Who was Cardinal Wolsey?
Cardinal Wolsey owned Hampton Court Palace before it belonged to King Henry VIII.
He was a priest from relatively humble beginnings, who was blessed with academic brilliance and ambition. He was Henry’s first minister and chief political confidant. He looked after almost everything for the king from taxes to laws to wars – he was the kings right hand man. He was also a diligent statesman and worked hard to translate Henry VIII’s dreams and ambitions into effective domestic and foreign policy.
He collected many titles and properties – he went from being a royal chaplain to Bishop of Lincoln, then Archbishop of York, finally Lord Chancellor of England. He also became Cardinal Wolsey, Papal Legate, whose authority in some respects therefore went beyond that of King Henry VIII himself.
Wolsey leased Hampton Court in 1514 and began building work a year later. He carried on making improvements throughout the 1520s. Descriptions record rich tapestry-lined apartments, and how you had to traverse eight rooms before finding his audience chamber.
Why did he give Hampton Court Palace away?
Because Henry wanted it and he didn’t want to say no to the king.
King Henry was not very happy with him and Wolsey probably wanted to get back in the king’s good books.
King Henry wanted a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, but this was against their religion so it was up to Cardinal Wolsey to sort it out with the Pope… but the Pope wouldn’t allow it. His fall from favour was swift and final.
What happened to Cardinal Wolsey in the end?
He never managed to persuade the Pope to allow the divorce, he ended up giving the palace to Henry and dying in disgrace.