Lot 3
  • 3

Cromwell, Thomas.

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  • Cromwell, Thomas.
Two letters, one a duplicate of the other, both signed ("Your lovyng assuryd ffreend Thomas Crumwell" and "Your assu[ryd ] Thomas Crumw[ell]")


From Towneley MS XXXI; recorded in HMC, 4th Report, p.172, No.480; CSPD, Henry VIII, XIV, part 2, p.172, No.480. See previous lot.


Merriman, vol, II, p.239.

Catalogue Note

...These shalbe to advertise you that the Kinges highnes and the lords of his Maiesties councail doo not a lytle muse and marvayle that his highnes sithens the departure of the Orators of Cleves and Saxe hath neither from you nor from the Duke of Cleves ne from any of the said Oratores recyved any maner of Lettres or advertisement , specially considring the greate charge sithens that tyme geven unto you to whyte at the least howe they Toke there the conclusion of the Mariage...also certayn other thinges of Importaunce Daylly occurring hath moved his highnes the more to marvayl at this your long protracted silence/ ffor his satisfaction wherin his grace hath dispached unto you this berer...making his Majestes most herty Comendations to the forsaid Duke he maye to the same intymate the cause of his cumyng and soo knowe what  aunswere or Sentence he woll comaund him...

The contrast between the tone of this letter and that of the former letter is striking. A spirit of satisfaction and congratulation has now changed to impatience and scarcely veiled recrimination at Wotton's silence and delay in concluding the marriage, so much so that the King has sent a bearer to do Wotton's job for him.

The urgency of the matter, reinforcing yet more the extent of the King's displeasure, is reflected in the fact that this letter was written in duplicate, probably by two different Royal Chancery scribes, both copies being signed by Cromwell and both dispatched to Wotton, probably by different couriers, to increase the chances of safe delivery  -- a procedure not unusual in diplomatic history when particularly important communications were involved.

In the event, the marriage treaty of October was honoured and Wotton accompanied Anne of Cleves to London in December 1539. For all the displeasure expressed in the present letter, the King was soon delighted with Wotton's performance and, before Anne's arrival, offered him a bishopric (which, however, Wotton declined).

As is well known, the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, which  took place on 6 January 1540, was a disaster. The marriage was annulled by Parliament, on the grounds of non-consummation, on 12 July 1540. Anne was pensioned off and remained on friendly terms with the King; Henry was free immediately to marry his fifth wife, Katherine Howard; and, despite the fact that he had given a rather more glowing report of Anne's beauty than Henry had discovered to be the truth, Nicholas Wotton was sent back to Germany as Resident and rewarded with further ecclesiastical promotions. 

The one great victim of the Cleves marriage disaster was Thomas Cromwell himself, who had encouraged the marriage as part of his overall strategy to establish alliances with the German Protestant states and , in effect, to consolidate the Reformation. With the collapse of the marriage, the Duke of Cleves re-established good relations with the Catholic Emperor Charles V and with France, which was exactly what the English had been scheming to avoid. Although the fall of Cromwell was due to a combination of factors, it was the Cleves marriage, for which he was blamed, that played the crucial part in undermining Henry's confidence in him. Comwell was indicted for treason and other offences on 29 June and was executed on 28 July 1540.