Category Archives: Thomas Cromwell

On this day in 1540 – Thomas Cromwell was executed

On 28th July 1540 Thomas Cromwell made his way towards Tower Hill where he was face the fate that had been passed down to him by King Henry VIII. Cromwell had been arrested on 10th June 1540 at a Council meeting accused of treason after his failure to achieve a divorce for Henry VIII and his fourth wife Anne of Cleves. His failure allowed Cromwell to fall from the King’s grace and his enemies led by the Duke of Norfolk were able to rise up against him.

An Act of Attainder was passed against Thomas Cromwell and he was sentenced to death without a trial, however, he was kept alive long enough for the King to obtain his longed for divorce from Anne of Cleves. With the divorce achieved Cromwell met his fate and was executed on Tower Hill.

The chronicler Edward Hall recorded Cromwell’s scaffold speech:

I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should do so, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I have had yeres of discrecion, I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And it is not unknowne to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came thereunto, I have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche.* Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have been a bearer, of suche as hath mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long live with you, maie long reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe.


And then made he his praier, whiche was long, but not so long, as bothe Godly and learned, and after committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the Office.”


As Thomas Cromwell was being executed Henry VIII was marrying his fifth wife Catherine Parr. Henry is recorded to have regretted ordering Cromwell’s execution and called him his most faithful servant and later accused his council of engineering Cromwell’s downfall.

Thomas CromwellThomas Cromwell

On this day in 1536 – Thomas Cromwell apointed Lord Privy Seal

Following the execution of Anne Boleyn and her brother George at the hands of King Henry VIII, their father on 29th June 1536 was stripped of his office of Lord Privy Seal. This was a position he had held since January 1530 after Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from grace.

On 2nd July 1536 Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell to the vacant position as well as being created Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon just days later. Cromwell’s rise to power was not to everyone’s liking he was seen by many as just a blacksmith’s son and had no right at court, however, Henry regarded him as one of his most trusted aides.

The Lord Privy Seal is a lower rank to that of President of the Privy Council and the Lord Chancellor but it is a role that has great honour despite the fact it is an almost entirely ceremonial role. The Lord Privy Seal is the bearer of the King’s personal seal and has access to the King and council’s documents. Cromwell would have also have had unrestricted access to Henry as well.Thomas CromwellSir Thomas Cromwell painted by Hans Holbein

On this day in 1540 – Thomas Cromwell wrote a second letter to King Henry VIII from the Tower of London

On 30th June 1540 Thomas Cromwell wrote to King Henry VIII from the Tower of London, where he was being held prisoner, asking for mercy. Cromwell was being charged with treason and heresy but also Henry was dissatisfied with Cromwell over the disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves, which Cromwell had arranged.

Thomas Cromwell’s letter was long and detailed in the hope that Henry would show some compassion to his former aide;

Most mercyfull king and most gracious souerayng lorde may hit please the same to be aduetysyd that the laste tyme it pleasyd your bening doodnes, to send unto me the right honourable lorde Chaunceler the Right honourable Duke of Norffoke and the lord admyrall to examine and also to declare to me dyuers things from yowr magestye amongist the which one specyall thing they movyd and theruppon chargyd me as I woolde answer, beffor god at the dredffull daye of Judgement and also upon the extreme daunger and Dampnacyon of my sowlle and consyems to saye what I knew in the marriage and consernyng the marriage between your hinges and the queen to the which I answeryd as I knew declaring to them the partyculers as nyghe as I then coulde call to Remembraunce which when they hardde harde they in in your majestees name and upon lyke charge as they hadde gyvyn me before commaundyd me to wrytt to your highness the trewthe as moch as I knew in that matyer, which now I doo, and the veraye trewth as god shall salve me, to the uttermost of my knowlage. Fyrst after your majestye herde of the ladye Anne of Clevys arryvall at dover and that her Jerneyes were appoyntyd towards grenwiche and that She sholde be at Rochester on new yeres evyn at nyght your highness declaryd to me that ye woold pryvelye vysyt her at Rochester upon newyeres daye adding the words to norishe loue, which accordinglye your grace dide upon new yeres daye as is aboyesayd, and the next day being Frydaye your grace reternyd to grenwyche when I spake with your grace and demandyd of your magestye how ye lykyd the layde Anne your highness answeryd as me thought hevelye And not plesantlye nothing so well as She was spokyn of Saying Ferther that yf your highness hadde known asmoche before as ye then knew she shold not hav Commen within this Realme, Saying as by way of lamentacyon what remedye unto the which I answeryd and said I knew none but was veraye Sory therffore and so god knowith I was for I thought hit a harde begynnyng, the next day eater teh reccept of the said ladye and her enterye made into grenwyche and after your highness hadde brought her to her Chamber I then waytyd upon your highness into your pryuey chamber, and being ther your grace Callyd me to yow Saying to me this words or the lyke my lorde is it not as I told yow say what they will she is nothing so Fayre as she hathe bene reportyd, howbeit she is well and semelys, whereunto I answeryd Saying by my Faythe Syr ye Saye trewthe, adding therunto that yet I thought she hadde a quenlye manner, and nevertheles was sorye that your grace was no better content, and theruppon your grace commandyd me to calle to gether your Cowsayle whiche were thes by name the archebusshop of Caunterburye the Dukes of Norffolke & Suffolke my lorde Admyrall my lorde of Duresme and my selffe to Commons of thos matyers, and to know what commyssyon the Agenttes of Clevys hadde browght as well touching the perfformaunce of the Conuenunttes sent before from hens to Doctour Wotton to have bene Concludyd in Clevys, as also in the declaracyon how the matyers, stode for the Conuenauntts of Maryage between the Duke of loreyna Son and the sayd ladye Anne, wheruppon Osleger and Hogeston wer Callyd and the matyers purpossyd, wherby it playnlye apperyd that they were moche astonyed and abashed and desyryd that they might make answer in the next mornyng which was sondaye and upon sondaye in the mornyng your sayd Cownsaylors and they met Erlye and ther eftsons was purposyd unto them aswell touching the Comyssyon For the performance of the tretye and artycles Sent to maister Wooton as also touching the Contractes and Couenaunttes of mariage between the Duke of lorayns Son, and the layde Anne and what termes thay stodde in. To the whiche thinges so purposyd they answeryd as men moche perplexyd that as touching Commyssyon thay hadde none to trete consernyng the Articles sent to Mr. Wotton and as to the contractes and Conuenaunttes of mariage they cowlde Say nothing but that a reuocacyon was made, and that they were but spowsaylles, and Fynallye after moche resonyng they offeryd them selffes to Remayne prisoners vntyll suche tyme as they Sholde haue sent vnto them From Clevys the Fyrst Artycles Ratyffyed vner the Duke theyr maisters Signe and Seale, and also the copye of the reuocacyon made between the Duke of lorayns Son and the layde Anne, vppon the which answers I was sent to your highness by my lords of your said Counsayle to declare to your highnes what answere they hade made and Came to your highness by the prevey wey into your prevey Chambre and Declaryd to the same all the Cyrcumstaunces wherewith your grace was veray moch displeasyd Saying I am not well handelyd insomoche that I mought well persayue that your highness was Fully determenyd not to haue goone thorow with the maryage at that tyme Saying vnto me thes woordes or the lyke in effect that yf it were not that she is com So Farre into my realme and the great preparacyons that my states & people hathe made For her and For Fere of making of a Ruffull in the woorlde that is to meane to dryve her brother into the hands of the emperowre and Frenche kynges handes being now to gether I woolde neuer haue ne marye her, so that I myght well persayve your grace was neyther Content with the person ne yet content with the proceding of the Agenttes, and at after dynner the sayd Sondaye your grace Sent For all your Sayd Cownsaylours and in repeting how your highnes was handelyd aswell towching the said Artycles as also the sayd matyer of the Duke of loreyns Son it myght and I dowt not dyde appere to them how lothe your highness was to haue maryed at that tyme. And theruppon &vppon the consyderacyons aforsayd your grace thowght that it sholde be well done that She Sholde make a protestacyon before your sayd Cownsaylours and notaryes to be present that she was Free from all contractes which was done accordinglye, and theruppon I repayring to your highnes declaryng how that she hadde made her protestacyon, wherunto your grace answeryd in effect thes woordes or moche lyke is ther none other Remedye but that I must nedes agenst my will put my nek in the yoke, and so I departyd levying your highness in a studye or pensyvenes, and yet your grace Determenyd the next mornyng to go thorow and in the mornyng which was Mondaye your mageste preparying yourself towardes the seromonye, ther was Some qyestyon who sholde lede here to churche and it was appoyntyd that the Erll of Essex disceasyd and an Erll that Came with her shold lede her to chyrche and theruppon one Cam to your highness and said unto yow that the Erll of Essex was not yet Come wheruppon your grace appoyntyd me to be on that sholde lede here and So I went vnto her Chamber to thentent to have don your Comawndment and shortlye after I Came into the Chambre the Erll of essex was Com wheruppon your Magestye avauncyd toward the galerye owt of your pryvery Chambre, and your grace being in and abowte the middes of your Chamber of presens Callyd me vnto yow Saying thes woordes or the lyke in entens my lorde yf it were not to Satysfye the woorld and my Realme I woulde not doo that I must doo this day For none erthlye thing, and ther with one brought your grace woorde that She was Commyng and theruppon your grace Repayryd into the galerye towardes the Clossett and ther pawsyd her Commyng being nothing contest that She So long taryed as I iudged then. and so consequentlye She Came, and your grace afterwardes procedyd to the Serymonyes, and they being Fynysshyd travelyde the day, as appartaynyd and the nyght after the Costome And in the mornyng on tewysday I repayryng to your Majesty in to your prevey Chambre Fynding your grace not so plesaunte as I trustyd to haue done I was so bolde to aske your grace how ye lykyd the wuene wherunto your grace Sobyrlye answeryd saying that I was not all men, Surlye my lorde as ye know I lykyd her beffor not well but now I lyke her moche woorse For quoth your highnes I haue Felte her belye and her brestes and therby as I Can Judge She Sholde be noe mayde which Strake me So to the harte when I Felt them that I hadde nother will nor Corage to procede any Fether in other matyers, Saying I haue left her as good a mayde as I Founde her whiche me thought then ye spake displesauntly which I was veraye Sorye to here. your highnes also after Candlemas and beffore Shorofftyde oons or twyse sayd that ye were in the same Case with her as ye were affore and that your hert Coulde neuer consent to medyll with her Carnallye notwithstanding your highnes alledgyd that ye For the most parte vsyd to lye with her nyghtlye or cuery second nyght, and yet your majestye euer sayd that she was as good a mayde For yow as euer her mother bare her, For any thing that ye hadde mynystred to her your highnes Shewyd me also in lent last passyd at suche tyme as your grace hadde Sume communicacyon with her of my ladye marye how that She began to wax Stoborne and wylffull euer lamenting your Fate and euer vereffyng that ye hadde neuer any Carnall knowlage with her, and also after Ester your grace lykewyse at dyuers tymes and in the whytsonweke in your gracys prevey Chamber at grenewyche excedinglye lamentyd your Fate and that your gretyst greffe was that ye sholde Surlye neuer haue any moo Chyldren For the Comffort of this Realme yf ye Sholde So Contynew, assuryng me that beffore god ye thought she was neuer your lawffull wyff at which tyme your grace knowyth what answer I madde, which was that I woolde for my parte do my vttermost to Comffort & delyuer your grace of your afflyccyon and how sorye I was bothe to Se & here your grace god knowyth your grace dyuers tymes Sethen wytsontyde declaryd the lyke to me, euer alledgyng one thing, and also Saying that ye hadde as moche done to moue the Consent of your hert and mynde as euer dyd man and that ye toke god to wytnes but euer ye sayd the obstacle Coulde neuer owt of your mynde and gracyous prynce after that ye hadde Fyrst sene her at Rochester I neuer thowght in my hert that ye were or woolde be contentyd with that maryage, and Syr I know now in what Case I Stande In which is oonlye in the mercye of god and your grace, yff I haue not to the vtterst of my Remembraunce Sayd the trowthe and the holle trowthe in this matyer god neuer helpe me I am Sewre as I think ether is no man lyvyng in this your Realme that knew more in this then I dyde your highnes onlye except and I am sure my lord admyrall Calling to his Remembraunce Can Shew your highnes and be my wyttness what I sayd vnto hym after your grace Came From Rochester, ye and also after your gracys maryage, and also now of late Sethens wytsontyde, and I dowt not but manye and dyuers of my lords of your Counsayll bothe beffore your mariage and Sthens haue Right well persayvyd that your magestye hathe not ben well pleasyd with your mariage, and as I shall answer to god I neuer thought your grace content after ye hadde ons Sene her at Rochester, and this is all that I know most gracyous and most mercyfull Souerayng lorde, beseeching almightye god who euer in all your Causes hathe euer Counsaylyd preservyd oppenyd mayntayned relevyd and deffendyd your highness so he now will witsave to Cownsayle yow preserue yow maynteyn yow remedye yow releve and deffend yow as may be most to your honor welthe prosperytye helthe and Comffort of your hertys desire For the whiche, and For the long lyffe & prosperous reighne of of your most Royall magestye I shall durying my lyffe and whylis I am here praye to almyghtye god that he of his most haboundant goodnes, will help ayde and Comffort yow and after your Contenewaunce of Nestors yeres that that most noble Impe the prynces grace your most dere Sone may succede yow to reighne long prosperouslye and Felycyouslye to goddess plesure, besechyng most humblye your grace to pardon this my Rude wrything, and to consider that I am a most wooffull prisoner redye to take the dethe when it Shall please god and your majestye and yet the Fraylle Fleshe incytythe me contynnewallye to Call to your grace For mercye and pardon For myne offencys and this Crist Salve preserue & kepe yow wrytyn at the towre this Wedensdaye the last of June with the hevye hert and tremblyng hande of your highnes most hevye and most miserable prisoner & poore slave

Most gravyous prynce

I Crye for mercye mercye mercye




With this letter it was Cromwell’s last chance to appeal to Henry and save his life, however, the letter did not work and Cromwell would not get to speak to Henry again.

Cromwell's handwritingAn example of Thomas Cromwell’s handwriting

On this day in 1540 – Sir Thomas Cromwell writes to Henry VIII from the Tower of London

Thomas Cromwell was arrested and imprisoned 10th June 1540 on charges of treason and heresy after falling out of favour with King Henry VIII. Sat in the Tower of London Cromwell did everything he could to reach out to the King and on 12th June he wrote one letter asking for the King’s mercy and reiterated his innocence. The letter read;

Prostate at your Majesty’s feet, I have heard your pleasure by your Controller, viz., that I should write such things as I thought meet concerning my most miserable state. And where I have been accused of treason, I never in all my life thought to displease your Majesty; much less to do or say “that thing which of itself is so high and abominable offence.” Your Grace knows my accusers, God forgive them. If it were in my power to make you live for ever, God knows I would; or to make you so rich that you should enrich all men, or so powerful that all the world should obey you. For your Majesty has been most bountiful to me, and more like a father than a master. I ask you mercy where I have offended. Never spoke with the Chancellor of the Augmentations and Frogmerton together at a time; but if I did, I never spoke of any such matter. Your Grace knows what manner of man Throgmerton has ever been towards you and your proceedings. What Master Chancellor has been to me, God and he know best; what I have been to him your Majesty knows. If I had obeyed your often most gracious counsels it would not have been with me as now it is. But I have committed my soul to God, my body and goods to your pleasure. As for the Commonwealth, I have done my best, and no one can justly accuse me of having done wrong wilfully. If I heard of any combinations or offenders against the laws, I have for the most part (though not as I should have done) revealed and caused them to be punished. But I have meddled in so many matters, I cannot answer all.


The Controller showed me that you complained that within these 14 days I had revealed a matter of great secrecy. I remember the matter, but I never revealed it. After your Grace had spoken to me in your chamber of the things you misliked in the Queen, I told you she often desired to speak with me, but I durst not, and you thought I might do much good by going to her and telling her my mind. Lacking opportunity I spoke with her lord Chamberlain, for which I ask your mercy, to induce her to behave pleasantly towards you. I repeated the suggestion when the lord Chamberlain and others of her council came to me at Westminster for licence for the departure of the strange maidens. This was before your Grace committed the secret matter to me, which I never disclosed to any but my lord Admiral, by your commandment on Sunday last; whom I found equally willing to seek a remedy for your comfort, saying he would spend the best blood in his belly for that object.


Was also accused at his examination of retaining contrary to the laws. Denies that he ever retained any except his household servants, but it was against his will. Was so besought by persons who said they were his friends that he received their children and friends – not as retainers, for their fathers and parents did find them; but if he have offended, desires pardon. Acknowledges himself a miserable sinner towards God and the King, but never wilfully. Desires prosperity for the King and Prince. “Written with the quaking hand and most sorrowful heard of your most sorrowful subject, and most humble servant and prisoner, this Saturday at your [Tower] of London.””

Thomas Cromwell signatureThomas Cromwell’s signature

On this day in 1540 – Sir Thomas Cromwell was arrested

On 10th June 1540 at 3pm Sir Thomas Cromwell attended a Privy Council meeting that would be like no other that he had been to. It was here the Duke of Norfolk led a small group of followers along with the Captain of the Guard to arrest Cromwell on the accusation of treason. When Cromwell saw the guard approaching he threw his hat on the table in rage at what was about to happen. It is believed that Norfolk and Southampton tore the Garter badge of St George from Cromwell’s clothes himself and he was taken to a barge and onto the Tower of London

Cromwell’s arrest came after he had fallen out of favour with King Henry VIII. Henry had recently married Anne of Cleves, who was selected for him by Cromwell. Henry did not like Anne and wanted to get out of the arrangement and later the marriage, Cromwell could not find a suitable way and so angered the King who was then easily swayed into believing that Cromwell was not only a heretic but also a traitor.

A Bill of Attainder was passed against him stripping him of all honours and titles he was now simply known as Thomas Cromwell, cloth carder. A list of accusations were included in Cromwell’s indictment including; supporting Anabaptists, protecting Protestants that had been accused of heresy and therefore failing to enforce the Act of Six Articles as well as heresy.

The accusation of heresy was enough for Henry to approve Cromwell’s death but only after his marriage to Anne of Cleves was over.

Thomas CromwellSir Thomas Cromwell painted by Hans Holbein the younger