Sir Thomas Bromley was born in 1530 to George Bromley and Jane Lacon. The Bromley family had some relative success at court from his father George being a member of the Inner Temple to a cousin, George, being Chief Justice of the King’s Bench by Queen Mary I.
Thomas Bromley continued in the path of many of his family and trained in law and entered the Inner Temple before going on to study at Oxford University, where he gained his Bachelor of Civil Law degree. His time at the Inner Temple was successful and in 1563 he became a member of the Temple’s parliament. In 1565 he was appointed attendant on the Reader (a senior barrister elected to deliver a series of lectures) for the first time. Bromley would later go on to be appointed Reader on various occasions.
In 1573 Bromley was elected to the post of Treasurer of the Inner Temple where he found the Inn to be in financial difficulty as a solution a levy was enforced on all members to help clear this debt. It was not enough to get the Inn out of trouble and Bromley passed many new rules to bring the Inn back into financial safety from charging members for their food consumption to charging the cooks for any loss of pewter dishes.
Bromley had much success as a lawyer serving the Queen’s Bench and the court of equity. He became associated with many senior figures at court like Henry Carey, Francis Drake and Lord Burleigh. These connections helped Bromley serve Catherine Willoughby, dowager duchess of Suffolk and her new husband who fled England under the rule of Mary I. They left their property and assets in the hands of Walter Herenden, a lawyer at Gray’s Inn. However, when they were ready to return to England, under Queen Elizabeth, Herenden refused to sign the property’s back over to the couple. Bromley successfully petitioned the case and the Court of Chancery ordered Herenden to hand over the properties, although it did require a further act of Parliament to get them fully restored.
As well as a successful career with the Inner Temple Bromley also found himself an elected member of Parliament on three occasions. In 1558 when Bromley was just 28 and not yet a fully qualified barrister he was elected to serve Bridgnorth, Shropshire. The following year he was elected to serve Wigan and finally in 1563 he served Guildford.
In 1566 Bromley gained the post of recorder of the City of London and three years later in 1569 he was appointed Solicitor General, a role of high importance. Bromley was sent north to participate in the trials following the Revolt of the Northern Earls, a rebellion by Catholic nobles to depose Queen Elizabeth and place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. In 1571 Bromley was part of the trial of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk for his role in the plot. The trial focused on communications between Norfolk and Ridolfi and the proposal for Norfolk and Mary to be married. Bromley’s involvement in the plots did not end here and he was sent north once again to Sheffield to lay charges before Mary. His aim was to get Mary to renounce her claim on both the English and Scottish thrones and allow her son James to take the Scottish throne.
In 1579 Bromley was appointed Lord Chancellor along with Keeper of the Great Seal after gaining the support of the Queen’s favourites Robert Dudley and also Christopher Hatton. In this role Bromley found himself working on many cases and advising the Queen on many matters of importance included a proposed marriage to the Duke of Anjou, which Bromley was against.
Bromley found himself once again involved in the case against Mary, Queen of Scots in 1583 when Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the Throckmorton Plot. Percy was released then rearrested and found dead in his cell three days later. After an inquiry Bromley announced that Percy had committed suicide after his role in the plot. After trying many of the conspirators and Mary’s associates Bromley began finding a way to bring Mary to trial.
A court was established in 1586 at Fotheringhay Castle headed by Bromley. Mary, Queen of Scots denied any involvement in the plots to free her and also tried to claim immunity as she was not from England. Bromley and the Queen thought of this and decided that as Mary had been under the Queen’s protection in England she could be tried in an English court of law. A guilty verdict was reached and announced to Parliament but Elizabeth took her time to sign Mary’s death warrant with it finally being signed on 1st February 1587 three months after the decision was reached.
Bromley was taken ill just days after Mary’s execution and died on 12th April 1587, aged 57. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. There is no cause of what Bromley died off but it was reported at the time that it was the strain of sentencing a former Queen to death but there was no concrete evidence of this.