and a few months after lord chancellor, on the resignation of Warham. At the famous interview between Henry and Francis I. in 1520, at the field of the Cloth of Gold, Wolsey was present, and displayed all his magnificence. Here the Cardinal´s vain ambition takes hold of him and he aspires to become Pope under the sponsorship of the emperor Charles V., to favor which he involved Henry in a war with France. Absolute at home, where his expenses exceeded the revenues of the crown, he was courted and flattered by foreign princes. Unable or unwilling to support Henry in Henry´s determination to divorce Catharine, Wolsey lost Henry´s patronage and support. Henry, indignant at his conduct, stripped him of his honours in 1529, and caused him to be impeached in parliament by a charge of forty-four articles. He was banished to York where he was arrested and ordered to appear in London. He traveled slowly and expired on the 28 th of Nov 1530 in the fifty-ninth year of his age. He was buried at Leicester, in the abbey of St. Mary de Pratis. It must be acknowledged that Wolsey was a man of great abilities; well acquainted with the learning of the times; sagacious as a politician, and well versed in the intrigues of courts. Notwithstanding his vices and his ambition, his schemes for the promotion of literature in the nation were noble and well concerted. He also founded a school at Ipswich.

Certain of his detractors boldly state that "Wolsey, a son of a butcher, prolifigate and vain" left an illegitimate son and daughter. Other say that he had children who left posterity, but I have been unwilling to take the time to fully research this problem. I think that it will be sufficient for me to say that our early researchers, having only a few English history books at their disposal, found Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in them, and concluded that our Woolsey immigrant must descend from the Cardinal or be related to him.

However, it only takes a few days' research in the parish church records of Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk counties to realize that the Wolsey families are much more numerous and complicated than the early researchers ever dreamed of. There are dozens of wills and many marriages from these early areas before 1550, and almost any of them could be the ancestors of our Woolsey family. More research is going on at this time in over one hundred forty parishes in Norfolk and in over 20 parishes surrounding Langhall-Kirstead to determine if any of the many Wolsey families found therein could be our Wolsey ancestors.

The Cardinal was granted a coat of arms as follows:

WOLSEY , (Cottingham, co. Suffolk; borne by Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York, 1514-1530). Sa. on a cross engrailed ar. a lion pass. gu. betw. four leopards' faces az. on a chief or, a rose of the third betw. two Cornish choughs ppr. CREST : A naked arm embowed grasping a shinbone all ppr.

I think that it is very possible that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the " Butcher´s son", son of Robert Wolsey, and that they are related to the Wolsey families of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, but to try to ascribe relationship to him because of his prominence, is very presumptuous indeed.

Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (c.1470–1471[1] – November 28 or November 29, 1530), who was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, was an English statesman and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

When Henry VIII became king of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King's almoner.[2] Wolsey's affairs prospered and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in all matters of state and extremely powerful within the Church. The highest political position he attained was Lord Chancellor, the King's chief advisor, enjoying great freedom and often depicted as an alter rex (other king). Within the Church he became archbishop of York, the second most important see in England, and then was made a cardinal in 1515, giving him precedence over even 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.

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Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England's Timeline

Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
December 1510
Age 38
York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
November 29, 1530
Age 58
Leicester, Leicestershire, United Kingdom