Sir Thomas BROMLEY,
Lord Chief Justice
Born: ABT 1500
Died: 15 May 1555
Buried: St. Andrew, Wroxeter, Shropshire, England
Father: Roger BROMLEY
Mother: Jane JENNINGS
Married 1: Elizabeth DODD (dau. of John Dodd of Cloverley)
Married 2: Isabel LYSTER
1. Margaret BROMLEY
Bromley was of an old Staffordshire family, and a second cousin of Sir Thomas Bromley. His father was Roger, son of Roger Bromley of Mitley, Shropshire, and his mother was Jane, daughter of Thomas Jennings. He was entered at the Inner Temple, was reader there in the autumn of 1532, and again in the autumn of 1539, and was nominated in Lent term 1540, but did not serve.
He was made serjeant-at-law in 1540, and king's serjeant on 2 Jul of the same year, and on 4 Nov 1544 he succeeded Sir John Spelman as a judge of the king's bench. He was held in favour by Henry VIII, who made him one of the executors of his will, and bequeathed him a legacy of £300. Hence he was one of the council of regency to Edward VI; but, although he succeeded in avoiding political entanglements for some time, at the close of the reign he became implicated in Northumberland's scheme for the succession of Lady Jane Grey. The Duke summoned to court Montague, chief justice of the common pleas, Bromley, Sir John Baker, and the attorney- and solicitor-general, and informed them of the King's desire to settle the crown on Lady Jane. They replied that it would be illegal, and prayed an adjournment, and next day expressed an opinion that all parties to such a settlement would be guilty of high treason. Northumberland's violence then became so great that both Bromley and Montague were in bodily fear; and two days later, when a similar scene took place, and the King ordered them on their allegiance to despatch the matter, they consented to settle the deed, receiving an express commission under the great seal to do so and a general pardon. Bromley, however, adroitly avoided witnessing the deed, and consequently, when Mary sent the lord chief justice to gaol, she made Bromley chief justice of the King’s Bench, in the room of Sir Roger Cholmley, on 4 Oct 1553.
He did not hold this office long. On 17 Apr 1554 Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and others were indicted for a plot and treason at Baynard's Castle on 23 Nov 1553, and for a rising and march towards London with Sir Henry Isley and two thousand men. Bromley presided at the trial, and allowed the prisoner such unusual freedom of speech as to provoke complaints from the Queen's attorney, and threats of retiring from the prosecution. Yet Bromley was not throughout impartial, but even refused the prisoner leave to call a witness, though he was in court, and denied him inspection of a statute on which he relied. His summing up was so defective, 'for want of memory or goodwill', that the prisoner supplied its defects, as if he had been an uninterested spectator. Yet the prisoner was acquitted: so much to Mary's annoyance that the jury were punished for their verdict. Sir William Portman succeeded Bromley as chief justice on 11 Jun 1555.
His dau. Margaret married Sir Richard Newport.
Bromley joined in the scramble for monastic and chantry lands, building up a sizeable estate for himself in Shropshire and engaging in some speculative transactions with his friend Sir Rowland Hill. His will, drawn up during one of his recurrent illnesses in Jan 1552, gives no colour to Burnet’s assertion that he was ‘a papist in his heart’: he commended his soul to God, trusting in the remission of his sins ‘by the merits of the blood and passion of our Saviour Jesu Christ’. He left generous legacies to the poor in Shrewsbury and its suburbs, and monetary bequests to a number of relatives. Thomas Bromley, son of George Bromley, esquire, deceased, presumably the future lord chancellor, was to receive 40s. a year for ten years out of lands at Oxenbold, provided he continued to study law for that time. The residue of his estate was divided between Bromley’s daughter and his widow, the co-executor with Sir Rowland Hill. Bromley died on 15 May 1555 and was buried in Wroxeter church, where there is an alabaster monument to him and to his wife Isabel.
Splendid monuments from the 16th century make the church of St Andrew, Wroxeter, particularly worth visiting. The earliest and finest, carved in alabaster and still showing traces of the original paint, commemorates Sir Thomas Bromley and his wife Mabel. He is shown in lawyer’s attire, while his wife wears a fine headdress. On the front of the tomb is the charming figure of their daughter Margaret. Margaret’s own tomb is opposite that of her parents, alongside her husband, who wears full armour. Their mourning sons and daughters are shown below.
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