Who was Thomas Audley?
Thomas Audley began his career as a lawyer at the Inner Temple in London, and a minor official in Essex. He was elected to parliament as MP for Colchester in 1523 and quickly came to the attention of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII. A number of appointments and offices followed and, by the end of 1527, he was a member of Wolsey’s household and a groom of the King’s chamber. Audley was elected to the House of Commons again in 1529 and was appointed Speaker of the Commons. During the following parliament (1529-36), he played a key role in ensuring that the legislation was passed to enable Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. He was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal in May 1532 and, on 26 January 1533, he was appointed Lord Chancellor.
As one of Henry VIII’s newly promoted men who had risen through administrative skill rather than birth or military prowess, Audley was loyal to Henry and the protection of royal interests. However, he was also keen to uphold the authority of parliament and the letter of the law, at times bringing him into conflict with other men. He never rose to the dizzy heights of men such as Thomas Cromwell but his administrative and legal skills were valued. He was called upon by the privy council for his legal expertise (especially in matters of treason), was a point of contact for foreign ambassadors in London, and his house was sometimes used as a jail – Agnes, dowager duchess of Norfolk, was held there in December 1541 before being transferred to the tower of London. He presided over the trial of Anne Boleyn’s alleged lovers and acted as a legal advisor at her trial; he also interrogated Katherine Howard and others about her alleged infidelity. He kept his personal religious beliefs close to his chest but, as he worked closely with Cromwell, helped bring about the break with the Catholic church, and benefitted from the dissolution of the monasteries he is often seen as an evangelical. In reality, it seems more likely that he was driven by his desire to serve the King than by religious fervour.
His loyalty and hard work were rewarded in November 1538 when he was made Baron Audley of Walden and in May 1540 when he was elected to the Order of the Garter. He amassed a large fortune from humble beginnings and one of his daughters would go on to marry Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk. Unlike men like Wolsey and Cromwell, Audley never fell from royal favour and retired from public life only as a result of ill health.
Where was he buried?
Thomas Audley died in London on 30 April 1544. His was body was taken to Essex to be buried in the church of St Mary the Virgin in Saffron Walden, near to his home at Walden Abbey.Continue reading “Tomb: Thomas Lord Audley”