Tag Archives: Lord Privy Seal

On this day in 1536 – Thomas Cromwell apointed Lord Privy Seal

Following the execution of Anne Boleyn and her brother George at the hands of King Henry VIII, their father on 29th June 1536 was stripped of his office of Lord Privy Seal. This was a position he had held since January 1530 after Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from grace.

On 2nd July 1536 Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell to the vacant position as well as being created Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon just days later. Cromwell’s rise to power was not to everyone’s liking he was seen by many as just a blacksmith’s son and had no right at court, however, Henry regarded him as one of his most trusted aides.

The Lord Privy Seal is a lower rank to that of President of the Privy Council and the Lord Chancellor but it is a role that has great honour despite the fact it is an almost entirely ceremonial role. The Lord Privy Seal is the bearer of the King’s personal seal and has access to the King and council’s documents. Cromwell would have also have had unrestricted access to Henry as well.Thomas CromwellSir Thomas Cromwell painted by Hans Holbein

On this day in 1555 – Death of Sir John Russell.

Sir John Russell was born in 1485 in Dorset to James Russell and his first wife Alice Wise.

Sir John had a very successful career at court and held many high ranking offices. He first came to the attention of the Tudor court in 1506 when Archduke Philip of Austria and Juana, the King and Queen of Castile. Juana was also the sister of the dowager Princess of Wales, Katherine of Aragon. The Spanish monarchs had been shipwrecked off the coast of Weymouth on a diplomatic trip to visit King Henry VII. As a result of their detour, Russell escorted them to London to complete their journey. Philip and Juana highly praised Russell and the service that he provided to them to King Henry VII, who in 1507 made Russell a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. A position he held after King Henry VIII ascended the throne.

Russell went on to loyally serve Henry VIII’s court. Russell was involved in the War of the League of Cambrai (also known as the War of the Holy League) and he was present at the taking of Tournai and Thérouanne. Russell was knighted by Henry VIII in 1522 after losing an eye in battle in Brittany.

Sir John Russell help a wide range of posts in the Tudor court from serving as High Sheriff of Dorset and Somerset in 1528 and acting as a Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire between 1529 and 1536.

After the downfall of Anne Boleyn and her family in 1536. Russell was made a Privy councillor and helped suppress the rebellion of the Pilgrimage of Grace in autumn 1536. Russell also benefitted greatly from the downfall of another courtier, Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter. After Courtenay’s execution Russell was made a Baron and Lord President of the Council in the West. This was quickly followed by being invested in to the Knight of the Garter. Finally in 1539 Russell was made High Steward of Cornwall and Lord Warden of the Stannaries.

During Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries Russell was granted many lands, these included Tavistock Abbey and Plympton Abbey in Devon, making him the largest land owner in Devon. Russell was also granted Blackfriars in Exeter where he later built Bedford House. Russell was also granted lands in London, including the kitchen garden of Westminster Palace. In the modern day this is now the site of the busy Covent Garden.

In 1540 Russell was made Lord High Admiral. At this point he had a very close relationship with Henry VIII. The day after Henry met Anne of Cleves for the first time Henry asked Russell whether he thought Anne to be fair. Russell replied that he found her “not to be fair, but of a brown complexion”. An answer which probably saved Russell when Henry was trying to find ways out of his marriage.

In 1542 Russell resigned from his position as Lord High Admiral and was elevated to the role of Lord Privy Seal. One of the highest positions within the council. Russell remained close to Henry VIII throughout the King’s final years. He was entrusted as one of the executors of Henry’s will and was appointed one of the 16 councillors that help rule the country during the new King, Edward VI’s, minority. Russell also acted as Lord High Steward at the coronation of the young King, who in return elevated him to the title of Earl of Bedford in 1550 and in 1552 Lord Lieutenant of Devon.

In the final days of the young King on 16th June 1553 Russell was one of the 26 peers who signed a settlement of the crown on Lady Jane Grey, ensuring that she would be Edward’s heir and not his sister Mary as was expected due to Henry VIII’s final Act of Succession.

Sir John Russell died on 14th March 1555 and was buried in the Bedford Chapel in the church that lies next to Chenies Manor House, his ancestral home.

John Russell                        Sir John Russell painted by Hans Holbein the younger.

On this day in 1539 – Sir Thomas Boleyn died

Sir Thomas Boleyn died on 12th March 1539 after an eventful life in the Tudor court.

Sir Thomas Boleyn was born in 1477 at Hever Castle, Kent. Thomas Boleyn was born to Sir William Boleyn and Lady Margaret Butler. Not much is known about Thomas’ early life; it is suspected that he married Lady Margaret around 1498. The exact dates and order that the three Boleyn children were born in is still something that is debated until this very day but it is widely believed and backed up by Eric Ives that Mary was the eldest, born approx 1499, with Anne following in 1501 and lastly George born in 1504. It is believed that there were other pregnancies it can’t be said for certain.

Thomas Boleyn began building an illustrious career within the Tudor court that dates back to 1501 where he was noted to be present at the wedding of Katherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur. Boleyn was again entrusted with an important duty by King Henry VII in 1503 in which his daughter Margaret was to be escorted to Scotland for her marriage to King James IV.

In 1509 Boleyn was created a Knight of the Bath at a ceremony that celebrated the coronation on the new King, Henry VIII. This was the start of a relationship with the King that would bring him to such high power within the realm as well as a relationship that tore his family apart. At some point during these early years serving Henry, Boleyn was made ambassador to the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Flanders), here he met Archduchess Margaret of Austria and at some point during his meetings with the Archduchess he arranged to send his daughters to serve in her court.

For the next decade Boleyn fulfilled many roles within the court from acting as an envoy to the Netherlands in 1512 to acting as an ambassador in France between 1518 and 1521. During his time as ambassador to France Boleyn was heavily involved in the Field of Cloth of Gold, the meeting between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France.

At some point during this decade his oldest daughter, Mary, had caught the eye of the King and became his mistress. There is no record of the relationship so we don’t know how long they were together or when. It was also rumoured the Henry was the father of one if not both of Mary’s children. Again there is no evidence of this and the King never claimed he was the father of Mary’s children especially as she was married at the time of the affair. However, in 1523, Thomas Boleyn was invested as a Knight of the Garter. Was this Henry’s way of giving reward to the Boleyn’s for his relationship with Mary?

In 1525, Boleyn had further honours bestowed upon him as he was created Viscount Rochford and further in 1529 when he was granted the titles of Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond. At the same time Henry’s desires had transferred to Thomas Boleyn’s other daughter, Anne. Was the honour being bestowed upon Thomas rewarding him for his years of service to the King and his father before him, or was Henry simply handing out favours to his new mistress’s family?

As Henry pursued his new mistress and his quest for an annulment from his current wife, Katherine of Aragon, he was becoming more and more surrounded by members of the Boleyn family, Thomas’ son George was handed the title of Viscount Rochford upon Thomas’ ascension to Earldom. Thomas was also sent as an envoy to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Clement VII in an attempt to gain their allegiance for Henry’s divorce.

Thomas Boleyn’s success reached a pinnacle when in 1530 he was made Lord Privy Seal, one of the greatest roles within the council and when his daughter Anne finally married the King and was proclaimed Queen in 1533 it seems that Thomas Boleyn was almost untouchable.

As Anne Boleyn’s downfall began a few short years later so did Thomas’. He was ordered to be a part of the council that was set up to try and sentence the men accused alongside the Queen for treason and adultery. This included his son, George, as well as Anne. He was involved passing sentence on Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton. However, he was excused from passing sentence on his children and condemning them to death as traitors. He did witness both of their executions at the hands of the man he had served loyally. Thomas Boleyn forfeited the role of Lord Privy and retired to Hever Castle, his position was to be handed to Thomas Cromwell.

DIGITAL CAMERA                         Hever Castle – the family home to the Boleyns.

Although Boleyn had retreated to his home in Kent he still served the King and there are records of him helping to fight the rebellion in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, just months after witnessing his two children die. It appears that Boleyn was slowly gaining favour with the King again as he was present at the christening of Prince Edward.

Thomas Boleyn died on 12th March 1539 from unknown reasons and was buried in St Peter’s church in Hever next to his home. Upon his death King Henry ordered masses to be said for Thomas Boleyn’s soul.