Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex

Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex,

1485?–1540, English statesman. While a young man he lived abroad as a soldier, accountant, and merchant, and on his return (c.1512) to England he engaged in the wool trade and eventually became a lawyer. He entered Parliament in 1523 and soon became legal secretary to Cardinal WolseyWolsey, Thomas
, 1473?–1530, English statesman and prelate, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Early Career

Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, Wolsey served for a while as master of the Magdalen College school. He was ordained a priest in 1498.
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, for whom he managed the suppression of minor monasteries. He avoided being disgraced with Wolsey in 1529, and by 1531 was serving Henry VIIIHenry VIII,
1491–1547, king of England (1509–47), second son and successor of Henry VII. Early Life

In his youth he was educated in the new learning of the Renaissance and developed great skill in music and sports.
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 as a member of the privy council. By 1532 he had become the king's chief minister and was responsible for drafting most of the acts of Parliament by which the Reformation was effected. He probably originated the idea of making the king supreme head of the church in England. As Henry's vicar-general after 1535, he supervised (1536–39) the visitation and suppression of monasteries and the confiscation of monastic lands and wealth. Much of Cromwell's unpopularity with the people, demonstrated by the Pilgrimage of GracePilgrimage of Grace,
1536, rising of Roman Catholics in N England. It was a protest against the government's abolition of papal supremacy (1534) and confiscation (1536) of the smaller monastic properties, intensified by grievances against inclosures and high rents and taxes.
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, derived from the ruthlessness of his agents in carrying out that project. He issued injunctions to the clergy, regulating their conduct and duties, assailed the worship of images and relics, and initiated a much-needed system of parish registers. He was made a baron and lord privy seal in 1536, lord great chamberlain in 1539, and earl of Essex in 1540. He negotiated the king's marriage to Anne of ClevesAnne of Cleves
, 1515–57, fourth queen consort of Henry VIII of England. The sister of William, duke of Cleves, one of the most powerful of the German Protestant princes, she was considered a desirable match for Henry by those English councilors, most notably Thomas
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 as a means of securing the North German princes as allies against the Catholic Holy Roman emperor Charles V. When Anne proved unattractive and the alliance failed, Henry allowed charges of treason and heresy to be brought against Cromwell by his bitter enemy, the duke of Norfolk. Cromwell was condemned by act of attainder and beheaded.


See biographies by R. B. Merriman (1902), T. Maynard (1950), A. G. Dickens (1959), T. Borman (2014), and D. MacCulloch (2018); G. R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (1953) and Reform and Renewal (1973).

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References in periodicals archive ?
(10) Cromwell 'was the son of Walter Cromwell of Putney, Surrey, who made his name there as a blacksmith, fuller, and cloth merchant, as well as the owner of both a hostelry and a brewery'; see Howard Leithead, 'Cromwell, Thomas, Earl of Essex', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (hereafter ODNB), <> [accessed 25 April 2007].