The Tudor Society

30 April – Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor

On this day in Tudor history, 30th April 1544, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Audley, Baron Audley of Walden and Lord Chancellor, died at his home in London.

Audley was Thomas Cromwell's right-hand man in 1536, during the fall of Anne Boleyn, and became even more important after Cromwell's fall.

Find out more about Thomas Audley, an important Tudor statesman, and how he served King Henry VIII, in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 30th April 1532, lawyer James Bainham was burned at the stake at Smithfield for his reformed faith. Find out more in last year’s video on him:

And in 1536, in the lead-up to Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution, court musician Mark Smeaton was arrested and taken to the home of Henry VIII's right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, and a theologian witnessed an argument between King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn. Find out more in the video for 30th April 1536:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1563 – Death of Henry Stafford, 10th Baron Stafford, at Caus Castle, Shropshire. Stafford was the only legitimate son of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Eleanor, daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland.
  • 1595 – Death of Thomas Bedwell, mathematician, engineer and keeper of the ordnance store at the Tower of London. He was buried at the Tower, in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Bedwell's engineering projects included him supervising the building of Dover harbour, giving advice on the fortification of Portsmouth and working on the River Thames' defences at Tilbury and Gravesend in 1588, at the time of the Spanish Armada.
  • 1596 – Death of Sir John Puckering, administrator and Speaker of the House of Commons, from apoplexy. Puckering's other offices included Serjeant-at-Law, Recorder of Warwick, Privy Councillor and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. In 1587, he was involved in the trial of Elizabeth I's secretary William Davison, appearing for the Crown. He was buried at Westminster Abbey, in St Paul's Chapel.
  • 1596 – Death of Thomas Bickley, Bishop of Chichester, at the bishop's palace in Aldingbourne. He was buried in his cathedral.


On this day in Tudor history, 30th April 1544, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Audley, Baron Audley of Walden and Lord Chancellor, died at his home, the former Christ Church Priory, in Aldgate, London, at the age of about 56. Audley was Cromwell's right hand man in 1536, during the fall of Anne Boleyn, and became even more important after Cromwell's fall.
I give a brief bio of Audley in my book “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown”, so this talk is based on that.

Thomas Audley was born in around 1487/8 in Earls Colne, Essex, and was the son of Geoffrey Audley, an administrator. After being educated at Buckingham College, Cambridge, Audley was admitted to the Inner Temple, one of the four inns of the court in London, and in 1514 he served as town clerk of Colchester in Essex, and in 1520 as a Justice of the Peace for Essex.
Audley came to the attention of Henry VIII in 1523 after taking Cardinal Wolsey's side in Parliament, when Sir Thomas More defended the rights of the common people. He rose quickly from that point, and on 20th May 1532 he was knighted and made keeper of the great seal after Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor. On 26th January 1533, he was officially named as Lord Chancellor. Audley is thought to have been responsible for smoothing the passage through Parliament of legislation regarding the king's break with Rome and the supremacy.

On 24th April 1536, Audley was responsible for setting up the legal machinery which was used in the fall of Anne Boleyn. two commissions of oyer and terminer, one for the county of Middlesex and one for Kent. The job of this type of commission was to investigate alleged serious crimes, such as treason, and to determine if there was indeed a case. In 1536, the grand juries of Kent and Middlesex ruled that there was sufficient evidence to send Queen Anne Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Willliam Brereton and Mark Smeaton to trial for high treason. Of course, they ended up being found guilty and were executed.

On 17th May 1536, Audley was present at Lambeth when Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declared that the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was null and void, and on 19th May, he attended the queen’s execution at the Tower of London.
On 29th November 1538, Thomas Audley was made Baron Audley of Walden and was elected as a Knight of the Garter in April 1540. The 1539 Parliament's Act of Precedence gave him “precedence over all but dukes of royal blood in parliament, privy council, and Star Chamber.”

Although he played a role in negotiating the king’s marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, Audley survived the fall of Thomas Cromwell, and was involved in negotiating the annulment of the Cleves marriage and, later, in interrogating Catherine Howard. Audley was the Privy Council's expert on treason, and he was also a commissioner at the trials of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham, and was Lord High Steward at the trials of Henry Pole, Baron Montagu, and Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, in 1538. In 1541, he performed the same role at the trial of Thomas Fiennes, ninth Baron Dacre.

In April 1542, he re-established his former Cambridge college, Buckingham College, as Magdalene College. On 21st April 1544, he resigned the great seal due to illness and died on 30th April 1544 at his home in London. He was buried at Saffron Walden, Essex.

Thomas Audley was married twice, first to Christina Barnardiston, who didn’t give him any children, then to Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset, who gave him two daughters, Mary and Margaret. Margaret married Henry Dudley and then Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

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30 April – Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor