Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/58

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CHAPTER II

Cardinal Wolsey and the Monasteries

ENGLAND, during some fourteen years of the reign of Henry VIII., was ruled by the counsels of Wolsey. On the king's accession, in 1509, the future lord cardinal of York had already made his way to the dignity of dean of Lincoln. Six years later pope Leo X. yielded to the earnest demands of the English king and the polite but persistent pressure of Wolsey's agents in Rome, and created him cardinal. He had already become archbishop of York, and had gained an ever-increasing influence over the mind of his royal master. On December 24, 1515, one year later, he took the oaths of office as chancellor of England, in succession to the saintly and venerable Warham. He then appeared to have reached the summit of a subject's lawful ambition.

As the highest judicial officer of the realm—the "keeper of the king's conscience"—Wolsey's power in matters temporal was then practically unlimited.

"He is in very great repute," writes a foreign ambassador in England, "seven times more so than if he were pope. He is the person who rules both the king and the entire kingdom. On my (the ambassador's) first arrival in England he used to say, 'His Majesty will do so and so.' Subsequently, by degrees, he went on forgetting himself, and commenced saying, 'We shall do so and so.' At present he has reached such a pitch that he says, 'I shall do so and so.'"

In addition to this almost regal authority in temporal matters, the cardinal desired great and exceptional powers in ecclesiastical concerns. For a while his appointment to a place in the august College of Cardinals seemed doubtful. He consequently directed the English agent in Rome to hint that the pope's hesitation was damaging to papal influence over Henry, and that refusal would be really dan-