Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex

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Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, KG, PC (c. 1485[1] – 28 July 1540), known as 1st Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon between 1536 and 1540, was an English statesman who served as chief minister of King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.

Cromwell rose from humble beginnings and attempted to modernize government at the expense of the privileges of the nobility and church; as a result, he was seen as an upstart. He was one of the strongest advocates of the English Reformation, the English Church's break with the papacy in Rome, and helped engineer the King's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. After the King's supremacy over the Church of England was declared by Parliament in 1534, Cromwell supervised the Church from the unique posts of vicegerent for spirituals and vicar general.

Cromwell's rise to power made him many enemies, especially among the conservative faction at court, and he fell from Henry's favour after arranging the King's disastrous marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves. He was subjected to an Act of Attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. The king later expressed regret at having lost his great minister.

Oliver Cromwell, the Parliamentarian leader who overthrew the monarchy during the English Civil War, was a descendant of Thomas Cromwell's sister, Catherine Cromwell (born circa 1482).


Early life

Cromwell was born around 1485 in Putney, Middlesex, Surrey, the son of Walter (Smythe) Cromwell (Putney, Middlesex, Surrey, c. 1463 – Cottage on Wimbledon Green, c. 1510 or 1453-1516[2]), of Putney, Middlesex, Surrey, and wife Dau. Clossop (c. 1457 - ?).[3] He had three sisters: Catherine, Elizabeth and another, name unknown.[3] His father is variously described as a clothworker;[4] a smith;[5] and an alehouse keeper/brewer,[6] as well as by some loose theories that suggest he was, in fact, an Anglo-German sheep farmer[7] His father was actually the son of John Cromwell, born probably at Narwali, Nottinghamshire, about 1444 and died in 1480,[2] and wife Joan Smythe, whom he married in Putney, Middlesex, Surrey, about 1463 and by whom he had a daughter Margaret, born in Stockwell, Surrey, about 1474 and wife of William Mitchell.[8]

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