EDitorial ± 28-Jun-2011

Cardinal Wolsey of Ipswich: The Facts

Where do scholars look for the essential truth about Cardinal Wolsey, local boy done good? Granted, there are some fine books by the likes of Gwyn, Fletcher, Creighton and Ridley. Rifle through their references and trawl through their table of contents and you still won't find the one true source, the wellspring, the fountainhead that's at the core of a grand conspiracy of historians.

What these learned folk will never admit is that almost everything we know about the son of Ipswich comes from one place: the definitive portrayal of Wolsey by the late Terry Scott in that 1971 classic, Carry On Henry.

Note: you may find it helpful when reading this dialogue to also picture Sid James as Henry and Kenneth Williams as Thomas Cromwell.

Wolsey was ... enigmatic:

This film is based on a recently discovered manuscript by one William Cobbler which reveals the fact that Henry VIII did in fact have two more wives. Although it was at first thought that Cromwell originated the story, it is now known to be definitely all Cobbler's ... from beginning to end.

Wolsey was ... compassionate:

(WOLSEY, escorting Katherine to her execution) Nice day for it, your majesty. Hardly any wind. Good crowd, too.

Wolsey was ... sensitive:

(KATHERINE, being helped up steps to executioner) I can manage, thank you, Cardinal.
(WOLSEY) Don't want you to trip and hurt yourself, ma'am.

Wolsey was ... pragmatic:

(WOLSEY) Do you, Henry, take this woman to...
(HENRY) I do, and so does she. Right love, that's it, through there.

Wolsey was ... diplomatic:

(HENRY) She has got to go!
(WOLSEY) Go? But why?
(HENRY) Why? Because it turns out that her most gracious majesty, Marie, Queen of England, wife of the defender of the faith, is also a biter of the garlic!
(WOLSEY) Garlic, what is garlic?
(CROMWELL) A small bulb bearing plant of the onion family, used extensively by the French.

Wolsey was ... torn:

(HENRY) What did she say?
(HENRY) No?!
(WOLSEY) She refuses to give it up.
(HENRY) Refuses? That settles it! Get her annulled!
(WOLSEY) An old what, sire?
(HENRY) Annul the marriage, you fool!
(WOLSEY) Oh, I'm afraid that would be out of the question, your majesty. The Pope would be livid.

Wolsey was ... wise:

(QUEEN MARIE, locked in the Tower) Oh Wolsey, what is to become of me? Will I ever look up to see the clear blue of the sky again?
(WOLSEY) I really couldn't say, the weather report isn't too good.

Wolsey was ... hard-working:

(QUEEN MARIE) Dear Wolsey, you have always loved me, haven't you?
(WOLSEY) Devotedly, ma'am.
(QUEEN MARIE) Enough to do me a service?
(WOLSEY) What would you like, a matin or a quick vespers?

Wolsey was ... astute:

(WOLSEY) And your master has given permission for it?
(CONTE DI PISA) He has requested me to say that he is most morally shocked... but under certain conditions, he might be prevailed upon to overlook his deep seated and inviolate sense of duty.
(WOLSEY) Alright, how much this time?
(CONTE DI PISA) 5,000 pieces of gold.
(WOLSEY) 5,000?! Come off it, that's double last time!

Wolsey was ... virtuous:

(CROMWELL) Can I be assured this 10,000 is all for Rome?
(WOLSEY) Are you suggesting! How dare you! Know well that I am an honourable man!

Wolsey was ... betrayed:

(HENRY) My dear, beautiful wife. To lose her at such a time. And it's all your fault, you cardinal!
(WOLSEY) Me? What have I done?
(HENRY) What haven't you done? I entrusted her to your safekeeping and you betrayed my trust.
(WOLSEY) Me? I've been trying to get rid of her for the last year.
(HENRY) Enough! There's only one cure for traitors. To the Tower with him!
(WOLSEY) Oh no! Get your hands off me. Sire? Mind me hat!

Wolsey was ... loyal:

(HENRY, stopping Wolsey's beheading) I have urgent need of your services.
(WOLSEY) Well, of course, how splendid, only too happy to serve your majesty!
(HENRY) I want an immediate divorce.
(WOLSEY) What? Carry on, executioner, carry on!

One final point: early proofs of Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" were said to include this dedication:

To Every Reader: Remain Yourself, Seek Clarity, Observe The Truth

Although later removed, we now know the meaning of this simple acrostic.