Thomas Ruthall

In the chapel of St John the Baptist at Westminster Abbey is a stone tomb, with a rather decayed effigy, to Thomas Ruthall, bishop of Durham. The effigy is dressed in Mass vestments with angels at his head and a lion at his feet. At the west end are the remains of the canopy which was once over the tomb, on which is an heraldic achievement with the date 1524. Shields of arms are shown in panels on both sides including "a cross patee between four birds, in chief two roses" for Ruthall. The Latin inscription is barely legible and now incomplete but can be translated:

Here lies Thomas Ruthall, bishop of Durham and secretary to King Henry VII, who died...

His parents may have been John and Alicia and he is said to have been born in Cirencester. After education at Oxford, he was ordained and was a rector in Gloucestershire and Essex. In 1495 he visited Rome and later he was appointed envoy to treat with the king of France. He was an executor of Henry VII's will, a Privy Councillor, dean of Salisbury and Chancellor of Cambridge university among other posts. In 1509 he was consecrated bishop of Durham and held the post of Keeper of the Privy Seal from 1516 until his death. He died unmarried on 4th February 1523. He is said to have died of grief from having sent an inventory of his own wealth, instead of a volume of State papers, to Henry VIII. Wolsey, who had a grudge against the bishop, discovered the mistake and gave the book to the king.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


4th February 1523


Priest/Minister; statesman


Chapel of St John Baptist

Memorial Type


Material Type


Thomas Ruthall
Thomas Ruthall tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster