Sir Thomas More refusing to grant Wolsey a subsidy
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Sir Thomas More refusing to grant Wolsey a subsidy

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The scene is Blackfriars. Parliament is sitting, as the mace laid on top of the table shows (this was before St Stephen's Chapel had been granted the Commons as a permanent Chamber). To the right of the table is Sir Thomas More: facing him the ample form of Henry VIII's Chief Minister Wolsey, proud in the gorgeous crimson robes of a Cardinal.

The year is 1523. The false dawn of peace which had seemed to be promised at the Field of the Cloth of Gold had come to nothing - as Wolsey intended that it should. England is at war with France, and the enormous sums needed for the war have to be raised. This provoked a crisis with Parliament, which was made worse by Wolsey's doubtfully-legal methods of extortion. In 1523 Sir Thomas More gave him Parliament's answer, that monies could not be seized in anticipation of Parliament's due debate and assent.

In this story More played a conciliatory role - indeed, he was rewarded by the king for his help. It was in striking contrast with his steadfastness in the matter of Henry's later divorce from Catherine of Aragon - and with an incident from earlier in More's career, when, as a very junior MP, he had successfully argued against an enormous subsidy to Henry VII. On that occasion, his father Sir John More was imprisoned in reprisal.

(2) Sir Thomas More refusing to grant Wolsey a subsidy

(3) Sir Thomas More refusing to grant Wolsey a subsidy

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Sir Thomas More refusing to grant Wolsey a subsidy

This is one of eight monumental canvases commissioned in 1927 to fill the vacant spaces on the walls of St Stephen's Hall. The idea of this scheme was conceived by a committee including Lord Peel, Lord Crawford (Chairman of the Fine Arts Commission) and the Speaker of the House of Commons - at that time J.H. Whitley. The subjectmatter and artists were chosen by Sir Henry Newbolt, the unifying theme being 'The Building of Britain', during the eight centuries from King Alfred to Queen Anne. The result is an unusual attempt to produce in the 1920s High Art of the sort which was understood by the Victorian artists of the 19th-century Palace, of Westminster, but which was no longer popular or perhaps well understood. Advanced Category Search

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