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Thomas Cromwell (1485)

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Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex was an English statesman who served as chief minister of King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.

Cromwell was one of the strongest advocates of the English Reformation, the English church's break with the papacy in Rome. Cromwell helped engineer an annulment of the King's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so that the king could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Supremacy over the Church of England was officially declared by Parliament in 1534, and Cromwell supervised the Church from the unique posts of vicegerent for spirituals and vicar general.

Cromwell's rise to power made him many enemies, especially among the conservative faction at court. He fell from Henry's favour after arranging the King's marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves, which turned out to be a disaster. He was subjected to a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. The king later expressed regret at having lost his great minister.

Oliver Cromwell, the Parliamentarian leader who overthrew the monarchy during the English Civil War, was a great-great-grandson of Thomas Cromwell's sister, Katherine Cromwell .


 early life
Cromwell was born around 1485 in Putney, Surrey, the son of Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith, fuller, and cloth merchant, as well as the owner of both a hostelry and a brewery. His mother is said to have been Katherine, the aunt of Nicholas Glossop of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. She reportedly lived in Putney in the house of a local attorney, John Welbeck, at the time of her marriage to Walter Cromwell in 1474. Cromwell had two sisters. The younger, Elizabeth, married a farmer, William Wellyfed. The elder, Katherine, married Morgan Williams, a Welsh lawyer. Katherine and Morgan's son Richard was employed in his uncle's service and changed his name to Cromwell. Richard's great-grandson was Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.

Little is known about Thomas Cromwell's early life aside from his declaration to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer that he had been a ‘ruffian...in his young days’. 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 likely 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 the household of the Florentine merchant banker Francesco Frescobaldi. Later he visited leading mercantile centres in the Low Countries, living among the English merchants and developing an important 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, 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. At some time during these years Cromwell returned to England, where about 1513 he married Elizabeth Wyckes (1489–1527). 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. The couple had a son, Gregory, and two daughters Anne and Grace. Neither daughter survived childhood.

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

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 Treason murder Felonye consyli … as our predecessors have been wont to doo that ys to say, as well we myght and lefte wher we begann.

In 1524, Cromwell was elected as a member of Gray's Inn and entered the service of Henry VIII's chief minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. In the mid-1520s, Cromwell assisted in the dissolution of nearly thirty monasteries, to raise funds for Wolsey to found The King's School, Ipswich and Cardinal College in Oxford . In 1526, Wolsey appointed Cromwell a member of his council; and, by 1529, Cromwell was one of Wolsey's most senior and trusted advisers. However, by the end of October of that year, Wolsey had fallen from power. Cromwell had made enemies for aiding Wolsey to suppress the monasteries but was determined not to fall with his master, as he told George Cavendish, then a Gentleman Usher and later Wolsey's biographer:

I do entend this after none, whan my lord hathe dyned to ride to london and so to the Court, where I wyll other make or marre or to se what any man is Able to lay to my charge of ontrouthe or mysdemeanor.

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, and was reported to be in favour with the King. At some point, during the closing weeks of 1530, the King appointed him to the Privy Council.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Кромвель, Томас", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.