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This Sceptred Isle

Henry VIII, Flodden and Wolsey
In 1509 Henry VIII came to the throne and immediately, on the advice of his councillors, negotiated to marry Catherine of Aragon.

He distrusted the hereditary nobility choosing men of low birth as his advisers. He made Thomas Wolsey his Lord Chancellor and Chief Councillor in 1515. Wolsey's rise through the Church was rapid - Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, Cardinal, Papal Legate - the latter made him above all ecclesiastical authority in the land. Wolsey ruled, in the King's name, for 14 years. He favoured the Star Chamber and used it for ministerial judgements. These were fair but often ruthless.

Henry VIII was ambitious he looked towards Europe. In 1512 he hired Austrian mercenaries and defeated the French in the Battle of the Spurs in 1513. In the same year at home the Earl of Surrey won a bloody victory against the Scots at Flodden killing James IV. The one-year-old James V came to the throne of Scotland and his mother, Margaret - Henry's sister, became Regent.

Thomas Wolsey
Thomas Wolsey
THOMAS WOLSEY (c. 1472-1530)

  • The son of an Ipswich butcher
  • Became an Oxford don then royal chaplain in 1507
  • In 1511 Wolsey became a royal councillor and four years later a cardinal and then Lord Chancellor
  • Dominated Government, restructured the equity and prerogative courts, and was hated by the aristocracy
  • Failed to secure annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the King was displeased
  • In 1529 Wolsey was dismissed, stripped of many of his possessions and sent north to his archdiocese in York
  • He died on the way.

did you know?
Thomas Wolsey was the son of a poor, rascally butcher of Ipswich whose name appears on the borough's records for selling meat unfit for human consumption.

Henry is at his palace at Richmond on the bank of the Thames, and a barge covered in silks and tapestry has been sent for Pasqualigo and his entourage.

This vessel conveyed us to the said palace of Richmond, where they led us into a sort of hall, and though it was before mass, they made us breakfast, for fear we should faint; after which we were conducted to the presence, through sundry chambers all hung with most beautiful tapestry, figured in gold and silver, and in silk, passing down the ranks of the body-guard, which consists of three hundred halberdiers in silver breast-plates and pikes in their hands; and, by God, they were all as big as giants . . . We at length reached the King, who was under a canopy of cloth of gold, embroidered in Florence, the most costly thing I have ever witnessed. He was leaning against his gilt throne, on which there was a large gold brocade cushion, where the long gold sword of state lay. He wore a cap of crimson velvet, in the French fashion, and the brim was looped up all around with lacets, which had gold enamelled tags. His doublet was in the Swiss fashion, striped alternately with white and crimson satin, and his hose were scarlet and slashed from the knee upwards. Very close round his neck he had a gold collar, from which there hung a round cut diamond, the size of the largest walnut I ever saw, and to this was suspended a most beautiful and very large round pearl. His mantle was of purple velvet, lined with white satin, the sleeves being open, and with a train verily more than four Venetian yards in length.

This mantle was girt in front like a gown, with a thick gold cord, from which there hung large glands entirely of gold, like those suspended from the cardinals' hats; over his mantle was a very handsome gold collar, with a pendant St George, entirely of diamonds. On his left shoulder was the garter, which is a cincture buckled circular-wise, and bearing in its centre a cross gules on a field argent; and on his right shoulder was a hood, with a border entirely of crimson velvet. Beneath the mantle he had a pouch of cloth of gold, which covered a dagger and his fingers were one mass of jeweled rings.

Select historical period

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1501Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon marry in London
1502Prince Arthur dies
1503Betrothal of Prince Henry to Catherine of Aragon
James IV of Scots marries Margaret Tudor, Henry's daughter
1509Henry VII dies
Henry VIII becomes King
Henry VIII marries Catherine of Aragon
1513Henry VIII defeats France at the Battle of Spurs
James IV of Scots invades England and is defeated and killed at Flodden
James V, King of Scots
1514Wolsey becomes Archbishop of York
Mary Tudor, Henry's sister, marries Louis XII of France
1515Wolsey becomes Lord Chancellor and cardinal
Francis I becomes King of France
1516Birth of Princess Mary
1518Wolsey made Papal Legate
1519Charles V becomes Holy Roman Emperor
1520Henry VIII meets Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
1529Wolsey falls from power
Sir Thomas More becomes Chancellor
1531Thomas Cromwell becomes a privy councillor
1533Henry VIII secretly marries Anne Boleyn
Cranmer is made archbishop of Canterbury
Cranmer grants Henry's divorce
Birth of Princess Elizabeth

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