BROMLEY, Thomas (1530-87), of Rodd Castle and Hodnet, nr. Oswestry, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 1530, 2nd s. of George Bromley of Hodnet, and bro. of George. educ. Oxf. BCL 1560; I. Temple. m. by 1560, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Adrian Fortescue of Shirburn, Oxon., 4s. inc. Henry 4da. Kntd. 1579.1
Lent reader, I. Temple 1566; recorder, London 1566-9, solicitor-gen. 1569-79; treasurer, I. Temple 1573-5; PC Mar. 1579; ld. chancellor 1579-d.; dep. chancellor, Oxf. Univ. 1585.2
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 Queen Mary’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, 12th 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.).3
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, the 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 northern rebellion. 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.4
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 the Earl of Northumberland, who was implicated in Mary’s schemes. 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.
He died 12 Apr. 1587 and was buried in Westminster abbey. 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’.5