Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden

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Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden (c. 148830 April 1544), Lord Chancellor of England, whose parentage is unknown, is believed to have studied at Buckingham College, Cambridge. He was educated for the law, entered the Middle Temple, was town clerk of Colchester, and was in the commission of the peace for Essex in 1521.

In 1523 he was returned to Parliament for Essex, and represented this constituency in subsequent Parliaments. In 1527 he was Groom of the Chamber, and became a member of Wolsey’s household. On the fall of the latter in 1529, he was made Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the same year speaker of the House of Commons, presiding over the famous assembly styled the Black or Long Parliament of the Reformation, which abolished the papal jurisdiction. The same year he headed a deputation of the Commons to the king to complain of Bishop Fisher’s speech against their proceedings. He interpreted the King’s “moral” scruples to parliament concerning his marriage with Catherine, and made himself the instrument of the King in the attack upon the clergy and the preparation of the Act of Supremacy.

In 1531 he had been made a serjeant-at-law and king’s serjeant; and on 20 May 1532 he was knighted, and succeeded Sir Thomas More as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, being appointed Lord Chancellor on the 26 January 1533.

He supported the king’s divorce from Catherine and the marriage with Anne Boleyn; and presided at the trial of Fisher and More in 1535, at which his conduct and evident intention to secure a conviction has been generally censured. Next year he was part of the shameful trial of Anne Boleyn and her "lovers". The judicial murder of the king's wife left him free to declare his daughter Elizabeth I a bastard, and to marry Anne's maid, Jane Seymour. Audley was a witness to the queen’s execution, and recommended to parliament the new act of succession, which made Jane Seymour's issue legitimate.

In 1537 he condemned to death as traitors the Lincolnshire and the Yorkshire rebels. On 29 November 1538 he was created Baron Audley of Walden; and soon afterwards presided as Lord Steward at the trials of Henry Pole, Lord Montacute, and of the Marquess of Exeter. In 1539, though inclining himself to the Reformation, he made himself the King’s instrument in enforcing religious conformity, and in the passing of the Six Articles Act.

On April 24 1540 he was made a Knight of the Garter, and subsequently managed the attainder of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, and the dissolution of Henry’s marriage with Anne of Cleves. In 1542 he warmly supported the privileges of the Commons, but his conduct was inspired as usual by subservience to the court, which desired to secure a subsidy, and his opinion that the arrest was a flagrant contempt has been questioned by good authority.

He resigned the great seal on 21 April 1544, and died on April 30, being buried at Saffron Walden, where he had prepared for himself a splendid tomb.

He received several grants of monastic estates, including the priory of Christ Church in London and the abbey of Walden Essex, where his grandson, Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, built Audley End, doubtless named after him.

In 1542 he endowed and re-established Buckingham College, Cambridge, under the new name of St Mary Magdalene, and ordained in the statutes that his heirs, "the possessors of the late monastery of Talden," should be visitors of the college in per petuum. A Book Orders for the Warre both by Sea and Land (Harleian MS. 297, 144) is attributed to his authorship. He married Christina, daughter of Sir Thomas Barnardiston, and later Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, by whom he had two daughters. His barony became extinct at his death.


Preceded by:
Sir Thomas More
Speaker of the House of Commons
1529–1533
Succeeded by:
Sir Humphrey Wingfield

Template:Succession box double Template:End box

Preceded by:
New Creation
Baron Audley of Walden
Succeeded by:
Extinct

Template:End box

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