Thomas Wolsey was the son of a butcher. In Tudor England such humble beginnings usually limited the amount of wealth and power someone could achieve in their lifetime, but not for Wolsey. Wolsey used his excellent education at Oxford, and experience as a priest and royal councillor, to ensure his skills were recognised by the political and religious elite. Consequently, Henry VIII and the pope promoted Wolsey to senior positions in government and the Church, respectively.
The king appointed Wolsey as his lord chancellor and chief minister in 1515, trusting him to oversee all matters of government in England. In the same year, Wolsey was appointed a cardinal of the Church and in 1518 he was made a papal legate, making him a personal representative of the pope. Thus, Wolsey promptly achieved his reputation as ‘alter rex’ (‘second king’) and ‘alter papa’ (‘second pope’).
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