Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530), Cardinal, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, was ordained as a priest in St Peter's church on 10th March 1498.
The Blue Plaque commemorating the ordination of Thomas Wolsey is by the main door of the church.
Thomas Wolsey was of humble origins, born c1473 the son of Robert Wolsey of Ipswich and his wife Joan Daundy. His father, was widely thought to have been a butcher and a cattle dealer, and although a man of some property and a churchwarden of St. Nicholas, Ipswich, was somewhat disreputable - being continually fined for allowing his pigs to stray in the street, selling bad meat, letting his house to doubtful characters for illegal purposes, and generally infringing the weights and measures bylaws.
Thomas Wolsey attended Ipswich School and Magdalen College School before studying theology at Magdalen College, Oxford. and on 10 March 1498, he was ordained a priest in St Peter's Church Marlborough, Wiltshire.
He remained in Oxford, first as the Master of Magdalen College School before quickly being appointed the dean of divinity. Between 1500 and 1509 he held the living of Church of Saint Mary, Limington, in Somerset. In 1502, he left and became a chaplain to Henry Deane, archbishop of Canterbury, who died the following year. He was then taken into the household of Sir Richard Nanfan, who trusted Wolsey to be executor of his estate. After Nanfan's death in 1507, Wolsey entered the service of Henry VII.
Henry VII appointed Wolsey royal chaplain and in this position he was secretary to Richard Foxe, who recognized Wolsey's innate ability and dedication and appreciated his industry and willingness to take on tedious tasks. Thomas Wolsey's remarkable rise to power from humble origins can be attributed to his high level of intelligence and organisation, his extremely industrious nature, his driving ambition for power, and the rapport he was able to achieve with the King.
Wolsey's further rise coincided with the accession of the new monarch, Henry VIII, whose character, policies and diplomatic mindset differed significantly from those of his father. In 1509, Henry appointed Wolsey to the post of Almoner, a position that gave him a seat on the Privy Council, providing an opportunity to raise his profile and to establish a rapport with the King. A factor in Wolsey's rise was that the young Henry VIII was not particularly interested in the details of governing during his early years. But it was not until towards the end of 1511 that Wolsey became a privy councillor and secured a controlling voice in the government.
But Wolsey clearly foresaw his own eventual 'fall' and the consequent attack on the church. Parliament was hostile towards him and he was hated by the nobility. Even churchmen had been alienated by his suppression of monasteries and by his monopoly of ecclesiastical power; and his only support was the king, who had now developed a determination to rule himself.
He therefore surrendered all his offices and all his preferments except the Archbishopric of York, receiving in return a pension of 1000 marks from the bishopric of Winchester, and retired to his see, which he had never before visited. The last few months of his life were spent in the exemplary discharge of his archiepiscopal duties; but a not altogether unfounded suspicion that he had invoked the assistance of Francis I, if not of Charles V and the pope, to prevent his fall involved him in a charge of treason. He was summoned to London, but died on his way at Leicester abbey on November 30 1530, and was buried there on the following day.
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