Sir Thomas BROMLEY

Lord Chancellor of England

Born: 1530, Rodd Castle and Hodnet, nr. Oswestry, Salop

Died: 12 Apr 1587

Buried: Westminster Abbey

Father: George BROMLEY of Hodnet

Mother: Jane LACON

Married: Elizabeth FORTESCUE


1. Muriel BROMLEY

2. Henry BROMLEY (Sir)

3. Edward BROMLEY

4. Thomas BROMLEY

5. Gerard BROMLEY

6. Elizabeth BROMLEY




The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born 1530, second son of George Bromley of Hodnet, and Jane, dau. of Sir Thomas Lacon and Maria Corbet. Brother of George. Educ. Oxf. BCL 1560; I. Temple. m. by 1560, Elizabeth, dau. of Sir Adrian Fortescue. They had four sons, included Henry, and four daughters. 1579. Lent reader, I. Temple 1566; recorder, London 1566-9, solicitor-general 1569-79; treasurer, I. Temple 1573-5; PC Mar. 1579; ld. chancellor 1579-d.; dep. chancellor, Oxf. Univ. 1585.

He was descended from an ancient family established since the reign of King John at Bromleghe in Staffordshire. His second cousin, Sir Thomas Bromley of Rowton, Lord Chief Justice (b. ABT 1499 - d. 1555) was one of the executors of King Henry VIII's will.

Thomas Bromley began his legal career at the Inner Temple where his father, a distinguished lawyer, had been reader. While still at Oxford, and before his marriage, he was twice returned to Parliament, sitting in Mary I's last for a local family borough, and in Elizabeth's first for Wigan, a duchy of Lancaster borough not infrequently represented by lawyers. It is not clear exactly how Bromley came to be nominated there, but his return for Guildford was by courtesy of his friend Henry Fitzalan, 18th Earl of Arundel, high steward of the borough, for whom he later acted as executor. In 1566, after his appointment as recorder of London, he was elected for the city but the House of Commons resolved that he should continue to represent Guildford. In his capacity as recorder of London, he was, in the 1566 session of Parliament, appointed to a legal committee (3 Oct) and the succession committee (31 Oct).

Bromley first attracted attention as crown counsel during the trial of the Duke of Norfolk. Retained by Lord Hunsdon and patronised by Lord Burghley, he built up a lucrative practice in the Queen's bench and Chancery, and acquired the friendship of Sir William Cordell, master of the rolls, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford and Francis Drake who, on returning from his second voyage, made him a present of gold plate. Of his daughters, one married Oliver Cromwell of Hinchingbrooke, Huntingdonshire, and another John Lyttelton of Frankley. His only embarrassment was occasioned by an accusation that he assisted the attainted Richard Dacres after the Revolt of the Northern Earls. Naturally he bought extensive property, including lands in Shropshire, Montgomeryshire, and Worcestershire, much of it purchased from that ‘witty unfortunate’, Anthony Bourne. Bromley's local influence was however in Shropshire. He successfully prevented the market for Welsh wool from being moved back into Wales, and Chester from acquiring the staple. In this, Oswestry's interests were for once identical with those of Shrewsbury, where the corporation voted Bromley a gift of plate in 1582. Local rumour held that it was only his intercession with the Queen that had saved the two towns. Chester had further reason to dislike Bromley when, in 1580, he acquired a licence to import 200 packs of Irish wool each year. In 1585 he obtained a patent giving him the right to grant alnage licences.

On 26 Apr 1579, two months after the death of Lord Keeper Bacon, and backed by Hatton and Leicester, Bromley was made chancellor over the head of Sir Gilbert Gerard the attorney-general, who was consoled with the mastership of the rolls. In the Lords Bromley's speeches were brief and factual. On 21 Jan 1581 he sent a message to the House of Commons to explain his actions over the case of the Stafford Member (presumably Thomas Purslow) indicted for felony. He claimed that pressure had been put on him to issue a writ for the election of a new burgess in his stead, but that he had preferred to wait for guidance from the Commons. He presided over the trial of Mary Queen of Scots and sealed the warrant brought by Davison. As early as 1572, when still solicitor-general, Bromley had been sent to negotiate with Mary, drawing up a list of matters with which she might be charged. In 1585 he expounded the government's case when on the commission to inquire into the 'suicide' of Henry Percy, 8º Earl of Northumberland, who was implicated in Mary's schemes, and was found dead in the  Tower, slain by three bullets from a pistol. During the Parliament of 1586-7, which was dominated by the great cause, he made frequent speeches on the subject in the Lords and, as representative of the House of Lords, carried petitions to the Queen. He was too ill to preside during the post-Christmas sittings of the Parliament of 1586-7 and his place was taken by the chief justice.

Thomas’ elder brother George (d. 1589) was also an eminent lawyer and M.P. and married Joan Wannerton.

Thomas died 12 Apr 1587 and was buried in the chapel of St Paul in Westminster Abbey, where he has a large monument, incorporating his alabaster effigy dressed in an embroidered robe. Carved figures of his eight children kneel at the base of the structure. The Latin inscription can be translated:

“Thomas Bromley, knight, remarkable for his wisdom, piety and knowledge of the Law, Privy Counsellor to Queen Elizabeth, and Lord Chancellor; when he had for eight years delivered equity with singular integrity and temper of mind, being snatched hastily away, to the grief of all good men, was here buried. He lived 57 years, and died the 12th of April, anno 1587. He left by his Lady Elizabeth, of the family of Fortescues, eight children, Henry his son has to the best of fathers erected this monument”

At the feet of his effigy is a cock pheasant, the family crest. His coat of arms appears at the top of the monument: “per fess indented gules and or” (ie.four quarters alternating in red and gold, either side of a horizontal serrated line). In his will, made 10th and proved 17th of that month, he called to mind ‘that nothing is more certain than death, nor nothing more uncertain than the hour of death’.

His daughter Muriel was married to John Lyttleton or Littleton of Frankley (b. 1563 - d. Jul 1601), a Papist and conspirator in Essex’s Rebellion who died in prison. He had been condemned to death and his estates forfeited but Muriel “begged the estate” of King James and managed to pay fines totally £25,000. This took her thirty years, during which time she raised her children, Thomas (b. 1596 - d. 22 Feb 1651) and Anne (d. 6 Feb 1624) at Hagley, Worcestershire.


E. Rosenberg, Leicester as a Patron of Letters, 133.

Campbell, Lives of the Ld. Chancellors


T. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and Welsh Wool Trade, 31, 135.

E. St. John Brooks, Sir C. Hatton

Neale, Parlts

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