The Role of Thomas Cromwell in Tudor Government

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  • The Role of Cromwell in Tudor Government (c1485-1540)
    • Summary
      • Cromwell was a self-made man, his background is shadowy, was born around 1485 and was the son of a cloth-maker.
      • By 1516, Cromwell was working for Wolsey and in 1523 he became an MP.
        • Cromwell was highly intelligent, hard-working and almost entirely self-taught.
        • Cromwell was also a political survivor, when Wolsey fell from power, Cromwell was able to recover quickly.
          • By 1531 he had become a member of Henry's Council.
      • Cromwell was influenced by reformer ideas, also developing strong religious convictions.
        • He worked with the faction that formed around Anne Boleyn.
          • Cromwell was able to manipulate proceedings in a way that allowed Henry to achieve his annulment from Catherine of Aragon, but also sterred England towards a reformed Church.
      • Cromwell's power, influence and religious convictions meant that he had enemies at court.
        • Following Cromwell's mistake with Anne of Cleves, Cromwell's enemies in the more conservative faction in Court saw their opportunity to remove Cromwell permanently by accusing him of treason and heresy.
          • Henry VIII was angry enough at Cromwell to listen to them.
            • Cromwell was tried and executed because his policies no longer suited Henry.
      • Entirely reliant on Henry's support, only sustained by pleasing the increasingly volatile King.
        • 1536- Cromwell was only able to survive the fall of Anne Boleyn because he still had the support of the King.
        • 1539-40: Cromwell's to create a Protestant alliance in Europe against the threat of a united Franco-Spanish invasion by negotiating a marriage with Anne of Cleves was a serious tactical error that angered Henry.
    • Cromwell and Parliament
      • Cromwell's genius was to realise that he could use parliament to give the King his annulment.
        • By using Parliament, Cromwell and Henry were able to present laws that were made as the will of the people.
        • By passing Acts of Parliament, the break with Rome was made legal under English Law and anyone who broke the law could be punished.
          • It also created a precedent, any further changes to these laws would also need to passed by parliament, as happened under Edward, Mary and Elizabeth.
        • By 1531, all attempts to persuade the Pope to grant a divorce had failed, largely because the Pope was under the influence of Charles V, Catherine of Aragon's nephew.
          • 1532- Cromwell exploited the anti-clerical feeling in parliament.
            • Led to the first steps in breaking from Rome.
            • 1533- Cromwell drafted the Act of Restraint of Appeals, creating the mechanism that would stop Catherine appealing to the Pope over Henry's head.
              • This Act is particularly famous because of its preamble, which defined Cromwell and Henry's vision of the Royal Supremacy for the first time.
      • Cromwell further extended his role in Government when he was named Vicegerent in Spirituals by Henry in late 1534.
        • Although Cromwell was not a Churchman, this unprecedented role gave him the power to shape the religion of the country.
        • Cromwell used propaganda and a preaching campaign in churches to introduce reformer ideas more widely across England.
        • Cromwell was also the architect in the dissolution of the monasteries in the period of 1536-39.
    • Cromwell's role in Government and fall from Power.
      • Alongside the religious reforms, Cromwell also enhanced royal power in 1536 through changes to the Government of England and Wales.
        • It is argued by many historians that Cromwell was not responsible for creating a 'Tudor Revolution in Government.
          • The changes in the Privy Council happened despite, not because, of him.
            • The Council that emerged in 1537 was full of his political enemies, e.g. Duke of Norfolk.
      • Cromwell was only able to act whilst he had the King's support.
        • From 1532-1536, their interests were converged.
          • Henry wanted a divorce & Cromwell, who was a religious reformer, wanted to advance changes to the Catholic Church.
            • 1536- The dissolution of the smaller monasteries created the most serious rebellion of the reign, with some 30,000 rebels involved who named Cromwell personally, in their complaints.
              • Henry himself was not a religious reformer, and by 1538, Cromwell was forced to end his preaching campaign.
      • Cromwell fell from power in 1540 for two main reasons...
        • He had arranged the fourth marriage of Henry to the Protestant Anne of Cleves.
          • Henry disliked Anne on sight, only going through with the marriage reluctantly.
            • By this point, Henry had fallen for the young and pretty Katherine Howard, niece of conservative Duke of Norfolk.
              • Norfolk and the conservative faction took advantage of this and the Cleves marriage to influence Henry against Cromwell.
        • The final nail in the coffin for Cromwell was the accusation that he had been protecting Protestants who had been accused of heresy.
          • All these circumstances conspired against Cromwell & on 10th June 1540 Cromwell was arrested and on the 28th July he was executed for treason.


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