Do you agree with the view that Wolsey’s fall from power was mainly the result of Anne Boleyn’s hostility towards him? (June 2011)
Anne Boleyn’s influence other Henry was certainly significant; she manipulated and seduced him, as well as succeeding in introducing him to the idea of Erastian kingship and Protestantism. Undoubtedly, her influence was one of the catalysts for the Reformation. Source 4 not only suggests the cause of enmity between Wolsey and Anne, but hints at the power Anne had over the King, thus indicating she might have been responsible for his downfall. It is a letter from Anne herself, accusing Wolsey of ‘betray[ing]’ her, and only ‘pretend[ing] to support [her] interest’ ‘to discover the secrets of [her] heart’, after the court led by Campeggio referred its decision the Curia at Rome.
Moreover, through writing ‘the King still less’ she is speaking on Henry’s behalf, thus showing her influence over him, and the fact she had a greater influence over him than Wolsey. Source 5 supports this view point; the very fact Wolsey appeals to Anne to regain good grace indicates the power even he believed she had over the King. Moreover, it shows how Anne refused to use that power and, again suggesting enmity between them. The fact that no one spoke on Wolsey’s behalf ‘for fear of Madame Anne’s displeasure’ indicates Anne’s influence and high status at Court.
However, what Source 5 implicitly implies, is that the King had the ultimate say in the situation, as evidenced by Anne’s eventual fall from grace. She was able ‘to speak to the King’ on Wolsey’s behalf, but it is debatable to what extent this would have been effective. Source 6 indicates that Henry ‘had lost faith in his former servant’, and simply got rid of Wolsey when he failed to serve Henry well. Wolsey’s success in Henry’s French campaign, the diplomatic prestige of the Treaty of London in 1918, as well as Wolsey’s execution of tedious admistrative duties made him valuable to Henry, but as soon as he failed to secure the desired annulement, and later the divorce, he was disgraced. Ultimately Henry had made him, and reserved the power to unmake him.
Furthermore, Source 6 implies that Wolsey failed in his other capacities, thus indicating that Henry’s displeasure with him was not chiefly induced by Anne’s manipulations. ‘His anti-Hapsburg strategy in Europe’, which was
There were also other parties which were influential in Wolsey’s disgraces. Wolsey had never been liked by the nobility, on account of his lowly origins, and had made his enemies during his time at court, as he tried to limit the influence of the nobility. The Eltham Ordiances in 1926 are only one example of this. Furthermore, his fight against Enclosure, as well as his habit of supporting poor man’s claims in the Court of Star Chamber, made him no friends amongst the nobility.