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It is said that Wolsey had two illegitimate children, both born before he was made bishop. These were a son, Thomas Wynter (born circa 1510) and a daughter, Dorothy Clancey (born 29 September 1512), both of whom lived to adulthood. Birthdates differ and details are scarce.
It does seem that he had a close relationship with a young woman called Joan Larke (born circa 1490 – AFT1529) of Yarmouth, Norfolk. Joan was the daughter of Peter Larke, variously described as a Thetford innkeeper or a gentleman of Huntingdonshire. Wolsey may have had two relationships: one with Larke and one with a member of the Wynter family. Theories abound. For example, an interesting suggestion is that Joan Larke had a sister who may have married a Wynter. Thomas was called Wolsey's nephew, usually an euphemism for an illegitimate son, but if he was actually the Cardinal's nephew, this might mean Wolsey's sister married a Wynter. Whatever the case, when Joan Larke was married off, Wolsey paid her dowry himself.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography Wolsey had a mistress, Mary, the sister of John Wynter/Winter ( - 1554) of Bristol, Keeper of the King's Storehouse, who died in 1554, but this mistress may alternatively have been the daughter of another John Wynter of Cardington in Bedfordshire, the second wife of Sir William Gascoigne, Comptroller of Wolsey's Household. There is a brass at Cardington, Bedfordshire to William Gascoigne and his two wives. His second wife was Elizabeth, daughter of John Wynter (Vinter) of Cardington whose arms were "ermine, a bull passant sable" (Wyther or Wynter).
Version I: In 1463, members of a Larke family were associated with the town of Thetford, not far from Ipswich, and a man named Peter Larke was twice mayor of that town. He was described as a farmer and as the grandfather of Joan Larke. A kinsman of Joan's father was Thomas Larke, who became 'surveyor of the King's works' and later was Wolsey's confessor. Version II: ‘Her brother Thomas Larke was chaplain to Thomas Wolsey. In about 1509, when Wolsey served as almoner of the new king Henry VIII of England, Joan became his mistress, living with him in Bridewell’. Alternatively, Peter Larke, an inn-keeper of Thetford, had a son called Thomas Larke (d. Jul 1530) who became Wolsey's confessor and the King's chaplain. He was given a canonry of St. Stephen's on 10 Nov 1511 and became Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1520/5. Erasmus said that of all the men he had known in England, Larke was the most cultured and sincere; and the Latin secretary to the King wrote that he was omnipotent with the Cardinal. The living of Winwick was held on 21 June 1515 by Thomas Larke, Wolsey's chaplain, followed by Wolsey's son, Thomas Wynter in 1525, who was presented to it by the King, after which it went to Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Stanley. It was then restored to Thomas Larke in 1529, followed by William Boleyn and Thomas Wynter. Notes to research further: Wolsey's chaplain may have had some connection with one Thomas Larke, vinteyner or captain of a troop of 20 soldiers and Lord Lisle's secretary: Larke; John and Leonard Smyth and William Gonson, Clerk of the King's Ships, were residents of Calais. PS: Peter Larke's other sons were William Larke, a draper and Peter, employed by John Kite, Archbishop of Armagh (Wolsey's friend) and afterwards by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester (Wolsey's protégé and secretary) .
Version II: ‘JOAN LARKE (d.1529+) was the daughter of Peter Larke of Huntingdonshire. Larke and his wife had three sons: Thomas (d.1530), Peter, and William, and supposedly died in Ireland. Joan lived in a "noncanonical marriage" with Thomas Wolsey (1471-1530), later Cardinal Wolsey, in the house in Bridewell granted to him on January 10, 1510. It had twelve gardens and an orchard. Joan Larke is generally accepted to have been the mother of Wolsey’s two children, Dorothy (1512-c.1553), who was adopted by John Clansey or Clasey and later became a nun at Shaftesbury, and Thomas (1513-c.1553), who went by the name Thomas Wynter and was archdeacon of Cornwall from 1537-1543. Alternate life dates given for Thomas Wynter are c.1510-c.1543. Eventually, Wolsey's advancement in the church made it necessary for him to give Joan up. He arranged her marriage to George Legh/Lee of Adlington, Cheshire (1497-1529), providing her dowry. Later he helped the Leghs in a property dispute with Sir John Stanley, natural son of the Bishop of Ely, by imprisoning Stanley until he gave up the contested lease. By Legh, Joan had a son named Thomas (1527-1548) and daughters named Isabel or Elizabeth (c.1525-1583), Margaret, and Mary. After Legh's death, Joan married George Paulet, brother of the marquis of Winchester. Edited from kateemersonhistoricals.com
Notes: generally accepted summary.
Joan Larke, later wife of George Legh or Lee of Adlington, Cheshire, lived in a manor house by the Thames near Thames Ditton and Hampton, which later became the Swan Inn, and where Wolsey carved his initials on the mantlepiece of the fireplace. Her brother Thomas Larke was chaplain to Thomas Wolsey. In 1510, when Wolsey served as almoner of the new king Henry VIII, Joan lived with Wolsey in Bridewell. Wolsey had been given one of the houses forfeited by the attainder of Sir Richard Empson. In a grant dated 10 January 1510, it was called "La Maison Curiale, with twelve gardens and orchards between the Thames and St. Bride's gardens in Fleetstreet.
They had two children, both born before he was made bishop. These were a son, Thomas Wynter (born circa 1510) and a daughter, Dorothy Clancey (born 29 September 1512), both of whom lived to adulthood.
Wolsey arranged for her marriage to George Legh of Adlington, in Cheshire, circa 1519. He himself provided the dowry. Please note that a Dr Lee was his Chaplain in 1529.
The oldest part of the existing Adlington Hall, the Great Hall, on the north side of the courtyard, was constructed between 1480 and 1505; the east wing was added in 1581. The Legh family had lived in the hall and in previous buildings on the same site since the early 14th century. Originally the hall consisted of timber-framed buildings on three or four sides of a courtyard surrounded by a moat.
Joan Larke and George had four children:
• Thomas Legh (1527–1599), married Maria Grosvenor, by whom he had one son, Thomas (1547–1601)
• Elizabeth Legh (1525–1583)
• Mary Legh
• Margaret/Ellen Legh
Sometime after Legh's death in 1529, Joan married secondly, George Paulet, brother of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester. It is hard to imagine that she was just a tavern keeper’s daughter and Wolsey’s ex-mistress: I think we need to keep an open mind here.
Thomas Wynter/Winter/Wither/Wyther (born circa 1510) was sent to live with a family in Willesden and was tutored in his early years by Maurice Birchinshaw. Wolsey then employed Thomas Lupset as his tutor. Wynter was presented to the living of Winwick in 1525 (on the resignation of Larke from Winwick), and then spent time in Paris with Lupset. When Thomas Winter received the Deanery of Wells in 1526, he was granted a coat of arms which closely resembled Wolsey's:
"Sable, on a cross engrailed argent, a lion passant gules between 4
leopards faces azure; on a chief or, a rose of the third, barbed vert,
seeded of the fifth, between two Cornish choughs proper."
A dispensation was obtained for him that year (L & P IV 2054), before
becoming archdeacon, which signifies some stigma such as illegitimacy: in 1534 he wrote that he had not been admitted priest (L & P VIII 260 and IV 2424) so he did not become a deacon until after that date.
After Wolsey's arrest and death in November 1530, Thomas Wynter went to study at the University of Padua, at the King's expense. In 1532, he obtained a license to remain abroad and to travel with a retinue of three servants, four horses or geldings, ambling or trotting, and baggage as usual. He wrote a begging letter to Thomas Cromwell in 1532, with a request for an immediate £100. When he returned to England penniless in about 1535, he was financially assisted by Queen Anne Boleyn. He was Archdeacon of Cornwall, 1537-1543. Thomas Wynter may have held the manor of Saunderton in Buckinghamshire as a tenant at the Dissolution of the Abbeys in 1537. In 1540, Wynter was called before a Bishop's Court, "...to answer a charge of evil living." Principally among the charges against him were gambling.
He married and sired children.
DOROTHY WOLSEY/CLANCY/CLUSEY (born around Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, 29 September 1512), and ‘adopted’ by John Clancey/Clansey. She was placed in the Shaftesbury Nunnery, most probably under the abbess Margery Twineham (in office 1505 – 1523). Dorothy received a pension from Thomas Cromwell when her religious house was later dissolved. As evidence of her existence, we have an undated letter (British Museum: Ays Collection: 4160: art.11), from John Clusey to Cromwell, possibly written in 1535, re a ‘sed secret matt’: stating that Wolsey forced Clancy to place her in the nunnery under his own name; and now that Cromwell is dissolving the religious establishments, she has nowhere to go. The Nunnery was surrendered by the Abbess Elizabeth Zouche on 23 March 1539.