Thomas Cromwell (approximately 1485 – 1540) is known for being the Chief Minister of King Henry VIII between 1532 – 40.
Cromwell’s father was a blacksmith and cloth merchant. Cromwell was born in Surrey near Putney Heath and had two sisters, called Katherine and Elizabeth. The son of the former, Richard, worked in Cromwell’s service and became the great-father of Oliver Cromwell.
During his youth, Cromwell visited France and Italy and may have been involved in the Battle of Garigliano in Italy in 1503.
In 1513 Cromwell married a woman called Elizabeth Wyckes (1489 – 1527) who was a widow. They had a son called Gregory and two daughters, Anne and Grace. Both of the daughters died in childhood.
In 1523 Cromwell gained a seat in the House of Commons and a year later he began working in the service of Cardinal Wolsey, who was Henry VIII’s Chief Minister at the time. After helping with the dissolution of several monasteries Cromwell became a member of Wolsey’s council in 1526, subsequently becoming one of his most senior advisors, before he was executed. In 1529 Cromwell was given a seat in Parliament, and the following year was appointed to the Privy Council.
Cromwell was a key figure in the Reformation of the church that would allow Henry to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon. This was achieved in 1532. Two years later Cromwell supervised the meeting of Parliament that was to break England from the Roman Church for good, and also that year became the Chief Minister and Principal Secretary of Henry VIII.
In 1536 Cromwell accused Anne Boleyn of having several affairs, including with her brother, because she had failed to produce a son and heir. This resulted in Anne’s execution, and the marriage of Henry to his third wife, Jane Seymour. Also that year, Cromwell became the Lord Privy Seal.
In 1538 Cromwell was responsible for a lot of religious reform, including the removal of statues, relics and images, which Henry was not happy with. It was this, and Cromwell’s suggestion of Anne of Cleeves as a wife for the King, which led to his death.
Cromwell was arrested for charges including treason and corruption in June 1540 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. After the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleeves was official, Cromwell was executed on Tower Hill, in July 1540. His head was placed on a spike on London Bridge.
A few months after the execution, Henry began voicing his regret at the false charges he now believed had led to the imprisonment and death of his Chief Minister.