From Princes to Pages

The Literary Lives of Cardinal Wolsey, Tudor England’s ‘Other King’


In From Princes to Pages, Gavin Schwartz-Leeper provides a wide-ranging assessment of early modern literary characterizations of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief minister from 1515-1529. Called the ‘other king’, Wolsey became a contested symbol of the English Reformation through diverse literary depictions that demonstrate the transformative pressures of this complex period.

The author traces the development of these characterizations from the satires of John Skelton to Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII, and offers new considerations of canonical and lesser-known texts by George Cavendish, John Foxe, and Raphael Holinshed. This study brings together multidisciplinary analyses to demonstrate how Wolsey’s literary lives reveal much about the contemporary shaping of this period, and argues for new ways to understand uses of the past in early modern England.

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Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, Ph.D. (University of Sheffield, 2013) is the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Liberal Arts) at the University of Warwick. His research considers early modern print history, transdisciplinary pedagogy, and issues of representation and perception in Renaissance England.
List of Images
Speaking nothing but truth: Problems, Structure, and Subject

Chapter I
Rayling and Scoffery: Henrician Portrayals of Cardinal Wolsey
Against Venemous Tongues and Magnyfycence: early anti-Wolsey texts
After Magnyfycence: Speaking Parrots, Everymen, and the Alter Rex
1522: Reversals, Capitulations, and the Question of Wolsey’s Patronage
Godly Queene Hester: The Codification of Early Tudor Anti-Wolsey Satire
Hester in Context: Heritage and Effect

Chapter II
“A vysage of trwthe”: George Cavendish’s Characterizations of Wolsey
The Metrical Visions: Rota Fortuna and Wolsey’s Lamentations
Cardinal Wolsey in the Metrical Visions
Le Historye in Context
Placing the Visions
The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey

Chapter III
“The history of a certaine ridiculous spectacle”: Literary Representations of Cardinal Wolsey in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments
The First Four English Editions: A Brief Overview
A Ridiculous Spectacle
“See a butchers dogge”
The King’s Great Matter
The Significant Death

Chapter IV
‘Handling This Story Effectualie’: Editorializing Wolsey in Holinshed’s Chronicles
The 1577 Edition: Holinshed and Wolsey
Wolsey, Post-Holinshed: Abraham Fleming and the 1587 Edition
To “frankelie and boldlie speak”: Methods and Concerns
Looking Forward

Chapter V
‘Griped By Meaner Persons’?: Wolsey in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII, or, All is True
Mirrors of Courtesy: Buckingham, Norfolk, and Wolsey
Making Greatness Familiar: Ceremony and Processions in Henry VIII
Katherine and Wolsey: Representations in Conflict
Falling like Lucifer: Wolsey’s Final Appearances in Henry VIII
Eulogizing and Summarizing Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII


Traduced by Ignorant Tongues?
All interested in early modern English literature, religion, and history; or with special interests in Cardinal Wolsey or aspects of representation in political, social, or religious contexts.