Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Thomas Culpepper

Thomas Culpepper was born in 1514 and was a distant relation to the Howard family. In 1534 Thomas bought Higham Park and a year later, he was a courtier to Viscount Lisle.

Culpepper was described as being handsome and quickly became a favourite of Henry VIII. Other courtiers would often bribe Culpepper to use his influence with the King on their behalf. But Thomas Culpepper also had a darker side. He was accused of raping a gate-keeper's wife and then killing the gate-keeper when he came to demand justice - it has been argued whether it was Culpepper or his elder brother, who also happened to be named Thomas. Whichever brother it was, a pardon was given from Henry VIII.
Painting of Thomas Culpepper
made after his death

Thomas Culpepper rose quickly and became the keeper of the armoury and later a member of the King's Privy Chamber. Thomas was among those who greeted Anne of Cleves when she arrived in England.
Through his position he often came in contact with the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting. By 1541 the post of Queen was occupied by Katherine Howard. Thomas Culpepper began meeting with Katherine Howard in private occasions around May and was helped by Lady Rochford who often arranged the meetings.

Katherine went with the King on a northern progress on June 30 and when the couple arrived in the city of Lincoln on August 9, Culpepper had another private meeting with the Queen and continued so when the court arrived at Pontefract Castle. It was probably around this time that Katherine sent Culpepper the famous letter that would eventually seal their fates.
By this time Thomas Cranmer had heard of the Queen's previous love affairs and he was ordered to conduct an investigation during which he discovered the relationship between the Queen and Culpepper. Culpepper was arrested and questioned but denied his guilt. However, after the discovery of Katherine's letter, Culpepper was arrested again and tried in December 1541 alongside Francis Dereham. Despite his noble status, Culpepper was tortured and admitted to the affair. They were both found guilty and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Thomas Culpepper pleaded for mercy and was granted permission to be simply beheaded instead of the painful death that Francis Dereham still faced. On December 10 1541 Culpepper was beheaded and his head placed on London Bridge.

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