Thomas Ruthall

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Thomas Ruthall
Bishop of Durham
Church Roman Catholic
Diocese Diocese of Durham
In office1509–1523
Predecessor Christopher Bainbridge
Successor Thomas Wolsey
Other postsDean of Bocking (1495–?)
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge (1503–1504)
Dean of Salisbury (1505–1508)
Dean of Wimborne (c.1508–1509)
Lord Privy Seal (1516–1523)
Ordination1490 (deacon)
Personal details
Born Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England
Died(1523-02-04)4 February 1523 (aged c.55)
Westminster, Middlesex, England
BuriedSt John's Chapel, Westminster Abbey
Nationality English
Denomination Catholic
Residence Durham Place (at death)
Alma mater University of Oxford

Thomas Ruthall (also spelled Ruthal, Rowthel or Rowthall; died 4 February 1523) was an English churchman, administrator and diplomat. He was a leading councillor of Henry VIII of England. [1]

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.


Education and early career

He was born at Cirencester. He was educated at the University of Oxford, ordained a deacon on 10 April 1490 at Worcester, and incorporated DD at Cambridge in 1500. Before this date he had entered the service of Henry VII of England. In June 1499, then described as prothonotary, he went on an embassy to Louis XII of France, and on his return occupied the position of king's secretary. [2] [3]

Cirencester market town in east Gloucestershire, England

Cirencester ) is a market town in Gloucestershire, England, 80 miles (130 km) west of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswolds. It is the home of the Royal Agricultural University, the oldest agricultural college in the English-speaking world, founded in 1840. The town's Corinium Museum has an extensive Roman collection. The Roman name for the town was Corinium, which is thought to have been associated with the ancient British tribe of the Dobunni, having the same root word as the River Churn. The earliest known reference to the town was by Ptolemy in AD 150.

University of Oxford university in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly called 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Worcester Cathedral City and non-metropolitan district in England

Worcester is a city in Worcestershire, England, 31 miles (50 km) southwest of Birmingham, 101 miles (163 km) west-northwest of London, 27 miles (43 km) north of Gloucester and 23 miles (37 km) northeast of Hereford. The population is approximately 100,000. The River Severn flanks the western side of the city centre, which is overlooked by Worcester Cathedral.

Church and court career

Ruthall had a long series of ecclesiastical preferments. In 1495 he had the rectory of Bocking, Essex (whose priest is called the Dean of Bocking), in 1502 he became a prebendary of Wells, and in 1503 Archdeacon of Gloucester, Dean of Salisbury and chancellor of Cambridge. In 1505 he was made prebendary of Lincoln; Henry VII, who had already made him a privy councillor, appointed him Bishop of Durham in 1509, but Henry died before Ruthall was consecrated. Henry VIII confirmed his appointment, and continued him in the office of secretary. He was part of the skeleton council that accompanied Henry VIII to the Tower of London at the beginning of his reign, following the death of Henry VII. [4] In 1510, with Richard Foxe and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, he negotiated a fragile peace with France. [2] [5]

Bocking, Essex settlement and former civil parish in Essex, England

Bocking is an area of Braintree, Essex, England, which was a former village and civil parish. In 1934 it became part of the civil parish of Braintree and Bocking, which is now within Braintree District.

Wells Cathedral Anglican cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England

Wells Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England, dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle and seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, whose throne or cathedra it holds as mother church of the diocese. Built between 1176 and 1450 to replace an earlier church on the site since 705, it is moderately sized for an English cathedral. Its broad west front and large central tower are dominant features in the city and countryside. It has been called "unquestionably one of the most beautiful" and "most poetic" of English cathedrals. Its Gothic architecture is mostly in the Early English style of the late 12th–early 13th centuries, lacking the Romanesque work that survives in many other cathedrals. Building began about 1175 at the east end with the choir. Historian John Harvey sees it as Europe's first truly Gothic structure, breaking with the last constraints of Romanesque. The stonework of its pointed arcades and fluted piers bears pronounced mouldings and carved capitals in a foliate, "stiff leaf" style. Its Early English front with 300 sculpted figures, is described as a "supreme triumph of the combined plastic arts in England". The east end retains a rare amount of ancient stained glass. Unlike many cathedrals of monastic foundation, Wells has many surviving secular buildings linked to its chapter of secular canons, including the Bishop's Palace and the 15th-century residential Vicars' Close. The cathedral is a Grade I listed building.

The Archdeacon of Gloucester is a senior ecclesiastical officer in the Diocese of Gloucester, England. Among her or his responsibilities, she or he has care of clergy and church buildings within the area of the Archdeaconry of Gloucester.

He went to France with the king in 1513 with a hundred men, but was sent back to England when James IV of Scotland threatened war. He took a part in the preparations for defence, strengthened Norham Castle, and wrote to Thomas Wolsey after the Battle of Flodden (1513). He was present at the marriage of Louis XII and the Princess Mary Tudor in 1514, and in 1516 was made Lord Privy Seal. [2]

James IV of Scotland King of Scotland

James IV was the King of Scotland from 11 June 1488 to his death. He assumed the throne following the death of his father, King James III, at the Battle of Sauchieburn, a rebellion in which the younger James played an indirect role. He is generally regarded as the most successful of the Stewart monarchs of Scotland, but his reign ended in a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden. He was the last monarch from the island of Great Britain to be killed in battle.

Norham Castle partly ruined castle in Northumberland, England

Norham Castle is a castle in Northumberland, England, overlooking the River Tweed, on the border between England and Scotland. It is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The castle saw much action during the wars between England and Scotland.

Thomas Wolsey 16th-century Archbishop of York, Chancellor of England, and cardinal

Thomas Wolsey was an English archbishop, statesman and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. When Henry VIII became King of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King's almoner. Wolsey's affairs prospered, and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state. He also held important ecclesiastical appointments. These included the Archbishopric of York – the second most important role in the English church – and acting as Papal legate. His appointment as a cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515 gave him precedence over all other English clergy.

In 1518 he was present when Wolsey was made a papal legate, and was one of the commissioners when the Princess Mary was betrothed to the Dauphin, Francis III, Duke of Brittany. He was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and was again at Calais with Wolsey in 1521. When Buckingham was examined by the king, Ruthall was present as secretary. A hardworking official, he did a great deal of the interviewing necessary in diplomatic negotiations. Brewer represents him as Wolsey's drudge, and Giustinian speaks of his "singing treble to the cardinal's bass." He died on 4 February 1523 at Durham Place, London, and was buried in St John's Chapel, Westminster Abbey. [2]

Papal legate a personal representative of the pope

A papal legate or apostolic legate is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters.

Mary I of England Queen of England and Ireland from 1553-1558

Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. The executions that marked her pursuit of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in England and Ireland led to her denunciation as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents.

Francis III, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany

Francis III was Duke of Brittany and Dauphin of Viennois. He was the first son of King Francis I of France and Duchess Claude of Brittany.


As a benefactor he repaired the bridge at Newcastle, and built a great chamber at Bishop Auckland. He also increased the endowment of the grammar school at Cirencester which had been established by John Chedworth, in 1460. [2] He was a patron of Erasmus. [6] Thomas More was a colleague in government, and a friend, and dedicated his edition of Lucian to Ruthall. [7]

Bishop Auckland Market town and civil parish in County Durham, England

Bishop Auckland is a market town and civil parish in County Durham in north east England. It is located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Darlington, 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Durham and 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Crook at the confluence of the River Wear with its tributary the River Gaunless. According to the 2001 census, Bishop Auckland has a population of 24,392, increasing to 25,455 at the 2016 estimate.

Erasmus Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, philosopher and theologian

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, known as Erasmus or Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch philosopher and Christian humanist who is widely considered to have been the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. Originally trained as a Catholic priest, Erasmus was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will,In Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.

Thomas More 15th/16th-century English statesman

Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a Chancellor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.

Styles and titles

See also


  1. G. R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (1953), p. 122.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ruthall, Thomas"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  3. Gairdner, Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII, Rolls Ser. i. 405, &c.; Cal. State Papers, Venetian, i. 795, 799.
  4. David Starkey, Henry VIII: A Biography
  5. Thomas Fowler, The history of Corpus Christi college (1893), p. 15.
  6. H. C. Porter, Fisher and Erasmus, p. 87 in Brendan Bradshaw, Eamon Duffy (editors), Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher (1989).
  7. Letter to Ruthall, in The Yale Edition of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More Volume 3, Part 1, Translations of Lucian


Academic offices
Preceded by
George Fitzhugh
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Fisher
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Edward Cheyne
Dean of Salisbury
Succeeded by
William Atwater
Preceded by
Hugh Oldham
Dean of Wimborne
Succeeded by
Henry Hornby
Preceded by
Christopher Bainbridge
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Thomas Wolsey
Political offices
Preceded by
Dr Owen King
Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Richard Pace
Preceded by
Richard Foxe
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
Henry Marney