In the autumn of 1529, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who had served as Henry VIII's principal minister for a decade and a half, fell from power. On October 17 he surrendered the great seal, thus formally resigning as lord chancellor, the position he had held since 1515. A few days earlier, on October 9, he had been indicted in the Court of King's Bench for offenses under the fourteenth-century statute of praemunire (which restricted papal powers within England), and on October 22 he was to acknowledge his guilt in an indenture made with the king. Nevertheless, he was not utterly destroyed. He remained archbishop of York and was allowed to set off for his diocese in early 1530.
The fashionable explanation for these events is to see Wolsey as the victim of faction, a notion briefly asserted or implied in much current writing and substantially elaborated by E. W. Ives. For J. J. Scarisbrick, Wolsey was “the victim of an aristocratic putsch”: “There can be no doubt that for long an aristocratic party, led by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, had been hoping to ‘catch him in a brake’ and dispossess him, and that they looked to Anne Boleyn as their weapon … it was an aristocratic faction that led the way.” For David Starkey, “Boleyns, Aragonese, nobles … sank their fundamental differences and went into allegiance against him. Together they worked on Henry's temporary disillusionment with his minister, and the pressure coupled with Anne's skilful management of her lover, was enough to break the trust of almost twenty years and destroy Wolsey.”