Tudor Thomases (Part One)

In 16th century England, or Tudor court to be exact, there are both male and female names that we hear over and over.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a guest writer contribute to our page with Tudor Marys and Katherines. Next to those two there should also be Elizabeths, Anne’s and Margarets as well. But today we are looking at the male version of those names. While the name Henry was very popular there was a fan request to look at all the Tudor Thomases.

While I know I’m not the first to participate in this subject I’m always willing to accommodate my followers requests.

Since there are so many Tudor Thomases I’ve had to break it down into a couple posts. Hopefully I am able to provide you with information in this post that I have not before. Enjoy!

Thomas More

Thomas More

Thomas More, author of Utopia, friend of Henry VII and martyr, are just a few words to describe him.

More was the son of a lawyer and was educated at St. Anthony’s school in London. He served as a page in Cardinal John Morton’s household during the reign of King Henry VII.

Thomas also attended Oxford and then studied law at the Inns of Court. He began to practice law around 1501.

In 1504 he married, Jane Colt, who was the birth mother of his children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely and John. She has been described as ‘quiet and good-natured’ by author Peter Ackroyd of The Life of Sir Thomas More. It was reported by Erasmus that Thomas wished to give Jane more of an education than she received prior to meeting him; He tutored her himself in both music and literature.

Jane died in 1511, and shortly thereafter More wed Alice Middleton, a wealthy widow.

Thomas’ political career began in 1515, when he was sent to the Netherlands on an embassy charged with renegotiating a trade agreement.

After the downfall and death of another Thomas, Thomas Wolsey, More became Lord Chancellor of England. It was while in this role that More felt conflicted with Henry VIII’s decision to divorce Katherine of Aragon. While More did not agree with the King he never spoke ill of him publicly. Ultimately, this was the beginning of his downfall and martyrdom. In May 1532, More resigned his position as Lord Chancellor after the Submission of the Clergy occurred.

Thomas More also refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn and in 1534 was included in the Bill of Attainder that condemned Elizabeth Barton – the Nun of Kent, but was able to convince the House of Lords to remove his name.

After refusing to sign the Act of Succession, which removed the King’s eldest daughter from the line of succession, More was committed to the Tower of London on the 17th of April 1534.

Eventually More was condemned for treason when Sir Richard Rich made claims against him.

On 6 July 1535, Thomas More was beheaded.

Further Reading:
Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. 
Fox, Alistair. Thomas More
Guy, John. A Daughter’s Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg.
Marius, Richard. Thomas More.
Wagner, John A & Walters Schmid, Susan. Encyclopedia of Tudor England

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was the eldest son of another Thomas Howard (2nd Duke) and Elizabeth Tilney.

Duke of Norfolk

Norfolk was the leading military and political figure during the reign of Henry VIII. He was instrumental in the rise of his nieces, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Norfolk was a very ambitious man. When Anne Boleyn was Queen he was able to, with Anne’s assistance, marry his daughter Mary Howard to Henry’s illegitimate (yet acknowledged) son, Henry Fitzroy. This made her Duchess of Richmond.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was considered a conservative who was uncomfortable with the countries religious reform but he stood behind the king in support of his niece becoming the next queen of England.

Norfolk acted as Lord Steward and presided over the trials of his niece and nephew, Anne and George Boleyn.

After the birth of Henry VIII’s long-awaited heir, Norfolk was made godfather to Prince Edward and was also commissioner at the funeral of Jane Seymour in November 1537.

Thomas Howard, along with Charles Brandon were chosen to meet Anne of Cleves at Dover in 1539 and in 1540 Howard was more than happy to see the downfall of Thomas Cromwell.

Thomas and his son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were sent to the Tower of London after it was alleged that Surrey had displayed the royal arms in his own heraldry. Surrey was executed but Norfolk was spared due to the timely death of Henry VIII.

Further Reading:
Head, David M.  The Ebbs and Flows of fortune: The Life of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk.

Thomas Elyot

Thomas Elyot, son of Sir Richard Elyot (Wiltshire) and Alice De la Mare was one of the first people to write mainly in English.

Elyot was secured an appointment in 1510 by his father as a clerk of the assize.

Like, Thomas More, Elyot attended one of the Inns of Court in London and likely met the author of Utopia.

Around 1520, Thomas married Margaret á Barrow. Margaret was well-known for her education which was given to her by Sir Thomas More. The couple had three children today – John, Thomas and Richard.

In 1523, Elyot was appointed, through Cardinal Wolsey, as clerk of the royal council until he was dismissed in 1530 after the downfall of Wolsey. Elyot never advanced past the peerage of Knight.

Thomas Elyot published The Boke of the Governor which was well received at court and secured him an appointment as ambassador to Charles V. It was his job to convince Charles to accept Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – even though he himself did not agree with the matter.

In 1532, Elyot was replaced by yet another Thomas, Thomas Cranmer.

Further Reading:
Elyot, Sir Thomas. The Boke Named the Governour.
Kennedy, Teresa. Elyot, Castiglione, and the Problem of Style.
Lehmberg, Stanford E. Sir Thomas Elyot, Tudor Humanist


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