Do you agree with the view that Wolseys domestic policies were disappointing?

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Helen French

Source Question- Part B

Do you agree with the view that Wolsey’s domestic policies were disappointing?

Cardinal Wolsey was Lord Chancellor for Henry VIII which meant he was in charge of assisting Henry in all decisions in foreign and domestic policy, examples of this were finance; gaining money from parliament and changing taxes. Also, Wolsey was involved in law as he was part of the Star Chamber and was involved in the cases that went through here. As the Archbishop of York, Wolsey was in charge of a large area of churches in his diocese and after he was made a Cardinal he became the most powerful churchman in England.

The statement that Wolsey’s domestic policies were disappointing is one view that has lots of evidence to support it, on the other hand there is also evidence to support the fact that Wolsey’s policies were successful.

On one side, Wolsey’s policies were successful and were not disappointing. For example in Source 1 Polydore Virgil states that Wolsey has ‘ambition’, we see an example of this because his father was a butcher and he worked his way up to being one of the most powerful men in England. Source 3, Ian Dawson says Wolsey has ‘creativity’ and a ‘capacity for detailed hard work’ which we see when we see his work in the Star Chamber. He worked with a variety of cases and favoured civil law over common law as it was a fairer system. We also see his hard work when we look at all the offices he held such as being Lord Chancellor, Archbishop of York and Durham and being a member of the Privy Council. Source 2 says that Wolsey was ‘thoughtful, and has a reputation for being extremely just.’ This shows that Wolsey was caring and tried to be as fair as possible to the common people and get them the same rights as the nobles had. We see an example of Wolsey being caring when Wolsey set up a school in Ipswich in 1528. This shows that Wolsey was very determined to succeed and tried his hardest when working for the King and for Pope Leo XII, as well as being determined to get justice for the common people even though this would mean the nobles were against him.

In Source 1 Polydore Virgil tries to discredit Wolsey and say that he had ‘hostility towards… the common people’ but in Source 2 from Venetian ambassador Guistinani he says ‘He favours the people exceedingly’ which shows a contradicting opinion to that of Polyore Virgil. We are led more to believe the Venetian ambassador as Polydore Virgil had an ongoing feud with Wolsey and would consequently have an interest in portraying Wolsey in a bad light. Also he is an unreliable source as he wouldn’t feel threatened in writing bad things about Wolsey as his book was from 1535 and Wolsey died in 1529. Whilst on the other hand, as a source of evidence, Guistinani is reliable as Wolsey was still alive at that time.  Also as Venetian ambassador, he wrote independent observations and he would have an unbiased view. So if we are to believe the Venetian ambassador then we are to believe that in fact, Wolsey did favour the common people. We see lots of evidence of Wolsey trying to help the common people such as working with the Star Chamber to clear a backlog of cases and let the common people have their cases heard. In source 2 it says ‘hearing their cases and seeking to despatch them instantly’ which shows Wolsey really wanting to help the common people and have their cases seen to as soon as possible.  He created a new form of tax, the subsidy, which was a fairer system of basing the taxes people paid on income rather than the land they owned. This is one of Wolsey’s great ideas as the subsidy tax raised £170,000 whilst the 15ths and 10ths it succeeded only raised £90,000 in the same time. He also tried to stop enclosure whereby the common people lose parts of land to people that were rich enough to be a private owner of the land, thus leaving the common people that used the land for farming and hunting with nothing. This clearly shows that Wolsey tried very hard to get justice for the common people and in some cases, such as subsidies, he very much succeeded.

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Another argument for Wolsey’s success is that he was in fact just acting upon     Henry VIII’s behalf and cannot be held responsible for the failings in domestic policy because he was just following orders. Source 3 shows that Dawson agrees with this when he says ‘ultimate responsibility lay with the King and to criticise Wolsey’s domestic policies is also to criticise Henry for his lack of involvement.’ This shows that Henry didn’t want to be involved in running the country and didn’t care for the responsibility of his position. We see evidence of Henry just wanting to ...

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