Thomas Cromwell was born to Katherine Maverell and Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith, fuller, brewer and tavern owner in Putney, Surrey. He had an elder sister Katherine.
Thomas’s sister, Elizabeth was born to Katherine Maverell and Walter Cromwell in Putney, Surrey.
Thomas left his family home and sailed to the continent where he may have served as a mercenary.
1503 (28th December)
Battle of Garigliano
Some sources state that Cromwell fought on the side of the French army at this battle in Italy. The French lost the battle and Cromwell left the French army.
Cromwell entered the service of a Florentine banker, Francesco Frescobaldi.
Cromwell spent time in the Low Countries among the merchant community.
Thomas Cromwell was in Rome, possibly working as an agent for the Archbishop of York, Christopher Bainbridge.
Thomas Cromwell married Elizabeth Wyckes, widow of Thomas Williams.
Thomas Cromwell entered the service of Thomas Wolsey
, Lord Chancellor.
Cromwell led an embassy to Rome to obtain a papal bull for the town of Boston Lincolnshire to reinstate indulgences.
A son, Gregory, was born to Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth Wyckes in London.
Thomas Cromwell was working in London as a lawyer.
A daughter, Anne, was born to Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth Wyckes in London.
A daughter, Grace, was born to Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth Wyckes in London.
Thomas entered the House of Commons as a Burgess.
Cromwell was elected a member of Gray’s Inn. This entitled him to work as a barrister.
Thomas Wolsey began dissolving a number of monasteries that had declined in practice. He appointed Cromwell, to arrange the selling of the monasteries’ lands and possessions.
Thomas was promoted to become a member of Thomas Wolsey’s council.
1527 (early March)
French ambassadors arrived in England to negotiate terms for peace and a marriage between England and France. Negotiations were suspended when the Bishop of Tarbes questioned the validity of King Henry VIII’s
marriage, having married his brother’s widow, and the legitimacy of Princess Mary
King Henry VIII knew that the Bishop of Tarbes’ comments echoed what he had been feeling for some time. He was especially concerned by a passage in Leviticus that warns of the consequences which would be inflicted by God on anyone marrying his brother’s widow. Henry reasoned that the consequences in his case were a lack of a male heir. He felt that he had three options:
1. He could prove that the dispensation granted in 1503 by Pope Julius II allowing him to marry Catherine of Aragon
was invalid on some technical point.
2. He could prove that Julius II had exceeded his papal powers by granting the dispensation. This would involve proving that it was forbidden for a man to marry his brother’s widow by God’s law and that the Pope did not have the power to override God’s law.
3. He could persuade Catherine to enter a convent.
Cromwell and Wolsey were kept busy trying to find evidence that would further Henry’s divorce. This had become more pressing since Henry had fallen for Anne Boleyn
. The line of enquiry centred around trying to find out whether or not Catherine’s marriage with Prince Arthur
had been consummated. They also tried to find evidence that Henry had been coerced into a marriage with Catherine. Eventually Wolsey came up with a plan. Wolsey would use his power as papal legate to summon Henry to appear before an ecclesiastical court which he would preside over. Henry would be charged with co-habiting with his brother’s widow and would plead guilty to the charge. The court would then order him to separate from Catherine and the marriage would be declared invalid.
1527 (31st May)
Despite Wolsey’s best efforts the ecclesiastical court convened to try Henry’s marriage was unable to reach a decision regarding the King’s marriage. The commissioners decided that since any decision they made could be overturned by the Pope the case should be referred to Rome. However, the fact that the Pope was under the control of Charles V
, Catherine’s nephew, meant it was unlikely that Pope Clement VII would find in Henry’s favour.
1527 (22nd June)
Henry VIII told Catherine of Aragon that they must separate because they had been living in sin. He asked for her cooperation and said that she could choose a house to retire to until the matter was resolved. Catherine was very upset and told Henry that her marriage to him was lawful and that she would resist any move to have the marriage annulled.
1527 (late September)
The Boleyn family began persuading Henry VIII that Wolsey was working for his own interests rather than those of the King.
1528 (29th September)
The Pope’s envoy, Cardinal Campeggio
, reached Dover. Cromwell and Wolsey believed that he would try the King’s marriage but were alarmed to learn that he intended trying to effect a reconciliation between Catherine and Henry before he would even consider hearing the case.
Thomas Cromwell had risen to become Thomas Wolsey’s key adviser.
Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth, died.
Having failed to effect a reconciliation between Henry and Catherine or persuade Catherine to enter a convent, Campeggio opened a Legatine court to try the marriage. However, Catherine refused to acknowledge the court and lodged an appeal to Rome against the authority of the legatine court and the ability of Wolsey and Campeggio to try the case.
Having failed to secure a divorce for Henry VIII, Thomas Wolsey had fallen from favour.
1529 (late summer)
Thomas’s daughters, Anne and Grace, died. Their death was most likely due to sweating sickness.
1529 (9th October)
suggested that the King’s marriage should be tried by the Doctors of Divinity in the universities rather than by the Pope. Henry liked the idea and set Cranmer to put the plan into action. Henry now had no further use for Wolsey and so he was summoned to appear before judges to answer a charge of praemunire (exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction without the King’s permission).
1529 (30th October)
Thomas Wolsey was stripped of all his offices apart from the Archbishopric of York. He began a journey north to the Cathedral city.
Despite his close connection to Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell did not fall from favour and secured a position as Member of Parliament for Taunton.
1530 (1st November)
Having discovered that Wolsey was secretly working to bring about the downfall of Anne Boleyn, a warrant for his arrest was drawn up. It was sent to Henry Percy,
Earl of Northumberland, who was instructed to arrest Wolsey and bring him to London.
1530 (29th November)
Thomas Wolsey died at 8 am at the Abbey of St Mary in Leicester. He was journeying to London to answer a charge of treason.
King Henry VIII made Cromwell a member of the Privy Council.
Cromwell was working closely with Thomas Audely. Together thay supervised the King’s legal and parliamentary affairs.
1532 (18th March)
Supplication Against Ordinaries
This was a list of grievances against the Church and included questions regarding the right of the Church to make its own laws and the legality of ecclesiastical courts. Henry VIII was proclaimed Head of the Church in England.
1532 (14th April)
Cromwell was appointed Master of the Jewels.
1532 (16th May)
, who disagreed with any move to break with Rome, resigned his position as Lord Chancellor on the grounds of ill health.
1532 (20th May)
Thomas Audley was given the position of Chancellor.
1532 (10th October)
Anne and Henry accompanied by Henry Fitzroy
, the duke of Suffolk, the duke of Norfolk and Thomas Cromwell as well as other members of the nobility crossed the Channel from Dover to Calais.
1533 (25th January)
King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in the private chapel in Whitehall Palace.
1533 (26th January)
Thomas Audley was appointed Lord Chancellor. This gave Cromwell greater influence.
Act in Restraint of Appeals
This act, drafted by Thomas Cromwell, established that English law and the English King were subject to no foreign power. It was set before parliament.
1533 (7th April)
Act in Restraint of Appeals
After some amendments since it was first introduced, this Act now passed parliament and became law. The Act forbade all appeals to foreign tribunals in all spiritual, revenue and testament cases. Spiritual and secular jurisdiction was to be the ultimate responsibility of the King. The Pope now had no right to intervene in England.
1533 (12th April)
Cromwell was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Thomas Cromwell was appointed King’s Secretary.
The Act in Absolute Restraint of Appeals
This act put into effect the terms of the Act of 1532 and transferred all payments from the Pope to the King.
Act Against Peter’s Pence
This act was passed. It forbade the payment of Peter’s Pence (a sum of money which had been paid annually to Rome since the time of William I
). The Act also prohibited the selling of papal dispensations in England.
1534 (24th March)
Act of Succession
This act was introduced to exclude Princess Mary from the succession and settle it instead on the children born from the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The Act also registered the invalidity of Henry’s marriage to Catherine and imposed severe penalties on those who opposed Henry’s second marriage.
Oath of Succession
The Act of Succession also included a clause allowing Henry the power to extract an oath from any of his subjects regarding the provisions of the Act. Henry insisted that all his councillors were to take the oath and they would then supervise the taking of the oath by their officers who would then ensure that all householders took the oath. This system meant that all men, women and children over the age of fourteen would swear to uphold the succession of the children of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Refusing to swear the Act would be an act of treason.
Act Concerning Submission of the Clergy
This Act was passed which made the terms of the Submission of the Clergy (1532) a valid statute. It also ratified the Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533) and stated that appeals from Archbishops should now be directed to Chancery.
Thomas Cromwell was appointed King’s Secretary and chief minister.
1534 (13th April)
Commissioners began taking the Oath of Succession.
1534 (17th April)
Thomas More refused the Oath of Succession and was taken to the Tower of London.
1534 (18th April)
Cromwell issued an order that everyone would be required to swear the Oath of Succession.
1534 (21st April)
1534 (8th October)
Thomas Cromwell was appointed Master of the Rolls.
Act of Supremacy
Cromwell introduced this act which declared England as a sovereign state with the King as the head of both the country and the church. The Act gave the monarch the power over all areas that had previously been the province of the clergy and ecclesiastical courts. It also meant that his injunctions would be binding on the clergy and that he had the power to define faith in parliament. All heresy cases would now be prosecuted by special commissions. The King would also now appoint men of his choosing to ecclesiastical posts.
This act, crafted by Cromwell, made it a treasonable offence to deny any of the King’s titles. It stated that any malicious wish, will or desire to deprive the King or Queen of title or name of their royal estates was to be deemed treason. Slanderous publication of writing or words uttered describing the King as heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel or usurper would also be deemed treason.
An illegitimate daughter, Jane, was born to Cromwell and an unknown woman. Thomas provided for her and she may have lived in the household of Cromwell’s son, Gregory.
1535 (21st January)
Thomas Cromwell was made Vicar General Vice Regent in Spirituals. This post gave him the power to visit all monasteries in England.
1535 (22nd June)
John Fisher, aged 76 years, was beheaded on Tower Hill. Fisher was the first bishop to be executed since Thomas Becket
in 1170 and the people were deeply shocked.
1535 (1st July)
Thomas More was tried for treason. He was tried by eighteen judges including Cromwell, Audeley, Norfolk, Thomas Boleyn, George Boleyn
and Charles Brandon. More conducted his own defence but was found guilty and sentenced to death.
1535 (6th July)
Thomas More was executed by beheading. He made a short speech asking people to pray for him and saying that he died the King’s good servant but God’s first.
1536 (11th March)
Closure of the Monasteries
A bill was presented to Parliament that authorised the closure of all monasteries with a revenue of less than £200 per year. The proceeds would be given to the King.
1536 (2nd April)
Anne Boleyn was annoyed that the proceeds from the closure of the monasteries was to go to the king. She believed that the money should be used to help the poor and improve education. At Anne’s direction her almoner, John Skip, preached a sermon denouncing Cromwell’s actions.
Thomas Cromwell began collecting evidence against Anne Boleyn. During the course of his investigations he heard that some members of Anne’s court were admitted to her chamber at late hours. Those named were George Boleyn, Henry Norris
, Francis Weston
, William Brereton
and Mark Smeaton
. Cromwell used this information to construct a case that Anne had committed adultery with all five men and that they had plotted to murder the King. The information was passed to Henry.
1536 (24th April)
Henry VIII signed a document authorising commissioners to enquire into any kind of treason committed by Anne Boleyn.
1536 (29th April)
Cromwell presented Henry with a list of charges against Anne Boleyn. Henry was furious and ordered the arrest of all those concerned including the Queen.
1536 (30th April)
Mark Smeaton was arrested and taken to Cromwell’s house for questioning.
Cromwell replaced Thomas Boleyn as Privy Seal.
1536 (5th May)
Thomas Wyatt and Richard Page were arrested on suspicion of committing adultery with the Queen. However they were later released. Cromwell reasoned that if two men were allowed to go free then the others accused would seem more guilty.
1536 (15th May)
Anne Boleyn and her brother George were tried and found guilty of treason.
1536 (17th May)
Thomas Cranmer pronounced Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn invalid. Princess Elizabeth
was proclaimed illegitimate.
1536 (30th May)
Henry VIII married Jane Seymour
in the Queen’s Closet at Whitehall.
1536 (4th June)
Jane Seymour was proclaimed Queen of England at a ceremony at Greenwich.
1536 (8th June)
Act of Suppression
Using information gathered in his surveys, Thomas Cromwell persuaded Parliament to pass this act first introduced earlier in the year. All monasteries worth less than £200 per year were to be closed and their properties be placed at the King’s disposal. All displaced abbots and abbesses were to receive a pension and monks and nuns could either take up residence in larger houses or renounce their vows and join the outside world.
Act of Succession
This act cancelled the previous act of succession and registered the invalidity of Henry’s first two marriages. Elizabeth was now given the same status as Mary and the succession was settled on the children of Henry and Jane Seymour.
These were a series of articles introduced by Cromwell and Cranmer to improve the conduct of the clergy and the worship of the people. The articles included stipulations that sermons should be preached at stated periods against the usurpation of Rome, that relics were not to be exhibited for gain, that a good home life was preferable to pilgrimage, that children were to learn the Lord’s Prayer, the Holy Creed and the Ten Commandments in English.
1536 (2nd July)
Thomas Cromwell was appointed Lord Privy Seal.
1536 (8th July)
Thomas Cromwell was created Baron Cromwell of Okeham.
The closure of the monasteries and the Ten Articles were not well received by the common people. The monasteries had provided food, shelter and a basic education for the people as well as a place for travellers to stay. Many traditional religious festivals were now forbidden and people were angry though they blamed Cromwell rather than the King for this.
1536 (1st October)
Pilgrimage of Grace
This rebellion against the closure of the monasteries began in Louth where people were concerned by the news that commissioners would be arriving to investigate their church. It was soon led by Robert Aske who sent a list of the protesters’ grievances to the King. The rebels were eventually persuaded that Henry would listen to their grievances if they would disperse. The rebellion lasted for six months.
Pilgrimage of Grace
Around 50 rebels were executed for their part in the rebellion.
1537 (3rd August)
Thomas Cromwell’s son, Gregory married Jane Seymour’s sister, Elizabeth.
Within the Privy Council a conservative faction had developed. These men were opposed to Cromwell and sought to diminish his power.
1537 (5th August)
Thomas Cromwell was created a member of the Order of the Garter.
1537 (12th October)
After a very difficult labour Jane Seymour was delivered of a baby boy. Henry was overjoyed and named the child Edward
and created him Duke of Cornwall. Heralds were dispatched to every part of the country with the news.
1537 (24th October)
Jane Seymour died. It is thought that she died from puerperal fever which was a common cause of death after pregnancy and is caused by lack of antiseptic conditions.
Cromwell ordered the removal of items of idolatry from churches and cathedrals including relics, images and statues. Pilgrimages were no longer deemed to be a part of religion.
A Protestant deputation from Germany arrived in England and during talks Cromwell realised that it would be good for the country to make an alliance with a Protestant country. The ambassadors mentioned that the Duke of Cleves
had two daughters of marriageable age.
The Shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury was dismantled.
1538 (2nd November)
Thomas Cromwell was appointed Governor of the Isle of Wight.
France and Spain had signed an alliance leaving England isolated. Henry VIII desperately needed an alliance and was persuaded by Thomas Cromwell that he should make an alliance with a Protestant country. Henry agreed that negotiations with the Duke of Cleves could begin.
1539 (16th May)
Statute of Six Articles
This statute was forced through a reluctant parliament and listed six cardinal doctrines of Catholic belief which Henry wished to preserve in the English church:
1. Transubstantiation was not to be denied
2. There was to be communion of one kind for the laity
3. Members of the clergy were to remain celibate
4. Religious vows were to be permanent
5. Private masses were to be made available
6. Auricular confession was to be used
Those refusing to comply with the new doctrine would face loss of property and liberty for a first offence and death for a second.
The passing of the Six Articles was a triumph for the Conservative faction and a blow for those like Cromwell who had hoped to see more radical church reform.
4th October 1539
A treaty of marriage, arranged by Thomas Cromwell, agreed the betrothal of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
1539 (26th December)
After a difficult sea crossing Anne of Cleves landed at Deal in Kent.
1539 (31st December
Anne of Cleves reached Rochester where she was met by Lady Browne who was in charge of her ladies. Lady Browne was concerned that Anne was not Henry’s type. She was not as beautiful or as young as her portrait had suggested. She was also rather large and loud.
1540 (1st January)
Henry decided to pay his new bride, Anne of Cleves, a surprise visit and, armed with a New Year’s gift, rode to Rochester. However when he saw her he was so horrified that he left the gift with Sir Anthony Browne and rode back to London.
1540 (2nd January)
Henry told Cromwell that he was not at all pleased with his new bride and postponed the wedding from the 4th to 6th January. He wanted to use the time to find a loophole in the marriage contract that would allow him to get out of the marriage. Henry knew that he dare not offend Germany and when no loophole could be found he resigned himself to the marriage.
1540 (12th April)
In a bid to win back the King’s favour, Cromwell introduced a new tax that would increase Henry’s revenue.
1540 (17th April)
Thomas Cromwell was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain.
1540 (18th April)
Thomas Cromwell was created Earl of Essex.
With the failure of the marriage set up by Cromwell, the Catholic, Conservative faction headed by the Duke of Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner set about over-throwing Cromwell. They arranged for Henry to meet the Duke of Norfolk’s young niece, Kathryn Howard
, aged fifteen hoping that if she found favour with the King it would help advance their faction. After Henry met Kathryn she was often at court. The Conservative faction worked towards effecting Cromwell’s downfall.
1540 (10th June)
A Bill of Attainder was drawn up against Cromwell. The bill relied largely on the evidence of Richard Rich. Cromwell was arrested in the King’s name by Norfolk and taken to the Tower of London.
1540 (late June)
Kathryn Howard had been installed in Lambeth Palace and was being openly visited by the King.
1540 (29th June)
Thomas Cromwell was found guilty of a number of charges including protecting heretics, failing to enforce the Act of Six Articles and plotting to marry Henry VIII’s daughter, Lady Mary. His titles were removed and he was sentenced to death.
1540 (6th July)
A commission was issued that gave the English clergy the power to pass judgement on the King’s marriage. Anne of Cleves consented to a divorce.
1540 (8th July)
Henry’s fourth marriage was ruled invalid on the grounds of Anne’s pre-contract to the Duke of Lorraine, inadequate consent and non-consummation.
1540 (28th July)
Henry married Kathryn Howard at the Palace of Oatlands. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Bonner of London.
1540 (28th July)
Thomas Cromwell was executed by beheading in front of a large crowd on Tower Hill.
Published Aug 10, 2019 @ 0:45 am – Updated – Nov 16, 2022 @ 12:52 PM
Harvard Reference for this page::
Heather Y Wheeler. (2019 – 2020). Thomas Cromwell 1485 – 1540. https://www.thetimelinegeek.com/thomas-cromwell-1485-1540. Last accessed [date]