The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey

George Cavendish (1497 - c. 1562)

Thomas Wolsey was an English statesman and Catholic bishop. His appointment as a cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515 gave him precedence over all other English clergy.

Henry VIII's passion for Anne Boleyn and his consequent rejection of his wife Catherine of Aragon resulted in Henry's push for a wedding annulment. As the king's chief adviser and Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey failed to negotiate an annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine. He fell out of favour and was stripped of his government titles.

George Cavendish was Cardinal Wolsey's "Gentleman Usher".

The intrinsic value of Cavendish's Life of Cardinal Wolsey has long been perceived, for it is the sole authentic record of a multitude of events highly important in a particularly interesting section of the history of England. Cavendish has been recognized as the earliest of the great English biographers. He writes with simplicity and vividness, rarely yielding to the rhetoric which governed the ordinary prose of his age. Shakespeare is said to have used this work as the basis for his play "Henry VIII".

Note: Latin passages recorded by Kazbek.

(Summary by Wikipedia & John Greenman)

Genre(s): Biography & Autobiography, Middle Ages/Middle History

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 00 Introductory Note and The Prologue John Greenman
Play 01 Part One-Earning the King's Trust John Greenman
Play 02 Part Two - His Household John Greenman
Play 03 Part Three - Being an Ambassador, Attending to Westminster, Repairing to the court in Greenwich John Greenman
Play 04 Part Four - The King's Visit to the Cardinal John Greenman
Play 05 Part Five - Wolsey intervenes to stop Anne Boleyn and Lord Percy's plans John Greenman
Play 06 Part Six - Anne’s Grudge against the Cardinal develops John Greenman
Play 07 Part Seven - The Cardinal moves the King to attack France John Greenman
Play 08 Part Eight – A plot against the Cardinal succeeds in having him lead an “ambassy” to the Pope John Greenman
Play 09 Part Nine – Wolsey meets the French King but disagreements surface among courtiers John Greenman
Play 10 Part Ten – The Cardinal writes to his King and attends a boar hunt with the French King John Greenman
Play 11 Part Eleven – The Cardinal suffers Divers Displeasures and leaves for England John Greenman
Play 12 Part Twelve – French noblemen, the Cardinal and the King proclaim perpetual peace and amity. The Cardinal and the King hold sumptuous banquets. John Greenman
Play 13 Part Thirteen – The French delegates return home, the King tells the Cardinal he wants to marry Anne Boleyn and to secure the Pope’s indulgence. The Cardinal organizes a commission to study the request and approach the Pope. John Greenman
Play 14 Part Fourteen – The Cardinal convenes a Court to consider the King’s marital plea. The Queen leaves and refuses to return. John Greenman
Play 15 Part Fifteen – The King orders Wolsey to encourage the Queen to accept his plea, she refuses and Wolsey’s fellow Cardinal Campeggio announces he will make no judgement until the Pope’s mind is known. John Greenman
Play 16 Part Sixteen – The Cardinal learns of the King’s displeasure, but meets with him in secret talks, to be continued the next day. John Greenman
Play 17 Part Seventeen – The King demands the Cardinal’s ouster from office as Chancellor of England. John Greenman
Play 18 Part Eighteen – The Cardinal is assured that the King thinks well of him but the Cardinal laments his inability to reward his servants. Thomas Cromwell strongly encourages the Cardinal’s chaplains to donate funds for the Cardinal’s servants. John Greenman
Play 19 Part Nineteen - The King sends a messenger with word of his support and love for the Cardinal, but members of Parliament accuse the Cardinal of Treason, against which Thomas Cromwell strenuously argues. John Greenman
Play 20 Part Twenty – The Lord of Norfolk assures Wolsey of the King’s love and support but Master Shelley arrives with the King’s demand for Wolsey’s house, York Place. John Greenman
Play 21 Part Twenty-One – Wolsey falls dangerously ill and the King commands his doctors to cure him. Cromwell works to sidetrack Wolsey’s enemies. John Greenman
Play 22 Part Twenty-Two – Wolsey recovers but his council enemies continue to conspire against him. John Greenman
Play 23 Part Twenty-Three - Cromwell succeeds in obtaining a grant from the king, allowing the Cardinal to afford to begin his move, as requested, to his benefice of York. Wolsey visits various abbeys and chapels on his journey. John Greenman
Play 24 Part Twenty-Four - Wolsey continues his journey to York, meeting various noblemen, some of whom try, unsuccessfully, to have him join them in a hunt. Wolsey contrives to fool them by leaving early for his next destination. John Greenman
Play 25 Part Twenty-Five – Wolsey meets with the York church leaders who inform him he must follow the church rules for his investiture. Wolsey asks to see the written rules and agrees to comply. Meanwhile, unknown to him, area noblemen and others gather the makings of a sumptuous feast in his honor. He is secretly arrested. John Greenman
Play 26 Part Twenty-Six – The Cardinal’s enemies convince the King to have him arrested for treason. The Earl of Northumberland and Master Walshe are sent to arrest him. Wolsey falls into a great depression. John Greenman
Play 27 Part Twenty-Seven – Under Northumberland’s control, Wolsey travels to Sheffield Park where he convinces the Earl of Shrewsbury to write to the King, asking for an audience with the Cardinal so he can confront his accusers. The Cardinal hears that the constable of the Tower, Sir William Kingston, has arrived. John Greenman
Play 28 Part Twenty-Eight – Wolsey is assured that Sir Kingston has been assigned by the King to bring him safely to him. Wolsey takes sick and is close to death. John Greenman
Play 29 Part Twenty-Nine – Wolsey, declining fast, demands meat to sustain him. Sir Kingston hears Wolsey’s passionate plea to resist and destroy the Lutherans, to save the king and the Church. As he prophesied the day before, Wolsey passes at 8 in the morning. John Greenman
Play 30 Part Thirty – The Cardinal is buried, the King assures the Cardinal’s servant (the author, George Cavendish) that he will receive his back wages plus a reward, horses and a cart in honor of his service to the Cardinal. The King also places Cavendish among his close servants. John Greenman