Richard Williams was the son of Morgan Williams who came from Putney and Catherine Cromwell, the sister of Thomas (pictured here). Morgan was a brewer, possibly originally from somewhere near Cardiff.
Richard entered Thomas Cromwell’s household in 1530 having previously done a stint as a servant with Thomas Grey the second Marquis of Dorset. In 1529 Thomas made a will, in the aftermath of the sweating sickness which killed his wife and two daughters. Richard can be found here listed along with ‘poor relations.’ Thomas remedied that particular problem when he arranged his nephew’s marriage with financial advantage in mind. The lady in question was called Frances Murfyn, the daughter of Sir Thomas who had been Lord Mayor of London. She came with several properties.
Richard remained in Thomas’s household and conducted business on his uncle’s behalf ultimately taking on the surname Cromwell – incidentally he was also the great grandfather of Oliver.
In addition to the change of name Richard demonstrated many of the hardheaded attitudes towards wealth that his uncle exemplified. Richard was noticeably enriched by the suppression of the monasteries both at the time and in the years afterwards when the crown first rented the confiscated lands out and then sold them. His reputation was such that the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace singled him out as someone who was responsible for the despoiling of centuries of monastic tradition. Richard, apparently not unduly concerned, was part of the posse headed up by the Duke of Suffolk which put down the Pilgrimage in the eastern counties.
In 1537 Richard began to buy up properties in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. He was also knighted by Henry VIII at this time. By 1542 he was the first knight of the latter shire. In 1543 he was made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and found himself in charge of infantry when war broke out with France. In 1544 he was made Constable of Berkely Castle – which wasn’t at all bad for a man who’d made no secret of his sorrow when Uncle Thomas had been executed. He was also a very wealthy man by this time and an MP as well. No doubt his uncle would have been very proud of him.