Whereas sources 4 and 6 suggest that Henry had given all power to Wolsey, source 5 contradicts this argument, describing how the king had overall power.
Source 4, an extract from Scarisbrick ‘Henry VIII,’ gives the impression that Henry gave all power to Wolsey, whilst he “hunted and jousted.” Cavendish then states how the king had “surrendered the cares of the state into the Cardinal’s hands.” This gives the impression that Wolsey had the powers of the king and was in charge of running the country efficiently. This is supported by source 6, where Henry asks Wolsey to watch some of the key nobility as well as “any others of whom you are superior.” This is clearly Henry giving Wolsey freedom to act as he wishes, thus suggesting power being given to Wolsey. Additional evidence of Wolsey’s power, especially over the nobility, can be seen in his work in the Star Chamber where he often imprisoned nobles. In one instance, Wolsey ordered Sir Paulet Angus [named needs to be verified] to follow him for five years in return for the humiliation suffered by Wolsey earlier on in his career. This presents the Cardinal as a powerful figure i8n the government, who could act freely from the king.
However in source 6, it should be remembered that Henry is giving Wolsey an instruction which although giving him freedom too, shows that Henry was in overall control. Also, the report from Cavendish in source 4, is possibly un-reliable as there is a link that Cavendish, being Wolsey’s “friend and servant,” may be biased towards his master. This may lead him to possibly exaggerate the powers actually bestowed by Wolsey. Additionally, source 4 offers no indication of the year that this occurred in, as it is possible that Wolsey’s power worked throughout the ten year period depending on certain events. For example, throughout the French Invasion of 1512 and 1513, when Henry led on occasion 30,000 soldiers into France, it is clear that Henry was in control.
Source 5 however, presents the king as ultimately the only direct source of power and suggests faction were competing for his approval. The author Lotherington describes how government was “dominated by…competing groups” but that overall the “source of all power was the king.” Lotherington argues that as Wolsey lacked the “intimate daily contact” enjoyed by others within the court this meant Wolsey was not all powerful. Also, the king also looked to his Privy Council and Gentlemen’s bedchamber for advice on issues, as well as Wolsey, which shows that Henry shared the power throughout the court. Saying this however, Wolsey had had more power than others (as seen in the Elthem Ordinances) where Wolsey halved the members of Henry’s gentlemen of the Bedchambers from twelve to six, and moved key advisors overseas. This suggests that although the power was shared, Wolsey could still decide who the king received advice from, which indirectly could be interpreted as Wolsey in total control. Also, although source 5 describes the power of the factions Lotherington also states how Wolsey “controlled the distribution of patronage” which was essential to gain power and status. This gives the impression that Wolsey had overall control of government, and could either air or hinder the careers of the “ambitious men.” Saying this however, once the amicable grant failed in 1525 Henry lost faith in Wolsey. This allowed the competing factions, many of whom opposed Wolsey due to his power, to undermine his authority which eventually led to his disapproval and eventually arrest for treason. This demonstrates how although Henry did grant Wolsey¬ significant power between 1515-25 he was also able to retake his power if he desired to do so. Thus, Wolsey was dependent on Henry, which cannot be considered in overall control.
In conclusion sources 4 and 6 on the face it supports the idea of power being surrendered to Wolsey, however as source 5 points out the ultimate source of power lay with the king. It is clear that Wolsey was most favored by the king from 1515-25 and was often left in charge of certain national issues. However, when the king chose to become involved, Wolsey was at his service.
View as multi-pages