03 November, 2007

Cardinal Wolsey Arrested! 4th November, 1530.

What were the events leading up to the arrest and death of Wolsey?

During the autumn of 1529, Henry VIII, angry that Cardinal Wolsey had failed to secure an annulment to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, had stripped Wolsey of his office of Chancellor, along with most of his property.

In February 1530 Wolsey was pardoned by Henry and allowed to retire as Archbishop of York. He set off for Yorkshire and set about winning support from the folk living around Cawood Castle (see picture), the residence of the Archbishop.

Wolsey's long-term survival seemed at this point reasonably secure if he played his cards cautiously.

However, Wolsey made two mistakes. He plotted to have Anne Boleyn (one of his key opponents at court) forced into exile and wrote letters to Queen Catherine and the Pope to that end, which the King found out about (Bad). Wolsey also apparently failed to invite Henry to his lavish planned enthronement as Archbishop of York (Bad also).

Having lost patience, Henry ordered Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland to arrest Wolsey at Cawood.

The scene of the arrest is described by George Cavendish, Wolsey's gentleman-usher and biographer:

"The Cardinal was at dinner when Northumberland arrived; the bustle occasioned by his admittance reached Wolsey's ears, who came out of the dining room on to the grand staircase to inquire the cause. He was there met by the Earl, who drew him aside to a window, and showed his commission, exclaiming, 'My Lord Cardinal, I arrest you in the name of King Henry.' The Cardinal assumed a lofty air and tone, appealing to the Court of Rome, whose servant he declared himself to be, and consequently not amenable to temporal arrest. In reply, said the Earl, 'My Lord, when you presented me with this staff (showing his staff of office), you then said that with it I might arrest any person beneath the dignity of a sovereign.' Wolsey's countenance immediately fell, while he soberly subjoined, 'My Lord, I submit, and surrender myself your prisoner.' "
source: York Online website.

Another account is given by Tudor chronicler Edward Hall.

After the arrest Wolsey was taken to Sheffield Castle, and died on the 24th November 1530 at Leicester, whilst being conveyed to London to face likely execution.

Incidentally, Wolsey was not buried in the monumental black sarcophagus he had designed for himself; that box was eventually occupied by...Lord Nelson. Wolsey was simply laid to rest within the walls of Leicester Abbey.


Anonymous said...

Is there ayn reason to believe the Cardinal commited suiside as portrayed on TV series THE TUDORS?

cardinal_wolsey said...

No I don't think so! They are taking liberties with the generally agreed facts, not for the first time I think...

Emma said...

Edward Hall in Hall's chronicle also seems to think he committed suicide, but I think he died of a disease I can not remember the name :/

cardinal_wolsey said...

Emma, thanks for that.CW