Cardinal Wolsey: Renaissance Prelate and Patron

Course details

From £1365.00

Sun 14 Jul 2019 - Sat 20 Jul 2019

Cardinal Wolsey: Renaissance Prelate and Patron


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

The course begins with the early life and career of Thomas Wolsey. It then traces his rapid rise to power after 1509 under the young Henry VIII and discusses the nature of Wolsey’s relationship with the king. It surveys his extraordinary efforts over twenty years, through warfare and spectacular diplomacy, to promote Henry VIII on the international stage. The course then considers Wolsey’s dominance over the Tudor state and church; the wealth, the opportunities and ultimately the insoluble problems which that dominance brought him. The course will review Wolsey’s educational, artistic and architectural patronage before finally reflecting on his fall from power and his significance in English history.


Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


Wolsey the Ipswich Boy and Oxford Man: We will trace Wolsey’s origins and education and his early career at Oxford.

Wolsey’s rise to Power: Wolsey’s early work for Henry VII, his appointment to the council of Henry VIII, his early relationship with the king and with the Tudor court.


Wolsey and Henry 1509-1520: Wolsey’s work to get Henry on to the international stage from war in 1513 to the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520

Wolsey and Europe 1521-1527: The complicated internationally context in which Wolsey had to work and his greatest diplomatic triumph in 1527.


Wolsey as Lord Chancellor: The work Wolsey did in law reform and increasing the effectiveness of the king’s justice; star chamber and ‘poor men’s causes’

Wolsey as Cardinal Legate:  This session examines the exact nature of Wolsey’s authority over the Church in England and the use he made of it to enhance royal, not papal, power.


Wolsey as Patron: Picking up on points already made in the course so far, this session concentrates on Wolsey’s artistic and architectural patronage as a Renaissance cardinal.

Wolsey at Christ Church: Taking advantage of our location at ‘Cardinal College’ we will look around to see what remains of Wolsey’s greatest educational foundation.


Wolsey’s fall:  This session examines the reasons why, after twenty years of loyal service to Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey fell from power so swiftly.

Wolsey’s Legacy: A final session considers Wolsey’s strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a royal minister and asks whether his contribution to the making of ‘Tudor England’ has yet to be properly appreciated.


Recommended reading

Fletcher, Stella. Cardinal Wolsey: A Life in Renaissance Europe.  New York: Continuum, 2009.

Matusiak John, Wolsey: The Life of King Henry VIII’s Cardinal. Stroud: History Press, 2016.

Richardson, Glenn. Wolsey. Routledge (if in print by 2018).


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): £1545.00
Programme fee (with single standard accommodation and meals): £1365.00


Professor Glenn Richardson


Professor of Early Modern History at Saint Mary’s University College, Twickenham. 


Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.