People/Characters: John Morton, Bishop of Ely

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Works (6)

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Henry VII by S. B. Chrimes
Presumed Guilty by Evelyn B. Rosenthalas Cardinal Morton
The Tragedy of Richard the Third by William Shakespeare
The Wars of the Roses: Through the Lives of Five Men and Women of the Fifteenth Century by Desmond Sewardlater Archbishop of Canterbury
The Year of Three Kings by Giles St. Aubyn

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Character description

John Morton, Cardinal Morton, Bishop of Ely, later Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1500). Cleric known for his complex role in the period of the Wars of the Roses. Born around 1420, he supported the Lancastrian side in the wars, but he was clever enough that the Yorkist King Edward IV gave him diplomatic posts and made him Bishop of Ely in 1479. But Morton turned against Richard III, and was one of the masterminds of that king's downfall. Henry VII Tudor, who benefitted from Morton's gifts, made him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1486.An understanding of Morton's sneaky mind can be gained by a device known after him as "Morton's Fork." A tax collector would visit a citizen and, if the citizen appeared well-off, say that the man could pay a high tax because he clearly had available wealth -- but, if the man seemed poor, then he could pay a high tax because he obviously wasn't wasting his money on fine living. Morton almost certainly was not responsible for this particular trick, but it is a good example of his sort of thinking -- as well as a good illustration of the length to which Henry VII was willing to go to get money out of his subjects.

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