Cardinal Wolsey at Cawood Castle, the End of an Era
Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530), son of a butcher, somehow managed to rise to incredible wealth & power in the turbulent times of Henry VIII. Only 5 years after Henry was crowned, Wolsey was appointed Archbishop of York, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic church & Lord Chancellor of England. In his mid 40s, he was the most powerful person in England other than the king.
But Wolsey's power, & his appetites for houses & treasures, created many enemies. When Anne Boleyn came on the scene, Henry wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Wolsey was unsuccessful at arranging a divorce for Henry, who lost faith in him, & his enemies zeroed in on him. Abandoned by the king, stripped of public office, & disgraced, he decided to "withdraw" to Cawood in 1529 to take up residence at Cawood Castle, a long time holding of the Archbishopric of York.
Wolsey arrived in Cawood with great style & a large entourage, & immediately began a program of repairs & improvements to the castle. In November, 1530, the Earl of Northumberland & William Walsh entered the castle with much fanfare. Wolsey, excited to see his old friend, hurried to meet them, with great warmth, inviting them to a seat by the fire & dinner. He was obvioulsy "out of the loop"!
The Duke had other plans (& orders!), which a servant, George Cavendish, overheard. "My lord", said the Duke, "I arrest you of high treason."
Wolsey was to be taken to London for trial on the charge of intriguing against the king. Wolsey asked to say goodbye to each member of his large staff, & Northumberland reluctantly agreed. The Cardinal was helped onto his mule, & Wolsey rode out of Cawood's Castle gate for the last time.
On the journey, Wolsey refused to eat. Weak, with misery & illness, he continued on until they reached Leicester Abbey, where he told the abbot that he had come to "leave my bones here". He lost the power of speech & when the clock struck eight, he died.
Within the 7 years after Wolsey's death, Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church, dissolved the monasteries, & married & exectuted his second wife, the reason for Wolsey's downfall.