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'The King's Servant' - How satisfactory is this view of Wolsey's position as Henry VIII's Minister

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Introduction

'THE KING'S SERVANT' - HOW SATISFACTORY IS THIS VIEW OF WOLSEY'S POSITION AS HENRY VIII'S MINISTER Thomas Wolsey rose from being the lowly son of a butcher, through various posts in the royal service, to become Lord Chancellor in December 1515, and remained at the pinnacle of the King's service until his fall in October 1529. To stay in power for so long, it needs to be established whether he spent his time as a 'servant' to the King, or as a authority in his own right. Historian G.R.Elton stated that, 'He had lasted so long because ... he knew how to promote himself, and for most of the time, he knew how to keep henry satisfied.' Elton's words indicate what I believe are the two main factors in studying Wolsey's ministry - how he served the King, and how much he did for himself. It is my opinion that Wolsey, despite his plentiful policy in areas of little interest to the King like social and governmental reform, remained so prominent in the King's service due to his ability to serve the King, allowing Henry to live life as a young 'Renaissance Prince.' The King also felt relatively safe giving such power to Wolsey, as he didn't pose a threat to his throne in the way that some nobles or those of royal blood may have posed. However nature of the relationship between Henry and Wolsey was unusual, as it was not like the archetypal master-servant relationship. In some of his letters to Wolsey, Henry signed off as 'your loving friend and master,' or referred to hims as 'father' in the spiritual sense of the word. ...read more.

Middle

The fact that Wolsey carried out policies for which there is little evidence of any involvement on Henry's part suggests that Wolsey may have been more than just a servant to Henry. Wolsey's immense activity in financial policy corresponds with Henry's desire for money to carry out foreign expeditions against the French. The Act of Resumption of 1515, the Subsidies of 1513-5 and 1523, the Forced Loan of 1523 all reduced his popularity, but managed to quench Henry's desire for money. However, Wolsey was seen to go one step too far to please his master in 1525, in asking for the Amicable Grant, while the forced loan of 1523 was still being collected. The country reached a state of near-rebellion, and more serious disturbances occurred in London, East Anglia and Kent. It was at this stage when the relationship between Henry and Wolsey faced its first major attack, and Henry blamed the whole fiasco on Wolsey to save himself. Wolsey himself had largely been opposed to his attempts to raise extra revenue for the King, yet he had been acting as the King's servant, doing his bidding. To Henry, Wolsey was to act as a scapegoat in situations where things went wrong. The other area of domestic policy in which conflict arose between Henry and Wolsey was in the Eltham Ordinances of 1526. Wolsey had been struggling to eliminate those who may have influenced the King. In 1518, he had attempted to expel Henry's 'minions' or 'young favourites,' but his 'governmental reform' as he called it, was reversed by Henry, indicating some tension, but more importantly indicating to Wolsey that he could not consider overpowering the King. ...read more.

Conclusion

This has fundamental implications for reassessing his relationship with Henry." Guy is correct is saying that this sheds new light on the nature of the relationship between the two men, and suddenly, Henry's regard for Wolsey as a 'loving friend' became trivial. This essay has been able to establish that the majority of Wolsey's policy was executed in service to the King. Wolsey may have acted for his own interest in certain areas such as the church and social reform, but this was only because of Henry's lack on interest in the fields, and the trust that he placed in Wolsey's service. I am therefore able to conclude that theoretically, Wolsey was the 'King's Servant.' However, I say theoretically, because although Wolsey was a servant to Henry in his actions, the image created by the word seems to extreme for Wolsey. I believe that the relationship between Henry and Wolsey was strong and full of friendship when Wolsey did what was required of him. In reality, everyone in the kingdom was a servant to the King, and many people wanted to serve him more to gain more influence. In light of this, although he was a servant, it appears to me that the word 'servant' underestimates the immense of power that he had, despite the fact that the power was given to him by the King, and many other more complimentary words can be used to describe the importance of Wolsey to the King. Nevertheless Wolsey, as a minister, remained a servant to Henry throughout his time in power, and devoted the majority of his policy to the King's service. SAHIL SULEMAN LVI 1W WOLSEY PRACTICE ESSAY 1 ...read more.

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