Sunday, 15 September 2013

Regal Impression

Though it is the hair that is the focus of this photo shoot than I think the clothes deserves a second look as well. The hair is done by Errol Douglas while Thea Lewis has been in charge of the styling. This collection features quite a lot of the Tudor styles and favourites including the ruff, lush velvet and brocading.

The Beret

The Beret or the "flat-cap" was a favoured type of hat by both men and women during the Tudor times. Normally an expensive fabric would have been used to make this hat such as velvet or silk and preferable in a lush colour or in simple black. They could also be lined with either silk or satin but it was not absolutely necessary. However some sort of decoration was an absolute must whether it was a plume, a brooch or even colourful feathers.
The entire style of the Beret is made to fall to one side but in Europe it was not worn tipped to one side. Henry VIII was fond of this style and has been painted wearing a Beret several times - he would often choose to have it decorated with precious stones.

The Beret was only to be worn by the highest classes of society but there was another coarser version (the Statue Cap) available for the commoners. One of the manufacturers of these Berets was Thomas Bell who made a name for himself through this trade and became the Mayor of Gloucestershire. Here are some examples of the Tudor Beret:

                                 Charles Brandon
A young Henry VIII wearing a beret
decorated with golden jewellery
An etching of Lady Richmond

Catherine Parr appears to wear a Beret on top
of her bejewelled hood
Like father, like son - Edward VI wearing a Beret
in the same style as Henry VIII

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Wolsey, Wolsey

The fable creature (bottom photo) is holding a banner with Thomas Wolsey's coat of arms when he was Archbishop of York. The left part of the banner is the coat of arms of the archbishopric of York while the right is Wolsey's personal emblem. Notice that the banner has been crowned with a Cardinal's hat - a very obvious reference to his appointment from the Pope. It should be said, however, that the Cardinal's hat is not a part of the actual emblem but is a part of that of the Christ Church.

File:Wolsey banner.jpgCardinal Wolsey's personal coat of arms is now that of the Christ Church which he founded. Like the one beneath it is crowned with a Cardinal's hat though a black one. Wolsey was born in Suffolk and as such he has symbols belonging to the nobles of that shire. The silver cross is from the Uffolk Earls of Suffolk while the four blue leopards from both the Dukes of Suffolk and the de la Pole Earls. Notice the Tudor rose topping all this as a reference to Henry VIII and his house of Tudor. The red lion is the chosen emblem of Pope Leo X who was Wolsey's patron. The two black birds are derived from Thomas à Becket's coat of arms.

It can be found on all the buildings that Wolsey created and I am sure that if you search Hampton Court Palace you will find at least one example of this coat of arms as a reminder of the palace's original builder.

Final Resting Places

Unlike many other family dynasties the Tudors and their courtiers are not all buried in the same cathedral. Instead their graves are scattered all over Britain so if you are ever in England and want to pay your respect to someone in particular then here is where they are buried.

Henry VII
Westminster Abbey, London

Elizabeth of York
Westminster Abbey, London

Margaret Beaufort
Westminster Abbey, London

Arthur, Prince of Wales
Worcester Cathedral, Worcester

Mary Tudor
St. Mary Churchyard, Bury St. Edmunds

Margaret Tudor
Perth Abbey, Perth

Henry VIII
St. Georges Chapel, Windsor

Catherine of Aragon
Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough

Anne Boleyn
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Jane Seymour
St. Georges Chapel, Windsor

Anne of Cleves
Westminster Abbey, London

Katherine Howard
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Catherine Parr
St. Mary's Chapel, Sudeley Castle

Edward VI
Westminster Abbey, London

Mary I
Westminster Abbey, London

Elizabeth I
Westminster Abbey, London


Thomas Wolsey
Leicester Abbey, Leicester

Thomas More
All Saints Churchyard, Chelsea

Thomas Cromwell
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
St. Michael the Archangel, Framlingham

Lady Jane Grey
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Mary, Queen of Scots
Westminster Abbey, London

Thomas Boleyn
St. Peter Churchyard, Hever

George Boleyn
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Mary Boleyn
Believed to be St. Peter Churchyard

Edward Seymour
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Thomas Seymour
Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula, Tower of London

Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Austin Friars Churchyard, London

Thomas Culpepper
St. Sepulchre without Newgate Churchyard, London

Robert Dudley
St. Mary Churchyard, Warwick

Dr. John Dee
St. Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Mortlake

more will be added...

The Marian Persecutions

"The Marian Persecutions" were the series of religious persecutions that took place after Mary I had become Queen of England. The persecutions began in January 1555 when Mary I had turned England's religion back to Catholicism - both the Council and the Parliament sanctioned the persecutions though some of their members went into exile. Still the the infamous laws of heresy and papal authority were issued and they were to cause many people the most painful death imaginable.

However, the persecutions were not popular with the Spanish Charles V despite the general believe that it was Mary's Spanish marriage that had brought about the religious intolerance; Charles V had experienced himself how unpopular persecutions were (I wonder why) and perhaps he was worried that it would jeopardize Mary's throne. But as it happened Mary's husband, Philip of Spain, did not share this hesitation. There were three groups besides the Queen herself that worked the great machinery of the counter-revolution (according to a Spanish account):

  • The Papal group - headed by Reginald Pole - whose loyalty was firmly placed with the Holy Father in Rome
  • English Romanists who were angry about how Henry VIII had treated the Catholics during the Reformation and therefore harboured a special grudge against the reformers
  • King Consort Philip and the Spaniards who had accompanied him to England. They needed to strike down as much as the reformist power as possible to strengthen Philip's personal authority 

Since that the persecutions did not take off before after Mary and Philip's marriage it would seem that it was the Spanish entourage of the King Consort who had sparked the beginning of the persecutions. Though the English Romanists were the most eager to persecute Protestants they could not do so without the consent of their monarch and her husband.

Stephen Gardiner was the main architect behind the string of religious fear that was about to hit England again. Like Mary, he had remained an ardent Catholic through the Reformation and definitely had an interest in turning the country back to what he saw as "the one and true faith".
One of the great "villains" in the Marian Persecutions were Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London. He had been reinstalled into his office at Mary's ascending to the throne. The reason for why he has stood out among all those who either sanctioned or carried out the persecutions is the disturbingly high number of people who were sent to the stake by him. One third of all the victims of the Marian Persecutions (that is about 100 people!) were burned within Edmund Bonner's diocese which meant that he had had to at least know about the arrests and at worst had eagerly taken part of them. In Foxe's "Acts and Monuments" he damns "Bloody Bonner" - not "Bloody Mary" - and tells of one interrogation performed by Bonner himself against a man named Tomkins. Tomkins refused to recant anything which in the end brought Bonner to the point of rage where he grapped Tomkins' hand and held it over a candle till the skin began to blister. The Spanish Ambassador also mentions this story so there is probably truth to the matter.

Mary herself also had her reasons for wanting to restore Catholicism to England though they might be of a more personal nature. It is not difficult to believe that Mary connected Catholicism with her mother and the happy period before the Reformation - perhaps she sought to regain some of that happiness. Some has said that the persecutions were not the work of Mary 1 herself but that of the people surrounding her and perhaps that is the case. It is also possible that Mary's believe that a wife should be obedient towards her husband in everything can have caused her to support him. Personally, I think that Mary was not just a strong woman but also a very determined and intelligent one who ardently believed that her people would be saved by returning to Catholicism but that she chose the completely wrong way to go about this - and that this decision was influenced by those around her. In December of 1554 (before the Spanish marriage that is) she stated this to her Council:
None may be burnt without some of the Council's presence and good sermons at the same.
According to British Express the Marian Persecutions differ from every other series of persecutions in England's history because it had no political background. Instead it was all about religious beliefs and not really an attempt to strengthen Mary's position as Queen. Also, the Marian Persecutions are by far the ones that feature the horrible death of being burned alive at the stake - it had never happened as frequently nor would again than during this time which just added to the terror. It should also be remembered that though Mary I is generally stated to have had about 300 (288 to be exact) people killed during her reign this is "just" during the persecutions - this number does NOT count the ones executed after the Wyatt Rebellion for example which counted for another 200. The fact that all these executions took place within two years (the persecutions ended in 1557) is most likely one of the main reasons for why this period is remembered as being so bloody.

Fifty of these 288 were burned at Smithfield in London. Whenever these executions took place the air is reported to have been so thick with the smell of burning flesh that most people could not go outside. A series of these executions were scheduled to take place on 17 November 1558 but they were interrupted in the very last moment by a messenger carrying the message: the Queen is dead. So, these Protestants saved their lives due to the fact that English law requires all death penalties signed by the monarch itself but that the execution is cancelled if the monarch dies before the sentence is carried out.

The executions of the Oxford Martyrs during the persecutions

BBC's list of the martyrs burned by Mary (link)

Friday, 13 September 2013

Henry VII & Elizabeth of York - a Happy Marriage?

Considering Henry VIII's "difficulties" in finding happiness in marriage it is worth to take a look at that of his parents. That Henry VII married Elizabeth of York to end the War of the Roses is a well-known fact but how did the two of them actually get along?

One of the best way to tell true affection is when you lose something. Henry VII was a very reserved man but there were two cases in particular were he could not hide his feelings: at the death of his son Arthur and that of his wife.
Arthur, Prince of Wales died in 1502 at Ludlow Castle. This threw both his parents into great mourning and it would seem that the couple relied on each other in this time of crisis. Henry is reported to have publicly shown great concern towards his Queen during this particular period. Elizabeth of York also attempted to help her husband through this. When Henry VII had gotten the news of Arthur's death he is said to have much struck by grief. Allegedly, Elizabeth tried to comfort her husband by reminding him that having only one son was no sign that their dynasty should not survive. After all he had been the only son of Margaret Beaufort but he had still survived to become King of England. And God had still left them with a very healthy son and two equally strong daughters.

When Elizabeth of York died in 1503 Henry was more inconsolable than ever. He is reported to have "privily departed to a solitary place and would no man should resort unto him". Elizabeth was given a magnificent funeral with no expense spared - considering Henry VII's great dislike of spending money on anything this is yet another sign of his affection for his Queen. Henry had her buried in the part of Westminster Abbey that he himself had had built (the Lady Chapel). In due time Henry would lie next to her again.
Despite having only one son and being now a widower Henry VII refused to marry again. Of course some inquiries were made including to the Dowager Queen of Naples but in the end Henry would not have Elizabeth replaced and he died a widower. Apparently, Elizabeth had been a calming factor on Henry's temper because after her death he grew more and more prone to depression and paranoia - something his surviving son, Henry VIII, would inherit.

The tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

Book Theme: Jane Seymour

Plain Jane: a Novel of Jane Seymour by Laurien Gardner

Jane Seymour by Frances B. Clark

The Favoured Wife: a Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife by Carolly Erickson (highly fictional)

Book Theme: Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon by Garrett Mattingly

Catherine of Aragon: the Spanish Queen of Henry VIII by Giles Tremlett

Catherine of Aragon by Alison Prince

The Spanish Bride: a Novel of Catherine of Aragon by Laurien Gardner

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

A Golden Sorrow: Humble and Loyal - Katherine of Aragon by Dixie Atkins

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Book Themes: Elizabeth I

The First Elizabeth by Carolly Erickson

Elizabeth the Great by Elizabeth Jenkins

The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age by Christopher Hibbert

The Life of Elizabeth by Alison Weir

Legacy by Susan Kay

Elizabeth: the Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey

Good Queen Bess: the Story of Elizabeth I of England by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema

Behind the Mask: the Life of Queen Elizabeth I by Jane Resh Thomas

Elizabeth I by Alison Plowden

Elizabeth I - The Outcast who became England's Queen by Simon Adams

The Public and Private Worlds of Elizabeth I by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes 

Book Theme: Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey - A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives

Lady Jane Grey by Hester W. Chapman

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen by Alison Plowden

Coronation of Glory: the Story of Lady Jane Grey by Deborah Meroff

The Nine Days Queen - a Portrait of Lady Jane Grey by Mary M. Luke

The Sisters who Would be Queen: Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey - a Tudor Tragedy by Leanda de Lisle

Epping Forest

Not only was Epping Forest one of the many hunting forests for the royal Tudors it also had a special and tragic connection to Henry VIII. When Henry VIII was chasing Anne Boleyn they visited this forest together and probably went riding there together. They stayed at the hunting lodge Poteles once.

Henry VIII was especially fond of Waltham Abbey where he would stay whenever he went hunting in Waltham Forest. We know that he set out from Greenwich to Waltham Abbey with both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn in May 1528. The next time Henry visited Waltham Abbey was in July 1529 but this time he was accompanied by Anne Boleyn alone - he also took her there on progress in 1532 during which they stayed for five days at the Abbey.

However, there is another more tragic connection to this doomed couple. In 1536 Henry VIII went to Epping Forest on May 19th. While he was staying here the sound of a canon being fired informed him that Anne Boleyn had been executed - the King was having his breakfast under the shade of a large tree. According to Moray's History of Essex the King cried out: "Away! Unkennel the dogs!" when he heard the bang.

Henry VIII hunting on the Morning of Anne Boleyn's Execution

Monday, 9 September 2013

Katherine Howard's Letter

Thanks to the National Archives UK the only surviving letter written by Katherine Howard is still beautifully exhibited. Katherine Howard was the least educated of Henry VIII's wives and she could barely write at all when she first arrived at court which is why this letter is written in such a nervous hand. This sole letter of hers to survive was directed to Thomas Culpepper and it reads:

This is the only surviving letter written by Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife.    The ill advised letter to Thomas Culpepper, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and other reports of her infidelity led to Katherine's execution in 1542, less than six months after her marriage to Henry.    Date: 1541
Master Coulpeper,
I hertely recomend me unto youe praying you tosende me worde how that you doo. Yt was showed me that you wassike, the wyche thynge trobled me very muche tell suche tyme that Ihere from you praying you to send me worde how that you do.For I never longed so muche for [a] thynge as I do to se you andto speke wyth you, the wyche I trust shal be shortely now, thewyche dothe comforthe me verie much whan I thynk of ett andwan I thynke agan that you shall departe from me agayneytt makes my harte to dye to thynke what fortune I havethat I cannot be always yn your company. Y[e]t my trust ysallway in you that you wolbe as you have promysed meand in that hope I truste upon styll, prayng you than thatyou wyll com whan my lade Rochforthe ys here, for thenI shalbe beste at leaysoure to be at your commarendmant.Thaynkyng you for that you have promysed me to be sogood unto that pore felowe my man, whyche is on of thegrefes that I do felle to departe from hym for than I doknow noone that I dare truste to sende to you and therforI pray you take hym to be wyth you that I may sumtymhere from you one thynge. I pray you to gyve me a horsefor my man for I hyd muche a do to gat one andthefer I pray sende me one by hym and yn so doying Iam as I sade afor, and thus I take my leve of youtrusting to se you s[h]orttele agane and I wode you waswythe me now that yoo maitte se what pane I takeyn wryte[n]g to you.

Yours as long aslyffe endures
One thyng I had forgotten andthat hys to instruct my man to tare here wyt[h] me still, for hesas wat so mever you bed hym he wel do et and [...]

If you have any troubles reading it just message me and I will add the "translation" into modern language

Sunday, 8 September 2013

From the Lady in the Tower

This is reputedly a copy of Anne Boleyn's last letter to Henry VIII from her final days in the Tower of London which was found among the papers of Thomas Cromwell after his execution. It is currently stored by the British Library and I found it through this link.

First page
Second page

This is what the last letter said (quoting the link from above):

Sir, your Grace's displeasure, and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed enemy; I no sooner received the message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command. But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have found in Anne Bullen, with which name and place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace's pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge my self in my exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace's fancy, the least alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other subject.
You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace, let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your Princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant Princess your daughter:
Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yes, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine Innocency cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and Man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto: Your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein.
But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose judgment, I doubt not, (whatsover the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.
My last and only request shall be, that my self may only bear the burthen of your Grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight; if ever the name of Anne Bullen hath been pleasing to your ears, then let me obtain this request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions.

Your most Loyal and ever Faithful Wife, Anne Bullen
From my doleful prison in the Tower, this 6th of May.

Henry most likely destroyed the letter upon receiving it but Thomas Cromwell - who read it before delivering it to the King - must have thought it worth keeping.

The Elegy of Chidiock Tichborne

Chidiock Tichborne was one of the men chosen to assassinate Elizabeth I in the doomed Babington plot. On the eve of his execution, 19th September 1586, he wrote a final letter to his wife Agnes containing this poem.

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done. 

A Poet's Mistake

The man with the peculiar name of Chidiock Tichborne was a poet and a closet-Catholic at the court of Elizabeth I when he gambled all on the wrong board. He had faith in the Babington Plot to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots and as such was a dead man walking when Elizabeth I's spymaster Walsingham discovered the plot - and Chidiock's partaking in it.

Chidiock was not able to flee the country when the discovery was made due to a leg injury which meant that he was basically awaiting his doom in London - and of course it came. On 14th August he was arrested and taken to Westminster Hall where he was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. What made it all even worse was that Chidiock himself had been chosen as one of six men who were to kill Elizabeth I - this quite ruled out any possibility of mercy.
The manner of execution was to be the standard procedure for Tudor traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. Thus on 20th September 1586 Chidiock Tichborne was one of seven conspirators who were taken to St. Giles field where he suffered the long and painful death of an Elizabethan traitor at the age of 28 years old. However, he did manage to write a final letter to his wife containing a poem written on the last eve before his execution (I will upload a post about it in the Poetry section).

An execution of this sort was bloody enough on its own so the result of having seven men joining the same fate on just one day made Elizabeth I demand that the remaining condemned should be hanged until they were completely dead and in such a way avoid another terrible spectacle.

The Irish Net Tightens

Leonard Grey, Viscount Grane had been sent to Ireland by Henry VIII where he was to strike down "hostile clans" who opposed the English rule which he seemed to have done perfectly well. However, when Leonard Grey returned home to England in 1540 he was immediately redirected to the Tower of London as a prisoner charged with high treason. As it turned out Leonard was not the easiest person to work with which naturally brought him many enemies at court especially when he (while still in Ireland) completely stopped his correspondence with the council. During his five year absence these enemies - including a gentleman by the name of Ormond - had been working on his downfall and succeeded.

The charges Grey faced of high treason was founded on accusations that he had not indeed been working on stopping the uprisings but had formed close ties with many of the Irish clans as well as having directly aided them on their missions which included the destruction of churches and castles. According to the State Trials (1163-1820) bowed to pressure and thought it better to plead for the King's good graces and hope for the best. Apparently, Leonard had not learnt much of Henry VIII's character. The State Trials mentions that his "services did infinitely overbalance his faults" which is as close to saying "he was innocent" as possible. Consequently, Leonard Grey was beheaded on Tower Hill on 28th July 1541.

End of Edmund de la Pole

Edmund de la Pole did not have the safest upbringing thanks to his family. First, his brother John fought against Henry VII side by side with Richard III but changed allegiance when the battle was over and the victor was found - or so it seemed. John apparently had not given up all hopes of power and joined the short-lived rebellion of Simnel where he died in battle.

This now meant that the 15-year old Edmund de la Pole suddenly found himself the head of the York-family which - unfortunately for him - made him the greatest threat to Henry VII. For the time being Henry VII decided to leave Edmund with the Dukedom that his brother had possessed before he died as well as the title of Earl of Suffolk. In 1501 Edmund dared not stay any longer in England and fled to continental Europe - and then Edmund was stripped of his title as Duke. It seemed that Edmund himself had no intention of taking the throne by force either by an invasion or the threat of civil war. That it why Edmund de la Pole's road to the scaffold seems all the more remarkable and unfair.

Edmund (who was still abroad) went aboard a ship owned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II which was heading for Spain. As it happens the weather does not always cooperate - something the Spanish Armada would later learn all too well - and the ship had to change course when a storm hit. This was disastrous news for Edmund because the destination was now the England he had fled - and Henry VII was waiting for him. Perhaps Edmund had managed to make friends with the Holy Roman Emperor because the Emperor refused to deliver Edmund to Henry unless he was assured that no harm whatsoever would become him. Henry VII promised so and to be fair he kept his promise. The problem was that Henry VII's health was declining and shortly afterwards he was dead. Sadly for Edmund de la Pole the new King Henry VIII was convinced that he had had no share in the promise and quickly arrested Edmund.

In 1513 Henry VIII signed the order for Edmund de la Pole's execution - the man himself was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Edmund de la Pole was beheaded sometime around April 30th within the Tower of London.

The Arrest and Execution of Cromwell

Ever since the disastrous and short-lived marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves, Cromwell's place in the royal favour seemed wavering and Henry VIII did nothing to settle matters. After having given Cromwell the cold shoulder he made him Earl of Essex in April 1540. But Cromwell was far from safe despite his newest elevation.

On Saturday 10th June 1540 Thomas Cromwell was in the middle of a Council meeting when he was suddenly interrupted at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Every single one of his most powerful enemies watched when the Royal Guards marched into the room; Cromwell of course immediately understood what was happening and reputedly threw down his hat on the table - a sign of anger or one last frustrated gesture? To make the scene even more humiliating for the soon-to-be prisoner was that the Dukes of Norfolk and Southampton personally removed his chains of office from his shoulders before the Captain of the Royal Guard took hold of him. While he was leaving the room the other Council members began accusing him of treason. Thus Cromwell was escorted through Westminster and down to an awaiting barge ready to take him to the Tower of London.

In the end there was to be no trial for the ever hard-working Thomas Cromwell nor any chance for him to plead his case. On 29th June an Act of Attainder with Cromwell's name was drawn up and just like that he was found guilty in heresy and treason. It is interesting that Cromwell was not blamed for the terrible marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (the marriage was not yet dissolved) nor how the King had chosen his policies. Instead Cromwell's main accusation was that of heresy, this accusation was the brainchild of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk and the embittered Catholic bishops that Cromwell had swiftly removed from their offices. Together, they managed to convince Henry VIII that Cromwell was not only spreading heretical messages himself but also openly supported heretics going as far as to even release them from prison and then taking care of their enemies. Also, Cromwell was condemned for corruption through the sale of licenses and pass-ports to people not approved of by the King. Lastly, Cromwell was accused of wishing to marry Lady Mary Tudor which would make him an immediate threat to the King's personal position because Cromwell would then have a claim on the throne through his wife.

While awaiting his fate within the Tower of London Cromwell wrote two letters to Henry VIII both fervently protesting his innocence. None was answered.
Then on 28th July 1540 Cromwell was taken from his cell to the Tower Green where he faced the scaffold. He was to be given a private execution but it can be safe to say that none of his previous enemies were there to watch the spectacle - they had all rushed off to watch the King marry Katherine Howard on the same day. It was his recently granted title that probably saved Cromwell from being either hanged, drawn and quartered or burned alive at the stake: as a nobleman he could be beheaded for treason. But no matter what Cromwell died an innocent man since no real evidence could be held against him besides what was openly planted by his enemies.

As Thomas Cromwell stood on the scaffold he apologised if he had ever displeased or defied God or the King. Interestingly enough he also mentioned that he would die in the Catholic faith - could this be an indication that he was threatened into saying so or perhaps even tortured? It has been suggested by Hall's Chronicle of Tudor England that the execution was made even more painful for Cromwell because his executioner failed to strike his head off with one blow but hacked away at his skull and shoulders until the head finally came off. Considering that inexperienced executioners was a very real part of Tudor England (as Mary, Queen of Scots would also come to now) this might actually be true. However, there is no evidence to support that Cromwell's enemies had made the executioner drunk before performing his duty. So, in the end this was how Thomas Cromwell met his fate. His head was boiled and placed on a spike on the London Bridge as was customary when dealing with traitors - as a last mockery his head was turned away from London city itself so that not even his now dead eyes could gaze upon the city.

Henry VIII would very soon afterwards come to regret this execution of what he called his "most faithful servant".

Cromwell's execution on "the Tudors"

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A Disturbing Found

On 23 February 1554 Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk was executed by an axeman on the order of Mary I. In 1851 (almost 300 years after his death) workmen were working in the Holy Trinity church in London when they discovered something that must have made them skip a heartbeat. In a vault the severed head of Henry Grey lay perfectly intact thanks to the thick sawdust - rich on tannin and from oak - that had been in the casket where the beheaded Lord's head fell for so long ago.
It is thought that the grieving widow of Henry Grey who had also lost her daughter just eleven days earlier had taken the head and quickly hidden it before it could be put on a spike on the London Bridge.

Henry Grey had actually bought the Holy Trinity church in the 1540's after Henry VIII had dissolved the monasteries so it is very likely that he was buried within the walls of his own property. The Holy Trinity church was completely destroyed during the German blitz during World War II. However, the head was not lost in the ruins. In 1899 the Holy Trinity church had been merged with another church, St. Botolph's-without-Aldgate and the head was transferred to this other church. Now it is placed somewhere within this church but its' exact location is unknown.

Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk

Henry Grey's Ghost

Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk and father to the doomed Lady Jane Grey has been seen at Astley Castle long after his death. Astley Castle was one of the Grey-family's private residences and it was here that Henry Grey fled to after the failed Wyatt's Rebellion. Here he hid in a tree until one of his servants gave his position away and he was dragged out and taken to the Tower. He was beheaded by Mary I in February 1554. Now his headless ghosts haunts the castle - holding its' head under one arm.

Astley Castle