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Thomas Cromwell

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Thomas Cromwell

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Essex
Lord Great Chamberlain
In office
17 April 1540 – June 1540
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by John de Vere
Succeeded by John de Vere
Governor of the Isle of Wight
In office
2 November 1538 – June 1540
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by Sir James Worsley
Succeeded by Vacant
Lord Privy Seal
In office
2 July 1536 – June 1540
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by Thomas Boleyn
Succeeded by William Fitzwilliam
Master of the Rolls
In office
8 October 1534 – 10 July 1536
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by John Taylor
Succeeded by Christopher Hales
Secretary of State
In office
April 1534 – April 1540
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by Stephen Gardiner
Succeeded by Thomas Wriothesley
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
12 April 1533 – June 1540
Monarch Henry VIII
Preceded by John Bourchier
Succeeded by John Baker
Personal details
Born Thomas Cromwell
c. 1485
Putney, London
Died 28 July 1540 (aged 54–55)
Tower Hill, London
Resting place Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, London, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Wyckes
Children Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell
Parents Walter Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, KG ( or ;[1] c. 1485 – 28 July 1540), was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.

Cromwell was one of the strongest and most powerful advocates of the English Reformation. He helped to engineer an annulment of the king's marriage to the Spanish Queen Catherine of Aragon, in order to allow Henry to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. After failing to obtain approval from the Pope in 1534, Parliament endorsed the King's claim to be head of a breakaway Church of England. Cromwell subsequently plotted an evangelical, reformist course for the embryonic Church of England from the unique posts of vicegerent in spirituals and vicar-general.

During his rise to power, Cromwell made many enemies, including his former ally Anne Boleyn; he played a prominent role in her downfall. He later fell from power after arranging the King's marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves. Cromwell hoped that the marriage would breathe fresh life into the Reformation in England, but it turned into a disaster for Cromwell and ended in an annulment six months later. Cromwell was arraigned under a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. The King later expressed regret at the loss of his chief minister.

Until the 1950s, historians had downplayed Cromwell's role, calling him a doctrinaire hack who was little more than the agent of the despotic King Henry VIII. [2][3][4]

Leithead (2004) says of Cromwell:

Against significant opposition he secured acceptance of the king's new powers, created a more united and more easily governable kingdom, and provided the crown, at least temporarily, with a very significant landed endowment.[5]


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage and issue 2
  • Early career 3
  • Privy Councillor 4
    • Anne Boleyn 4.1
  • King's chief minister 5
    • Fall of Anne Boleyn 5.1
    • Baron Cromwell and Lord Privy Seal 5.2
    • Religious reform 5.3
      • Resistance to further religious reform 5.3.1
    • Anne of Cleves 5.4
    • Earl of Essex 5.5
    • Downfall and execution 5.6
  • Personal religious beliefs 6
  • Descendants 7
  • Hans Holbein portraits 8
  • Fictional portrayals 9
    • Theatre 9.1
    • Novels 9.2
    • Film 9.3
    • Television 9.4
  • See also 10
  • Footnotes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Thomas Cromwell was born around 1485 in Richard was employed in his uncle's service and changed his name to Cromwell. Richard's great-grandson was Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.[6]

Little is known about Thomas Cromwell's early life. It is believed that he was born at the top of Putney Hill, on the edge of Putney Heath. In 1878, his birthplace was still of note:

"The site of Cromwell's birthplace is still pointed out by tradition and is in some measure confirmed by the survey of Wimbledon Manor, quoted above, for it describes on that spot 'an ancient cottage called the smith's shop, lying west of the highway from Richmond to Wandsworth, being the sign of the Anchor.' The plot of ground here referred to is now covered by the Green Man public house."[7]
Putney Heath was a noted haunt of highwaymen and only a few brave souls ventured across it at night.

Cromwell declared to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer that he had been a "ruffian ... in his young days".[5] As a youth, he left his family in Putney and crossed the Channel to the continent. Accounts of his activities in France, Italy and the Low Countries are sketchy and contradictory. It is alleged that he first became a mercenary and marched with the French army to Italy, where he fought in the battle of Garigliano on 28 December 1503. While in Italy, he entered service in the household of the Florentine banker Francesco Frescobaldi.

Later, he visited leading mercantile centres in the Low Countries, living among the English merchants and developing a network of contacts while learning several languages. At some point he returned to Italy. The records of the English Hospital in Rome indicate that he stayed there in June 1514,[5] while documents in the Vatican Archives suggest that he was an agent for Archbishop of York, Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge, and handled English ecclesiastical issues before the Roman Rota.[8]

Marriage and issue

At some time during these years, Cromwell returned to England, where around 1515 he married Elizabeth Wyckes (1489–1528). She was the widow of Thomas Williams, a Yeoman of the Guard, and the daughter of a Putney shearman, Henry Wykes, who had served as a Gentleman Usher to King Henry VII.[5] The couple had three children:[9]

Thomas Cromwell also had an illegitimate daughter, Jane (c. 1520/25 – c. 1580,[10] who married William Hough (c.1525-1585), of Leighton in Wirral, Cheshire, sometime between 1535 and 1539.[11][12][13][14][15]

Cromwell's wife, Elizabeth, died in 1528, during an epidemic of the sweating sickness that had been sweeping the country at that time. Neither Anne nor Grace survived childhood.[5][16]

Early career

In 1517 and again in 1518, Cromwell led an embassy to Rome to obtain from Pope Leo X a Papal Bull of Indulgence for the town of Boston in Lincolnshire.[17]

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

By 1520, Cromwell was firmly established in London mercantile and legal circles.[5] In 1523, he obtained a seat in the House of Commons, though the constituency he represented at that time has not been identified.[5] After Parliament had been dissolved, Cromwell wrote a letter to a friend, jesting about the session's lack of productivity:

I amongst other have indured a parlyament which contenwid by the space of xvii hole wekes wher we communyd of warre pease Stryffe contencyon debatte murmure grudge Riches poverte penurye trowth falshode Justyce equyte dicayte [deceit] opprescyon Magnanymyte actyvyte foce [force] attempraunce [moderation] Treason murder Felonye consyli ... [conciliation] and also how a commune welth myght be ediffyed and a[lso] contenewid within our Realme. Howbeyt in conclusyon we have d[one] as our predecessors have been wont to doo that ys to say, as well we myght and lefte wher we begann.[5]

In 1524, he was elected as a member of Gray's Inn.[5]

From around 1516 to 1530, Cromwell was a member of the household of

Political offices
Preceded by
John Bourchier
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
John Baker
Preceded by
Stephen Gardiner
Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Thomas Wriothesley
Preceded by
John Taylor
Master of the Rolls
Succeeded by
Christopher Hales
Preceded by
Thomas Boleyn
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
William Fitzwilliam
Preceded by
James Worsley
Governor of the Isle of Wight
Title next held by
John Paulet
Preceded by
The 15th Earl of Oxford
Lord Great Chamberlain
Succeeded by
The 16th Earl of Oxford
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Lord Darcy de Darcy
Justice in Eyre
North of the Trent

Succeeded by
The Earl of Rutland
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Cromwell
4th creation
New creation Earl of Essex
6th creation
  • CROMWELL, Thomas (by 1485–1540), of London at
  • Cromwell, Thomas, Earl of Essex Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. VII at
  • Thomas Cromwell with details on his policies at
  • Thomas Cromwell, 1st Lord Cromwell, Great Chamberlain Family tree
  • Thomas Cromwell at Find a Grave
  • Portrait of Thomas Cromwell at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Portraits of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex at the National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Archival material relating to Thomas Cromwell listed at the UK National Archives

External links

  • Beazley, F. C. (1908). Notes on the Parish of Burton in Wirrall. Illustrated with seven plates and numerous coats of arms drawn by Graham Johnston, Herald Painter to the  
  • Bernard, G. W. (October 1998). "Elton's Cromwell". History: the Journal of the   at Wiley Online Library
  • Bindoff, S. T. (1982). "Cromwell, Thomas (by 1485-1540), of London". In Bindoff, S. T. Members. The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  •   in JSTOR
  • "Calendar of State Papers, Spain". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  • Coby, J. Patrick (2009). Thomas Cromwell: Machiavellian Statecraft and the English Reformation. Lanham: Lexington Books.  
  • Edwards, P. S. (1982). "HOUGH, Richard (1505-73/74), of Leighton and Thornton Hough, Cheshire.". In Bindoff, S. T. Members. The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1509–1558. 2: Members D-M. London: Published for  
  • Elton, G. R. (1951). "Thomas Cromwell's Decline and Fall". Cambridge Historical Journal 10 (2): 150–185.  in JSTOR
  • Elton, G. R. (1956). "The Political Creed of Thomas Cromwell". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Fifth Series 6: 69–92.   in JSTOR
  • Elton, Geoffrey (December 1993). "How Corrupt was Thomas Cromwell?". Historical Journal 36 (4): 905–908.   in JSTOR
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1953). The Tudor Revolution in Government: Administrative Changes in the Reign of Henry VIII. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1973). Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1974). "An Early Tudor Poor Law". Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government II. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 137–154.  
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1974). "King or Minister? The Man behind the Henrician Reformation". Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 173–188.  
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1985). Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1991). England Under the Tudors (3rd ed.). London:  
  • Ives, E. W. (2004). "Anne [Anne Boleyn] (c.1500–1536), queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII".   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Kenyon, John Philipps (1983). The History Men: The Historical Profession in England Since the Renaissance. London:  
  • Kinney, Arthur; Swain, David W. (2001). Tudor England: An Encyclopedia. Garland.  
  • Leithead, Howard (January 2008) [First Published 2004]. "Cromwell, Thomas, Earl of Essex (b. in or before 1485, d. 1540)".   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • "Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  • Logan, F. Donald (July 1988). "Thomas Cromwell and the Vicegerency in Spirituals: A Revisitation". English Historical Review 103 (408): 658–667.   in JSTOR
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G., ed. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families III (2nd ed.).  
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G., ed. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families I (2nd ed.). CreateSpace.  
  • Schofield, John (2011). The Rise & Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant.  
  • Wark, K. R. (1971). Elizabethan Recusancy in Cheshire (hardback). Remains Historical and Literary Connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester. 3rd series 19. Manchester:  
  •   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Williams, Neville (1975). The Cardinal & the Secretary. London:  


  1. ^ "Cromwell".  
  2. ^ Bernard 1998, pp. 587–607 Bernard argues Elton exaggerated Cromwell's role.
  3. ^ Coby 2009, p. 197.
  4. ^ Kenyon 1983, p. 210.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Leithead 2008.
  6. ^ Williams 1975, p. 142.
  7. ^ Walford 1878, pp. 489-503.
  8. ^ Kinney 2001, p. 172.
  9. ^ Schofield 2011, pp. 16, 23, 33.
  10. ^ Beazley 1908, p. 82 : Jane Hough was buried 3 November 1580 at Neston.
  11. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 14(2), 782: Cromwell's accounts note a payment of £12 14s. 4d. for 'apparel for Mrs. Jane' on 23 May 1539.
  12. ^ Noble II 1787, p. 5.
  13. ^ Glover 1882, pp. 127–128.
  14. ^ Ormerod 1819, p. 304.
  15. ^ Edwards 1982: William Hough was the son of Richard Hough, (1505–1573/4) who worked for Thomas Cromwell from 1534 to 1540. Richard Hough was Cromwell's agent in Chester.
  16. ^ Schofield 2011, p. 33.
  17. ^ Elton 1991a, p. 2.
  18. ^ a b Bindoff 1982.
  19. ^ Hutchinson 2008, pp. 271-276.
  20. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 10, 224.
  21. ^ Ives 2004, p. 162.
  22. ^ Ives 2005, pp. 307–310.
  23. ^ Schofield 2011, pp. 176–179.
  24. ^ Lipscomb April 2013, pp. 18–24.
  25. ^ Schofield 2011, pp. 192–205.
  26. ^ Lipscomb April 2013, p. 23.
  27. ^ Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 5(2), 61, and footnote 1.
  28. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 10, 1069.
  29. ^ Blomefield 1808, pp. 486–495 On becoming Earl of Essex, Thomas Cromwell adopted new arms; quarterly, per fess, indented, azure and or four lions passant counterchanged
  30. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 11, 202(3) and 202(14).
  31. ^ Weir 1991, pp. 377–378, 386–388, 395, 405, 410–411.
  32. ^ Weir 1991, pp. 412, 418.
  33. ^ Weir 1991, pp. 419–420.
  34. ^ Warnicke 2008.
  35. ^ Hall 1809, p. 839.
  36. ^ Hall 1809, pp. 838–839.
  37. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 16, 590.
  38. ^ Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry III 2011, p. 111.
  39. ^ Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry I 2011, p. 604.
  40. ^ Wark 1971, pp. 133, 153, 168.
  41. ^ "Henry VIII The Musical". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  42. ^ Georgiades, William (4 May 2012). "Hilary Mantel's Heart of Stone". The Slate Book Review.  
  43. ^ "A Man for All Seasons, full cast". Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  44. ^ Klein, Jacob (18 Nov 2011). "HBO and BBC to Collaborate for 'Wolf Hall' Mini". HBOWatch. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 


See also

  • Cromwell was played by Wolfe Morris in the BBC miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), and by Danny Webb in the Granada Television production Henry VIII (2003). In the television version of The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), he was played by veteran actor Ron Cook.
  • In the television series The Tudors (2007), Cromwell is played by English actor James Frain. Frain played the character for three seasons; Cromwell's execution brought the character's run to its conclusion.
  • In The Twisted Tale of Bloody Mary (2008), an independent film from TV Choice Productions, Cromwell is played by Burtie Welland.
  • Thomas Cromwell, played by Mark Rylance, will be the central figure in the HBO and BBC mini-series Wolf Hall, based on the novel by Hilary Mantel, to be broadcast in 2015.[44]




  • Cromwell is a supporting character in William Shakespeare's play Henry VIII.
  • He is the subject of Thomas Lord Cromwell, a 1602 play. It is attributed on the title page of the 1603 and 1613s edition to 'W.S.', and is classed as Shakespearean apocrypha.
  • In the original stage production of Maxwell Anderson's Anne of the Thousand Days, which deals with the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Cromwell was portrayed by Wendell K. Phillips. He is depicted here as totally ruthless and unscrupulous.
  • Cromwell is the main antagonist in Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, in which he is portrayed as ruthlessly ambitious and jealous of Sir Thomas More's influence with the King. Cromwell was played by Andrew Keir when the play opened in London, and by Leo McKern on Broadway.
  • Cromwell was portrayed by Julius D'Silva in Shakespeare's Globe's production of Anne Boleyn in 2010 and 2011.
  • Cromwell was portrayed in Henry VIII The Musical, a youth production that premièred in London in 2012.[41]
  • In 2014 the Royal Shakespeare Company staged an adaptation by Mike Poulton of Hilary Mantel's first two Cromwell novels. The role of Cromwell was played by Ben Miles.


Cromwell has been portrayed in a number of plays, feature films, and television miniseries, usually as a villainous character. More recently, however, Hilary Mantel's two Man Booker Prizewinning novels Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring up the Bodies (2012) have sought to show him in a more sympathetic light, stressing his family affections, genuine respect for Cardinal Wolsey, zeal for the Reformation and support for a limited degree of social reform.

Fictional portrayals

Thomas Cromwell was a patron of Hans Holbein the Younger, as were Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn. In the New York Frick Collection, two portraits by Holbein hang facing each other on the same wall of the Living Hall, one depicting Thomas Cromwell, the other Thomas More, whose execution he had procured.

Hans Holbein portraits

Cromwell's illegitimate daughter, Jane married William Hough, of Leighton in Wirrall, Cheshire, and had a daughter, Alice. Jane and her husband were staunch Catholics who, with their daughter, Alice, her husband, William Whitmore and their children, came to the attention of the authorities as recusant Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I.[40]

Thomas Cromwell's son Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell, married Elizabeth Seymour, the sister of Queen Jane Seymour and widow of Sir Anthony Ughtred. They had five children:[38][39]


Indeed, when Cromwell fell in 1540, his support for Anabaptism was cited by his accusers as a main charge against him. Although the charge was actually completely spurious, the fact that it was levelled at all demonstrates the reputation for evangelical sympathies Cromwell had developed.

In 1535, Cromwell succeeded in having clearly identified reformers, such as Hugh Latimer, Edward Foxe and Nicholas Shaxton appointed to the episcopacy. Also, he encouraged and supported the work of reformers, such as Robert Barnes. And it was Cromwell who provided the significant funding for the publication of the English translation of the Bible, known as the Matthew Bible.

Although Cromwell always maintained a primarily political outlook on general affairs, there is consensus among scholars that he was a committed Protestant. For him, the Henrician Reformation was certainly more than a jurisdictional revolution masquerading in religious garb. For instance, in the mid-1530s, he promoted Protestant ideas in order to forge an alliance with German Lutheran states, but his overall support for the Protestant cause is too general to be accurately explained in narrow political terms.

Personal religious beliefs

Nevertheless there remains an element of what G.R. Elton describes as 'mystery' about Cromwell's ultimate demise. In April 1540, just three months before he went to the block, he was created Earl of Essex and Lord Great Chamberlain. The arbitrary and unpredictable streak in the King's personality, which more than once exercised a key influence during his reign, surfaced again and washed Cromwell away in its wake. His effectiveness and creativity as a royal minister cannot however be denied, neither can his loyalty to the King. During Cromwell's years in power, he skilfully managed Crown finances and extended royal authority. In 1536, he established the Court of Augmentations to handle the massive windfall to the royal coffers produced by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Two other important financial institutions, the Court of Wards and the Court of First Fruits and Tenths, owed their existence to him, although they were not set up until after his death. He strengthened royal authority in the north of England through reform of the Council of the North, extended royal power and introduced Protestantism in Ireland, and was the architect of legislation, the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, which promoted stability and gained acceptance for the royal supremacy in Wales. He also introduced important social and economic reforms in England in the 1530s, including action against enclosures, the promotion of English cloth exports and the poor relief legislation of 1536.[5]

Site of the ancient scaffold at Tower Hill where Cromwell was executed by decapitation

Henry came to regret Cromwell's execution, and later accused his ministers of bringing about Cromwell's downfall by false charges. On 3 March 1541, the French Ambassador, Charles de Marillac, reported in a letter that the King was now said to be lamenting that "under pretext of some slight offences which he had committed, they had brought several accusations against him, on the strength of which he had put to death the most faithful servant he ever had."[37]

Many lamented but more rejoiced, and specially such as either had been religious men, or favoured religious persons; for they banqueted and triumphed together that night, many wishing that that day had been seven years before; and some fearing lest he should escape, although he were imprisoned, could not be merry. Others who knew nothing but truth by him both lamented him and heartily prayed for him. But this is true that of certain of the clergy he was detestably hated, & specially of such as had borne swynge, and by his means was put from it; for in dead he was a man that in all his doings seemed not to favour any kind of Popery, nor could not abide the snoffyng pride of some prelates, which undoubtedly, whatsoever else was the cause of his death, did shorten his life and procured the end that he was brought unto.[36]

Hall said of Cromwell's downfall:

Cromwell was condemned to death without trial and beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540, the day of the King's marriage to Catherine Howard.[34] After the execution, his head was set on a spike on London Bridge.[5] Edward Hall, a contemporary chronicler, records that Cromwell made a speech on the scaffold, professing to die, "in the traditional faith" and then "so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the Office".[35]

Cromwell was arrested at a Council meeting on 10 June 1540, and imprisoned in the Tower. A bill of attainder containing a long list of indictments, including supporting Anabaptists, protecting Protestants accused of heresy and thus failing to enforce the Act of Six Articles, and plotting to marry Lady Mary Tudor, was introduced into the House of Lords a week later and passed on 29 June 1540.[5] He was also connected with 'sacramentarians' (those who denied transubstantiation) in Calais. All Cromwell's honours were forfeited. The King deferred the execution until his marriage to Anne of Cleves could be annulled. Hoping for clemency, Cromwell wrote in support of the annulment in his last personal address to the King.[33]

Cromwell also appeared to have made the crucial mistake of revealing to Anne of Cleves certain intimate details regarding Henry's sexual preferences in an effort to make her more attractive to the King. It seems from evidence obtained from doctors at the time that Henry had been impotent, while Anne and Cromwell may have well become desperate, since the prospect of Catherine Howard in the royal bed alarmed Cromwell so greatly. In any event, the King was outraged by Cromwell's impertinence and this has been suggested by historians as having helped seal his fate.

During 1536 Cromwell had proven himself an adept political survivor. However, the gradual slide towards Protestantism at home and the King's ill-starred marriage to Anne of Cleves, which Cromwell engineered in January 1540, proved costly. The Franco-Imperial alliance, which the marriage had been intended to forestall, failed to materialise and Henry had therefore been submitted to an unnecessary conjugal difficulty which loosened his Principal Secretary's control of events. In early 1540, Cromwell's conservative, aristocratic enemies, headed by the Duke of Norfolk and assisted by Bishop Gardiner (colloquially known as 'Wily Winchester'), sensed a window of opportunity and had a ready lever with which to displace their foe, in the form of Catherine Howard.

Downfall and execution

On 18 April 1540, Henry granted Cromwell the earldom of Essex and the senior Court office of Lord Great Chamberlain.[5] Despite these signs of royal favour, Cromwell's tenure as the King's chief minister was almost over. The King's anger at being forced to marry Anne of Cleves was the opportunity Cromwell's conservative opponents, most notably the Duke of Norfolk, needed to topple him.[32]

Earl of Essex

[31] and was chagrined to find that she was not the beauty Holbein had depicted in his portrait of her. The wedding ceremony took place on 6 January at Greenwich, but the marriage was not consummated.Rochester. On 27 December, Anne arrived at Dover. On New Year's Day 1540, the King met her at Cleves, of Duke Wilhelm, the sister of Anne. In early October 1539, the King finally accepted Cromwell's suggestion that he should marry Edward VIQueen Jane had died in 1537, less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, the future
Anne of Cleves, miniature by Hans Holbein

Anne of Cleves

The King, however, continued to resist further Reformation measures. A Parliamentary committee was established to examine doctrine and on 16 May 1539 the Duke of Norfolk presented six questions for the House to consider, which were duly passed as the Act of Six Articles shortly before the session ended on 28 June. The Six Articles reaffirmed a traditional view of the Mass, the Sacraments and the priesthood.[5]

On 17 December 1538, the Inquisitor-General of France forbade the printing of Miles Coverdale's Great Bible. Cromwell persuaded the King of France to release the unfinished books so that printing could continue in England. In April 1539, the first edition was finally available. The publication of the Great Bible, the first authoritative version in English, was one of Cromwell's main achievements.[5]

The King was becoming increasingly unhappy about the extent of religious changes and the conservative faction at court was gaining strength. Cromwell took the initiative against his enemies. In November 1538, using evidence acquired from Sir Geoffrey Pole under interrogation in the Tower, he imprisoned the Marquess of Exeter, Sir Edward Neville, and Sir Nicholas Carew on charges of treason; all were executed in the following months.

Resistance to further religious reform

In January 1538, Cromwell pursued an extensive campaign against what was termed "idolatry" by the followers of the new religion. Statues, roods and images were attacked, culminating in September with the dismantling of the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury. Early in September, Cromwell also completed a new set of vicegerential injunctions declaring open war on "pilgrimages, feigned relics or images, or any such superstitions" and commanding that "one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English" be set up in every church. Moreover, following the "voluntary" surrender of the remaining smaller monasteries during the previous year, the larger monasteries were now also "invited" to surrender throughout 1538, a process legitimized in the 1539 session of Parliament and completed in the following year.[5]

The suppression of the risings spurred further Reformation measures. In February 1537, Cromwell convened a vicegerential synod of bishops and doctors. By July, the synod, co-ordinated by Cranmer and Foxe, had prepared a draft document, The Institution of a Christian Man, more commonly known as the Bishops' Book. By October, it was in circulation, although the King had not yet given it his full assent. However Cromwell's success in Church politics was offset by the fact that his political influence had been weakened by the emergence of a privy council, a body of nobles and office-holders that first came together to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace. The King confirmed his support of Cromwell by appointing him to the Order of the Garter on 5 August 1537, but Cromwell was nonetheless forced to accept the existence of an executive body dominated by his conservative opponents.[5]

Thomas Cromwell, portrait miniature wearing garter collar, after Hans Holbein the Younger

In July 1536, the first attempt was made to clarify religious doctrine after the break with Rome. Bishop Edward Foxe, with strong backing from Cromwell and Cranmer, tabled proposals in Convocation, which the King later endorsed as the Ten Articles and were printed in August 1536. Cromwell circulated injunctions for their enforcement that went beyond the Articles themselves, provoking opposition in September and October in Lincolnshire and then throughout the six northern counties. These widespread popular and clerical uprisings, which found support among the gentry and even the nobility, were collectively known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Although the grievances of the rebels were wide-ranging, the most significant was the suppression of the monasteries, blamed on the King's "evil counsellors", principally Cromwell and Cranmer. One of the leaders of the rebellion, Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy of Darcy, before his execution gave Cromwell the prophetic warning "others that have been in such favour with kings as you now enjoy have come to the same fate you bring me to".[5]

Religious reform

Cromwell's position was now stronger than ever. He succeeded Anne Boleyn's father, Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, as Lord Privy Seal on 2 July 1536, resigning the office of Master of the Rolls, which he had held since 8 October 1534. On 8 July 1536, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon.[30]

Arms of Sir Thomas Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell, KG, as they were at the time of his installation as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter[29]

Baron Cromwell and Lord Privy Seal

The Queen and her brother stood trial on Monday 15 May, while the four others accused with them were condemned on the Friday beforehand. The men were executed on 17 May and, on the same day, Cranmer declared Henry's marriage to Anne invalid, a ruling that bastardized their daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Two days later, Anne herself was executed. On 30 May, the King married Jane Seymour. On 8 June, a new Parliament passed the second Act of Succession, securing the rights of Queen Jane's heirs to the throne.[5]

Anne, who had many enemies at court, had never been popular with the people and had so far failed to produce a male heir. The King was growing impatient, having become enamoured of the young Viscount Rochford.[24][25] The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys wrote to Charles V that "he himself [Cromwell] has been authorised and commissioned by the king to prosecute and bring to an end the mistress's trial, to do which he had taken considerable trouble ... He set himself to devise and conspire the said affair."[26][27][28] Regardless of the role Cromwell played in Anne Boleyn's fall, it is clear from Chapuys's letter that he was acting with the King's authority.

Anne instructed her chaplains to preach against the Vicegerent and in a blistering sermon on Passion Sunday, 2 April 1536, her almoner, John Skip, denounced Cromwell and his fellow Privy Councillors before the entire court. Skip's diatribe was intended to persuade courtiers and Privy Councillors to change the advice they had been giving the King and to reject the temptation of personal gain. Skip was called before the Council and accused of malice, slander, presumption, lack of charity, sedition, treason, disobedience to the gospel, attacking 'the great posts, pillars and columns sustaining and holding up the commonwealth' and inviting anarchy.[22][23]

The final session of the Reformation Parliament began on 4 February 1536. By 18 March, an Act for the Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries, those with a gross income of less than £200 per annum, had passed both houses. This caused a clash with Anne Boleyn, formerly one of Cromwell's strongest allies, who wanted the proceeds of the dissolution used for educational and charitable purposes, not paid into the King's coffers.

Jane Seymour, Hans Holbein the Younger

Fall of Anne Boleyn

[5] In April 1534, Henry confirmed Cromwell as his principal secretary and chief minister, a position he had held in all but name for some time. Cromwell immediately took steps to enforce the legislation just passed by Parliament. Before the members of both houses returned home on 30 March, they were required to swear an oath accepting the Act of Succession and all the King's subjects were now required to swear to the legitimacy of the marriage and, by implication, to acceptance of the King's new powers and the break from Rome. On 13 April, the London clergy accepted the oath. On the same day, the commissioners offered it to Sir Thomas More and

King's chief minister

In December, the King authorized Cromwell to discredit the papacy and the Pope was attacked throughout the nation in sermons and pamphlets. In 1534, a new Parliament was summoned, again under Cromwell's supervision, to enact the legislation necessary to make a formal break of England's remaining ties with Rome. Archbishop Cranmer's sentence took statutory form as the Act of Succession, the Dispensations Act reiterated royal supremacy and the Act for the Submission of the Clergy incorporated into law the clergy's surrender in 1532. On 30 March 1534, Audley gave royal assent to the legislation in the presence of the King.[5]

The parliamentary session began on 4 February and Cromwell introduced a new bill restricting the right to make appeals to Rome. On 30 March, Cranmer was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and Convocation immediately declared the King's marriage to Katherine unlawful. In the first week of April 1533, Parliament passed the Bill into law as the Act in Restraint of Appeals, ensuring that any verdict concerning the King's marriage could not be challenged in Rome. On 11 April, Archbishop Cranmer sent the King a pro forma challenge to the validity of his marriage to Queen Katherine. A formal trial began on 10 May 1533 in Dunstable and on 23 May the Archbishop pronounced sentence, declaring the marriage illegal. Five days later he pronounced the King's marriage to Anne to be lawful, and on 1 June, she was crowned queen.[5]

By January 1533, Anne Boleyn was pregnant and marriage could no longer be delayed. The date of the wedding is unclear. It may have taken place when Anne was with the King in Calais in November 1532, but it seems more likely that it took place at a secret ceremony on 25 January 1533.[21] Parliament was immediately recalled to pass the necessary legislation. On 26 January 1533, Audley was appointed Lord Chancellor and Cromwell increased his control over the Commons through his management of by-elections.

Anne Boleyn

The King's gratitude to Cromwell was expressed in a grant of the lordship of Romney in Newport in Wales and appointment to three relatively minor offices: Master of the Jewels on 14 April 1532, Clerk of the Hanaper on 16 July, and Chancellor of the Exchequer on 12 April 1533. None of these offices afforded much income, but the appointments were an indication of royal favour and gave Cromwell a position in three major institutions of government: the royal household, the Chancery and the Exchequer.[5]

The third session of what is now known as the Reformation Parliament had been scheduled for October 1531, but was postponed until 15 January 1532 because of government indecision as to the best way to proceed. Cromwell now favoured the assertion of royal supremacy and manipulated the Commons by resurrecting anti-clerical grievances expressed earlier in the session of 1529. On 18 March 1532, the Commons delivered a supplication to the King denouncing clerical abuses and the power of the ecclesiastical courts and describing Henry as "the only head, sovereign lord, protector and defender" of the Church. The clergy resisted at first, but capitulated when faced with the threat of Parliamentary reprisal. On 14 May 1532, Parliament was prorogued. Two days later, Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor, realizing that the battle to save the marriage was lost. More's resignation from the Council represented a triumph for Cromwell and the pro-Reformation faction at court.[5]

By the autumn of 1531, Cromwell had taken control of the supervision of the King's legal and parliamentary affairs, working closely with Thomas Audley and had joined the inner circle of the Council. By the following spring, he had begun to exert influence over elections to the House of Commons.[5] He was a modest man, not fond of flattery.[20]

From 1527, Henry VIII had sought to have his marriage to Queen Katherine annulled so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. At the centre of the campaign to secure the divorce was the emerging doctrine of royal supremacy over the church.

Anne Boleyn

as well as numerous minor offices.

Cromwell's efforts to overcome the shadow cast over his career by Wolsey's downfall were successful. By November 1529, he had secured a seat in Parliament as a member for Taunton[5] and was reported to be in favour with the King.[5] At some point, during the closing weeks of 1530, the King appointed him to the Privy Council.[5] During his career in the King's service, Cromwell held numerous offices, which included:[18][19]

Privy Councillor

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