Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (c1475-1530)

The large portrait of Cardinal Wolsey on the side of the Wolsey Knitwear building in Leicester

The large portrait of Cardinal Wolsey on the side of the Wolsey Knitwear building in Leicester

In Leicester’s Abbey Park, set amid the ruins of the site that was once one of England’s largest Augustinian abbeys, lies a memorial slab to Cardinal Wolsey.  The precise location of his grave has yet to be discovered but whilst on his way to London to answer charges of high treason, Wolsey was taken ill and on reaching Leicester Abbey he was received and taken to a chamber where he died three days later on 29th November 1530.

The Wolsey Knitwear Building (now apartments) located in Belgrave near the ruins to the of Leicester Abbey.

The Wolsey Knitwear Building (now apartments) located in Belgrave near the ruins to the of Leicester Abbey. The company was named after the Cardinal who is buried at the Abbey

During his lifetime Wolsey became one of the most powerful and influential ministers at the court of Henry VIII.  Born around 1745, Thomas Wolsey was the son of an Ipswich butcher.  Thomas received a good education and went on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford and was ordained around 1498. He served as chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and later to Henry VII and then rose to become one of the most powerful and influential ministers  at the court of King Henry VIII. 

His rise was meteoric and he was appointed Archbishop of York and a year later the Pope made him a cardinal. Soon afterwards the king appointed him Lord Chancellor and Wolsey now proudly regarded himself as an equal of the king and is said to have even outshone the king in his magnificence.  Wolsey’s downfall came in 1529 when he failed to obtain the Pope’s approval of Henry VIII divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Forced to resign his office, Wolsey left court and travelled to the north of the country. Shortly after, in 1530, Wolsey was arrested for treason and ordered to return to London; a journey he would never complete.

On the day following his death, Wolsey was interred in the Lady Chapel of the Leicester Abbey.  The precise location of the grave has never been found.  Leicester Abbey was closed by the Crown Commissioner a few years after Wolsey’s death and the whereabouts of Wolsey’s tomb became uncertain.  As far as is known the coffin is still buried within the Abbey ruins.