He early became vicar of Boughton Malherbe and of Sutton Valence, and later of Ivychurch, Kent; but, desiring a more worldly career, he entered the service of Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of London. Having helped to draw up the Institution of a Christian Man, Wotton in 1539 went to arrange the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves and the union of Protestant princes which was to be the complement of this union.
He crossed over to England with the royal bride, but, unlike Thomas Cromwell, he did not lose the royal favour when the king repudiated Anne, and in 1541, having already refused the bishopric of Hereford, he became the first post-Reformation dean of Canterbury and in 1544 dean of York.
In 1543 he went on diplomatic business to the Netherlands, and for the next year or two he had much intercourse with the emperor Charles V He helped to conclude the Treaty of Ardres between England and France in 1546, and was resident ambassador in France from 1546 to 1549. Henry VIII made Wotton an executor of his will and left him £300, and in 1549, under Edward VI, he became a secretary of state, but he only held this post for about a year.
In 1550 he was again sent as envoy to Charles V, and he was ambassador to France during the reign of Mary, doing valuable work in that capacity. He left France in 1557, but in 1558 he was again in that country, helping to arrange the preliminaries of the peace of Cateau Cambrésis. In 1560 he signed the treaty of Edinburgh on behalf of Elizabeth I, and he had again visited the Netherlands before his death in London.
His nephew, Thomas Wotton (1521–1587) was the father of Sir Henry Wotton.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
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