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The political career of Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton, 1505-1550

By Geoffrey Gibbons


The introduction to the thesis gives an overview of the life and career of Thomas\ud Wriothesley and considers the primary and secondary sources which provide the\ud material upon which the thesis is based. It is followed by a detailed consideration of\ud Wriothesley's sixteen years in the service of Wolsey. and Cromwell, recording his\ud growing competence and authority in the administrative machinery of mid-Tudor\ud government and in his influence in the day to day management of state affairs as\ud Cromwell's secretary.\ud The third section concentrates on Wriothesley's four years as the king's\ud secretary, referring to his work in the financial field in obtaining funds to finance the\ud king's wars. It examines his growing status in the court and privy council, and reviews\ud his work as an ambassador for Henry after 1530. Henry's confidence in him ensured\ud his occasional employment as a special, rather than resident ambassador to the imperial\ud court, and his work in this specialist field is investigated.\ud Wriothesley held the office of lord chancellor for only three years and in that\ud period made a limited impact in a judicial sense, in part due to his restricted\ud professional expertise. His principal function over those years, of finding means to\ud financing the high costs of Henry's military campaigns, and putting in order the chaotic\ud condition of the monetary system, is closely examined. Wriothesley's growing\ud involvement as lord chancellor in the developing factional struggles that encompassed\ud the privy chamber and the council mostly, but not only, in religious matters is also\ud assessed. His role in other aspects of the office of lord chancellor, in parliament, in\ud framing proclamations and as the senior member of the government dealing with\ud foreign ambassadors,is considered in detail.\ud Perhaps the most important feature of the last years of Wriothesley's career\ud was his deep involvement in the political and religious turmoils of the latter years of\ud Henry's reign and the first two years of Edward's. In the period between 1544 and\ud 1550, perhaps for the only occasions in his life, serious misjudgement of events put him\ud in real peril of his life and property, lost him the office of lord chancellor and\ud effectively sidelined him for most of the last two years of his life. In his efforts to ruin\ud Queen Catherine Parr, his harassment of reformers, and in his mistaken view during the\ud last three months of the Protectorate that Warwick was really a Henrician catholic in\ud disguise, Thomas Wriothesley showed a surprising degree of self-deception. His\ud actions suggest that his political instinct failed him at the most crucial points in his\ud career.\ud Substantial rewards, which usually followed a period of valuable royal service\ud or successful military achievement, were in Wriothesley's case gathered in a relatively\ud short lifetime of determined endeavour. We examine in Appendix 1, the many financial\ud benefits and landed property he secured and retained successfully, the offices he\ud gathered and consider the extent of his authority and influence in his home county of\ud Hampshire. In Appendices 2 and 3 we look briefly at Titchfield Place, Wriothesley's\ud home in Hampshire and the detailed provisions of his Will.\ud The thesis concludes with an assessment of the life, administrative and political\ud career of Thomas Wriothesley, in the context of the mid-Tudor period

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