Thomas Audley was born in 1488 to Geoffrey Audley in Earls Colne, Essex. Audley studied at Buckingham College, Cambridge before entering Middle Temple to study law.
Audley became to town clerk of Colchester and was made a Justice of the Peace for Essex in 1521. Two years later Audley would be called to Parliament to represent Essex.
In 1527 Audley entered into Cardinal Wolsey’s employment and was appointed as a Groom of the Chamber to King Henry VIII. With Wolsey’s fall in 1529 Audley remained in favour with the King and was made Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as well as being appointed as Speaker of the House of Commons. Audley presided over the Reformation Parliament.
Audley was the head of the commission to look at Bishop Fisher’s speech against the King and his divorce proceedings. On 20th May 1532 Audley was knighted and less than a year later he succeeded Sir Thomas More as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, after More resigned from the post over Henry’s divorce to Katherine of Aragon. Audley would go on to preside at the trials of both More and Fisher.
In favour with the King, Audley would also sit on the council who would judge Anne Boleyn and the men she was accused with adultery with. Audley would go on to witness Anne Boleyn’s execution and would later put the revised Act of Succession to Parliament that would recognise the children of Jane Seymour and Henry as the rightful heir.
Through the dissolution of the monasteries Audley was granted many lands including Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate and the Abbey of Walden, Essex.
On 29th November 1538 Audley was created Baron Audley of Walden after declaring the Pilrimage of the Grace rebels traitors and sentencing them to death. The following year Audley as Lord Steward oversaw the trials of Lord Montacute, and the Marquess of Exeter as they were charged with treason by King Henry VIII.
24th April 1540 saw Audley inducted into the Knight of the Garter. As his loyalty to Henry was clear Audley was charged with managing the attainder of Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s soon to be former Lord Chamberlain along with the annulment of the King’s marriage to Anne of Cleves.
In 1542 he re-established Buckingham College, Cambridge, his former place of study, and renamed it as the College of St Mary Magdalene.
Audley resigned the office of the Great Seal on 21st April 1544 and died days later on 30th April. He was buried at Saffron Walden where he had already prepared a magnificent tomb.