On this day in Tudor history, 4th November 1530, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was arrested.
Henry VIII’s former lord chancellor was arrested at his home of Cawood Castle in Yorkshire. He was accused of high treason.
But why was the king’s former chief advisor accused of treason, and what happened when Wolsey’s former servant, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, arrived with orders for his arrest?
Find out in this video or the transcript below…
On this day in Tudor history, 4th November 1530, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Walter Walsh, a groom of King Henry VIII’s privy chamber, arrived at Cawood Castle, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s seat as Archbishop of York, to arrest the cardinal for high treason.
Wolsey had been a royal favourite, serving King Henry VIII as Lord Chancellor, but he had been unable to get the king an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon AND, as the late historian Eric Ives pointed out, Wolsey “lost Henry’s confidence from late August 1529 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”.
He was charged with praemunire in 1529, but was pardoned and restored in February 1530. However, he then managed to dig his own grave by working towards what Eric Ives describes as “a rapprochement with Katherine, Charles V and Rome”, something which led to the Pope ordering Henry VIII to leave Anne Boleyn and return to Catherine. Anne and the king were furious with the situation. 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”. It was treason.
On 1st November 1530, Walter Walsh, was sent to Yorkshire with a warrant for Wolsey’s arrest and he accompanied Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who had once served in the cardinal’s household, to Cawood on 4th November.
Edward Hall records Wolsey’s arrest in his chronicle:
“When the earl had seen the letter, he with a convenient number came to the Manor of Cawood the 4th day of November, and when he was brought to the Cardinal in his chamber, he said to him, ‘my lord I pray you take patience, for here I arrest you.’
‘Arrest me’ said the Cardinal, ‘yea’ said the earl, ‘I have a commandment so to do’
‘you have no such power’ said the Cardinal, ‘for I am both a Cardinal and a Legate de Latere and a peer of the College of Rome & ought not to be arrested by any temporal power, for I am not subject to that power, wherfore if you arrest me I will withstand it’
‘well,’ said the earl, ‘here is the kings Commission’, (which he showed him), ‘and therefore I charge you to obey.’
The Cardinal somewhat remembered himself and said, “well my lord, I am content to obey, but although that I by negligence fell into the punishment of the Praemunire and lost by the law all my lands and goods, yet my person was in the king’s protection and I was pardoned that offence, wherefore I marvel why I now should be arrested & specially considering that I am a member of the sea Apostolic on whom no temporal man ought to lay violent hands, well I see the king lacketh good counsel.’
‘well,’ said the earl, ‘when I was sworn Warden of the Marches, you yourself told me that I might with my staff arrest all men under the degree of a king, and now I am more stronger for I have a commission so to do, which you have seen.’”
Hall goes on to say that “the Cardinal at length obeyed” and was kept in his chamber while his goods were seized and his officers discharged”. The cardinal’s physician, Venetian Agostino Agostini, was also arrested, accused of carrying letters to the French ambassador in London.
Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, was sent from London to meet Wolsey in Sheffield, as he was escorted to London, but Wolsey never got to London. He died from dysentery while breaking the journey at Leicester Abbey on 29th November 1530.