During his career Cardinal Wolsey made many enemies. Many nobles were keen to see Wolsey’s departure from government in 1529 and his death in 1530. There is little doubt that Wolsey was a very able man but most of his effort seemed to be concentrated on building up his vast personal fortune and expanding his own power base at the expense of others. While he had Henry VIII’s support, Wolsey was immune from his enemies attempt to undermine him. His political power was immense. However, Wolsey was not so powerful that he was spared attacks that could be found in the written word. John Skelton (1460? – 1529) wrote a satire on Wolsey. Skelton was critical of the Church but even more critical of the most powerful man in the Church. Skelton would have been foolish to have verbally criticised Wolsey. He put his anger onto paper in the following poem aimed at Wolsey, despite his earlier support of the chief minister.


“In the Chancery, where he sits,

But such as he admits,

None so hardy to speek!

He saith, “Thou hoddipeke,

They learning is too lewd,

Thy tongue is not well-thewd

To seek before our Grace!’

And openly, in that place,

He rages and he raves,

And calls them ‘cankered knaves’!

Thus royally he doth deal

Under the King’s broad seal;

And in the Chequer he them checks

And in the Star Chamber he nods and he becks,

And beareth him there so stout

That no man dare rowt!

Duke, earl, baron nor lord,

But to his sentence must accord;

Whether he be knight or squire,

All men must follow his desire.


Why come ye not to court?

To which court?

To the King’s court,

Or to Hampton Court?

Nay, to the king’s court!

The King’s court

Should have excellence

But Hampton Court

Hath the pre-eminence,

And York’s Place,

With my Lord’s Grace!

To whose magnificence

Is all the confluence,

Suits and supplications,

Embassades of all nations.”


This satirical poem was written probably in 1523 and circulated accordingly. It caused such offence to Wolsey, who did not see the funny side of the poem, that it is said that Skelton was forced to take sanctuary at Westminster until 1529 when he died in. However, there is no proof that this actually happened though Skelton did die in 1529.

Related Posts

  •   Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VII's relationship What relationship did Henry VIII have with Cardinal Wolsey? Clearly Henry was the master while Wolsey was his…