Audley, Thomas Audley
AUDLEY, THOMAS AUDLEY, Baron (c.1488-1544), 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 (becoming autumn reader in 1526), was town clerk of Colchester, and was on 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 the 20th of May 1532 he was knighted, and succeeded Sir Thomas More as lord keeper of the great seal, being appointed lord chancellor on the 26th of 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 tried Anne Boleyn and her lovers, was present on the scaffold at the unfortunate queen's execution, and recommended to parliament the new act of succession. In 1537 he condemned to death as traitors the Lincolnshire and the Yorkshire rebels. On the 29th of 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 unfortunate 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 the 24th of April 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 in the case of George Ferrers, member for Plymouth, arrested and imprisoned in London, 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 the 21st of April 1544, and died on the 30th, 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 in Essex, where his grandson, Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, built Audley End, doubtless named after him. In 1542 he re-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 Walden," should be visitors of the college in perpetuum. A Book of Orders for the Warre both by Sea and Land (Harleian MS. 297, f. 144) is attributed to his authorship. He married (1) Christina, daughter of Sir Thomas Barnardiston, and (2) Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Grey, marquess of Dorset, by whom he had two daughters. His barony became extinct at his death.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)