25 March, 2008

The King's Cardinal

The King's Cardinal is the title of Peter Gwyn's massive biography of Wolsey that I am currently embarking on. This is not History-lite: 639 pages, 14 pages of bibliography, no pictures. Chance of finishing it before it is due back at library: nil.

The book, subtitled The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey was generally well received when published in 1990 in hardback ("Magisterial", according to Lady Antonia Fraser), and the paperback edition was re-issued in 2002.

Gwyn is essentially pro-Wolsey, and sets his stall out in the introduction to challenge the "conventional wisdom" of Wolsey as a bloated anachronism standing in the way of Reformation, i.e. it is a "revisionist" account.

In his Introduction, Gwyn quotes an early "Wolsey-Basher", John Skelton. Skelton was Henry VII's poet laureate, and his son Henry VIII's tutor, and later King's Orator. Here is his poem

"Why Come ye nat to Courte?"

To whyche court?
To the kynges courte?
Or to Hampton Court?
Nay, to the kynges court!

The kynges courte
Shulde have the excellence;
But Hampton Court
Hath the preemynence!

To be continued....

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