Richard Williams, alias Cromwell

Is your surname Cromwell?

Research the Cromwell family

Richard Williams, alias Cromwell's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Richard Cromwell (Williams)

Also Known As: "Richard Cromwell"
Birthplace: Lanishen (within present Cardiff), Glamorganshire, Wales
Death: October 20, 1544 (49)
Hinchingbrooke House, Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire (Present Cambridgeshire), England
Immediate Family:

Son of Morgan Williams; Morgan Williams; Morgan Williams; Katherine Williams and Katherine Williams
Husband of Frances Cromwell and Frances Cromwell
Father of Sir Henry Cromwell; Richard Cromwell; Thomas Cromwell; Joan Williams; Anne Williams and 5 others
Brother of Walter Williams

Occupation: Knight, Sheriff, Member of Parliament, Member of Parliament in 1542
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Richard Williams, alias Cromwell

See Peter Bartrum, (July 23, 2017; Anne Brannen, curator)

See also The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 31 — his will, probate date 1546.

The family fortune was made by the Protector's great-grandfather, Richard Williams, son of a Welsh gentleman from Glamorganshire, Morgan ap William. This Richard was introduced to the Court of Henry VIII by his kinsman, the great courtier and royal secretary Thomas Cromwell, later Earl of Essex. Some sources suggest that Richard's mother was Cromwell's sister, others that Cromwell himself had married the widow of a Williams. Richard soon became a favourite of the King and was one of the gentlemen sent to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace. In recognition of his services he was appointed one of the Visitors of the religious houses as his kinsman pursued the policy that led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The rewards started to pour in - Richard was granted the estates of the nunnery of Hinchinbrook and the great abbey of Ramsey, both in Huntingdonshire, as well as several other smaller religious houses. Then, in 1540, he distinguished himself at a joust in Westminster. During the tournament he was knighted by Henry VIII and presented with a diamond ring off the King's own finger. On Henry's recommendation he changed his name to Cromwell in honour of his relation, the Earl of Essex. However, his fortunes were in no way injured by the sudden ruin and execution of the Earl. In 1541 Sir Richard Cromwell became High Sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire (the two counties were then, as they have been again in recent years, counted as one civil administration, and the High Sheriff was chosen in rotation from the old county of Cambridge, from the Isle of Ely, and from Huntingdonshire) and in 1542 he was elected to Parliament as MP for Huntingdonshire. He was appointed a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and served in France as a general of infantry. And all the while he accrued more and more honours and more and more estates and wealth. It was said when he died in 1546 that he must have left a prodigious fortune to his two sons, as big an estate as any peer.

- "Memoirs of the Protectoral -House of Cromwell" by the Reverend Mark Noble, published in 1787.

WILLIAMS Sir Richard -  8

Birth : 1495

Alias Cromwell

Death : 1547

Father : WILLIAMS Morgan ( ? - ? )

Mother : CROMWELL Katherine ( ? - ? )

Union : MARTYN Frances ( ? - 1533 )

Marriage : 1518

Children : CROMWELL Francis ( ? - 1598 )

CROMWELL Sir Henry ( ? - 1603 )

Sir Richard Cromwell1

M, #131121

Last Edited=17 Oct 2006

    Sir Richard Cromwell is the son of Morgan Williams and Catherine Cromwell.1 He married Frances Murfyn, daughter of Sir Thomas Murfyn.2
    Sir Richard Cromwell was baptised with the name of Richard Williams.1

Child of Sir Richard Cromwell and Frances Murfyn

Sir Henry Cromwell+1 b. 1537, d. 1604


[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 555. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.

[S1169] Rosie Davis, "re: Burrard Family," e-mail message from <e-mail address> (unknown address) to Darryl Lundy, 16 September 2004 - 12 June 2005. Hereinafter cited as "re: Burrard Family."


Richard entered the Court of Henry VIII in the service of his uncle, Sir Thomas Cromwell. No doubt in order to make clear his relationship to Sir Thomas (second only to Henry himself in terms of power) he changed his name to Richard Cromwell.

Richard Cromwell's exploits pleased Henry VIII enough to Knight him and in 1538 to grant him estates in the form of Hinchingbrooke, a large former nunnery in Huntingdonshire. This was another asset "liberated" from the Catholic establishment. Uncle Thomas lost his head in 1540 for his part in encouraging Henry to marry Anne of Cleaves. Sir Richard Cromwell went on to become high-sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire; he also sat for Parliament in 1542.

Sir Richard Williams Alias Cromwell - On March 4th 1540 Ramsey Abbey along with the sum of £4,663 4s 2d was granted to Sir Richard Williams, alias Cromwell, in consideration of his good service, for a fee of £29.16s. Ramsey Abbey was then simply turned into a quarry, the lead from the roofs being melted down into fodders and ingots for sale to the highest bidder. Gonville and Caius college in Cambridge was built from the stone and Kings and Trinity were partly rebuilt. Stone from the Abbey also found its way into many local churches and other buildings.

Sir Richard was the son of one Morgan Williams, a Welshman who was a brewer at Putney. But through his mother he was a nephew of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, the architect of the dissolution, whose service he entered and whose name he took. Sir Richard Williams, alias Cromwell was a Welsh soldier and a courtier in the court of Henry VIII. He was a maternal nephew of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex and profited from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in which he took an active part.

In 1518 he married Frances, daughter of Sir Thomas Murfyn Sheriff of the City of London. He became a favourite of King Henry VIII, being knighted in 1537. It is also interesting to note that he was one of the Commissioners that visited Ramsey Abbey at the time of the Dissolution.

He appears to have been rather hard-headed and acquisitive, his redeeming feature being his loyalty to his uncle Thomas to whom he owed so much and its is recorded that he went about in open mourning after his uncle’s disgrace and execution. A very brave thing to do at the court of Henry VIII

In 1541 he was appointed High Sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire and also received the grants of the monasteries of Huntingdon, St Neots and the Abbey at Sawtry. At this time his income was estimated at £2,500 per annum, the equivalent of one million pounds today. He was made a gentleman of the Privy Chamber in 1543 and when war broke out with France he was made a General of Infantry. In 1544 he ended his career as Constable of Berkley Castle and died the following year being succeeded by his son Henry.

Richard Cromwell - With the Priory now closed it was in 1538 that Richard Williams alias Cromwell received a royal grant of the priory with its “church, steeple, churchyard and house and all lands.” Sir Richard's father Morgan Williams had married Katherine Cromwell but Richard took the Cromwell name as a tribute to Katherine's father Thomas Cromwell Earl of Essex who was executed in 1540.

Sir Richard Cromwell died abt 1545. He had acquired Ramsey Abbey, Hinchingbrooke and lands of other religious houses. He does not seem to have lived at Hinchingbrooke, which was about this time occupied by William Cook, who sub-let part of the house and barn together with the stable, gatehouse and great close. However Sir Richard did start the conversion of the nunnery into a house.

A priory of Benedictine nuns, known until the 15th century as St. James-extra-Huntingdon and since as HINCHINGBROOKE PRIORY (Hychelingbrok, xiii cent.; Inchinbrok, xiv cent.; Fynchyngbroke, Fynchynbrok, Fincheynbrok, xv cent.; Hynchenbrok, xvi cent.) lay to the west of the town boundaries. The few historical facts relating to the priory have already been given. The patronage was attached to the Honour of Huntingdon whose holders were great benefactors to the nunnery in the 12th century, William the Lion granting them lands here. In 1199 King John remitted 15s. rent due from 60 acres of meadow before their gates. These royal gifts were supplemented by numerous private benefactions, until at the Dissolution the temporalities included in Huntingdon 90 acres of arable and 20 acres of meadow, the vineyard pasture, a close and dovecot near the priory and a profit of 20d. from courts.

In December 1535 Dr. Leigh visited the priory, where the last prioress lay dying. He commissioned the Prior of Huntingdon to take an inventory of the priory's goods and lock the coffers till Cromwell's pleasure was known and the following year Hinchingbrooke suffered the fate of the smaller houses and was suppressed. In 1538 Richard Williams alias Cromwell received a royal grant of the priory with its 'church, steeple, churchyard and house and all lands.'

Sir Richard Cromwell died 20 Oct 1544. He had acquired Ramsey Abbey and lands of other religious houses and does not appear to have lived at Hinchingbrooke, which was about this time occupied by William Cook, who sublet part of the house and barn together with the stable, gate-house and great close. Sir Henry, eldest son of Sir Richard, used Hinchingbrooke as a winter residence. He pulled down part of the nunnery and erected a fine Elizabethan house surrounded by an open court in its place. The new building was mainly composed of materials brought from Barnwell Priory, particularly the gilded roof of the great dining-hall.

On account of his profuse liberality and magnificence Sir Henry Cromwell was known in his day as the Golden Knight, and it is related of him that in his progresses from Hinchingbrooke to Ramsey Abbey, his summer residence, he threw money out of his coach to the people who collected to see him pass. He was four times sheriff for the county and once returned as member. He entertained Queen Elizabeth here in 1564 when she knighted him. James I also spent a night here, 27 April 1603, when progressing south to take possession of the English throne. Sir Oliver on this occasion made many presents to the king, 'a cup of gold, goodly horses, deepe-mouthed hounds, divers hawkes of excellent winge,' while a deputation of the heads of Cambridge University, clad in scarlet gowns and corner caps, attended to present a learned oration in Latin. In return for this gratification of his favourite foibles James I on his Coronation Day, 24 July 1603, made Sir Oliver a Knight of the Bath.

Sir Henry died a few months later on 6 January 1604 and was buried in All Saints' Church, Huntingdon. His lavish methods appear already to have impaired the family fortunes and the circumstances of Sir Oliver Cromwell, his eldest son, to whom Hinchingbrooke now passed, shortly became hopelessly embarrassed. He carried on the family tradition of entertaining royalty, and James I was constantly there. The king indeed seems to have treated the place as his own: in 1614 he is found appointing a Keeper of the Wardrobe to act both at Royston (where he had his own hunting box) and Hinchingbrooke; in 1620 he advanced £20 from the royal treasury and 20 timber trees to build a bridge for his own use there; in October 1623 he issued instructions to Sir Oliver to kill as many pheasants in the outwoods as possible but none in the park, pending his arrival.

His embarrassments must necessarily have made a bad host of Sir Oliver Cromwell, and the king appears to have conceived some idea of buying Hinchingbrooke outright. This appears from a pathetic letter written early in 1623 by Cromwell, who says he has asked no more for his house than a penny for a pennyworth and begs payment either in money or land as his creditors are pressing him and his friends begin to think him out of favour. The matter still remained unsettled in November 1624 when Cromwell asked whether the king would accept of his land at a reasonable price. The death of James I in March 1625 put an end to the question of the royal purchase and Hinchingbrooke was eventually sold to Sir Sidney Montagu on 20 June 1627.

Sir Sidney Montagu was one of the Masters of Requests to Charles I and an ardent supporter of the royalist side in the Civil War. He died in 1644 and the estate passed to his son Edward Montagu, who served on the Parliamentarian side during the first Civil War. Charles I slept at Hinchinbrooke in 1647 on his way from Holmby to Newmarket, a prisoner in the hands of Cornet Joyce, and was treated with the greatest consideration by Lady Montagu in the absence of her husband. Edward Montagu took no active share in the second war nor in the king's trial. With General Monk he was mainly instrumental in bringing about the Restoration and was rewarded, on 12 July 1660, with the title Baron Montagu of St. Neots, Viscount Hinchinbrooke and Earl of Sandwich. Hinchinbrooke has remained the seat of the Earls of Sandwich till the present day.

The Earl of Sandwich was second cousin to and patron of Samuel Pepys and Hinchinbrooke and its owner figure largely in his Diary. The earl immediately started elaborate alterations and additions to the Elizabethan mansion: under 9 December 1660 Pepys notes that he (Pepys) has commissioned Mr. Kennard, master joiner at Whitehall, to go to Hinchingbrooke about the alterations, and nearly twelve months later he complains that they are very backward. On 15 October 1664 he visited Hinchinbrooke and found the 'water-works and the Ora, which is very fine; and so is the house all over, but I am sorry to think of the money at this time spent therein.'

There are few visible remains of the Benedictine nunnery, but a considerable number of 12th and 13th-century stones lying in a ditch on the south side of the garden were, no doubt, from its early buildings.

The claustral buildings of the nunnery were on the north side of the church, and in building his new house Sir Henry seems to have found the north wall of the church still standing, and against it, on the site of the church, he built two rooms (now the library), and on the other side, on the site of the cloister, he built a staircase, etc.; the eastern wall and some other parts of the eastern range of the nunnery remained, and these he converted into drawing room and private dining room, etc., with a long gallery over them. Of the northern range nothing remains, but here Sir Henry built the hall of his house, enriching it with a fine bay window and building another bay window at the northern end of his drawing room and long gallery; he retained an inner courtyard on the site of the cloister, the western wall of which appears to be ancient, but Sir Henry probably built kitchens and offices on the west of it (now the dining room), and a tower at the south-west corner; he built a range of offices extending northward from the north-west corner of the house, a range of outbuildings near it, and a large gate-house on the north side of his entrance courtyard.

Sir Henry lived to a great age, and before his death he apparently made over the house to his son, Sir Oliver, who, in 1602, built a large semi-circular bowwindow on the east side of the long gallery, supporting it upon an open loggia below.

Edward Earl of Sandwich made considerable alterations here in 1661, adding two stories to the western range together with an addition at the northwest corner, formed a kitchen in the projecting northern wing, and rebuilt the staircase. He appears to have done other works, including the building of the garden wall next the road in 1663–4.

In 1760 the 4th earl made some alterations and is said to have added two or three rooms, but probably the work was chiefly of the nature of readjustment rather than actual addition.

The eastern range was severely damaged by fire on the 22 January 1830, but the pictures and furniture were nearly all saved. The fire started in the fireplace of 'the great-bow room' (i.e., the bedroom formed in the end of the long gallery), whereupon the house was largely reconstructed under Edward Blore, the architect, and completed in 1832. The east and south fronts were now largely refaced, and the semi-circular bow-window of 1602 was taken down and rebuilt on the south front. A tower was built at the north-west corner, reducing the length of the hall, which was much altered. From: 'The borough of Huntingdon: Introduction, castle and borough'. Noble 1787, pp. 11–13 explains that the reason for Sir Richard Williams, the great grandfather of Oliver Cromwell, changing his name, from Williams to Cromwell. Henry VIII strongly recommended it to the Welsh (whom he incorporated with the English) to adopt the English practice in taking family names, instead of their manner of adding their father's, and perhaps grandfather's name to their own Christian one with nap or ap, as Morgan ap William, or Rich, ap Morgan ap William; i. e. Rich, the son of Morgan the son of Will, and the king was the more anxious as it was found so inconvenient in identifying persons in judicial matters. For these reasons, the Welsh, about this time, dropped the ap in many of their names; or, if it could be done with convenience as to pronunciation, left out the a, and joined the p to their father's Christian name (Camden's remains; from which it appears that many Christian names were appropriated to families; for the reasons above "we have the Williams's, Lewis's, Morgans, &c. &c. without number, and, by joining the p, the Pritchards, Powels, Parrys, i. e. ap Richard, ap Howell, ap Harry, &c. &c.). Thus Mr. Morgan ap William, Sir Richard's father, seems, from the pedigree, to have taken the family name of Williams; but, as the surname of Williams was of so late standing, his majesty recommended it to Sir Richard, to use that of Cromwell, in honour of his uncle Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, whose present greatness entirely obliterated his former meanness (Various lives of Oliver, lord protector, &c. as also miss Cromwell's pedigree); and it is observable, that Sir Richard's brothers also changed their name to Cromwell (Will of Sir Richard Williams, alias Cromwell, prerogative-office, London, Allan 20. Pedigree of the Williams's, alias Cromwells, Harl. M.S.S. vol. 1174, and Harl. M.S.S. vol. 4135). Thus did the Williams's take, or super-add the surname of Cromwell to that of Williams; and, in almost all their deeds and wills, they constantly wrote themselves Williams, alias Cromwell, down to the seventeenth century. Though the cause of this change is well known, the time is not: many writers pretend the name of Cromwell was not taken up until the time that Sir Richard, was knighted during a tournament; but this is certainly erroneous, as there are grants of ecclesiastical lands patted to him by his names of Williams, alias Cromwell, as early as 1538: these authors are equally mistaken in supposing that the king never knew Sir Richard until the tournament, which cannot be; because those very grants patted some time before these martial games. With the name of Cromwell, Sir Richard assumed the arms of that family; but Sir Henry, his son, and his descendants, retook the proper arms of the Williams's, and never used any other (if the augmentation of the crest is excepted).

view all 18

Richard Williams, alias Cromwell's Timeline

Lanishen (within present Cardiff), Glamorganshire, Wales
Age 4
Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom
Age 21
Shropshire, England, United Kingdom
Age 24
England, United Kingdom
Age 24
England, United Kingdom
Age 25
Hinchinbrooke, Huntingdon, England
Age 27
Hinchinbrooke, Huntingdon, England
Age 27
Hinchingbrooke, Huntington, England
Age 30
Clearwell, Newland, Gloucestershire, England