The Twickenham Museum
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Thomas Wolsey
Builder of Hampton Court Palace
c1471 - 1530

Cardinal Wolsey

Cardinal and Lord Chancellor

Thomas Wolsey was the son of an Ipswich butcher and cattle dealer. He had a comfortable childhood and was educated at Oxford University.

Wolsey joined the English church and was seen as a keen and intelligent worker. He soon came to the attention of Henry VIII becoming his personal chaplain. In 1514, he was created Archbishop of York. A year later, he was made a Cardinal by the Pope and Lord Chancellor of England by Henry VIII.

Builds Hampton Court PalaceHe dominated Henry VIII's court becoming the most poweful man next to the King.

Wolsey spent lavishly and built palaces at York House (Whitehall) and Hampton Court. In about 1527 he felt obliged to hand over Hampton Court Palace to Henry VIII. The King had become jealous of the magnificent building. Wolsey, however, was allowed to keep certain apartments for his own use.


Henry VIII wanted the Pope to give him a divorce from Katherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. When Wolsey was unable to get the Pope's permission, Henry blamed him.

On 4 November 1530, Wolsey was arrested at Cawood Castle, Selby, near York. He died at Leicester, en route to London to be tried for treason.

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