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EARLS OF SOUTHAMPTON.
Hook. In 1523 he refers to Cromwell as his master, and ingratiated himself with King Henry, as he expresses it, " by his labour in the King's great business," mostly relating to matters matrimonial. He used his influence to secure large grants out of the dissolved monasteries, of which he was appointed a Visitor, and obtained much property belonging to religious houses in Hants. Among others he acquired Quarr Abbey, Beaulieu Abbey, and Hyde Abbey, which he pulled down with amazing rapidity and sold the rich materials. He was actively engaged in pulling down images and shrines. In 1538 he was negotiating matrimonial arrangements for the King with the Duchess of Milan and for Princess Mary with Don Luis of Portugal, and in that year was returned as Knight of the Shire for the County of Southampton. In 1540 he was knighted and appointed principal Secretary ; at the same time Cromwell was created Earl of Essex. The fall of Cromwell, with whom he was associated, made Wriothesley's position perilous and he was in danger of following his patron to the Tower, but proved himself useful to the King with respect to Cromwell's case, the repudiation of Anne of Cleves, and the allegation of certain offences against Queen Catherine Howard. In 1541 he was governor of Southampton Castle, and so great was his power that in 1542 Chapuis reported that Wriothesley "almost governed everything."
As the reward for his efforts he was in 1544 created Baron Wriothesley of Titchfield, and in May of that year Lord High Chancellor and KG. Wriothesley now became the chief instrument of the King's reactionary policy and gained notoriety by his activity in persecuting the Reformers. He was certainly present at the execution of Anne Askew, and there seems no adequate ground for disbelieving that the Lord Chancellor with his own hand racked that unfortunate woman. But his chicanery and cruelty were to meet with a reversal of fortune in the new reign. He was possibly conscious of this when with "tears in his eyes" he announced to Parliament on the 31st January, 1C47 the death of Henry VIII.
Henry VIII. by his will appointed Wriothesley one of his executors and joint Governor of his son. On the accession of Edward VI. he was created Earl of Southampton in accordance with Henry's intentions, and bore the sword of state at the coronation of the young King. He was subsequently accused of illegal acts under the power of the Great Seal, deprived of his office and ordered to confine himself to his house in Ely Place with a fine of four thousand pounds. The fall of his rival removed an obstacle from Somerset's anti-papal policy and reform. So chagrined was Southampton at the failure of all his hopes that he pined away and died 30th July, 1550, at his house in Holborn, where he was buried in St. Andrew's Church. His body was afterwards removed to
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