On this day - 28th July 1540: Cromwell executed

SPOILER ALERT!! for fans of Hilary Mantell’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies or for fans of BBC series Wolf Hall. If you want to wait for the next book to find out what happens do not read on!


Henry VIII was a tricky man to keep on the right side of at the best of times. He repeatedly fell out with those closest to him and when he got angry, wow did he get angry. Two of his wives and many of his closest friends ended up on the block and Thomas Cromwell was no exception. Once a man lauded and loved by Henry for doing the impossible and achieving the divorce (from Katherine of Aragon) that Henry had for so long craved, Cromwell was now out on the scrap heap. 

Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
By After Hans Holbein the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Cromwell’s sin? Well, the treasonous crime of provided a less than luscious bride for his Monarch. Yes, it was plain old Anne of Cleves that proved Cromwell’s undoing probably aided by vicious slandering whispered in droves by Cromwell enemies at court. Tudor courts were, as an aside, a very difficult place not to make enemies, the many Lords and Ladies took offence if you so much as sneezed the wrong way so imagine what would become of you if you were the son of a blacksmith?! A blacksmith?! My God!! In short, the nobles didn’t like him much. They, led by the Duke of Norfolk, used the King’s displeasure at Anne of Cleves to bring about Cromwell’s downfall and secure their own futures by dangling in front of the regal nose a young beauty by the name of Katherine Howard. The fact that she was the Duke of Norfolk’s niece I am sure was purely coincidental. Although this didn’t work out too well for them in then end (I’ll save that story for another blog) it did work in the moment and Henry VIII wed Katherine Howard on the very day that he had Thomas Cromwell executed. 


If it all seems a bit daft to you be reassured that many have thought it so. Henry himself, in later years, sincerely regretted the loss of his one time friend and supporter but there in lies the problem with capital punishment. Regret is purposeless. 

© Isla Robertson 2017