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A page from history. Did Henry VIII poison Cardinal Wolsey?

rakovsky

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The fundamental point of conflict between Henry VIII and the Church leaders in England was his repeated desire to divorce and remarry numerous wives, as well as his resulting desire to be the supreme head of the Church in England.

By comparison, in Orthodox theology, Christ is the head of the Church. In terms of ecclesiastical administration, the Orthodox Church treats the Ecumenical Councils as supreme, and the Patriarchs as directly below them. In the time of the Apostles, Nero was the ruler of the Roman emperor, but he was not the head of the Church.  "Apostolic Succession" is passed down through bishops whose name means "overseers", not through kings. The potentially Arian-leaning emperor Constantine convened (or hosted or faciliated) Nicea while he was not a baptized Christian, but he was not the basic judge of this Council, which banned Arianism. In the same era as Henry VIII, Ivan the Terrible (an emperor with a severe mentality comparable to Henry's) executed the Metropolitan of Moscow and was excommunicated by the Church. The Church was not excommunicating the "Head of the Church"; Ivan the Terrible continued his reign, yet remained out of communion with the Church. The Russian Church did not appoint a different king as its head, and the Tsar did not appoint a different Church, as it was not in his power to do so. That is not how Orthodoxy works.

The practical obstacle that Henry VIII faced to his marriage, and then to his claim to be the head of the Church, was the resistance of English clergy, and Henry VIII could not easily kill Cardinal Wolsey as an obstacle, since such a step would meet resistance from the Pope, other Catholic nations, and among a major portion of the English people. He arrested Wolsey and was bringing him to trial in London for treason, but the Cardinal died on the way in 1530, supposedly from dysentary. His supposedly natural death however was convenient for Henry because it prevented the King from killing the Cardinal directly and openly.

It's ironic that Henry was so strongly opposed to the cardinal, because the cardinal had tried hard on Henry's behalf to get the Pope to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Cardinal Wolsey told the messenger who summoned him to Henry's trial: "Master Kingston, I see the matter against me now it is framed; but if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King He would not have given me over in my gray hairs. "

On... 29th November 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died at Leicester Abbey (the Abbey of St Mary de Pratis) in his late 50s. He was on his way from Yorkshire to London with his chaplain, Edmund Bonner (the future Bishop of London), to answer charges of high treason when he was taken ill and died. He was laid to rest within the walls of the abbey and was not given the grand marble black sarcophagus that he had had designed for himself...
Eric Ives points out that Wolsey “lost Henry’s confidence from late August onwards by miscalculating the king’s mood and by mishandling the Treaty of Cambrai, in which Francis I totally deceived him and caused him, in turn, to mislead his master.”4 Wolsey’s mistakes, combined with his failure to get Henry his much-needed annulment, enabled the Boleyn faction to “bring him down”.
{O}n the 9th October, Wolsey found himself being charged with “praemunire” which is described by Webster’s Dictionary as being “the offense of introducing foreign authority into England”. Around a week later, Wolsey was forced to hand over his seal of office and on the 22nd October 1529 he pleaded guilty to the charge of praemunire and surrendered all of his property to the King. Henry, however, secretly kept in touch with his former chancellor and Wolsey was fully pardoned and restored to Henry’s favour on the 12th February 1530. ... Although Wolsey managed to gain much support from the King’s council, he was once again losing favour by autumn 1530... Henry VIII believed that Wolsey had “intrigued against them, both in and out of his kingdom” and entered into “presumptuous sinister practices made to the court of Rome for reducing him to his former estates and dignity”...
https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-death-of-cardinal-wolsey/
I read elsewhere that “praemunire” was a charge created in English legislation order to oppose papal powers trumping those of the English government.
Being in the late 50's is rather early for a normal lifespan, but not for having dysentery in medieval times. The curious thing is not that dying in one's late 50's would have been very rare for a natural death, but the timing in the case of the Cardinal. Already in the fact that he was not buried in the nice sarcophagus that he had planned suggests that he was a fallen, rejected figure in the eyes of Henry. The accusations by Henry about Wolsey intriguing against him with Rome remind me of the kinds of exaggerated accusations that Herod, Roman emperors, and Stalin made against their domestic political targets. To be clear, Henry was not accusing him of failing to accept Henry as head of the Church - this was a demand that Henry created later and over which he killed the cardinal's successor as the chancellor, Bp. Thomas More.

Giustinian, the Venetian ambassador, reported to the Signory of Venice on December 14, 1530 (Wolsey died on November 29): "The English ambassador [Sir Francis Bryan, appointed ambassador in 1528] has announced the death of Cardinal Wolsey; he meditated escape to Scotland, when the king sent his chamberlain [actually the Constable, Sir William Kingston] to arrest him ... The Cardinal requested a delay of two days, and taking from his pouch a phial containing a certain electuary ... he swallowed it, and died."

Other accounts suggest the Cardinal died of "a flux"; he is described as "dropsical" and in poor health. His doctor Agostino, an Italian (the 16th-century synonym for poisoner) is also fingered as supplying the Cardinal with a remedy for "the wind" that contained poison, which the Cardinal drank (knowingly or unknowingly).
...
[Wolsey] was buried by the monks of the Abbey but without a stone; this could suggest that there was something unseemly about his death [i.e. suicide], but more probably fear of the king's anger and uncertainty about what was an appropriate interment for a man who had been arrested for treason.
http://queryblog.tudorhistory.org/2013/09/question-from-mer-wolseys-death-and.html
The following essay points to Cromwell as someone who could have arranged Wolsey's death. I am reluctant to accept Cromwell's guilt, because they were supposedly friends, and Cromwell went on to defeat Anne Boleyn politically.
At this time Wolsey had a new best pal, a bright young thing who went by the name of Thomas Cromwell. They were travelling together to London when Wolsey ...died of a bowel infection... Cromwell,  gutted at the death of his friend, still carried on to London to protest Wolsey’s innocence.

The curious thing about Wolsey’s death was that it happened just before he was obviously about to walk into a massive...  storm. If Wolsey had of made it to London he would have been greeted with accusations & public ridicule; his reputation pulled to shreds by [Anne Boleyn], a long stretch in the Tower and ultimately a humiliating and painful execution. In a lot of ways his death was conveniently well-timed. I don’t for one minute think that Wolsey would have committed suicide: he was devout Catholic after all.
...
Before coming into Wolsey’s service, Cromwell was a mercenary who had travelled extensively, fought in wars and was ultimately a freaking genius. He was a lawyer and a badass, and exceptionally loyal to Wolsey. Its not implausible to think that he could’ve poisoned the Cardinal in order to maintain his innocence. ...Now I’m just speculating..., but .... bowel infections are synonymous with poisoning after all. ... Cromwell deeply missed the Cardinal and maintained his innocence for the rest of his life. Of course, it was Cromwell that later brought abut the downfall of Anne Boylen...
https://thetudorials.com/2015/11/29/29th-november-1530-suicide-illness-or-divine-intervention/
I read that Episodes 1 and 2 in the BBC series Wolf Hall has Cardinal Wolsey being poisoned.
https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Hall-Season-One/dp/B00V324G1S

James Norros Brewer writes in A Descriptive and Historical Account of Various Palaces and Public Buildings: "It has been by some supposed that Wolsey took poison during his last attempt to travel to London; but the remains of the one proud cardinal exhibited no marks of violent dissolution. 'After he was dead,' says Fiddes, 'his body lay publicly exposed with the face uncovered, at Leicester, in the presence of the Mayor and Aldermen (to prevent false reports of his being alive) when there appeared no symptoms of his being poisoned.'"

The cardinal's opponent, Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII featured in rumors as being behind the poisoning of the Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, in 1531.
Rumours circulated that it was the King who had arranged for the poisoning of Fisher, in order to silence Fisher's criticism of the King's attempts to divorce Queen Catherine, and of his attacks on the church.[12] Henry Clifford wrote:
    "From the time that Queen Catharine was defended so stoutly and learnedly by the Bishop of Rochester [ Anne Boleyn ] did seek by all means his destruction. One Richard Rice, a cook, was suborned to poison him, and he knew no other way to do it than to poison the common pot, which was for the whole household of the bishop. It chanced that that day according to his custom the bishop came not to dine in the parlour, but most of his family that dined there were poisoned and died thereof. Rice the cook being discovered did confess it and was publicly put to death for it. --The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Roose
Bishop Fisher was a Catholic martyr who opposed Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon, and it looks like Henry VIII or Ann Boleyn tried to poison Bishop Fisher, before Henry eventually beheaded him in 1535.
Henry’s passion for Anne [Boleyn] would bring down Wolsey, take the lives of Fisher, More, and countless others, and destroy the Catholic Church in England. It began with Henry appealing to the pope to annul his marriage to his queen, Katherine, so he could marry Anne. Bishop Fisher examined the case and found nothing to suggest the royal marriage was invalid. He became one of Katherine’s champions, and was active in her defense before Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, whom Pope Clement VII had sent to England to resolve the matter. By siding with the queen, Fisher angered Henry. There is a Latin saying that roughly translates, “To anger a king means death.” And Fisher’s life was in danger. Someone poisoned his food—he didn’t eat it, but two members of his household did and they died. And then someone fired a shot through the window of his library: the bullet missed the bishop.
http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tcraughwell/the-martyr-who-got-overshadowed-by-st.-thomas-more
In that case, Henry VIII could have used the same modus operandi against Cardinal Wolsey.
Henry executed Bp. Fisher, for refusing to accept the king as supreme head of the Church, in June 22, 1535.

Cardinal Wolsey’s assistant “George Cavendish” later wrote a biography of Wolsey that he published before dying. Hillary Mantel reviews Cavendish's biography, noting:
George Cavendish was with Wolsey in his uneasy exile and at his sudden arrest. The young earl of Northumberland arrived at the cardinal's lodging a day's ride from York: "trembling ... with a very faint and soft voice, laying his hand upon his arm", he said, "'My lord ... I arrest you of high treason.'" Cavendish followed the cardinal into his private room, barring the door to the invaders. Wolsey told him, "Look at my face - I am not afraid of any man alive." The journey south began, the cardinal under guard, towards the Tower. "I know what is provided for me," he said; he did not think he would evade his enemies again. Then he fell ill. Cavendish served the cardinal his last meal this side of heaven, a dish of baked pears. He was with him at Leicester Abbey, at his agonising death. Natural causes or poison? If poison, self-administered?
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/25/hilary-mantel-cardinal-wolsey

In the 1852 reprint, Wolsey tells Henry's messenger, Kingston,:
"Mr. Kingstone," quoth my lord, 'I thank you for your good news; and Sir, hereof assure yourself, that if I were as able and lusty as I have been but of late, I would not fail to ride with you in post: but Sir, I am diseased with a fluxe* that makes me very weak. Editor's footnote: *"Diseased with a fluxe" [Fluxe is an archaic term for a disease causing diarrhrea] In the printed editions, the passage stands thus: 'But alas! I am a diseased man, having a flux: (at which time it was apparent that he had proisoned himself) it has made me very weak.' edition 1706. 'It is highly probable (says Dr. Fiddes, in his Life of Wolsey,) this expression ought to be taken in a softer sense than the words strictly import, and that Cavendish only intended by it, that he was poisoned by taken something prepared for him, by other hands.' ... It... admits of great question whether the words in the parenthesis are not altogether an interpolation. They do not occur in any Manuscript which I have seen. Still it is certain that the charge of his having poisoned himself was repeated by contemporary writers, without scruple.
One explanation for the charge that Wolsey poisoned himself could be that he was in fact poisoned by consuming poisoned food, and so government figures at the time reported this medical fact. However, in reality Wolsey may not have deliberately consumed food that he knew to be poisoned and could have been killed by someone else.
 

Luke

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I don't know, but I do know that King Henry VIII was an equal opportunity executioner.
 

rakovsky

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Wikipedia's article on him notes:
In 1529 Wolsey was stripped of his government office and property, including his magnificently expanded residence of Hampton Court, which Henry took to replace the Palace of Westminster as his own main London residence. Wolsey was permitted to remain Archbishop of York. He travelled to Yorkshire for the first time in his career, but at Cawood in North Yorkshire, he was accused of treason and ordered to London by Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland. In great distress, he set out for the capital with his personal chaplain, Edmund Bonner. He fell ill on the journey, and died at Leicester on 29 November 1530, around the age of 57.

Just before his death he reputedly spoke these words:

I see the matter against me how it is framed. But if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs.
There are basically three options as to his fate:
  1. He was going to trial for treason against Henry VIII and he conveniently unintentionally died from dysentery, which is contracted typically by something that you eat/drink. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn probably would have wanted to neutralize him politically. So the treason trial does not seem very hopeful for him. He was already being stripped of his government office and property, so it looks like he was going in the direction of conviction and severe punishment based on Henry's treatment of others. So in other words, he was probably going to get beheaded like St. Thomas More, but he "happened" to get sick and die on the way to this.
  2. He got scared of the trial and killed himself with poison (something he ate or drank).
  3. Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn had people poison him or told him to poison himself.
 
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