Cardinal Wolsey: A Life in Renaissance Europe
Continuum (June 2009)
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This is an exciting new biography of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most powerful men in English history whose impact was as great in Church affairs as those of the State. The accession of Henry VIII provided the catalyst for Wolsey's dramatic rise to power and in 1514 he received first the bishopric of Lincoln and then the archbishopric of York. A month after his receipt of the coveted Cardinal's hat in 1515, Wolsey became lord chancellor, making him the king's principal minister and England's senior judge, despite having no formal education in the law.His greatest diplomatic achievements included the 1518 treaty of London (the 'universal peace'), in which he played the quasi-papal role of engineering an accord between most of the states of Europe and secured the betrothal of Princess Mary with the infant dauphin. Thanks to Wolsey, England enjoyed unprecedented influence among the states of Europe, and never more so than in 1520, when the cardinal masterminded the spectacular Anglo-French summit meeting at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.Wolsey's pan-European vision ensured that he was well aware of the threat posed by Martin Luther's theological revolution and campaign against clerical abuses. He therefore sought to nip English heresy in the bud by taking decisive action against known religious radicals and by founding Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford, with a view to forming well-educated priests who would combat heresy and institute ecclesiastical reform from within the hierarchy. Among England's senior churchmen, only Wolsey might have executed such a strategy, but circumstances were combining to thwart his plans. It was ironic that Wolsey, the arbiter of European interstate relations, was frustrated and ultimately disgraced by the essentially domestic problem of the king's determination that Anne Boleyn should be his wife and the mother of his legitimate heir. Stella Fletcher has written an engaging and dramatic biography of this colossus of the Tudor age.
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