Died At Age: 55
Also Known As: Кромвель, Томас
Born in: Putney
Famous as: English statesman
British Lawyers & Judges
Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Wyckes
siblings: Katherine Cromwell
children: 1st Baron Cromwell, Anne Cromwell, Grace Cromwell, Gregory Cromwell
Died on: July 28, 1540
place of death: Tower Hill
City: London, England
Cause of Death: Execution
Thomas Cromwell was an English lawyer and statesman who served as the principal adviser to English King Henry VIII from 1532–40. Thomas was an intelligent man blessed with a rational and logical mind who rose to become one of the pre-eminent political figures of his times. As the king’s main adviser, he exercised tremendous influence in the English court and is credited to have played a vital role in English Reformation. Born into the house of a blacksmith and a businessman, Thomas grew up to become a lawyer and a successful merchant. Intelligent, logical and shrewd, he also harbored political ambitions and forayed into government service when he was appointed as a secretary for Cardinal Wolsey. With his dedication and capabilities he became Wolsey’s most trusted employee but had to distance himself from him following Wolsey’s fall from grace. He went on to become the trusted adviser of King Henry VIII. He helped the king in annulling his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon in order to enable the king to marry his mistress. In spite of his popularity with the king, Cromwell had many adversaries and was eventually arrested for treason and executed at the instigation of his enemies
Childhood & Early Life
Thomas Cromwell was born in 1485 in Putney, London, to Walter Cromwell and his wife Katherine. He had two sisters.
His father was a jack of all trades, and had worked as a blacksmith, fuller, and cloth merchant. He also owned and operated a brewery and was notorious for being a drunkard.
Several details regarding his early life are obscure.
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As a young man he set out to travel and seek his fortunes. He is believed to have travelled all over Europe and lived in France, Italy and the Low Countries. He stated that he became a mercenary and marched with the French army to Italy and fought in the battle of Garigliano in 1503. These claims were not verified though.
He claimed to have worked as a banker in Italy, clerk in the Netherlands, and a lawyer in London.
In the mid-1510s Thomas Cromwell became a member of the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. With his hard work, dedication and intelligence he won over the older man and became one of his most trusted employees. By 1526 he had become a member of Wolsey’s council, and a few years later, his secretary.
Cromwell helped Wolsey in dissolving nearly 30 monasteries in order to raise funds to found The King's School, Ipswich (1528), and Cardinal College, in Oxford (1529). By this time Cromwell had become one of Wolsey’s senior most advisers.
Wolsey himself was the king’s chief adviser and enjoyed great success in this position. The king wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and sought Wolsey’s advice. Wolsey, however, was unable to negotiate an annulment of King Henry's marriage due to which he fell out of the king’s favor and was stripped of his government titles.
Ever the shrewd man, Cromwell distanced himself from the disgraced Wolsey and by 1531 had taken control of the king’s legal and parliamentary affairs. In his works he was closely aided by Thomas Audley.
Thomas Cromwell very brilliantly engineered a plan to ensure the annulment of the king’s marriage. Following the pope’s refusal to approve the request for the annulment of the royal marriage, the Parliament endorsed the king's claim to be head of the breakaway Church of England. This bestowed upon the king the power to annul his own marriage. He then married his mistress Anne Boleyn.
Delighted at the services of Thomas Cromwell, the king made him one of his most trusted advisers. In 1534, Cromwell was officially made the king’s principal secretary and chief minister.
The king’s wife Anne Boleyn was never popular with the masses and the king too grew frustrated with her for failing to bear him a male heir. Moreover, he had fallen in love with another woman. Anne was executed and the king married Jane Seymour.
Jane Seymour died in 1537. Thomas Cromwell suggested to the king that he should marry Anne, the sister of Duke Wilhelm, of Cleves. The king was not thoroughly convinced though he accepted the suggestion and married Anne in January 1540.
The marriage between King Henry and Anne of Cleves was ill-fated from the very beginning and the king grew frustrated at Cromwell for convincing him to enter into this unnecessary union. By now Cromwell had made several enemies in the court and they used this opportunity to turn the king against his most trusted minister. The king then had Cromwell arrested.
Serving as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England, Thomas Cromwell was one of the strongest advocates of the English Reformation. He played a major role in helping the king gain the requisite authority to annul his own marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon, following which the king wed his mistress.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1515, he married Elizabeth Wyckes, the widow of Thomas Williams, a Yeoman of the Guard, and the daughter of a Putney shearman, Henry Wykes. The couple had three children. Unfortunately his wife and two of their children died in an epidemic in 1528.
Cromwell also had an illegitimate daughter called Jane.
Over the course of his political career he had earned several enemies. Following the debacle of the king's unhappy marriage to Anne of Cleves which he had arranged, his enemies turned the king against him. Thomas Cromwell was arrested, imprisoned and condemned to death without trial and beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540.