An irony of Thomas Wolsey’s fall and, soon thereafter, of Thomas More’s resignation of the chancellorship is that, in using the office of chancellor to advance and defend the interests of Catholic orthodoxy, first Wolsey and then More was defeated by the contradictory demands of a king who aspired to be a faithful son of the church yet imperial in his own realm. Wolsey was ruined in the futile endeavor of obtaining the annulment that the king desired under constraints imposed by the papacy’s rights and privileges inside England. More found it impossible to stay in service to a king who had made it official that his policies were one with those of the anticlerical faction in the House of Commons. So considered, these mutually illuminating events, Wolsey’s fall and More’s resignation, suggest new ways of viewing Henrician policy at a critical moment.
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