'The White Princess' Introduces An Important Historical Figure

Out of all the historical figures I learned about throughout high school, the English royals are definitely the ones portrayed the most in film and television. From Elizabeth of York in The White Princess all the way up to the current Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, the past and present rulers of England get a lot of love — as do those around them. In the finale of The White Princess viewers had a glimpse of Wolsey, who eventually became King Henry VIII's advisor. But who is Wolsey on The White Princess? He becomes an important player in the kingdom.

Viewers may be familiar with the name if they watched Showtime's The Tudors several years ago; he was featured prominently in the first season of the show. Wolsey, portrayed by Sam Neill, was Lord Chancellor and Henry VIII's most trusted advisor for a time. He lost favor with the King when he couldn't help him divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The more Anne Boleyn, who became Henry's second wife, was in the picture, the less Wolsey was listened to by the King. He also used money for his own private interests instead of giving it to Henry. At the end of The Tudor's first season, Wolsey committed suicide.


That's not exactly how it happened in history, though. Wolsey was actually an advisor and Chancellor, and he did fall from grace — but he did not commit suicide. Even though he did escape execution — which is what Henry VIII wanted for him — he died of natural causes. How was Wolsey portrayed on The White Princess? The actor who plays him is much younger than The Tudor's Sam Neill, which makes sense, as it takes place a generation before and Henry VIII is just a child.

Wolsey appears towards the end of the finale. Henry VII singles him out as having done "great service" for his family. He calls for Wolsey to stand with them and be Henry VIII's tutor. In reality, Wolsey was Henry VII's chaplain towards the end of his life, and went on to serve Henry VIII. The singling out of Wolsey is an interesting addition to The White Princess. Perhaps this opens it up for another season focusing on the younger Henry and Wolsey or, if nothing else, viewers are left wondering how the kingdom will shift after the series closes.