ARUNDELL, Sir Thomas (c.1502-52), of Shaftesbury, Dorset and Wardour Castle, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1502, 2nd s. of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornw. by 1st w., and bro. of Sir John. educ. L. Inn, adm. 2 Feb. 1517. m. settlement 20 Nov. 1530, Margaret (d. 10 Oct. 1571), da. of Lord Edmund Howard, 2s. inc. Matthew, 2 or 3da. Kntd. 30 May 1533.2

Offices Held

Servant of Wolsey by Feb. 1518, William, 11th Earl of Arundel c.1530; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1530-1, 1540-1; receiver-gen., duchy of Cornwall 14 Mar. 1533-d., Malmesbury abbey, Wilts. by 1533, Shaftesbury abbey by 1535; bp.’s bailiff, Salisbury, Wilts. by 1535; surveyor and receiver, ct. augmentations, Cornw., Devon, Dorset, Som., 24 Apr. 1536-44; j.p. Cornw. 1536-d., Dorset 1536-d., Som. 1538-41, Salisbury 1540-d., Wilts. 1543-d.; member, council in the west 1539; commr. coastal defence south-west counties 1539, benevolence Dorset 1544/45, musters 1546; constable, Taunton castle, Som. 1542-d.; chancellor, household of Queen Catherine Parr 15 Mar. 1544; custos rot. Dorset c.1547; steward for Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, unknown property by 1548.3


Through his mother Thomas Arundell was related both to Henry VIII (although not of the blood royal) and to several leading noble families. As a younger son he was not destined to enjoy his family’s Cornish estates: he entered Lincoln’s Inn but if he ever meant to become a lawyer his aspirations changed with his entry into Wolsey’s household. Rising high in the cardinal’s esteem, he was closely associated with Wolsey’s management of the divorce proceedings and Wolsey hoped to keep his services after his own disgrace. Arundell for his part tried to persuade the 3rd Duke of Norfolk that Wolsey no longer craved power. He was later to thank Cromwell for saving the greater part of his livelihood at Wolsey’s fall, but he owed his preservation as much to his noble kinsmen, one of whom took Arundell briefly into his own household. Not long after being pricked sheriff of Somerset and Dorset for the first time, Arundell married a relative of Norfolk. He quickly earned Cromwell’s respect in matters of local government and numerous problems were entrusted to him by the minister. Public recognition came in 1533 when he succeeded his father as receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall, and when two months later he was knighted at the coronation of Anne Boleyn.4

Arundell’s decision to establish himself in the south-west was partly determined by the connexions his family had in the area, which combined with his obvious talent led to his rapid ascendancy in Dorset and adjacent counties; local magnates, monastic houses and corporations all vied with each other to enlist his favour or his service. His appointment to the court of augmentations on its inception and later to the council in the west further established and consolidated his position.5

During the rising of the north in 1536 Arundell was called upon to attend the King with 200 men, and in 1544 he served in the French campaign. He was frequently at court and attended all the main state occasions in the late 1530s and 1540s. In 1540 he bought from the crown two manors in Dorset and two in Wiltshire formerly in the possession of Shaftesbury and Cerne abbeys, paying for them over £2,000; one of the Dorset manors he re-sold at once, to Matthew Colthurst. Between 1544 and 1546 he received four further grants of land for which he paid £5,384. In this way he acquired much of the property of the dissolved house of Shaftesbury: the site of the monastery itself he had on lease from the crown. Arundell lived in Shaftesbury from the early 1540s as high steward of the king’s court there and lord of the borough.6

A figure of such eminence was an obvious candidate for Parliament, but there is no evidence of his return before 1545. Although in 1529 his attachment to Wolsey was perhaps a bar to election, no similar obstacle blocked his way later. As chancellor of her household Arundell stood close to Queen Catherine Parr, and on her behalf he evidently exercised his authority to nominate candidates and to supervise the parliamentary elections of 1544-5 in the south-west, many of his colleagues in augmentations and the Queen’s household, Lincoln’s Inn lawyers, kinsmen and dependants being returned from that region. In the elections held in 1547 Arundell was less influential. He himself sat in the Parliaments of 1545 and 1547 for Dorset. The Journal, beginning in 1547, shows him as an active Member. On 18 Dec. 1548 a bill for the assurance of land to the manor of Newcastle was committed to him and others; on 5 Jan. 1549 Richard Goodrich and he were authorized ‘to draw a bill for the absence of knights and burgesses of parliament’, which was committed to Arundell a week later after its first reading; and in the following month the bills for restrictions on buying of wool and for subpoenas and privy seals were likewise committed to him. In the next session Lord de la Warre’s bill was delivered to Arundell and others for examination on 7 Jan. 1550. But this was the last of his employment in the Commons: before the end of the month he was in the Tower.7

After the death of Henry VIII Sir William Paget said that the King had meant to confer a barony on Arundell, but nothing came of the suggestion, which Arundell may have declined, as both his father and grandfather had done. When Arundell’s elder brother was suspected of complicity in the Cornish rebellion of 1549, Arundell and Sir Thomas Stradling stood surety for his undertaking not to leave London; the recognizance of £4,000 was cancelled in November 1549 but on 30 Jan. 1550 the two brothers were sent to the Tower ‘for conspiracies in the west parts’, with Sir Thomas evidently considered the chief offender. They remained in the Tower until on 4 Oct. 1551 Arundell was released on a recognizance of 1,000 marks. A week later Sir Thomas Palmer accused him of conspiring with the Duke of Somerset and assuring Somerset that the Tower was ‘safe’, and by 18 Oct. Arundell was back there.8

Arundell had not hitherto been closely linked with the ex-Protector, and indeed was thought by Cavendish, Wolsey’s servant and biographer, to have been the Earl of Warwick’s ‘chief counsellor’ in Somerset’s overthrow in the autumn of 1549. The imperial ambassador likewise considered him a ‘prime mover’ in uniting the Council against the Protector, who had refused to allow him to enter the service of Princess Mary; after Somerset’s fall Arundell, an open Catholic, was accepted by Mary into her service. The interrogatories prepared for the duke in 1551 implied no great trust between him and Arundell but one of the questions, ‘By how many noblemen and others would Sir Thomas Arundell be assisted?’, probably provides the clue to Arundell’s arrest. He was allied by birth and marriage to some of the greatest in the land and could have been dangerous. Whether, as was alleged at his trial on 28 Jan. 1552, he had plotted against Warwick while in the Tower cannot be known, but he can hardly have been guilty of the second charge, of conspiring with Somerset at Syon house on 2 Oct. 1551, two days before his release from the Tower. Arundell pleaded not guilty and the jury was reluctant to convict, but after a night without food, fire or light it found him guilty of felony, not guilty of treason. He was condemned to be hanged, but in the event was beheaded, on Tower Hill, on 26 Feb. 1552. His death was noted on the list of Members in use during the last session of the Parliament of 1547, but no attempt seems to have been made to replace him. His attainder was confirmed by Act (5 and 6 Edw. VI, no.37) and his possessions were forfeited to the crown.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from elder brother’s and own education. Hoare, Wilts. Dunworth, 179, 181 (citing Cavendish’s Metrical Visions ); C142/86/11; CPR, 1553-4, p. 340; LP Hen. VIII, vi.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii. vi, ix, xii-xxi; St.Ch.2/18/172; CPR, 1550-3, p. 386; Val. Eccles. i. 122, 280, ii. 69, 334; Eccl. 2/155884-91; C66/801; E326/B9054; E163/12/17, nos. 38, 51, 54.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, ii-vi; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 5, ff. 270v, 288v; 8, f. 13v; St.Ch.2/18/172; E135/7/25.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, v-xxi; K. S. H. Wyndham, ‘The redistribution of crown land in Somerset by gift, sale and lease 1536-72’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1976), 65.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xv, xvii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 24; NRA 8800, no. 295; Req.2/10/133; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club cliv).
  • 7. CJ, i. 5-7, 14.
  • 8. Wealth and Power, ed. Ives, Knecht and Scarisbrick, 90; APC, ii. 16, 304, 376; iii. 378-9, 391; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 247, 353.
  • 9. Hoare, ii. 181; CSP Span. 1547-9, p. 470; 1550-2, pp. 8, 10; Nicolas Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (transl. D. Lewis 1877), 190-1; Tytler, Eng. under Edw. VI and Mary, ii. 48-49; DKR, iv(2), 230-2; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 15; LJ, i. 425, 428; Hatfield 207.