1st Earl of Southampton (1547-1550)
Lord Chancellor (1544-1547)
Born 1505 Died 1550
Entering the service of Henry VIII at an early age, Wriothesley soon made himself very useful to his royal master, and he was richly rewarded when the monasteries were dissolved, obtaining extensive lands between Southampton and Winchester. Having been on errands abroad, he was made one of the king's principal secretaries in 1540, and was knighted in the same year; in spite of the fall of his patron, Thomas Cromwell, he rose higher and higher in the royal favour, and in 1542 it was said that he almost governed everything in England. He sought to bring about an alliance between England and Spain in 1543, and was created Baron Wriothesley of Titchfield in 1544. Having been lord keeper of the privy seal for a few months, he became lord high chancellor in 1544, in which capacity he became notorious by his proceedings against Anne Askew.
He was one of the executors of Henry's will, and in accordance with the dead king's wishes he was created Earl of Southampton in February 1547. However, he had committed an offence in appointing four persons to relieve him of his duties as lord chancellor and advantage was taken of this to deprive him of his office in March, when he also ceased to be a member of the privy council. Again in the council Southampton took a leading part in bringing about the fall of Somerset, but he had not regained his former position when he died on the 30th of July 1550.
His successor was his son, Henry (1545-1581), the 2nd earl, one of the Roman Catholic nobles who conspired for the release of Mary Queen of Scots. He died on the 4th of October 1581 and was succeeded by his son, Henry, the 3rd earl.
For the career of the 1st earl see Lord Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors; E. Foss, Judges of England; and the various state papers and letters of the reign of Henry VIII.
Extracted from the entry for SOUTHAMPTON, EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.