Open main menu

Wriothesley, Thomas (d.1534) (DNB00)


WRIOTHESLEY (formerly Writh), Sir THOMAS (d. 1534), Garter king-of-arms, born at Colatford, near Castlecomb in Wiltshire, was the second son of Sir John Wriothesley or Writh [q. v.], by his first wife, Barbara, daughter and heir of John de Castlecomb or Januarius de Dunstanville, an alleged descendant from an illegitimate son of Henry I. The name Thomas was given him by his godfather, Thomas Holmes, Clarencieux herald. His elder brother, William Writh, was father of Thomas Wriothesley, first earl of Southampton [q. v.] Both brothers followed their father's profession of heraldry, and Thomas was in 1489 appointed Wallingford pursuivant at the investiture of Prince Arthur, to the fact of whose marriage with Catherine of Arragon he was one of the principal witnesses before the legatine court in July 1529 (Letters and Papers, iv. 5791; Herbert, Hist. of Henry VIII, pp. 273–4). At this time he lived at Cricklade, near his birthplace; but on his father's death in 1504 he was, in preference to Roger Machado [q. v.], suddenly promoted (26 Jan. 1504–5) to succeed as Garter king-of-arms, and removed to London, where he built himself a house called Garter House in Red Cross Street, outside Cripplegate (Stow, Survey, ed. Strype, iii. 89). He was confirmed in his office of Garter king by letters patent of Henry VIII, dated 9 Oct. 1509 (Addit. MS. 6297, p. 105; Letters and Papers, i. 556). Possibly owing to his rapid elevation, Writh was involved in frequent disputes with other heralds (Ashmole MSS. 840 f. 61, 857 ff. 428, 429). His ‘articles against the untrue surmises’ of Thomas Benolt [q. v.] are extant in British Museum Additional MS. 6297, pp. 77, 81, and further correspondence with Benolt on the matter among the manuscripts at Trinity College, Dublin (Bernard, Cat. MSS. Angliæ, iv. 819; cf. Letters and Papers, vol. v. App. No. 38). As Garter king Writh took part in the chief court ceremonies of the time; he officiated at the jousts held at Tournay in 1513, was present in 1514 at the marriage of the Princess Mary to Louis XII of France, was summoned to attend Henry VIII to his meeting with Francis I in 1520, and was commissioned to convey the insignia of the Garter to the French king in 1527 (Addit. MSS. 6113 f. 8b, 6297 p. 175, and 5712). He was knighted at Nuremberg by Ferdinand, archduke of Austria, while on a similar errand.

He died on 24 Nov. 1534, and was buried in Cripplegate church. A portrait of him from a tournament roll of 1511 is reproduced in Dallaway's ‘Heraldry in England’ (1793). By his first wife, Joan, daughter of William Hall of Salisbury, Wriothesley was father of Charles Wriothesley [q. v.], the chronicler, two other sons, and three daughters. His second wife was Anne, daughter of William Ingleby of Yorkshire, and widow of Richard Goldesborough and also of Robert Warcop.

Sir Thomas was a great collector of heraldic antiquities, though some of the manuscripts attributed to him are of later date. British Museum Additional MS. 5530 is a volume of pedigrees in his hand, but Additional MS. 6113, which in the printed catalogue is ascribed to him, consists largely of descriptions of ceremonies after his death written in an Elizabethan hand. Other collections and notes by him are in Bodleian manuscripts, Ashmole 1109, 1110, and 1113, and Rawlinson B 56, 58, and 102. He spelt his name in a variety of ways, originally as Writh or Wrythe, subsequently as Wreseley, Writhesley, and eventually Wriothesley; the last was the form adopted by his own and his brother's family. In Tudor times it was pronounced Wrisley.

[An elaborate account of Wriothesley is given in Anstis's Order of the Garter, i. 369–73; a pedigree and notes on Wriothesley are extant in Ashmole MS. 1115 ff. 90, 256; see also Harl. MS. 1529 f. 31b; Rawlinson MS. 384 ff. 93–4, B 333 f. 52, B 314 f. 87; Tanner MSS. cvi. 14, ccxxxvi. 40; Brewer and Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Noble's College of Arms; Ashmole's Order of the Garter; Hamilton's Preface to Charles Wriothesley's Chronicle (Camden Soc.), vol. i. pp. iii–ix; Cat. Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. and Bodleian, Ashmole, Rawlinson, and Tanner MSS.; Dallaway's Heraldry in England, 1793; Greenfield's Wriothesley Tomb, Titchfield (Hampshire Field Club Proc. 1889).]

A. F. P.