Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Chief Minister to Henry VIII

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Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Chief Minister to Henry VIII

Birthdate: (54)
Birthplace: Putney, Surrey, , England
Death: Died in Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England
Cause of death: Executed
Place of Burial: Tower of London, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Walter Smyth Cromwell and Catherine Cromwell
Husband of Elizabeth (Wyckes) Cromwell
Partner of Elizabeth Somerset, Countess of Worcester (d. 1565)
Father of Janne Cromwell; Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell of Oakham Castle; Anne Cromwell; Grace Cromwell; Anne Cromwell and 1 other
Brother of Katherine Williams; Daughter of Walter Cromwell and Elizabeth MacWilliam

Occupation: 1st Earl of Essex
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Chief Minister to Henry VIII

Wikipedia: English

Thomas Cromwell born c. 1485 at Putney, Middlesex, England, executed July 28, 1540, at Tower Hill, Tower of London, Middlesex, England, age 55

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


  1. Elizabeth Wykes

Children of Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth Wykes:

  1. Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell
  2. Anne Cromwell
  3. Grace Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell was the son of Walter Smythe Cromwell and Catherine Clossop


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British Statesman. First Earl of Essex, and Chief Minister to Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540. Cromwell was one of the instigators of the English Reformation which separated the English church from the papacy in Rome. He also was one of those who persuaded the king to make himself head of the English church. In his role of Viceregent in Spirituals he presided over the dissolution of the monasteries and the redistribution of their wealth. He was also the architect of the official union of England and Wales. Having gained Henry's favor by supporting his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Cromwell lost it by brokering Henry's later union to Anne of Cleves, which failed as a marriage and as a political alliance. He was convicted of treason and executed. (bio by: Vincent Astor)

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex KG PC ( 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 Queen Catherine of Aragon so that Henry could lawfully marry Anne Boleyn. Henry failed to obtain the Pope's approval for the annulment in 1534, so Parliament endorsed the king's claim to be Supreme Head of the Church of England, giving him the authority to annul his own marriage. Cromwell subsequently charted an evangelical and reformist course for the 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 German princess Anne of Cleves. Cromwell had hoped that the marriage would breathe fresh life into the Reformation in England, but Henry found his new bride unattractive and it turned into a disaster for Cromwell, ending 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 discounted Cromwell's role, calling him a doctrinaire hack who was little more than the agent of the despotic King Henry VIII.[citation needed] Geoffrey Elton, however, featured him as the central figure in the Tudor revolution in government in The Tudor Revolution (1953). Elton portrayed Cromwell as the presiding genius, much more so than the king, handling the break with Rome and creating the laws and administrative procedures that reshaped post-Reformation England. Elton wrote that Cromwell had been responsible for translating royal supremacy into parliamentary terms, creating powerful new organs of government to take charge of Church lands, and largely removing the medieval features of central government.

Subsequent historians have agreed with Elton as to Cromwell's importance, though not with his claims of "revolution". Leithead (2004) wrote, "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."

Early life Thomas Cromwell was born around 1485, in Putney, Surrey, as the son of Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith, fuller and cloth merchant, and owner of both a hostelry and a brewery. Thomas's mother, Katherine, was the aunt of Nicholas Glossop of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. She 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 elder, Katherine, married Morgan Williams, a Welsh lawyer; the younger, Elizabeth, married a farmer, William Wellyfed. Katherine and Morgan's son, Richard, was employed in his uncle's service, and changed his name to Cromwell.

Little is known about 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.

Cromwell declared 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 alleged[by whom?] 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.[citation needed]

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, while documents in the Vatican Archives suggest that he was an agent for the Archbishop of York, Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge, and handled English ecclesiastical issues before the Roman Rota.

Marriage and issue[edit] 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. The couple had three children:

Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (c. 1520–51), who was Elizabeth Seymour's second husband. Anne Cromwell (died c. 1529) Grace Cromwell (died c. 1529) Cromwell's wife is believed to have died during the epidemic of sweating sickness sweeping across England in 1527–28, most likely in the summer of 1528. The last surviving reference to his wife is in a letter from Richard Cave, dated 18 June 1528. Cromwell's daughters, Anne and Grace, are believed to have died not long after their mother. Provisions made for Anne and Grace in Cromwell's will, dated 12 July 1529, were crossed out at some later date. Gregory, too, eventually died of sweating sickness and he outlived his father by only 11 years.

Thomas Cromwell also had an illegitimate daughter, Jane (c. 1520/25 – c. 1580). Jane's early life is a complete mystery. According to novelist Dame Hilary Mantel, "Cromwell had an illegitimate daughter, and beyond the fact that she existed, we know very little about her. She comes briefly into the records, in an incredibly obscure way — she's in the archives of the county of Chester." Jane married William Hough (c. 1525–85), of Leighton in Wirral, Cheshire, sometime between 1535-39. William Hough was the son of Richard Hough (1508–73/74) who was Cromwell's agent in Chester from 1534-40. It is unknown what role Thomas and Gregory Cromwell played in her life. Jane and her husband William Hough remained staunch Roman Catholics, who, together with their daughter, Alice, her husband, William Whitmore, and their children, all came to the attention of the authorities as recusants during the reign of Elizabeth I.

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Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Chief Minister to Henry VIII's Timeline

Putney, Surrey, , England
Age 28
Putney, Surrey, England
Age 30
Putney, Surrey, , England
Age 31
Essex, England
Age 32
Putney, Surrey, , England
July 28, 1540
Age 54
Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England