How far was Wolsey’s rise to power a result of luck rather than skill? All three sources only partly agree that Woley’s rise to power was a result of luck. Source C seems to suggest that the rise of power was due to luck, within the source it tells us that one of Wolsey’s main critics, Surrey, was too old to argue against him and his son too young to do so also.
Warham has retired and therefore a position of power has opened up because of this Wolsey can now manoeuver his friends into other positions of power to help him, therefore this would suggest that Wolsey at this time had a lot of fortune on his side. Although within all these sources, luck may not remain the main theme it reoccurs throughout each, whether small or large. Source D reflects that’s Wolsey had a fortunate place with the King as Henry was easily bribed with gifts ‘beautifully fashioned dish, a jewel, or gifts of that sort’.
Wolsey’s had his very own biographer which was his first servant and hence this creates a bias account as the information Cavendish will be collecting will be from Wolsey and this could be twisted into unreliable information, although most points also have element of Wolsey’s skilfulness it could be argued that King Henry simply favoured Wolsey, or that it was Wolsey’s personality rather than his skill that made the king acceptant of him.
All sources seem to suggest that the luck element of Wolsey’s influence came from other people not being there, for example Archbishop Wilson and Bishop Fox resigned from there post, also the King himself being so susceptible to Wolsey’s flattery. Although source C seems to be emphasising luck it’s important to gather G. R Elton’s background upon this opinion.
Elton is a traditionalist historian with his views of Wolsey held from the 1970’s and has a corrupt opinion of Wolsey too, as knowledge was not fully developed upon him yet, this could infer that Elton may have a slight influenced opinion of Wolsey and hence perturbing the side of luck forward so that people may have a more negative opinion. In contrast someone like Cavendish may not put emphasis upon luck and lean more towards skill because as an important role within Wolsey’s life he would like to make himself seem more superior because the person he is serving is a very important figure.
Cavendish and Elton suggested the same idea of Henry VII’s council being abolished but use different terms to highlight Wolsey in different ways, Elton says ‘soon the council of the early years vanished’ this could suggest a sense of nostalgia something good having been lost. Contrasting with this Cavendish puts across ‘ancient councillors out of the accustomed favour’ this can imply that the council was outdated and it was time for a new one. Source D is written by Italian Humanist that arrived within Henry’s court in 1502, Polydore Vergil.
This source can be interpreted in both views of luck and skill, Wolsey could be called skilful for his bribery by taking advantage of the king to get what he wants ‘Wolsey would adroitly bring forward the project on which his mind was fixed’ or it could simply be lucky that Henry was so easily distracted by gifts. Never the less this could also lead to a skilful action by Wolsey as he is aware of this disadvantage of the King. Vergil makes Wolsey sound manipulative but applauses his skilfulness for doing so.
It’s a shock that someone at this time would make the King of England sound so gullible, this may be from the influence in his own country of Italy and also to make Wolsey look monstrous because he is taking advantage of the king. Vergil was commissioned to write the history of England by Henry VII, and was a favourite of his. This caused a feud between Vergil and Wolsey which left Vergil out of favour. This would affect the way Vergil then depicts Wolsey and the King himself.
Wolsey’s noted flattery within source D is also picked up in source C ‘a faithful follower’ although this hint is more hidden. This may be due to Elton’s retrospective view and intents to be a good historian and not present a biased account. Source E leans toward Wolsey’s skill, this disagrees with the statement of the question. Cavendish states that Wolsey was an ‘opportunist’ whereas others may say Wolsey lacked integrity Cavendish portrays Wolsey as going for what he wants ‘he was able to adapt his views and ideas to for those of the king’.
This also suggests that Wolsey knew how to make the king happy and hence become more favourable of Wolsey. Cavendish praises throughout the source even using the superlative to describe him ‘he was the most earnest and readiest’. We also gain an obvious view that Wolsey is ‘skilful’ because Cavendish outright says it within the source. The praise from Cavendish will be largely to do with the fact he was Wolsey’s servant for many years and knew him on a personal but not necessarily on a political level.
This is different to the other sources as source D Vergil knew Wolsey but did not get along with him, and Elton was not of the era. Throughout the sources each one is affected by the time period in which they were written, from Source D and E being a contemporary pieces to source C which is retrospective. They all seem to link back to the question in terms of hinting or simply aiming luck at the reader but seem to also ease in skill, or in Cavendish’s case the reverse.
They may all seem to agree that Wolsey is a flattering person but put this into different opinions on it. All sources collect a mixed response to the question and we can conclude from this that both factors were at hand. All sources seem to create Wolsey in their own opinion but share a collective picture of important man who knew how to manipulate and use his power and influence to get what or where he wanted.
Courtney from Study Moose
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