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Thomas Wolsey - Essay Example

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Summary
Henry VIII, romantic and impractical, favored Thomas Wolsey for a number of reasons, among them because Wolsey usually agreed with him and was happy to wield the power that held less fascination for Henry than a good game of cards. While many modern historians castigate Wolsey as manipulative and power-hungry, Wolsey was a loyalist, although also a pragmatist…
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Thomas Wolsey
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Thomas Wolsey

Download file to see previous pages... However, Wolsey was no false-faced upstart, but a highly intelligent fellow. It is reported that, "he took his degree as a Bachelor of the Arts at the very early age of fifteen, which so impressed the scholars at Oxford that he was called the 'boy-bachelor'" (Ridley, 1982, p. 18). Later he also took an M.A. and became a headmaster. True, Wolsey had ambition, and his education, entry into the priesthood, and transitional positions were stepping-stones to a power, but who can fault ambition in a man of humble origins His father sent him to Oxford because he wanted a better life for his son. The law at the time was still skewed against the lower classes. Only a complete fool would not desire to move up in the socio-economic hierarchy, and Wolsey was far from a fool.
He never had difficultly impressing his social superiors, beginning with his first patron, the Marquess of Dorset. Even though Dorset died shortly after appointing Wolsey rector, Wolsey had made other powerful friends, and soon became chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and then the Governor of Calais, giving "Wolsey a wide experience of many sides of government, especially of relations with foreign countries, and a foothold in the government service" (Ridley, 1982, p. 22). In this politically sensitive outpost of English rule, Wolsey had "the opportunity to learn about the problems of many aspects of government administration and to show his efficiency in dealing with them (Ridley, 1982, p. 23). He must maintain the lines of communication between the Crown and those owing allegiance to England in Calais; he must keep an eye on the French military and guard against French spies. These things he did without Henry VIII, who was not yet king.
In fact, as a result of his skillful work in Calais, Wolsey became a chaplain in Henry VII's court and worked with those who made foreign policy. He succeeded, on his own, on sensitive diplomatic missions to Scotland, Austria, and the Netherlands, while receiving special dispensations from the Church. Prior to Henry VIII's ascension, Wolsey garnered remarkable power and prestige by navigating his responsibilities and balancing his social connections, for which reasons alone we must discard the idea that his later power and prestige sprung directly from manipulation and deceit toward the King.
When Henry VIII came to power, "The accession of a handsome and dashing young king in place of his cautious and money-grasping father was welcomed by the people" (Ridley, 1982, p. 28), but it was the differences between the two kings that allowed Wolsey to rise through the ranks. The old King had been conservative and dedicated to his role as King. The young King was fiscally liberal and immediately began taping the coffers for clothes, jewels, and parties. He resented boring duties and disliked those who advised him to spend more time at them. Wolsey knew how to please the king. While others "urged Henry to preside at Council meetings, as his father had done, and to devote his time to affairs of the state, Wolsey offered to carry out all the work of government while Henry hunted and amused himself[Wolsey] found out what the king wanted, and did it" (Ridley, 1982, p. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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