BROKE, Thomas (by 1513-55 or later), of Calais.

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. by 1513, poss. yr. s. of Thomas Brooke alias Cobham of Reculver, Kent by Susan. m. by Dec. 1534, at least 2 ch.3

Offices Held

Commr. tenths of spiritualities, Calais 1535; alderman, Calais by 1539; receiver Marck and Oye 18 Nov. 1545-55; paymaster, Dover by Feb. 1545-53.4


In the spring of 1539 Thomas Broke, exchequer official and alderman of Calais, was returned to Parliament by the mayor and aldermen of the town. What followed cost Broke dear. On 12 June, ignoring Cromwell’s determination to push through the Act of Six Articles, Broke addressed the House at length against transubstantiation and in favour of communion in both kinds. The speech made most Members ‘weary’ but Sir William Kingston, a friend of the deputy’s, rounded on Broke and he found himself in trouble. He had to appear before several bishops who were examining suspected heretics from Calais and he escaped being charged, according to Foxe, only because that would have infringed parliamentary freedom of speech. He was less fortunate when in the following year a commission arrived at Calais to discover the extent of heresy there: although his testimony, and the evidence of his servant Hugh Counsell, were not sufficient to send him to the stake, as the King had hoped, he was made a close prisoner in the mayor’s gaol. He was not allowed to attend the third session of the Parliament, and only after it had been dissolved in July, was he brought over to the Fleet, where he remained for some years before receiving a pardon and returning to Calais. It was a letter from his wife to Cromwell which had procured Broke’s transfer to the Fleet and Foxe implies that Cromwell’s attainder delayed his release. Certainly from 1535 Broke had corresponded regularly with the minister on domestic and religious topics and in pursuit of favours: Cromwell had also professed himself pleased when no immediate penalty had befallen Broke.5

Broke had begun his career at Calais as deputy to Edward Peyton, the customer of the Lantern gate. On 10 Nov. 1538 he secured the reversion of this office, which he forfeited at the time of his imprisonment and which went instead to Edmund Peyton, a nephew of Peyton’s and another of his deputies, who had given evidence against Broke at the bishop’s tribunal of 1539. Shortly after his return to Calais Broke was given the receivership of Marck and Oye: this grant, made at a time when Calais men were being rewarded for their part in the campaign of 1544 which led to the capture of Boulogne, may have been in recognition of services in that connexion. Thus rehabilitated and restored in fortune, Broke was returned to the first Edwardian Parliament at an election held by the deputy George Brooke, Lord Cobham (perhaps a kinsman) and his council on 2 Oct. 1547. Although nothing is known of his part in its proceedings, he must have found its religious legislation less uncongenial than he had done the Six Articles. Yet on 16 Nov. 1552 he was again imprisoned in the Fleet. Released for 14 days on 7 Dec. to make his account to the treasurer of Calais, Sir Maurice Denys, he was under bond to return to prison when he had done so. The reason for this further incarceration is unknown, but if Broke is to be identified with the man of that name described in 1550 as one of the leading sectaries in Kent it may have been again on grounds of religion. It would not have been his last sacrifice for his zeal, for when in 1555 William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, visited Calais with Queen Mary’s orders to rid the town of heretics, Broke was one of those who lost his office. This is the last clear trace found of him, although he may have been the man reported as too ill to take part in the attempt to recapture Calais after its loss in January 1558.6

Broke’s answers under examination, and his writings, reveal a man of wide accomplishments. He knew French, Greek, Hebrew and Latin, and was versed in scripture; he made translations of Calvin’s De Vita Hominis Christiani and Institutes, the first published about 1549, the second apparently not published; he compiled Certain Meditations and wrote the preface to Geneva: the common prayers (1550); and he used the pseudonym Dedimus Polladumus Londiniensis in his learned correspondence.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, xiv(1), 922.
  • 2. C219/19/137v; Hatfield 270.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. DNB; Test. Vet. ed. Nicolas, 724; LP Hen. VIII, vii, xiii; Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 516-18.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xx; APC, i. 74, iv. 151; Stowe 571, f. 41; The King’s Works, iii. 243-4.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vii-ix, xii-xv; Elton, Policy and Police, 221n.; Foxe, v. 502-6; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 47.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; C219/19/137; APC, iv. 171, 189, 296; P.T.J. ‘The govt. of Calais, 1485-1558’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1966), 236; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 97.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII. XV; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(1), 370.