Thomas Wolsey was a medieval English cardinal and statesman. Born at Ipswich on the East Anglian coast, probably in 1475, he was educated at Oxford and ordained into the clergy in 1498. Within ten years he had become chaplain to the first Tudor king, Henry VII from where his career really took off, becoming Bishop of Lincoln, the Archbishop of York and a Cardinal.

Due to the close marriage of church and state he was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1515 and pursued a number of legal and administrative reforms. When Henry VIII took over the Crown he made Wolsey his leading adviser and left him in charge of the day-to-day running of government. Wolsey's ambition was to make England one of the Great Powers of 16th Century Europe and even had aims of one day becoming Pope. A number of errors of judgement in foreign policy put something of a brake on his plans and his high taxation policy at home didn't help to endear him to the merchants and noblemen of England.

When Henry's pleas to the Pope for a divorce from Katharine of Aragon were unsuccessful, it was Wolsey who was despatched to Rome to argue the king's case. However the Pope was at that time being almost held ransom by the King of Spain who also happened to be Katharine's nephew, and Wolsey failed to gain Papal approval for the divorce. Upon his return to England his failure was not treated lightly by the king: Wolsey was impeached and his property forfeited. Arrested on a charge of high treason, he died while travelling to London in 1530.