Friday, 21 August 2009
Cardinal Wolsey, whose painting appeared in yesterday's post was the man who built Whitehall Palace. He was a poor man (some historians challenge this myth - he was pretty well connected from birth), who made good, but paid the price of his success. He had risen to become one of the young Henry VIII's most powerful and trusted ministers. By 1514 he was one of the most powerful figures in both the Church and the State. As Archbishop of York he had use of York Place, the residence close to the royal seat of power in Westminster. It was on King Street, like it's modern successor, Whitehall, it ran from Westminster out towards Charing Cross - and extended towards the River Thames.
It was York Place which he turned into one of the largest and most impressive houses in London. Thurley describes the complex. "it made use of the best parts of the House built by Archbishop Neville (1465-76) and his predecessors, but added new rooms that made the house more modern, convenient and magnificent...Wolsey retained the medieval Great Hall". A new Great Chamber was built - "panelled and given a gilded ceiling. brass door-locks engraved with Wolsey's arms, and lavish stained-glass windows." Surrounding land was bought up and buildings Wolsey considered unsightly were demolished.
Work was completed in the late 1520's. Sadly Wolsey's power and wealth had made his old friend, Henry VIII jealous. Wolsey also failed to get Henry the annulment of the King's marriage to Katherine of Aragon. The Boleyn family and her supporters suspected that Wolsey had sabotaged procceedings - and the King moved against him.
Henry took the newly completed residence from Wolsey - and moved in himself. Westminster had ceased to be a royal residence a few years previously after a fire.