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How influential was the role of Cardinal Wolsey in the conduct of England´s foreign policy from 1515 to 1529?

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Introduction

History Essay II: How influential was the role of Cardinal Wolsey in the conduct of England�s foreign policy from 1515 to 1529? Thomas Wolsey (1465-1530) was born in obscurity, the son of a butcher in Ipswich, a town in Suffolk. He was intelligent and ambitious enough to attend the University of Oxford. Wolsey and Henry VIII became close friends, or as close as one could be to a king. Both men were determined to leave their mark upon history but while Henry preferred costly wars and grandiloquent diplomacy, Wolsey was committed to financial and judicial reform in England and English-arbitrated European peace. Wolsey was always a churchman though this should not imply ignorance of the material world. Henry VIII was quick to recognize Wolsey's intelligence and appointed him royal almoner in November 1509 but, as the years passed, delegated more and more authority to Wolsey. The early years of Henry's reign were spent with the young monarch, regaled as the handsomest prince in Europe, jousting, hunting, and debating visiting scholars. And while Henry was interested in more practical affairs, he grew to depend on Wolsey's assistance. Wolsey's position, however, was completely changed by the French expedition of 1513. Henry VIII had long wanted to prove English strength in battle against this old enemy. ...read more.

Middle

At the time, Europe was dominated by the two rival powers of France and the Holy Roman Empire of the Hapsburgs. The situation became even more complicated when Katharine of Aragon's nephew Charles became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519. Originally, Wolsey and Henry favored an alliance with the Imperial power. This was based on economics (English trade with the Lowlands), history (England was rarely at peace with France), and also family (after all, Charles was Katharine's nephew.) Furthermore, Charles recognized Wolsey's ambition and intimated he could influence the papal elections in the Cardinal's favor. But first Wolsey tried his hand at peace by arranging meetings between Henry and the two rival monarchs in 1520. The meetings were unsuccessful, however, and war broke out in 1521. In 1523 Henry and Wolsey agreed to support the Hapsburgs by sending troops to France. But war costs a great deal of money and then, as now, the way to raise money was to raise taxes. And then, as now, the decision was incredibly unpopular. This unpleasant task fell to Wolsey - Henry was careful to let Wolsey implement the collection and, accordingly, take the blame. Also, the foreign policy which demanded this increased taxation became inconsistent and illogical. In 1528, the English were supporting their former enemy, France, against the Hapsburgs; in August 1529, France and the Hapsburgs made peace and isolated England. ...read more.

Conclusion

This did not matter. Wolsey was no longer useful to his increasingly ruthless master and on 9 October 1529, he was deprived of everything but the archbishopric of York. He left London for York in April 1530. But Wolsey's enemies wanted him completely destroyed and evidence, probably fabricated, was produced which showed he was corresponding with the French king. This was argued to be high treason; the Cardinal still believed himself to be invulnerable and fit to represent the king's majesty. On 4 November, Wolsey was arrested on charges of treason and taken from York Palace. On his way south to face dubious justice at the Tower of London, he grew ill. The group escorting him were concerned enough to stop at Leicester. There, Wolsey's condition quickly worsened and he died on 29 November where he said "If I had served my God as well as I have served my King, he would not have thrown me over in my grey hairs." His death was timely for it saved him from being executed as a traitor. Wolsey rose quickly and fell slowly. Although historians have often dismissed Wolsey as beginning too much, (e.g. Guy writes that "he declined to delegate and finish what he had begun, thereby clogging up the administrative system", and Scarisbrick too shares this opinion), he really did make an impact on finance, which was to have an effect in the long term. ...read more.

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