Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton

Last updated

The Earl of Southampton
Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger
Born21 December 1505
London
Died30 July 1550(1550-07-30) (aged 44)
Lincoln Place, London
Noble family Wriothesley
Spouse(s)Jane Cheney
Issue
William Wriothesley
Anthony Wriothesley
Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton
Elizabeth Wriothesley
Mary Wriothesley
Katherine Wriothesley
Anne Wriothesley
Mabel Wriothesley
Father William Wriothesley, otherwise Wrythe
MotherAgnes Drayton
Arms of Wriothesley: Azure, a cross or between four hawks close argent WriothesleyArms.png
Arms of Wriothesley: Azure, a cross or between four hawks close argent
Quartered arms of Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, KG Coat of arms of Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, KG.png
Quartered arms of Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, KG

Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton [lower-alpha 1] (21 December 1505 – 30 July 1550 [3] ), KG was an English peer, secretary of state, Lord Chancellor and Lord High Admiral. A naturally skilled but unscrupulous and devious politician who changed with the times and personally tortured Anne Askew, Wriothesley served as a loyal instrument of King Henry VIII in the latter's break with the Catholic church. Richly rewarded with royal gains from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he nevertheless prosecuted Calvinists and other dissident Protestants when political winds changed.

Contents

Early life

Thomas Wriothesley, born in London 21 December 1505, was the son of York Herald William Wriothesley, whose ancestors had spelled the family surname "Wryth", and Agnes Drayton, daughter and heiress of James Drayton of London. Thomas had two sisters, Elizabeth, born in 1507, and Anne, born in 1508, and a brother, Edward, born in 1509. Thomas's father and uncle were the first members of his family to use the "Wriothesley" spelling of the family surname. [4]

Wriothesley received his early education at St Paul's School, London. In 1522 he was admitted to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was taught law by Stephen Gardiner; although Wriothesley did not take a degree, he and Gardiner remained lifelong friends. In 1524, at the age of nineteen, he entered a career at court and came to the attention of Thomas Cromwell. Before 4 May 1530 he was appointed joint Clerk of the Signet under Gardiner, by then secretary to King Henry VIII, a post Wriothesley held for a decade while continuing in Cromwell's service. [5] One historian has described the young lawyer as "able, entreprising, tenacious and ruthless, yet unsufferably overconfident and egotistic." [6]

A useful courtier

A member of the royal secretariat, Wriothesley and William Brereton were charged with helping secure an annulment for the king against Katherine of Aragon from the Pope to allow Anne Boleyn to assume her royal position; they were sent out to get members of the nobility to sign written statements indicating assent to the annulment. [7] Wriothesley was at Windsor with the Court when the series of protests known as the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in reaction to the religious changes brought in by the crown and its advisors. The Clerk of the Signet admired the King but probably learnt lessons of cruelty from the treatment of Robert Aske in 1536. "It was upon such men that the King relied at times of crisis". Wriothesley's services were richly rewarded at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He was granted extensive lands between Southampton and Winchester, once belonging to the abbeys of Beaulieu and Titchfield. Even with the retrospection of later life he was able to 'forget' the excesses of the 1530s, Wriothesley was still able to exaggerate his fidelity to his "benign and pleasant' King, whom he knew only in the febrile atmosphere of the Court. [8]

Until May 1539, he was Henry VIII's ambassador in Brussels. [9] In late 1539, Anne of Cleves was due to come from the German principality to England, and Wriothesley was to lead the naval escort. On 27 December the Princess arrived at Deal in Kent, from whence she was shown to Dover Castle; on New Years Day the party reached Rochester Castle. Wriothesley continued to support Norfolk's Catholic party, but only when it suited him at court, as parties emerged between the reformists and conservatives. In the absence of a predominant figure the Council became more conciliar towards the end of the reign. Having been sent on diplomatic errands abroad, in 1540 Sir Thomas Wriothesley was made one of the king's principal secretaries (a position he held jointly with Sir Ralph Sadler), acting as Secretary to the Privy Council. Dividing the duties, Sadler's responsibility was as personal secretary to the King, whereas Wriothesley's were purely political. Wriothesley was rewarded with the dissolved abbey of Titchfield for good service to the king. He rapidly converted it into a country house, which became the family's ancestral seat. Wriothesley's noble parentage and strong personality enabled him to dominate the commoner Sadler. Knighted in 1540, Wriothesley made friends with Sir Anthony Browne of the refounded Gentleman Pensioners, who acted as an armed bodyguard of the King pursuant to the Greenwich Ordinances. [10] The expansion of the Pensioners from 50 to 350 members signalled the resurgence of the conservative noble faction at court during the 1540s. Wriothesley, having earned his place at court as a faithful attendant to Thomas Cromwell, betrayed Cromwell in 1540, telling the king that Cromwell was indiscreet about Henry's inability to consummate his marriage to Anne of Cleves. This news, coupled with the Cleves alliance threatening war with Emperor Charles V, proved Cromwell's undoing. Wriothesley happily lied to the Council and betrayed his master, in order to take his place beside the king.

Queen Catherine Howard's conviction and execution for adultery signalled that the political pendulum was swinging away from Norfolk once more. On 13 November 1541, Secretary Wriothesley was sent to announce the bad news to members of the Queen's Household at Hampton Court; all her chamber were dismissed and sent home. In 1542 it was said that Wriothesley governed almost everything in England. [11] He sought to bring about an alliance between England and Spain in 1543. Wriothesley was one of the Council led by Catholic Bishop Gardiner, who ordered the imprisonment of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey for being drunk and disorderly. He supported Gardiner's crackdown against Lutheran opinions, threatening the lives of reformers Miles Coverdale and Hugh Latimer, presaging the reign of 'Bloody' Mary. All Protestants were rooted out of the royal household, with those of the new extreme Puritan sect Calvinism being treated with especial prejudice. The Council even intimidated Archbishop Cranmer, who was protected by the King himself. Sir Ralph Sadler was ousted as the principal secretary to the King, to be replaced by the more judicious and discreet William Paget. [12] But the rise of the conservatives meant Wriothesley had eventually to go, in January 1544, in favour of the openly Catholic Sir William Petre. Fortunately for Cranmer and others, the King was not prepared to turn the clock back to the 1530s, and Catherine Parr, with her experience in two previous marriages, impressed Wriothesley by offering Henry stability in his old age. Furthermore, as Governess to Princess Elizabeth, bringing the children to court at Christmas 1543, Parr showed off what Wriothesley had accurately predicted to be Elizabeth's promise as a future leader.

A confident counsellor

Wriothesley disliked the arrogant, swaggering Earl of Hertford; they had long been enemies. [13] Wriothesley and Secretary Paget tried to effect a necessary reconciliation, which prompted the former to step down. [14] Hertford was sent north to fight the Scots when on 22 April 1544, Lord Audley died, leaving Wriothesley to be appointed Lord Chancellor the next month, at a time when Gardiner's power was waning. Ever the unscrupulous schemer, Wriothesley was purposely chosen to keep both papists and reformists at bay. The King relied heavily on his aristocratic friends Suffolk and Wriothesley to secure a balance of power in the Privy Chamber. So the King prepared an invasion of France, much to the nobility's approval. [15] Wriothesley was created Baron Wriothesley of Titchfield in 1544. But as Lord Chancellor he became notorious for torturing Anne Askew, a self-confessed Protestant, personally operating the wheel on the rack. [16] The Catholic faction was determined to root out heresy, suspecting Queen Catherine's influence over the royal children. When Gardiner tried to arrest Surrey's friends with Wriothesley's support, the earl was severely reprimanded by the King. On 6 July 1546 the King moved to Greenwich Palace; with the conservatives holding the Secretaryship, Chancellor, and with leading privy councillors, they tried to make further arrests. Wriothesley secured the royal warrant for Catherine's arrest but when he went to present it to the king, he was despatched by the King as "Arrant knave! Beast! Fool!", a humiliation especially damaging given that his faction was already in decline. By September 1546 they were outnumbered by the reformists; his hatred for Hertford had deepened. Privy Council meetings broke out into fisticuffs. The Lord Chancellor conducted French Lord Admiral Claud d'Annebaut to Hampton Court for a royal audience. He accompanied the royal progress and joined the hunting at Windsor, but Wriothesley had lost control of the Privy Chamber. Speechless and overcome with grief, Lord Chancellor Wriothesley could do nothing to prevent Hertford from taking control in defiance of the late King's will. [17]

Under Edward VI

He was one of the executors of Henry's will, and in accordance with the dead King's wishes he was created Earl of Southampton on 16 February 1547 and was a member of the Regency Council that would rule collectively during King Edward VI's minority. [18] He was one of the few members of the council to oppose the rise of the king's maternal uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, to the position of Lord Protector. [19] Wriothesley objected to Somerset's assumption of monarchical power over the Council. In March 1547, he then found himself abruptly dismissed from the chancellorship on charges of selling off some of his offices to delegates. Also he lost his seat on the Privy Council. [20]

Later he was readmitted to the Council, and he took a leading part in bringing about the fall of the Duke of Somerset, but he had not regained his former position when he died on 30 July 1550. His successor in the earldom was his son, Henry.

Marriage and issue

Southampton married Jane Cheney (d. 15 September 1574) in 1533, the daughter and heiress of William Cheney of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, by Emma Walwyn, daughter of Thomas Walwyn, by whom he had three sons and five daughters: [21]

In fiction

Notes

  1. The pronunciation uncertain. /ˈrzli/ RYZE-lee (archaic), [1] /ˈrɒtsli/ ROT-slee (present-day) [1] and /ˈrəθsli/ RY-əth-slee [2] have been suggested.

Related Research Articles

Anne of Cleves 16th-century queen consort of England

Anne of Cleves was Queen of England from 6 January to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. Not much is known about Anne before 1527, when she became betrothed to Francis, Duke of Bar, son and heir of Antoine, Duke of Lorraine, although their marriage did not proceed. In March 1539, negotiations for Anne's marriage to Henry began, as Henry believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William, who was a leader of the Protestants of western Germany, to strengthen his position against potential attacks from Catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Thomas Cromwell English statesman and chief minister to King Henry VIII of England

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, when he was beheaded on orders of the king.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset PC, also known as Edward Semel, was the eldest surviving brother of Queen Jane Seymour (d. 1537), the third wife of King Henry VIII. He was Lord Protector of England from 1547 to 1549 during the minority of his nephew King Edward VI (1547–1553). Despite his popularity with the common people, his policies often angered the gentry and he was overthrown.

George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford British Viscount (1504-1536)

George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford was an English courtier and nobleman who played a prominent role in the politics of the early 1530s, and was the brother of Queen Anne Boleyn, from 1533 the second wife of King Henry VIII and thus the maternal uncle of Queen Elizabeth I. Following his father's promotion in the peerage in 1529 to Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond, he adopted his father's junior title Viscount Rochford as a courtesy title. He was accused of incest with his sister Anne during the period of her trial for high treason, as a result of which both were executed.

John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford

John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford was an English royal minister in the Tudor era. He served variously as Lord High Admiral and Lord Privy Seal. Among the lands and property he was given by Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, were the Abbey and town of Tavistock, and the area that is now Covent Garden. Russell is the ancestor of all subsequent Earls and Dukes of Bedford and Earls Russell, including John Russell, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Stephen Gardiner

Stephen Gardiner was an English bishop and politician during the English Reformation period who served as Lord Chancellor during the reign of Queen Mary I and King Philip.

Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich Lord Chancellor of England

Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, was Lord Chancellor during King Edward VI of England's reign, from 1547 until January 1552. He was the founder of Felsted School with its associated alms houses in Essex in 1564. He was a beneficiary of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and persecuted opponents of church and state. He personally tortured the English writer, poet and Protestant martyr Anne Askew.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton 17th-century English noble

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, , was the only son of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, and Mary Browne, daughter of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu. Shakespeare's two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, were dedicated to Southampton, who is frequently identified as the Fair Youth of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Ralph Sadler English statesman, who served Henry VIII as Privy Councillor, Secretary of State and ambassador to Scotland

Sir Ralph Sadler or Sadlier PC, Knight banneret was an English statesman, who served Henry VIII as Privy Councillor, Secretary of State and ambassador to Scotland. Sadlier went on to serve Edward VI. Having signed the device settling the crown on Jane Grey in 1553, he was obliged to retire to his estates during the reign of Mary I. Sadlier was restored to royal favour during the reign of Elizabeth I, serving as a Privy Councillor and once again participating in Anglo-Scottish diplomacy. He was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in May 1568.

William Petre 16th-century English politician

Sir William Petre was Secretary of State to three successive Tudor monarchs, namely Kings Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary I. He also deputised for the Secretary of State to Elizabeth I.

Francis Weston

Sir Francis Weston KB was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber at the court of King Henry VIII of England. He became a friend of the king but was later accused of high treason and adultery with Anne Boleyn, the king's second wife. Weston was condemned to death, together with George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, Henry Norris, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton. They were all executed on 17 May 1536, two days before Anne Boleyn suffered a similar fate.

Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, was an English peer.

Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell English peer

Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell, KB was an English peer. He was the only son of the Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex and Elizabeth Wyckes.

Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu

Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, KB, PC was an English peer during the Tudor period.

Nicholas Carew (courtier) 16th-century English politician

Sir Nicholas Carew KG, of Beddington in Surrey, was an English courtier and diplomat during the reign of King Henry VIII. He was executed for his alleged part in the Exeter Conspiracy.

Events from the 1500s in England.

Events from the year 1505 in England.

Sir Francis Bryan was an English courtier and diplomat during the reign of Henry VIII. He was Chief Gentleman of the Privy chamber and Lord Justice of Ireland. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bryan always retained Henry's favour, achieving this by altering his opinions to conform to the king's. His rakish sexual life and his lack of principle at the time of his cousin Anne Boleyn's downfall led to his earning the nickname the Vicar of Hell.

William Honnyng (1520–1569) was an English Member of Parliament and Tudor Court official who served as Clerk of the Signet and Clerk of the Privy Council under Henry VIII and Edward VI.

Sir George Blagge was an English courtier, politician, soldier and a minor poet. He was the Member of Parliament for Bedford from 1545 to 1547, and Westminster from 1547 to 1551, during the reign of Edward VI. His trial and condemnation for heresy in 1546 earned him a place in Protestant martyrology. His family surname was frequently rendered Blage by contemporaries, while another variant was Blake.

References

  1. Montague-Smith 1977, p. 410
  2. Wells 2008
  3. Pollard, Alfred Frederick (1900). "Wriothesley, Thomas (1505-1550)"  . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . 63. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. Cokayne 1953 , p. 122; Graves 2004.
  5. Graves 2004; Elton 1953 , pp. 308ff..
  6. Weir, p.399
  7. Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII; Weir (2001), p.311
  8. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Domestic State Papers: Spanish; Weir (2001), p.415
  9. Thomas Wriothesley
  10. Weir (2001), Henry VIII, p.422
  11. Edward Hall, The Triumphant Reign; Weir (2001), p.455
  12. Weir (2001), p.464
  13. Weir (2001), p.479
  14. Letters and Papers of the Reign of King Henry VII; Weir, p.479
  15. Weir (2001), p.479-80
  16. Alison Weir (1992). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Pimlico Books.
  17. Tytler, P. (1839), England under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary, 2 vols, London; Weir (2001), p.503
  18. Starkey 2002 , pp. 138–39; Alford 2002 , p. 69
  19. Elton 1977 , p. 333
  20. Loades 2004 , pp. 33–34; Elton 1977 , p. 333
  21. Cokayne 1953 , pp. 125–66; Stopes 1922 , pp. 486–7; Akrigg 1968 , pp. 4, 6; Elzinga 2004; Goulding 1920 , p. 23; Baker 2004.
  22. Cooper 1858 , p. 469.
  23. Dugdale reverses the order of her marriages.

Bibliography

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Cromwell
Secretary of State
1540–1544
With: Sir Ralph Sadler 1540–1543
Sir William Paget 1543–1544
Succeeded by
Sir William Petre
Sir William Paget
Preceded by
The Lord Audley of Walden
Lord Chancellor
1544–1547
Succeeded by
The Lord St John
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Southampton
1547–1550
Succeeded by
Henry Wriothesley
Baron Wriothesley
1544–1550