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Lord Chancellor

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Coleridge collar

The collar of the Lord Chancellor, with the Tudor rose at the center; Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Wriothesley are each shown wearing this in different seasons

Lord Chancellor
(more formally, Lord High Chancellor of the Realm) is a senior position in the Privy Council of England, subordinate only to the Lord High Steward (which is a ceremonial position that only functions at coronations and trials) and, technically, to the President of the Privy Council.  

The Lord Chancellor is often the position of the King's unofficial 'First Minister', and performs much of the work of running the country- especially the enforcement of the law- that is delegated to him by the Council and the King, making it a vital government function.  The Chancellor also has frequent personal access to the monarch himself, though not as frequently as the Royal Secretary or (if one has been appointed) the Lord Privy Seal.  The Chancellor is responsible for bearing the Great Seal of the Realm, which is traditionally returned to the monarch after his death, dismissal or resignation.

Four men served as Lord Chancellor over the course of King Henry VIII's reign in The Tudors, each of them appointed by the King.  Cardinal Wolsey was Chancellor and Henry's First Minister for the first half of his reign, but despite his competent management of the Kingdom, he gradually loses Henry's favor and trust over the course of Season One due to his inability to solve Henry's 'Great Matter'.  Finally, Henry strips him of his power in episode 1.09 and gives the office of Chancellor to his old friend and Wolsey's colleague, Sir Thomas More.  More, an unambitious humanist and stern Catholic, is at first reluctant to take the office and largely uses it to enforce the persecution of Protestant 'heretics', including burning six of them at the stake.  His tenure is short and chaotic, as Henry is in the midst of sepparating the Church of England from the Papacy.  Disapproving of the King's actions, but unwilling to publicly oppose him, More resigns as Chancellor in 2.02; he is later executed for refusing to renounce his loyalty to the Catholic Church. 

Henry promptly hands the office to his Royal Secretary, Thomas Cromwell, in 2.03.  Cromwell, an ambitious, common-born Protestant, quickly proves himself a brilliant and capable politician, becoming the King's new Chief Minister.  He swiftly and ruthlessly enforces the Reformation, thwarting anyone who opposes him, and amasses such a surpluss in the King's exchequer that he makes Henry financially independent of Parliament.  However, Cromwell's position is weakened in Season Three despite now holding the offices of both Chancellor and Lord Privy Seal; Henry becomes angry at him over the 'Pilgrimage of Grace' which Cromwell's anti-Catholic policies provoked.  Cromwell's enormous power provokes resentment from Catholics throughout Henry's court as well as ambitious members of the Privy Council, and in the Season Three finale he is stripped of his power and put to death.

His eventual replacement in Season Four is Thomas Wriothesley, a Catholic who hopes to enact a counter-reformation; however, Wriothesley lacks Cromwell's brains and initiative, depending greatly on his ally Stephen Gardiner, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester.  Their main opponent is the King's Protestant Lord Privy Seal and uncle to the Crown Prince, Edward Seymour.  They attempt to oust Seymour by finding him guilty of heresy but fail; when Gardiner is expelled from Court, Wriothesley- despite his powrful position- is unable to fight Seymour without his strongest ally, and instead submits to Seymour's faction.

Ironically, Gardiner later briefly became Lord Chancellor under the reign of Henry's pro-Catholic daughter, Mary I.


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