Thomas Wynter's exact date of birth is unknown, but most scholars argue that he was born sometime around the year 1510. His mother is the supposed mistress of Thomas Wolsey, Joan Larke, daughter of Thetford innkeeper Peter Larke. Some historians, such as Stella Fletcher, show some skepticism about Wynter's parentage, as Wolsey had two brothers and one sister that leave little trace in the historical record that could be the true parents of Wynter. Most historians argue that Wynter was Wolsey's son because Wolsey had maintained a great interest in Wynter’s education and career. Contemporary ambassadors and officials also believed Wynter was the cardinal’s son, and stated as much in their correspondence. Thomas Lupset, a tutor of Wynter's, wrote to Erasmus in August of 1525, stating that Wolsey treated Wynter with so much affection that it was as if "he were his own legitimate offspring." The Spanish diplomat Eustace Chapuys wrote to Emperor Charles V that "A son of [Wolsey's], who is in Paris following his studies, and of whom I have formerly written to your Majesty, has received orders to return," to England in October of 1529. Similarly, the ambassador from Milan referred to Wynter as Wolsey's son in a dispatch the following year.
Wynter supposedly grew up in northern London in an area called Willesden. In August of 1518 at roughly age nine, Wynter matriculated to the University of Louvain. He studied Latin, among other elements of classical education, under his first known tutor, Maurice Birchinshaw. Within a few years, Wynter received dispensation to start holding clerical offices, and obtained three benefices by June of 1522, including the lucrative prebend of Milton at Lincoln Cathedral. Wynter would go on to obtain several more benefices in England over the next few years, despite the fact that he was studying abroad almost constantly until 1529. He became Archdeacon of York on August 31, 1523, which he held longer than any other benefice, before surrendering it in June of 1540. When his father, Wolsey, spoke of Wynter in his correspondence, he referred to him as the Dean of Wells, a position he received in January of 1526.
While Wynter was studying in Paris among some of the best Humanists in Europe, he never showed any serious aptitude beyond normal intelligence. Wynter certainly made strong attempts at learning, attending public lectures, and often dedicating much of his time to studying. However, Wynter was instead a surrogate for his father's influence, as well as a source of income. Scholars in Paris praised Wynter partly for his own skills, but also for Wosley's sake. Wynter would often entertain guests, and was forced to spend considerable sums of money on furniture and housing to befit the son of a Cardinal as important as Wolsey. Besides his ecclesiastical income, Wynter also received the mineral rights to the bishopric of Durham, worth £185 per year, in 1528. In total, Wynter's lands and benefices were worth about £1,575 per year in 1525, and would be worth £2,700 per year in November of 1529. Most of Wynter's income was siphoned off by Wolsey, who forwarded around £200 per year to Wynter in Paris, which helps explain Wynter's near constant requests for more money. Despite his son's less than stellar intellect, Wolsey continued to try and bestow greater honors on Wynter, including a failed attempt to secure the Diocese of Durham in 1528.
Historians have traditionally seen Wolsey's promotion of his son as an example of the corruption in late medieval Catholicism. Stanford Lehmberg wrote that the "most glaring example" of senior clergy granting their children benefices and skimming the profits. Recently, scholars more sympathetic to Wolsey and the Church argue that Wolsey's actions were not unique to the time period. Further, though there many prebends and benefices were held in pluralism, the parishioners of England were, for the most part, content with the state of the Church, and there were clergymen in the parishes to administer the sacraments. Even so, Wolsey's decline from power beginning in 1528 only accelerated once Parliament wrote and submitted their formal protest against Wolsey in 1529. This included references to Wynter as recipient of "great treasures and riches" which Wolsey then acquired as a proxy. Wolsey was in Paris at the time of his father's downfall, and King Henry VIII summoned Wynter to return, as it seemed likely that his father would die soon. Before his return to court in July of 1530, Wynter resigned the majority of his benefices, though he kept his offices as the Archdeacon of York, Provost of Beverley, and a few other benefices.
Cardinal Wolsey died in November of 1530, and Wynter was left without a protector. He reached out and became a patron of two of the leading minister's in Henry VIII's government, being Bishop Gardiner and Thomas Cromwell. In 1530, Wynter was joined the influential association of patronage and learning known as the Doctors Commons, whose members included such powerful civilians and bishops as Thomas More, Cuthbert Tunstall, Nicholas West, among others. From there, Wynter went about raising funds to return to schooling on the continent. By 1533, Wynter was studying law in Padua, Italy, thanks to his benefices and the generosity and influence of Thomas Cromwell. Wynter regularly wrote Cromwell to update him on his studies, and whatever international news or gossip as he heard while meeting ambassadors and scholars from across Europe. Despite Cromwell's assistance and his benefices, Wynter could not reconcile his spending and his budget. Wynter wanted to maintain a life of a financially independent scholar, where wealth was "a great assistance to study and an ornament to life." Wynter stated his problem simply, as "I am devoted to letters but desire to keep my preferments," and by the end of 1533, he could not do both.
Wynter returned to England and court in July of 1534 in poverty. He managed to get an audience with Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn, who took pity on Wynter. She told Wynter that he was beloved by the King, and that he had "many friends who wish you well. Reckon me among that number." Wynter remained in England for the next several years, resident at either Cawood Castle in his Archdeaconry of York, or Beverley where he still held the provostship. Wynter was eventually stable enough in England to have clients of his own, including Richard Morison and Edmund Harvel. Eventually, Cromwell was able to get a new preferment for Wynter in the southwest of England. On October 10, 1537 Wynter was collated and installed by proxy to the Archdeaconry of Cornwall. As most of Wynter's lands and other property were in the East Riding of Yorkshire, he decided to rent out the Archdeaconry to one William Bodye, a servant of Cromwell. Renting out the rights to hold Archdeacon's courts, receive probate fees, and perform visitations was common in the sixteenth century, and many Archdeacons were not resident. Unfortunately for Wynter, his flock in Cornwall came to despise Bodye, which would heighten tensions in the area for years to come.
Bodye purchased the rights to the Archdeaconry for thirty five years, for £30 per year, and a £150 down payment. Over the next three years, Bodye received the rents and fees due to Wynter, slowly building up a resentment among the parishioners and the resident clergy. In 1540, Bishop John Vesey of Exeter brought suit against Wynter, citing that Wynter had "indulged in prohibited games and in other things contrary to the office of an archdeacon", largely as a front to nullify the lease between Wynter and Bodye. Following this citation, Bodye was refused admittance into the Church in Cornwall and forcibly prevented from trying to collect payments from the parishioners. Bodye scuffled with John Harrys, the priest of the church, and threatened him with a knife. The chaos and lawsuits that followed lasted years as the people of Cornwall tried to remove Bodye, and Bodye sought to protect his rights. Besides bringing suits in Chancery and Star Chamber, Bodye managed to convince Cromwell and the King order Vesey and the Dean and Chapter of Exeter to confirm the lease under their Episcopal and Chapter seals.
Over the course of the unfolding events and lawsuits involving William Bodye, Wynter resigned his positions as Archdeacon of York. Once the suits in Star Chamber settled in 1543, Wynter quietly resigned as Archdeacon of Cornwall and Provost of Beverly in exchange for a pension of £86 per year for the first five years, and diminishing to £30 per year after. Wynter after his resignations falls into obscurity. Wynter appears to have possessed a small prebend in tenure of Thame Abbey in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire, in the first half of 1535. The same Thomas Wynter held on to this prebend through the dissolution of the Abbey, and had his ownership confirmed in 1546. Whether or not this Thomas Wynter was the same as the son of Wolsey, Wynter had faded from political importance years before, and for one who received his first clerical office in his preteen years, he had all but used up his influence before he was thirty-five.
List of Offices and Benefices
|Office or Benefice||Date of Assumption||Date of Resignation|
|Canon and Prebend of Timsbury||Unknown||December 7, 1529|
|Prebend of Bedwyn||March 25, 1522||December 4, 1529|
|Prebend of Milton Ecclesia||April 1, 1522||December 1, 1529|
|Prebend of Palishal at Overhall||June 2, 1522||August 2, 1522|
|Prebend of Norwell at Overhall||August 2, 1522||before December 12, 1529|
|Prebend of Fridaythorpe||September 30, 1522||January 9, 1523|
|Prebend of Strensall||January 9, 1523||December 20, 1529|
|Archdeacon of York||August 31, 1523||June 26, 1540|
|Rector of Winwick||c. 1525||November 24, 1529|
|Dean of Wells Cathedral||c. January 1526||before November 1529|
|Prebend of St. Peters, Beverley||before February 28, 1526||before 1535|
|Archdeacon of Richmond||March 24, 1526||December 7, 1529|
|Rector of St. Matthew's, Ipswich||before March 26, 1526||before or c. June 26, 1528|
|Prebend of Lutton||before March 26, 1526||before November 1529|
|Prebend of Odiham||before March 26, 1526||c. February 1530|
|Chancellor of Diocese of Salisbury||before March 26, 1526||February 4, 1530|
|Rector of Rudby||before March 26, 1526||after April 7, 1533|
|Provost of Beverley||before March 26, 1526||after July 1540|
|Archdeacon of Suffolk||November 12, 1526||before April 25, 1529|
|Prebend of Rampton||after October 30, 1527||November 8, 1540|
|Warden of St. Leonard's Hospital||July 17, 1528||December 11, 1529|
|Archdeacon of Norfolk||before August 23, 1528||March 1, 1530|
|Vicar of Atwick||before 1535||after or c. 1535|
|Vicar of Ratcliffe-on-Soar||before 1535||after or c. 1535|
|Prebend of Saunderton||before 1535||c. 1546|
|Archdeacon of Cornwall||October 8, 1537||before May 25, 1543|
-  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online (ODNB), "Thomas Wynter" by Julian Lock.
- Peter G. Bietenholz and Thomas B. Deutscher, eds. Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation, 3 volumes (Toronto, Canada: 1985-7) 3:455-6.
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- Peter Gwyn, The King's Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey, (London, U.K.: 1990) pp. 301-302.
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- Bietenholz and Deutscher, eds. Contemporaries, 1:148.
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- L&P, Volume 4, nos. 3955, 4015, and 4294.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 2805.
- Wynter furnished the house and entertained the Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Southampton during their stay in Paris in 1529. L&P, Volume 4, nos. 5598, 3955, 4015.
- Pollard, Wolsey, p. 309; L&P, Volume 4, no. 4229 (7).
- Nauert and Dalzell, Collected Works of Erasmus, Volume 11, p. 235; Pollard, Wolsey, p. 311; Edward Herbert, The Life and Reign of King Henry the Eighth, (London, U.K.: 1649) p. 270.
- Pollard, Wolsey, p. 311; ODNB, "Wynter" by Lock.
-  Arthur F. Leach, Memorials of Beverley Minster: The Chapter Act Book of the Collegiate Church of St. John of Beverley, 1286-1347, Volume 2, (Durham, U.K.: 1903) p. xcvii; L&P, Volume 4, no. 4824.
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- L&P, Volume 5, no. 1453.
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- L&P, Volume 5, nos. 1210, 1452; Volume 6, no. 299; Volume 7, no. 100.
- L&P, Volume 7, no. 280.; W. Gordon Zeeveld, Foundations of Tudor Policy, (Cambridge, MA: 1948) pp. 92-94.
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- L&P, Volume 8, nos. 132, 511, 579; Volume 9, no. 101; Volume 10, nos. 418, 661.
- A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornwall: A Portrait of a Society, new edition (New York, NY: 1969), pp. 148.
- John Le Neve, et al. Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1541-1857: Volume 12, Exeter, (London, U.K.: 2007) p. 26.
- Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, p. 150.
-  Frances Rose-Troup, The Western Rebellion of 1549, (London, U.K.: 1913) p. 60.
- J. B. W. Chapman, List of Proceedings in the Court of Star Chamber, 1485-1558, (London, U.K.: 1901) pp. 23 (), 45 (); Barrett L. Beer, Rebellion and Riot: Popular Resistance in England during the Reign of Edward VI, revised edition, (Kent, OH: 2005), p. 46.
- Historical Manuscripts Commission, Fifth Report, Appendix, (London, U.K.: 1876) p. 296.
- Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 6:19; L&P, Volume 15, no. 861.
-  Leach, Memorials of Beverley Minster, pp. xcviii-xcix.
- John Caley and Joseph Hunter, eds., Valor Ecclesiasticus Temp. Henr. VIII, 6 Volumes (London, U.K.:1810-1834) 2:214.
- L&P Volume 17, no. 881 (26); Volume 21, Part 1, no. 648 (25) (p.336)
- Herbert Chitty, ed. Registrum Thome Wolsey, Cardinalis Ecclesie Wintoniensis Administratoris (Oxford, U.K.: 1926), pp. 63, 180; Victoria County History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Volume 4 (London, U.K.: 1911) p. 488.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 3:30.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 1:92.
-  A. F. Leach, ed. Memorials of Southwell Minster, (London, U.K.: 1891) p. 152.
- Leach, Memorials of Southwell Minster, p. 158.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 6:52.
- Leach, Memorials of Beverley Minster, p. xcv.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 6:82.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 6:19.
- L&P Volume 4, Appendix no. 61; Victoria County History of Lancashire, Volume 4, (London, U.K.: 1911) p. 127.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 2054.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 6047 (p. 2697); Lehmberg, Reformation Parliament, pp. 80-81.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 2001.
- Caley and Hunter, eds. Valor Ecclesiasticus, 5:132.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 6:27.
- L&P, Volume 4, nos. 4423, 4424.
-  Held as Dean of Wells. Victoria County History of Somerset, Volume 2, (London, U.K.: 1911) p. 164.
- Attached to the Chancellorship of Salisbury. Chitty, ed. Registrum, p. xxiv.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 3:18.
- L&P, Volume 6, no. 314.
- L&P, Volume 15, no. 861.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 4:34.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 5492.
- Leach, Memorials of Southwell Minster, p. 159.
- L&P, Volume 16, no. 275.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 4526.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 6091.
- L&P, Volume 4, no. 4659.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 4:30.
- Caley and Hunter, Valor Ecclesiasticus, 5:121.
- Caley and Hunter, Valor Ecclesiasticus, 5:167.
- Victoria County History of Buckingham, Volume 3, (London, U.K.: 1925) pp. 94-95.
-  Le Neve, Fasti, 1300-1541, 9:17.