- Cromwell, Thomas
- (c. 1485-1540)Lord Chancellor who helped establish Protestantism in EnglandAs a top government official, Thomas Cromwell helped advance the Protestant cause in England during the reign of Henry VIII. Cromwell was born in London around 1485 and raised in a humble environment as the son of a blacksmith. of limited education, he moved to France, served in the French army, and made a small fortune as a moneylender.Back in England around 1513, he worked as a lawyer and was eventually taken as adviser by Cardinal Wolsey. After Wolsey's untimely death in 1530, Cromwell ran for Parliament, where he attracted the attention of the king. Following the fall of Thomas More, Henry tapped Cromwell as the new Lord Chancellor.As the close adviser/confidant of Henry, he was able, in concert with Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, to push for a variety of reforms. He supported Henry in his move to break with the pope and have the king declared the head of the Church of England. He was also responsible for the report to Parliament that led to the 1536 law that allowed Henry to sell 376 monasteries to replenish state coffers. Two years later, Cromwell helped close down a number of shrines, including one honoring St. Thomas à Becket, which occasioned Henry's formal excommunication by the pope in 1538.Cromwell's great mistake was supporting Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540, as part of a push to align England with the German reformers. In his anger, Henry turned on Cromwell, charged him with treason, and had him beheaded on July 28, 1540.Further reading:■ B. W. Beckingsale, Thomas Cromwell, Tudor Minister (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1978)■ A. G. Dickens, Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation (London, English Universities Press 1959)■ G. R. Elton, Policy and Police: the Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1972)■ Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)■ John N. King, English Reformation Literature, the Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.