Thomas Wriothesley was born 21st December 1505 in London to William Wriothesley and Agnes Drayton. Thomas was the eldest of four and had two younger sisters, Elizabeth and Anne and a younger brother, Edward.
Wriothesley received his education at St Paul’s School, London before going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1522 to study civil law although he did not complete his degree instead at the age of 19 he entered into the service of Thomas Cromwell and began a life at court. Within a few short years Wriothesley was appointed joint clerk of the signet, a position under Henry’s VIII’s secretary, Stephen Gardiner. A position he would hold for the next decade whilst also working for Cromwell.
Wriothesley married Jane Cheney, niece of Stephen Gardiner. They would go on to have eight children in total, three sons and five daughters. Two of their sons died at a young age leaving Henry Wriothesley as the heir to family estates.
His loyalty to Cromwell was rewarded during the dissolution of the monasteries when he was granted land between Southampton and Winchester. Henry also appointed Wriothesley as his ambassador in Brussels until 1540 when he was made one of the King’s principal secretaries alongside Sir Ralph Sadler. Also in 1540 Wriothesley was knighted and despite the fact his patron and master, Thomas Cromwell, had been arrested and later executed he continued to grow in the King’s favour and was created Baron Wriothesley in 1544.
In 1544 after having acted as Lord Privy Seal for a few months he was appointed as Lord Chancellor in 1544 and within his first two years took part in the torture of Anne Askew, who had been accused of heresy. Kingston, who was originally operating the rack refused to take part any further and Wriothesley, stepped in and operated the rack in the hope that Anne would talk; instead he turned the rack so much that her shoulders and hips were pulled from their sockets.
When King Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 Wriothesley was one of the executors of the King’s will and on 16th February 1547 was created the Earl of Southampton at the wishes of the late King. After the King’s death and the creation of a new council for the young King Wriothesley appointed four people to help him in his duties and the new Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, used this to his advantage and Wriothesley was relieved of his duty in March 1547 as well as being excluded from the Privy Council.
In Wriothesley’s will that was created just days before his death he left his collar of garters to King Edward VI and a cup each to Mary and Elizabeth. He also provided for his wife and children before remembering his friends and family.
Wriothesley died on 30th July 1550 at Lincoln House in Holborn and was buried in St Andrew’s Church, Holborn before he was later moved to Titchfield. His funeral was presided over by Bishop Hooper of Gloucester.