Wolsey’s Mistress and Children

It was the Spring of 1509, King Henry VII lay dying in his bed surrounded by his most intimate courtiers and household. His son, the seventeen year old Prince of Wales would soon become the next King of England. King Henry VIII.

Henry, however, was never supposed to be heir apparent to the throne. He was raised as a ‘spare heir’ with his sisters, and his education was that of a second son and not that of someone who would someday become King.

In the Spring of 1502 everything changed for Henry. His brother Arthur, Prince of Wales was dead and Henry was now his father’s heir.

Henry’s priorities, at the age of seventeen, didn’t include ruling a kingdom. While he enjoyed being the all-powerful King of England he despised the tedious duties of kingship – he wanted to be a teenager, and have fun.

Thomas Wolsey had been a chaplain for Henry’s father and predecessor. He became an almoner upon Henry’s accession to the throne. An almoner was the king’s distributor of money to the poor. From there Wolsey’s duties and titles only grew and he became the man who made all the decisions that young Henry didn’t want to bother himself with.

It was known at the time that Wolsey had a sexual relationship with a woman by the name of Joan Larke, or Mistress Larke. Joan was born around 1490 and was the daughter of Peter Larke of Huntingdonshire. At this time in England it wasn’t a requirement for men of the cloth to be celibate. So while this may have been frowned upon, it wasn’t against the rules.

Wolsey kept their relationship under wraps, and whether he and Joan actually married has been disputed. Joan has been referred to as Wolsey’s mistress by multiple sources.  Joan’s relationship with Wolsey is said to have lasted a decade, but when it exactly started was not documented.

There is also no evidence showing that Wolsey was still sleeping with Joan after he became archbishop of York in 1514.¹

The below grant shows Wolsey was given a dwelling at St. Bride, on Fleet Street (London) in 1510. Wolsey and Larke would have lived together at this address.

Thomas Wolseye, the King’s chaplain, dean of Lincoln. Grant of messuage called the parsonage, with garden adjoining, in the parish of St. Bride, Fleet Street, London, which the abbot and convent of Westminster demised, 26 November ’23 Henry VII, for 99 years to Sir Richard Emson, attained; also of the orchard and twelve gardens in the same parish (between the first-named garden and the Thames), which Thomas Dokwre, prior of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, demised for 99 years to the said Sir Richard.²

It is commonly believed that Wolsey and Larke had two children together. The first, a son, by the name of Thomas Wynter who was born in 1510. Wynter being Wolsey’s son has been disputed with claims that he was actually his nephew and not his son at all. Wolsey was said to have publicly promoted Wynter as his nephew.¹ There is no clear reasoning as to why his last name was Wynter and not Wolsey (that I’ve been able to find, other than speculation).

When Wolsey’s status rose he became ashamed of having a mistress and chose to marry Joan off to a man by the name of George Legh. He also paid her dowry. At some point their son was sent to live in Willesden, and their daughter was adopted by John Clancey.

L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 3095; the king presented on account of the minority of the patron. Thomas Winter is usually stated to have been the son of Cardinal Wolsey, but was perhaps his nephew. He appears at this time to have been only a boy, and in 1519 was learning Latin. In 1528 he was living in Paris, continuing his studies. The manner in which benefices and dignities (e.g. the deanery of Wells, the archdeaconries of York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Norfolk) were heaped upon this non-resident youth is a singular illustration of the zeal for Church reform sometimes attributed to Cardinal Wolsey. Winter appears to have resigned his preferments at or soon after the cardinal’s fall, and nothing more is known of him.

Thomas Winter’s celebrity rests soley on the fact that he was the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, for despite education by some of the finest scholars in Europe and lavish ecclesiastical preferment, the boy appears to have been an untalented wastrel. His mother was probably the daughter of a Thetford innkeeper, Peter Larke. Wolsey formed what was known as an “uncanonical marriage’ with the woman at about the time of his rise to power.³

Wolsey and Larke supposedly also had a daughter named Dorothy (mentioned above) who was born in 1512. Dorothy eventually was adopted by a man named John Clancey after her mother lost favor with Wolsey. Later she was placed in the Shaftesbury Abbey, a much favored convent for the daughters of the wealthy, and became a nun. When the abbey was later dissolved Dorothy received a pension from Thomas Cromwell.

We’ll never know for certain whether or not Thomas Wynter and Dorothy Clancy were the children of Thomas Wolsey, but from what I’ve read it seems pretty clear that they were.

John Skelton, a poet, wrote “Speke Parrot“, in early 1520s and it references Wolsey and Larke:

‘For some say ye hunt in parkes,

and hauke on hobby larkes

and other wanton warkes

when the night darks’



Gwyn, Peter; The King’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey, (Introduction)
Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)
Gairdner, James; Cardinal Wolsey – A Short Biography


wikipedia.com; Thomas Wolsey, Joan Larke, Thomas Wynter

A Who’s Who of Tudor Women: http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/TudorWomenL.htm


¹Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)

²’Henry VIII: January 1510, 16-29′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 155-166 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol1/pp155-166

³Peter G. Bietenholz, Thomas Brian Deutscher, Contempora

Henry Percy: The Man Who Loved Anne Boleyn


Who Was Henry Percy?

Henry Percy was born circa 1502 to Catherine Spencer and her husband, Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland in Nottingham, England. At a young age he was sent to be a page in Thomas Wolsey’s household.

Around 1516 Henry Percy was fated (had aprecontract) to wed Mary Talbot, daughter ofGeorge Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1519 Henry was knighted.

Betrothal to Anne Boleyn

Sometime after her arrival to court in 1522 Henry Percy fell in love with the young Anne Boleyn. In 1523, while still employed toThomas Wolsey, Henry Percy became betrothed to Anne. When the betrothal was discovered by Wolsey he absolutely forbade it and scolded Percy in front of his household. Im

Henry Percy’s status as heir to the earldom of Northumberland, and Anne as a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon, implied the two must obtain permission from both Wolsey and the King of England to wed.Percy’s fatheralsorefused permission for the match — he considered Anne Boleyn a mere knight’s daughter, and not an appropriate fit for his son and heir.

It is speculated that Anne Boleyn had already caught the eye of Henry VIII and was the true reason she was forbidden from marrying Henry Percy.

“At this time Lord Percy, the son and heir of the earl of Northumberland, was aide and secretary to Wolsey, the lord cardinal, and whenever the lord cardinal happened to be at court Lord Percy would pass the time in the queens quarters where he would dally with the ladies-in-waiting. Of these, he was most familiar with mistress Anne Boleyn, to such an extent that a secret love grew up between them and they pledged that, in time, they intended to wed. When knowledge of this reached the kings ears he was greatly distraught. Realizing that he could no longer hide his secret love, he revealed all to the lord cardinal and discussed with him ways of sundering the couples engagement to each other.”

In a nutshell, Thomas Wolsey broke up the love match — this seemed to be the reason why Anne Boleyn held such a strong grudge towardsWolsey. As with anyone kept from their love, Anne would do everything in her power to take revenge on Wolsey…and, in the end, she was successful.

Percy’s Obligation

In early 1524/1525, Percy fulfilled his obligation and precontract by marrying Mary Talbot – surely Mary was aware she was his second choice. The unionbetween Henry Percy and Mary Talbot was not a happyone.

In 1527, Percy inherited the earldom of Northumberland title on the death of his father. In 1528, only four years into their marriage, the couples relationship had broken down irretrievably. Percy hadcomplained about his wife’s malicious acts and lies while her father was concerned Henry was abusing his daughter and might even poison her. It is thought that the couple had separated (possibly only temporarily) because Mary delivered a stillborn child at her father’s estate in 1529.

In 1532, Mary accused Percy of having a precontract with Anne Boleyn – she was seeking an annulment from her miserable marriage. Percy, on oath, denied the accusation. They remained unhappily married.

In May 1536, the month of Anne’s execution, she is said to have confessed a precontract with Henry Percyin the hope of saving her life.

When Anne was convicted of treason Percy collapsed and was carried out of the court. Some speculated it was his poor health and some suspect it was his love for Anne.

Was he there that fateful day his first love was beheaded? I can only imagine him weeping for his lost love.

Henry Percy died in 1537.

Coat of Arms of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland

Hanson, Marilee. “The relationship between Henry Percy & Anne Boleyn 1523” http://englishhistory.net/tudor/henry-percy-anne-boleyn-relationship/, February 4, 2015



#TDIH Thomas Wolsey is Appointed Archbishop of York

The year was 1514 and Thomas Wolsey was Henry VIII’s favorite. On 15 September Wolsey was appointed Archbishop of York.

When Henry took the throne in 1509 Wolsey was by his side as his almoner (official distributor of alms). From there his favor grew along with his titles.

Wolsey was instrumental for Henry since he was able to make all the difficcult decisions that Henry couldn’t be bothered with. The king preferred to ‘play’ and be merry instead of make the difficult decisions of a king. He was very lucky to have someone such as Wolsey to guide him.

(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation