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Although it was technically possible to appeal over his head to Rome, such were the difficulties in doing so that it was not a realistically available option for his opponents. So Wolsey was effectively free to do what he liked in spiritual affairs. However, his interventions were on a surprisingly narrow front, almost exclusively having to do with appointments to clerical posts and the levying of fees for the provision of services. He made very little use of his sweeping powers either to reform abuses (perhaps because he was the principal culprit himself) or to prevent the spread of heresy (possibly because he attached so little importance to what people actually believed).

The stages by which the change took place are not well documented, but what is not in doubt is that the 17-year-old who became king was a young man with considerable physical attributes and that the 55-year-old who died repulsed most of those who saw him. Judgement of looks, of course, is a matter of taste which varies from society to society and from time to time. The visual impact Henry made for much of his reign was largely the result of his fine physique. He was tall, large-framed, well proportioned and very muscular.

The ones who suffered from the cardinal’s activities were those who found themselves at odds with Wolsey’s purpose. Often they would be innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and who were required to make some sacrifice in order to further one of the minister’s projects. It might be a matter of selling a piece of property that Wolsey needed for some purpose, or making an interest-free loan with no agreed date for repayment, or withdrawing from a legal case that Wolsey would find inconvenient.

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