Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wentworth, Thomas (1501-1551)

WENTWORTH, THOMAS, first Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead (1501–1551), was descended from an ancient Yorkshire family, two branches of which were settled at Wentworth-Woodhouse, and North Elmsall. Thomas Wentworth, the great earl of Strafford [q. v.], belonged to the former branch (see Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees). Roger Wentworth (d. 1452), younger son of John Wentworth of North Elmsall, Yorkshire, acquired the manor of Nettlestead, Suffolk, in right of his wife Margery (1397–1478), daughter of Sir Philip Despenser and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Robert de Tiptoft or Tibetot, last baron Tiptoft of the first creation and lord of the manor of Nettlestead. Roger Wentworth's younger son, Henry (d. 1482), was by his first wife ancestor of the Wentworths of Gosfield, Essex, and by his second wife of the Wentworths of Lillingstone Lovell, Oxfordshire; to the latter branch belonged Paul Wentworth [q. v.], Peter Wentworth (1530?–1596) [q. v.], and Sir Peter Wentworth (1592–1675) [q. v.] Roger's elder son, Sir Philip, was father of Sir Henry Wentworth (d. 1499), whose daughter Margery (d. 1550) married Sir John Seymour (d. 1536) of Wolfhall, and was mother of Queen Jane Seymour, of Protector Somerset, and grandmother of Edward VI. Sir Henry Wentworth's son, Sir Richard Wentworth (d. 1528), was sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1509 and 1517, was knighted in 1512, served at the battle of Spurs in 1513, was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and died on 17 Oct. 1528. He married Anne, daughter of Sir James Tyrrell [q. v.], the supposed murderer of the princes in the Tower, and was father of the subject of this article.

Thomas Wentworth, born in 1501, served through the Duke of Suffolk's expedition into France in 1523, and was knighted in the chapel at Roye on 31 Oct. with his cousin, Edward Seymour (afterwards Duke of Somerset). In 1527 he was a member of the household of Henry VIII's sister Mary, and on 17 Oct. 1528 succeeded his father at Nettlestead. He was returned as knight of the shire to the ‘Reformation’ parliament summoned to meet on 3 Nov. 1529, but on 2 Dec. 1529 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Wentworth. He adopted with apparent sincerity Reformation principles, and to his influence John Bale attributed his conversion (Bale, Vocacyon, p. 14). Subsequently he took some part in the proceedings against heretics, but probably with much reluctance. In 1530 he signed the peers' letter to the pope, requesting that Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon might be granted, and in 1532 he attended the king on his visit to Calais to meet Francis I. In May 1536 he was one of the peers who tried and condemned Anne Boleyn, and in December 1539 he was sent to Calais to receive Anne of Cleves. He must be distinguished from the Sir Thomas Wentworth who was captain of Carlisle from 26 June 1537 to 24 Oct. 1541. He did not benefit by Henry's will, but in February 1546–7 Paget declared that it was the late king's intention that Wentworth should be granted the stewardship of all the bishop of Ely's lands. In July 1549 he served under the Marquis of Northampton against the insurgents in Norfolk, and in the following October he was one of the peers whose aid Warwick enlisted to overthrow Somerset. He joined the conspirators in London on the 9th, and henceforth sat as a member of the privy council. He was further rewarded by being appointed one of the six lords to attend on Edward VI, and on 2 Feb. 1549–50, when Warwick deprived the catholic peers of their offices, Wentworth succeeded Arundel as lord chamberlain of the household; he was also on 16 April following granted the manors of Stepney and Hackney. He was a constant attendant at the privy council meetings until 15 Feb. 1550–1. He died on 3 March following, and was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 7th with a magnificence that contrasted strangely with the council's refusal to go into mourning the previous July on the death of Wentworth's aunt, who was also Somerset's mother and Edward VI's grandmother. A portrait of Wentworth is among the Holbein drawings at Windsor; it was engraved by Dalton, by Bartolozzi in 1792, and by Minaso in 1812; another portrait was lent by Mr. F. Vernon-Wentworth of Castle Wentworth to the South Kensington loan exhibition of 1866 (No. 169); a third, painted by Theodore Bernards, belongs to Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, bart., and was reproduced as a frontispiece to Mr. W. L. Rutton's ‘Three Branches of the Wentworth Family’ (1891).

Wentworth married, about 1520, Margaret, elder daughter of Sir Adrian Fortescue [q. v.], by his first wife, granddaughter and heir of John Neville, marquis of Montagu [q. v.] Sir Anthony Fortescue [q. v.] and Sir John Fortescue (1531?–1607) [q. v.] were her half-brothers, and Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Thomas Bromley (1530–1587) [q. v.], was her half-sister. Her daughters by Wentworth married equally well; Jane (d. 1614) became the wife of Henry, baron Cheney of Toddington; Margaret of first John, baron Williams of Thame [q. v.], secondly Sir William Drury [q. v.], and thirdly Sir James Crofts; and Dorothy of first Paul Withypole (d. 1579), secondly Martin Frobisher [q. v.], and thirdly Sir John Savile of Methley. Of the sons, Thomas succeeded as second baron, and is separately noticed; and John and James were lost with the Greyhound in March 1562–1563 (Machyn, pp. 304, 394). Wentworth had issue sixteen children in all.

[Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Chron. of Calais, Machyn's Diary, and Wriothesley's Chron. (Camden Soc.); Lit. Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club); Hamilton Papers; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 178; Lords' Journals; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation; Strype's Works; Davy's Suffolk Collections in Brit. Museum Addit. MS. 19154; Rutton's Three Branches of the Wentworth Family; Burke's Extinct Peerage and G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerages.]

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