THE PRESENT TESTAMENT AND WILL OF THOMAS CROMWELL, 12 July 1529

By 1529, Thomas Cromwell was already wealthy man, a man who had no need to work for the royal court. He had the beautiful home at Austin Friars, a successful career, loyal friends and allies at home and abroad, and a close immediate and extended family. But 1528 had been the peak of the sweating sickness outbreak, and records indicate that  Cromwell’s wife Elizabeth died in October 1528, while Cromwell managed to survive the outbreak (if you want the specifics, you will need to wait for my next book).  Cromwell fell behind on his work, and had to push himself to catch up over the New Year. Cromwell wasn’t in good place; he started calling him his debts in February 1529, (more than  £2,000,000 in today’s money) and in July made his will. 

Cromwell left most of his items to family, primarily to his young son Gregory, and his daughters Anne and Grace, who are crossed out after their deaths in October 1530 (again, you will need to wait for the book for the specifics). Cromwell listed many members of his family; his late sister Katherine Williams had three sons – Richard, Walter and Gregory (Richard changed his name to Cromwell around mid-1529, as did Walter, though Gregory remained as Williams). Cromwell’s other sister Elizabeth Wellyfed (d.1533) had Christopher, William and Alice, all of whom Cromwell educated and cared for. Also mentioned in Joan Williamson, Elizabeth Cromwell’s sister, along with her husband John, their daughter Joan, and other very young children. The couple, along with Elizabeth’s mother Mercy, all lived and worked at Austin Friars until 1540. Another curious mention is Elizabeth Gregory, servant to Elizabeth Cromwell, but again, you shall need to wait for the book. 

Cromwell lands and possession change markedly year on year, and there must have been many revisions to his will, especially around his life threatening illnesses in 1532, 34, 35 and 1539. he had manors in Stepney, Mortlake, Hackney, Wimbledon, lands around London, Sussex, much of Essex, even lands in Wales, all of which would have been shared between his son, nephews, Ralph Sadler  and many loyal servants. Sadly, no copies survive, meaning we lose so much information about Cromwell’s life. The inventory of Austin Friars made after Cromwell’s execution is only partial.

THE WILL OF THOMAS CROMWELL, 12 July 1529

(British National Archives, Letter and Papers of Henry VIII, iv.5772)

In the name of God Amen, the 11th day of July in the year of our lord God 1528 1529 and in the 21st year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King Henry the 8th. I, Thomas Cromwell of London, gentleman, being whole in body and in good and perfect memory. Lauded be the Holy Trinity make ordain and declare this my present testament containing my last will in manner and form following.

FIRST I bequeath my soul to the great God of heaven my maker Creator and Redeemer, beseeching the most glorious virgin our blessed lady Saint Mary the virgin and Mother with all the holy company of heaven to be Mediators and Intercessors for me to the Holy Trinity, so that I may be able when it shall please Almighty God to call me out of this miserable world and transitory life to inherit the kingdom of heaven amongst the number of good Christian people. And when so ever I shall depart this present life, I bequeath my body to be buried where it shall please God to ordain me to die and to be ordered after the discretion of my executors under-named. And for my goods, which our lord has lent me in this world, I will shall be ordered and disposed in manner and form as hereafter shall ensue. First, I give and bequeath to my son Gregory Cromwell, six hundred threescore six (666) pounds, thirteen shillings, four pence of lawful money of England. With the six hundred threescore six pounds, thirteen shillings, four pence, I will my executors under-named immediately or as some as they conveniently may after my decease shall purchase lands, tenements and hereditaments to the clear yearly value of 20 33l 6s 8d by the year above, all charges and reprises to those of my son Gregory for term of his life. And after the decease of the said Gregory, to the male heirs of his body lawfully to be begotten. And for lack of male heirs of the body of Gregory lawfully to be begotten to the heirs general of his body lawfully begotten. And for lack of such heirs to the right heirs of me, the said Thomas Cromwell in fee. I will also that immediately and as one as the lands, tenements and hereditaments shall be so purchased after my death as is aforesaid by my executors that the yearly profits thereof shall be holy spent and employed in and about the education and finding honestly of my said son Gregory in virtue, good learning, and manner until such time as he shall come to the full age of 22 years. During which time I heartily desire and require my said executors to be good to my son Gregory and to see he loses no time but see him virtuously ordered and brought up according to my trust.

Item: I give and bequeath to my said son Gregory, when he shall come to his full age of 21 22, 200 pounds of lawful English money. To order then as our lord shall give him grace and discretion, which 200 pounds shall be put in surety to the intent the same may come to his hands at his said age of 24 years.

Item: I give and bequeath to my son Gregory of such household stuff as God has lent me. Two Three of my best Featherbeds a Bolster the best with their bolsters and the two best pairs of blankets of Fustian (twill cloth) my best coverlet  of Tapestry and my Quilt of yellow turquoise satin, 10 pairs of my best sheets two four pillows of down with 4 pairs of the best pillow cases, two four of my best table clothes, four of my best towels, one dozen two dozen of my finest napkins and two dozen of my other napkins, a two garnish of my best vessel, three of my best brass pots, three of my best brass pans, two of my best kettles, two of my best spits, my best joined bed of Flanders work with the best sparver (canopy) and tester, and other the appurtenances thereto belonging. My best press carving of Flanders work and my best Cupboard carving of Flanders work, with also six joined stoles of Flanders work and six of my best cushions.

Item: I give and bequeath to my son Gregory, a (raised) basin parcel (partly) gilt, my best salt gilt, my best cup gilt, three three of my best goblets gilt, three other of my best goblets parcel gilt, six twelve of my best silver spoons, and my three of my best drinking ale pots gilt. All the which parcels of plate and household stuff I will shall be safely kept to those of my son Gregory till he shall come to his full age of 22 years, and all the which plate household stuff Napery and other the premises I will my executors do put in safekeeping until my son shall come to the said years or age of 22. And if he die before the age of 24 22, then I will all the said plate vessels and household stuff shall be sold by my executors, and the money thereof coming to be given and equally divided amongst my poor kinsfolk. That is to say amongst the children as well of my sister Elizabeth and Katheryn, and of my late wife’s sister, Joan, wife to John Williamson. And if it happen that all the children of my said sisters and sister-in-law die before the partition and division be made, and none of them to be living, then I will that all the said plate, vessels and household stuff shall be sold and given to other my poor kinsfolk, then being on live (alive) and other poor and indigent (needy)  people in need of charity, for my soul, my Father and Mother their souls, and all Christian souls.

Item: I give and bequeath to my daughter Anne, one hundred marks of lawful money of England when she shall come to her lawful age, or happen to be married, and 40 pounds towards her finding  until the time that she shall be of lawful age or be married. Which 40 pounds I will shall be delivered to my friend John Croke, one of the six clerks of the king’s Chancery, to the intent he may order the same and cause the same to be employed in the best ways he can devise about the virtuous education and bringing up of my daughter till she shall come to her lawful age or marriage. And if it happen my daughter to die before she comes to her lawful age or be married, then I will that the said one hundred marks and the said 40 pounds, then unspent and unemployed at the day of the death of my said daughter Anne, I will it shall remain (return) to Gregory my son if he then be on live, and if he be dead, the same 100 marks and also the said 40 pounds, then unspent, to be departed amongst my sisters’ children in manner and form foresaid. And if it happens my sisters’ children then to be all dead, then I will the 100 marks and 40 pounds, then unspent, shall be divided amongst my kinsfolk such as then shall be on live.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister Elizabeth Wellyfed, wife to William Wellyfed, 30 pounds which she owes me, twenty pounds sterling, 40 pounds, three goblets without a cover, a maser (wooden drinking bowl) and a nut (coconut bowl).

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew Richard Williams, servant with my lord Marquess Dorset, 40 pounds  66 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence sterling, my fourth best gown, doublet and jacket.

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew Christopher Wellyfed 20 40 pounds, my fifth best gown, doublet and jacket.

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew William Wellyfed the younger, 10 20 pounds.

Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Alice Wellyfed to her marriage 20 pounds. And if it she were to die before marriage then I will the 20 pounds shall remain to her brother Christopher, and if he were to die, the same 20 pounds shall remain to William Wellyfed the younger his brother. And if they all were to die before their lawful age or marriage, then I will that their parts shall remain to Gregory my son. And if he were to die before them, then I will all the parts shall remain to Anne and Grace my daughters Richard Williams and Walter Williams my nephews. And if they were to die, then I will that all the said parts shall be distributed in deeds of charity for my soul, my Father and Mother’s souls, and all Christian souls.

Item: I give and bequeath to my mother-in-law Mercy Prior, 40 pounds of lawful English money and her chamber with certain household stuff. That is to say, a featherbed, a bolster (bed-length cylinder cushion), two pillows with their bearers (cases), six pairs of sheets, a pair of blankets, a garnished vessel, two pots, two pans, two spits, with such other of my household stuff as shall be thought for her by the discretion of my executors, and such as she will reasonably desire not being bequeathed to others in this, my present testament and last will.

Item: I give and bequeath to my said mother-in-law a little Salt of silver, a maser (wooden drinking bowl), six silver spoons, and a drinking pot of silver. And also, I charge my executors to be good to her during her life.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother-in-law William Wellyfed 20 pounds, my third gown, jacket and doublet.

Item: I give and bequeath to John Williamson my brother-in-law 20 pounds 40 pounds 100 marks (66 pounds), a gown, a doublet and a jacket. A featherbed, a bolster, six pairs of sheets, two tablecloths, two dozen napkins, two towels, two brass pots, two bras pans, a silver pot, a nut parcel gilt, and to Joan his wife 6 pounds, 13 shillings 4 pence ten pounds.

Item: I give and bequeath to Joan Williamson their daughter, to her marriage 20 pounds and to every other of their children 3 pounds 6 shillings 8 pence 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence.

Item: I bequeath to Walter Williams my cousin nephew, 20 pounds.

Item: I give and bequeath to Ralph Sadler my servant, 100 marks 200 marks (132 pounds) of lawful English money, my best second gown, jacket and doublet and all my books.

Item: I give and bequeath to Hugh Whalley my servant, 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to Stephen Vaughan, sometimes my servant, 10 pounds 100 marks (66 pounds), a gown, jacket and doublet.

Item: I give and bequeath to (John) Page my servant, otherwise called John du Pount, 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence and also to Thomas Avery my servant, 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to Elizabeth Gregory, sometime my servant, 20 pounds, six pairs of sheets, a featherbed, a pair of blankets, a coverlet, tablecloths, one dozen napkins, two brass pots, two brass pans, two spits.

Item: I give and bequeath to John Croke, one of the six clerks of the Chancery, 10 pounds, my second gown, doublet and jacket.

Item: I give and bequeath to Roger More, servant of the king’s bakehouse, 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence, 3 yards of satin, and to Maudelyn his wife, 3 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to John Horwood, 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence.

‘Item: I give and bequeath to my little daughter Grace 100 marks (66 pounds) of lawful English money when she shall come to her lawful age or marriage, and also 40 pounds towards her exhibition and finding until such time she be of lawful age or be married. Which 40 pounds I will shall be delivered to my brother in law John Williamson to the intent he may order and cause the same to be employed in and about the virtuous education and bringing up of my daughter till she shall come to her lawful age or marriage. And if it happens my daughter dies before she comes to her lawful age or marriage, then I will that the 100 marks (66 pounds) and so much of the said 40 pounds, as then shall be unspent and unemployed on the finding of my daughter at the day of the death of my daughter, shall remain and be delivered to Gregory my son, and if he happen to be on live. And if he be dead, then the 100 marks and residue of the 40 pounds shall be departed amongst my pour kinsfolk, that is to say, my sisters’ children foresaid.

Item: that the rest of my apparel, before not given and bequeathed in this my testament and last will, shall be given and equally departed amongst my servants after the order and discretion of my executors.

Item: I will also that my executors shall take the yearly profits above the charges of my lease of Sutton at Hone and Temple Dartford in the County of Kent And shall take the profit of my ferme (lease) of the parsonage of Sutton Lease of Canonbury, and all other things contended within my said lease of Canonbury in the County of Middlesex, and with the profits thereof coming shall yearly pay to my brother in law William Wellyfed and Elizabeth his wife my only sister, 20 pounds, during their lives, and the longer of them and after the death of William and Elizabeth, the profits of the said ferme (lease) over and above the yearly rent to be kept to the use of my son Gregory till he come to the age of 22, and at the year of 22, the said lease and rent of Canonbury, I do give and bequeath to my said son Gregory to have the same to him his executors and assignees in deeds of charity over and above charges and reparations, give and distribute for my soul quarterly 40 shillings amongst poor people until my son Gregory shall come to the age of 35 years if he so long do live. And then my son to have my lease during the years contained within my leases. And if by fortune Gregory my son dies before he shall com to the age of 35 22 years, my brother-in-law and sister being dead, then I will my cousin Richard Williams shall take the lease with the appurtenances to him and his executors and assignees. And if it happen my brother-in-law, my sister and my son Gregory and my cousin Richard are to die before the accomplishment of this my will, touching the lease, then I will my executors shall sell the lease and the money to the most profit and advantage thereof, coming to employ in deeds of charity upon my poor kinsfolk and other charitable deeds to pray for my soul and all Christian souls.

Item: I will that my executors shall conduct and hire a priest, being an honest person of content and good living, to sing for my soul by the space of three seven years next after my death and to give him for the same, 20 pounds 46 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence, that is to say 6 pounds, 13 shillings and 4 pence yearly for his stipend.

Item: I give and bequeath towards the making of highways in this realm where it shall be thought by the discretion of my executors most necessary, 20 pounds, to be disposed by the discretion of my executors.

Item: I give and bequeath to every of the five orders of friars within the city of London to pray for my soul 13 shillings 4 pence 20 shillings.

Item I give and bequeath to 60 poor maidens marriages 20 pounds 40 pounds. That is to say, 6 shillings 8 pence 13 shillings 4 pence to every of the poor maidens to be given and distributed by the discretion of my executors. Item: I will that there shall be dealt and given after my death, amongst poor people householders to pray for my soul, 10 pounds 20 pounds.

Item: I give and bequeath to the poor parishioners, such as by my executors shall think it most needful of the parish, where God shall ordain me to have my dwelling place at the time of my death, 5 pounds 10 pounds, to be truly distributed amongst them by the discretion of my executors.

Item: I give and bequeath to my parish church, for my tithes forgotten 20 shillings.

Item: I give and bequeath to the poor prisoners of Newgate Ludgate King’s bench and Marshall See, to be equally distributed amongst them, 10 pounds, willing, charging and desiring my executors underwritten that they shall see this my will performed in every point, according to my true meaning and intent, as they will answer to God and discharge their consciences. 

(Cromwell then personally wrote out extra bequeaths to be added to the will)

Item: I give and bequeath to William Brabazon my servant, 20 pounds sterling, a gown, doublet, a jacket and my second gelding.

Item: I give and bequeath to John Avery, yeoman of the bottle with the king’s highness, 6 pounds, 13 shillings 4 pence, and doublet of satin.

Item: I bequeath to Thurston my cook, 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to William Body my servant, 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item I give and bequeath to Peter Mewtes my servant, 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to Richard Swift my servant,  6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to George Wilkinson my servant, 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Item: I give and bequeath to my friend Thomas Alvard, 10 pounds and my best gelding.

Item: I give and bequeath to my friend Thomas Rush 10 pounds.

Item: I give and bequeath to my servant John Hynde my horse keeper, 3 pounds 6 shillings 8 pence.

Item: I will that my executors shall solely keep the patent of the Manor of Rumney, to the use of my son Gregory and the money growing thereof till he shall come to his lawful age, to be yearly retained to the use of my son, and the whole revenue thereof coming to be truly paid to him at such time as he shall come to the age of 21 years.

The residue of all my goods, chattels, and debts not bequeathed, my funeral and burial performed, which I will shall be done without any earthly pomp and my debts paid, I will shall be sold and the money thereof coming to be distributed in works of charity and pity after the good discretion of my executors undernamed, whom I make and ordain John Croke, one of the six clerks of the king’s Chancery, Stephen Vaughan and Ralph Sadler, my servants, John Smyth and John Williamson my brother-in-law. Praying and desiring the same my executors to be good to my son Gregory and to my little daughters Anne and Grace, and to all other my friends, poor kinsfolk and servants before named in this my testament. And of this, my present testament and last will, I make Roger More my overseer, unto whom and also to every of the other my executors I give and bequeath 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence for their pains to be taken in the execution of this my last will and testament, over and above such legacies as here before I have bequeathed them in this same my testament and last will. In witness to this, my present testament and last will, I have set my hand in every leaf contained in this book the day and year before limited.

per me, Thomas Cromwell (signed, likewise all other pages)