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Transcription of letter from Thomas Norton

Thomas Norton. Copy of letter from Thomas Norton to Francis Mylles. Manuscript, 31 August 1581

Sir I am right glad of your masters health & of your good hope of his

spedie retorne and yet at his departure I wold have thought

Michaelmas as long tyme as for many cawses it is, God guide hym,

blesse hym, ^and^ prosper hym, and I pray you in your returne of writing vnto

hym to besech hym for me to accept my humble Comendacons and to

retaine his wonted opinion of my redines to doe hym all the services

that I am hable, and my continuance in harty praier for hym/

Touching the matter of your letter for the course that king henry kept in

dissolution of abbies, I am sorie I am so little hable to satisfie, for

therof I have vtterlie no notes or writings whervpon I am hable to

ground any instructions./ But what I am hable I will set downe as I

have vnderstoode by that which I have red & heard.


The first entrance was a present given by Cardinall Wolsey who vnder

pretence and for better habilitie to build his sumptyous Colledge dissolued

Certaine smale howses and by that doing of hym self (I dout not

with good warrant from Rome) he dyd make lese in other the conscience

toward those howses.


After hym ther came to the kings service Mr Cromewell who had served

the Cardinall in those former doinges


That Cromwall was the man that by his zeale his wisdom and his

Courrige was godes instrument to carry all to good effect. These

meanes he vsed.


He first found meanes to perswade the king that it lawfully might be done

That for his Crowne and state in safetie it was it was [sic] necessarie to

be done, for that he made appere to the king how by their meanes the

Pope and clergie so great aucthoretie reuenue alliance and prinsipallie

captiuacion of the soules, and obedience of subiectes that they weare

able to putt kinges in hazard of their will.


That for his revenue and maintenance of his estate wares & affaires

both in warr and peace, at home and abrode with others it was

most profitable to disolue them for augmentacion of his tresure


He allied the king so strongly with mighty forens in Germany,

and that leauge [sic] of religion so as with their forces & his treasure

and the consideracion of common perill by their comon enemy the

pope he was hable to with stand and encountre any foren princes so

at the Popes irritacion and prostituting his kingdome to the

occupanti wold make any attempt against hym[.] This aliance

was both by leauge [sic] with Saxonie and other and the mariage with

the sister of Cleue.


The Emperour and french king were so in hostillitie that eyther

of them was glad to wine king Henry to his part, wherby

either of them feared to irritate hym lest he coyning with the

other might make to hard a match against the invader, wherby

I thinke that the same hostillitie was cherished by Cromewells

Pollicie, whervpon grewe the play in france wherin were shewed

the Emperor and the french king playing at tennise and the king

of England paying for the balles, beside that though they

had not bene in hostillitie, yet wither of them durst suffer the

other to overgrow by impropriating to hym self anie thing in England,

and so the Emperor hymself was glad to sit still allthough the principall

ground in shewe of the quarrell touched hym in honor for his

Auntes repudiacion.


Cromewell caused preachers to go abroade & mainteined them to instruct the

people and to perswade the subiectes consciences to stand fast to the king with

feare of the Popes curse or his dissoluing of ther allegance.


He caused to be placed in the Archebishops seate Cranmer and in diuerse

other bishoprickes & hie places in the Clergie diuerse protestantes by meanes

wherof he was hable to execute great thinges among themselues,

and they were not hable so muche as to enter into any full and

perfect counsell against hym, muche lesse to putt any thing in

publike denuntation and execucon as against the former kinges of

this realme.


He knew that the clergie had in king Richard the secondes tyme

suborned another with Collor of a next attempting the like with the

Marques of Excester, he cawsed the heades of that faction

to be cutt of: suche as the howse of guise is now in ffrance who

kepe the lorrane title of Caroloningians in breath against the

Capiningians or hugonetes.


He perswaded the king by mainteyning of equ[..]ins and by holding

Towe the over eminent power of such great ones as in tymes past

had like bellwethers led the shepish flockes of England against

their prince to be knit fast to hym the love of his comons and

specially of the Citie of London./


He placed Abbotes and priors in diuerse great howses many lerned

men and men perswaded against those supersticions, which men were

redie to make surrender of their howses at the kinges



He caused the king to restraine all paymentes to Rome & all resortes

of his subiectes that he for sutes appeales faultes & other causes

wherby both he kept treasure and held yt from his enemies &

restrayned his enemies from flying to forreine partes or conference

with them, he six visitacons to be made of all the religious

howses toching their con conuersation, whervppon was retorned

the booke called the black booke expressing of euery suche house

the vile lyves and abhominable factes in murde^rs^ing of their

bretheren in Sodomies, in whordomes in destroying of children

in forging of deedes & other infinite horors of lyf in so muche as

deuiding all the religious persons of england into three partes, And

of thiese partes at the least weare Sodomites and this

Appeared in writing with the names of their parties & ^their^ factes: This

was shewed in parliament and the villaines made knowen and



He caused the king of the Abbies possessions to make such dispersion

as it behoued infinite multitudes of their owne intrest to wyne

with the king in houlding them downe which he did by diuerse menes

and thiese among other vz. founding diuerse Bishopprickes and

Colledges with thiese possessions selling many of them to many men

for reasonable prices exchanging many of them with the nobility

and other for their auncient possession to their great gaine which

whome he exchaunged preferring many sufficient persons to the

kinges service who were sone raysed to Nobility and and some

to worshipp and good callinges and all indowed with maintenance

out of the revenues of Abbies/


Here is all that I can remember


Ther was allso vsed for the manner of the disolution first diuerse

Abbottes and other that could be thervnto perswaded or were some of

them for that purpose placed by the king made surrender of their

howses and Conveyed them to the king by order of law. and

had Competent pensions both them selues and their company

during their liues/


Some being detected by the said visitation to have the kinges favor

not to punishe them with reigor nor to publish their infamie for ther

vi vile factes were likewsie Content to surrender


ffor all the rest (which were then not many) the parliament being

made acquainted with their vile lives were redilie contented

both to confirme their surrenders and to give their consentes to the

giving of all the rest to the king./


Now by whome you may lerne the rest I will enforme you/


Mr Chauncellor of the duchie was then the Lord Cromewells servant

and I thinke can say muche./


My Lord Treasorer by recordes in secrete tresurie and by collection

of monumentes of knowledge and by such other meanes as he hathe

Counsaile most of all men and best direct this to his naturall



Butt of a private man no man in England is in myne oppinion

Comparable to the recorder of london I am sure he canne deliuer

vs by bookes and writinges remayning with hym very many

thinges and I suppose sufficient for this question.


I meane to hast to london the rather to further you in this

matter by some Conferrence with you I propose to be ther on

m monday I wold presently have come but that I had before

Appointed some Attendance here one my lord Cheyney and and

other for her maiesties service/


I have nothing to forward this matter at London more then I

haue here for touching this course: Omnia mea mecum porto /


Mr Milles I am your Masters, yours and all his


I Comend to you the towne of Iernemouth [i.e., Yarmouth] so farr as they wilbe well

aduised for they are honest men. So farre you well


At Sharpenhow in Bedfordshire iiijor myles beyond Luton xij

myles beyond St Talbones this I write because you may know

whether to send an other tyme I wold you had a profitable occasion to

Come and see This last of august 1581.


Yours assured


ffor the residue I must referr you to the Statutes



A copie of Thomas

Nortons Letter



Folger Shakespeare Library  MS X.c.62.

Transcription by Folger staff.

See image in Luna.



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