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Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex (1485–1540)

Author of Thomas Cromwell on Church and Commonwealth: Selected Letters, 1523-1540

Also includes: Thomas Cromwell (1)

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Thomas Cromwell rose from humble origins as the son of a blacksmith to become chief minister of King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540. His achievements were founded on his early success in helping to annull the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that Henry could marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell supervised the English Reformation of the church and the Dissolution of the Monasteries from the unique posts of vicegerent for spirituals and vicar general. He became a member of the House of Commons. He also held the posts of principal secretary to the king, Master of the Rolls, Master of the Jewels, and Clerk of the Hanaper. Cromwell's rise to power made him many enemies, especially among the conservative faction at court. King Henry ennobled him as Earl of Essex in April 1540, but he fell from favour after the king's arranged marriage to the German princess Anne of Cleves, whom Henry disliked. Cromwell was arrested in June and executed for treason. However, the king later came to regret the execution, speaking of Cromwell as his most faithful servant, and showed favor to his family.
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