The Truth and Myths of Thomas Cromwell (Guest Post)


The Truth and Myths of Thomas Cromwell

Guest Post by Caroline Angus Baker

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Lord Privy Seal of England, has enjoyed a revival as a popular Tudor character in recent years after being reshaped into a hero. But was Thomas Cromwell ever a villain? After his execution in 1540, all mention of Cromwell falls away, only to be plucked from the archives in the 1950s and made in the villain who brought about all the Protestant changes made by Henry VIII. Did Cromwell really do all this work on his own? Was he a religious fanatic? How does a common-born man come out of nowhere to rise to the top of English society in one decade? Simply, Cromwell didn’t; he had a remarkable tale before he was noticed by Henry VIII.



A child born in Putney, to common parents, suffering poverty and violence?

Much of Cromwell’s childhood has been imagined or created from basic details, as there hasn’t been a lot of information available until now. It’s nice to think of a boy shrugging off his low-born life and escaping to Europe. But the story is more complex.

Born in around 1485, Cromwell’s father was an Irishman named Walter Cromwell alias Smith, a yeoman of many trades, particularly running an alehouse, and before the court 47 times in fifteen years for breaking the assize of ale (other words, selling ale overpriced, poor quality, etc). Cromwell’s mother was Katherine Meverell, and the Meverells of Throwley were a gentry family, making Cromwell little higher in life than assumed. Throughout this life Cromwell did favours for the Meverells and their relatives, giving them plum positions wherever they lived. Cromwell’s parents were kindly people, not cruel as sometimes portrayed.

Cromwell never forgot where he came from, or who he knew. A local boy named Thomas Megges grew up to be one of Cromwell’s many proteges, as did Thomas Mundy, all Putney boys who were of school age together. When Cromwell got elevated to the peerage in 1536, he was made Baron of Wimbledon, and his wealth and lands grew right through the very area where he was born. His wife was a Putney girl, his sisters and their families paramount throughout Cromwell’s life.



The ruffian’s “lost years’ in Italy?

The word ruffian gets used far too often when describing Cromwell, but it’s the only word Cromwell himself used to describe his childhood behaviour, and Eustace Chapuys wrote that Cromwell admitted to time in prison before leaving Putney. In approximately 1500, young Cromwell did leave Putney in search of adventure, but his time in Italy is documented through records, business transactions and by an Italian novelist named Matteo Bandello. Rather than fleeing his father, Cromwell took a place as a mercenary in the French army, who were sent to fight the Battle of Gagliano, Naples, on 29 December 1503. The French lost, as were France’s hopes forever in Naples, but Cromwell survived the killing and made his way to Florence. Cromwell was found on the streets of Florence, starving and homeless by Francesco Frescobaldi, head of a wealthy mercantile family, who was amazed to find a fluent English speaker on the streets. The novelist tells a great tale of how Cromwell is taken into the Frescobaldi family.

Cromwell had found a home with Frescobaldi, who smuggled goods from Egypt and the Ottomans into northern Europe, making huge sums in the process, even in league with King Henry VII, making England wealthy. Cromwell learned the art of trading wool and wine and had the chance to travel to the Low Countries to attend trade fairs. Francesco’s brother Leonardo traded out of Southampton, giving Cromwell valuable contacts for a new life back in England. Cromwell made many friends and business allies for the next 30 years. Cromwell also met John Hacket in Calais in 1505, and George Elyot in 1512, both in the Low Countries, giving him access to a wide range of people. By this time, the men were all corresponding as close friends in fluent French. After ten years in the Frescobaldi’s employ, Cromwell lived in Florence and Antwerp, learned Italian, Spanish and “self-consciously elegant” Latin, learned how to defraud the Pope by smuggling goods, learned to chase down debtors in the Low Countries, became at ease with the snobbery of the cloth trade, and created a huge web of friends and colleagues, none of whom he ever forgot. Cromwell started vast libraries of books, with many of the greatest Italian and humanist works of the era in his collections. He was the Italianate-Englishman and determined to be the best Italian in England in 1514. But records also show Cromwell back in Rome in 1514, working as a London-based lawyer in a dispute, and for the next five years, made himself a tidy sum working as a lawyer between London and Rome, despite having undertaken no legal training.

In his time in England between Roman visits, Cromwell married Elizabeth Wykes in around 1519, with their son Gregory born in about 1520. Cromwell also had a ward, Ralph Sadler, living in his house as his own son, and nurtured his sister’s son Richard, who took on Cromwell’s surname. By 1523, Cromwell had leased Austin Friars, a manor in the heart of the Italian community of London, had two more children, Anne and Grace. He could live a wealthy life as a lawyer and merchant. But more lay ahead – Cromwell got himself elected into parliament in 1523, at a time when parliament rarely opened, his first speech advising against Henry VIII’s possible war with France.



A sulking, unknown fixer and monastery-destroyer for Cardinal Wolsey?

In 1524, Cromwell was admitted to the bar, recognised as a lawyer by Gary’s Inn in London. He had worked for noblemen, clergymen and merchants in his time, so to be recommended to Cardinal Wolsey was no surprise. But Wolsey needed someone special; he needed money and he needed a man who could fight his way through prolonged legal issues. Failing monasteries needed to be inspected and closed, to finance Wolsey’s vanity projects – large colleges built in his name, the completion of Hampton Court Palace, and the finishing of a giant tomb made by revered Italian tradesmen. Cromwell could well deal with Italians, but closing monasteries brought him into physical and legal battles with the gentry and the locals alike. Yet Cromwell emerged with even more people to add to his ever-widening group of friends who wrote to him throughout the rest of his life.

During this time, Cromwell met many men interested in evangelical reform. While he worked for a cardinal and kept his religious affiliations quiet, Cromwell aided Reformation leaders and had them installed the new Cambridge College, helping reformers such as Thomas Cranmer, Robert Barnes and Miles Coverdale, all men who would feature in Cromwell’s rise and downfall.

Cromwell’s relationship with Thomas Wolsey grew in the short five years they worked side by side, this brought Cromwell into contact with many noblemen such as the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and met his friend-turned-nemesis Stephen Gardiner, a friendship that would spiral out of control in later years.



Abandoning his closest friend for personal gain?

Did Cromwell step over Wolsey’s body to take his place beside the king? Absolutely not. Wolsey was Henry VIII’s closest friend and Lord Chancellor of England. When Henry decided he needed a marriage annulment, it was Wolsey’s job to procure the desired legal and ecclesiastical paperwork. Anne Boleyn would take Katherine of Aragon’s place, but Anne was only single because Wolsey forbade her marriage to Henry Percy of Northumberland years before. Anne Boleyn hated Wolsey and vice versa.

A legatine court needed to be set up, the judges Wolsey, and Cardinal Campeggio from Italy. Here Cromwell could again be helpful. But 1529 would not be a kind year, as Cromwell had lost his wife and daughters to sweating sickness and Gregory was sent away for his education. Anne Boleyn was ready to be queen, Henry wanted Katherine ousted, and Wolsey and Campeggio simply couldn’t make the charges against Katherine stick. Cromwell stood by and watch Wolsey fail in the most public arena the 16th century had witnessed. When Henry denounced Wolsey and banished him 200 miles north to York, Cromwell had to stay in London. But he did not advance himself, rather Cromwell dared to face the king and beg for Wolsey’s return to power and favour. Crowmell did a good job too, softening Henry’s angry heart, but Wolsey’s greed got the better of him, and even Cromwell’s brilliant mind could not save him, nor could he be with Wolsey when he died of illness in Leicester in November 1529. But King Henry had seen Cromwell now, saw what he could do. Cromwell also put his contacts to work, and got himself into parliament in late 1529, the first sitting in almost seven years, and tried to build a new life out of grief. All he had worked for had gone; his family was dead, Wolsey was disgraced and dead, and his own legal practice had dried up due to busy times with the cardinal. In this time, Cromwell had a brief affair with an unknown woman, resulting in the birth of his daughter Jane, While illegitimate, Cromwell paid for Jane’s quality care and upbringing for the rest of his life.



Cromwell made being gay illegal?

In 1533, Cromwell did write the Buggery Act, a law designed to hurt men accused of the crime of sodomy. The law was created as an easy way to arrest men, primarily priests, as there was never any evidence to submit, and those arrested could not defend themselves. It was used to destroy men who would not submit to Henry’s new church, rather than what happened in bedrooms around England. Buggery was an immoral sin, but now also a legal crime, punishable by death.



A meteoric rise to power as Anne Boleyn’s “man?”

Suddenly the king needed a new man at his side, and he called on Thomas Cromwell. But he was not an unknown to many; the Attorney-General sang his praises, his friend Stephen Gardiner was to be the king’s secretary, and ambassadors across Europe had already worked with him in the past. Cromwell was 45 years old when he caught the king’s eye and was no stranger, but a well-travelled and well-skilled man of many trades.

The Pope would never allow Henry to marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell’s plans were simple; bypass the Church completely and start a Royal Supremacy over religion. He had his friend Thomas Cranmer elevated to be the archbishop, declared Henry the Leader of the Church in England, and ruled that the clergymen of England had to swear allegiance to Henry instead of the Pope or risk losing their heads. It was a pragmatic solution to a problem Henry could not solve in usual channels. Cromwell promised to make Henry the richest man in England and Henry was sold on Cromwell’s unorthodox plan. This allowed the Reformation to take hold in England, and by having Catholic men like Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher killed, the Pope’s voice began to lose its power. To everyone who already knew Thomas Cromwell, none of this came as a surprise. But the nobles, in places of power due to birth and ancient customs were stunned by this new man.

Cromwell and Cranmer worked together, creating Henry as the Head of the Church, able to end his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Cromwell wanted the Reformation in England; he could even recite much of the New Testament by heart. Anne Boleyn wanted the Reformation so she could be queen, and yet Cromwell was not “Queen Anne’s man,” not in truth. For Cromwell loathed Anne and her family but had her married to Henry in 1533 anyway, Queen Katherine banished to the country. When Anne produced a daughter and then miscarriages, Henry wanted out and Cromwell had no qualms about destroying another queen. Over the course of 1530 – 1536, Cromwell did not hesitate in doing the king’s bidding. It was business, it was a pragmatic approach to issues that arose. Now the King’s Chief Minister, the Principal Secretary, Vicegerent of Religious Matters and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Cromwell had England in his grip. But not all his new laws were terrible; many helped cities with water, sewage, and food for the poor. Cromwell fed 200 people twice daily from his own kitchens. He passed laws making sure churches helped the homeless and jobless, he changed tax laws meaning the noblemen and merchants paid to fund alms-houses. Cromwell walked a tightrope like no one else.



Cromwell made up lies about Anne Boleyn to kill her?

In 1536, Henry wanted a new wife and Cromwell had the task of destroying Queen Anne. Queen Katherine had just died of cancer, and Queen Anne had lost another child; Henry could wait no more. No man called to sit in judgement of Anne for crimes could go against the king, and Cromwell’s best friend Cranmer was Archbishop of Canterbury. Cromwell had allies all over court and country, and Anne did not. It is unknown who suggested Anne was unfaithful, Henry or Cromwell. But Henry did show genuine shock when he heard Anne was found guilty of seducing four men, plus the extra charge of incest with her brother. The plan could have been a possible slander of adulterous rumours which blew out of control when people got nervous. A legal mind like Cromwell could easily spin any testimony to sound like Anne Boleyn was a witch. Did Cromwell orchestrate Anne’s death? He did. Did he show remorse? Not in any outward sense, though to go through the whole process could not have been easy for any man to bear. Once Anne was buried, Cromwell assumed her father’s role in as Lord Privy Seal of England, giving him wide-ranging powers in every respect.



The Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion was all Cromwell’s fault?

In late 1536, as Henry basked in the glow of his new wife Queen Jane, upwards of 40,000 men marched toward London, demanding to be a Catholic nation again. Their enemy? Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell’s had been back to his old tricks – closing monasteries in order to reap the financial gain, albeit the money went in Henry’s pocket, not his own. Henry loved destroying the Catholic Church’s power and taking their lands and wealth. Cromwell’s inspectors raided monasteries, abbeys and convents across England and Wales, calling them houses of sin, fraud and debauchery. Relics and shrine were pulled down, unnecessary under Reformation prayer. Cromwell’s new laws were the cause of the rebellion, and he wore the blood of the over 200 clergymen, nobles and commoners executed when the rebellion got quashed during sporadic fighting between October 1536 and March 1537.

But 1537 wasn’t a total loss for Cromwell. His investment in Jane Seymour’s womb paid dividends when she gave birth to Prince Edward. Sadly, Jane’s death was as hard on Cromwell as anyone. Just three months before Queen Jane’s death, Cromwell married his son Gregory to Jane’s sister, Lady Elizabeth. Gregory’s sons were first cousins to the prince, but after Queen Jane died, all the glory the Cromwell’s could have won also died away.



Gregory Cromwell – rapist?

A tricky truth/myth to dispel. In autumn 1538, Cromwell was busy with the White Rose trials, having the final men of Plantagenet blood arrested and executed. But in Lewes, where Gregory Cromwell lived with his wife Elizabeth, their new-born son, and another son on the way, a scandal emerged, and Gregory’s father stepped in when the situation became grave. Bishop Sampson of Chichester wrote a letter stating that Gregory could go to church for punishment for a serious offence. Bishops could only demand punishment for heresy and sexual crimes. Gregory was no religious man and heresy was not in his nature. That only led to one other cause. Having sex with maids was considered a routine sin in Tudor times, but a sexual charge requiring clerical punishment was considered serious, such as rape or buggery. Gregory angrily refused a light punishment and refused to accept what happened. What did happen? The crime is not recorded, but in doing this very simple acknowledgement in church, it meant Gregory could avoid “the possibility of further business.” Gregory’s “honesty” was affected, and so ruined his wife’s “reputation.” At the same time, Lady Elizabeth wrote to Cromwell in London and said she would no longer live under the same roof as Gregory, and she moved away. Gregory and Elizabeth did not reunite for more than six months. After spending a fortune to set up Gregory in Lewes Priory, Cromwell had to forfeit the lot and move Gregory and Elizabeth to Leeds Castle, where they patched up their marriage.



Cromwell brought about his own downfall when picking Anna of Cleves?

When Cromwell’s downfall came, it did not come from a gradual decline in power or a bolt from the blue, rather a strange mix. In April 1539, Cromwell fell ill and wrote to Henry of suffering an ague (malaria) and tertian fever (malaria fever that comes in waves every two/three days). This illness really struck a knife in the heart of Cromwell’s hard work. He had not long released the latest version of the bible, nicknamed the Cranmer Bible, though it was Cromwell’s bible; he and Cranmer were even on the cover. But when Cromwell fell ill, the Duke of Norfolk and many traditionalist clergymen in power got together and wrote the Six Articles, six points of clarification needed in religion, mostly around transubstantiation and clerical celibacy. While Cromwell was unable to move for a month, Cranmer watched hopelessly as the king took on board this Catholic doctrine and tried to mix them with the Reformation ideals. Religion was still a mess, and the Reformation took a big step backwards in a short time. Cromwell spent the rest of his life trying to undo the Six Articles. Archbishop Cranmer was forced to send away his German wife and daughter and never saw them again, lest they all be punished, possibly executed.

The King wanted a new wife, and Europe was low on princesses and duchesses available and/or willing. The best was Anna von mark, Duchess of Cleves. Anna’s brother, Duke Wilhelm of Julich-Cleves-Berg was like Henry; he was not strictly Catholic or a Lutheran, he was a middle way. But Anna’s sister Sybylla was married to the Elector of Saxony, a Lutheran German state with the powerful Schmalkalden (Protestant) League and an army. England needed allies and the Schmalkaldic League looked were perfect. But negotiations frequently stalled, and when Henry liked the look of Anna’s painting and agreed to marry her, the countries still had no alliance.

It took Anna two months to travel to England, and in that time, all hell broke loose. Duke Wilhelm laid claim to the duchy of Guelders, held by Emperor Charles V. Charles travelled to his lands in the Low Countries, and threatened war with Julich-Cleves-Berg if Wilhelm did not step back from Guelders. France, bordering these two, urged peace and wanted an alliance with the Emperor. Suddenly Europe’s largest Catholic nations were aligning, and Henry was aligned to Cleves by his marriage. Poor Anna had nothing to do with this, but by marrying her, and bedding her, Henry would be aligned to Anna’s brother and must be dragged into war. England would be decimated. To top it off, the Elector of Saxony still hadn’t aligned with Henry, so even the Schmalkaldic League would not necessarily be England’s ally.

By selecting Anna, Cromwell had accidentally brought England to the brink of war while Christendom hung in the balance. Cromwell was a brilliant legal mind, so Henry and Anna’s marriage contract was so tight nothing could be done. Henry was forced to marry Anna, or Cleves would turn against England, possibly alongside the Schmalkaldic army and all of Germany. But marrying Anna meant England became the enemy of the Holy Roman Empire and possibly France.

Henry’s dislike to Anna was obvious, but it was not all about her looks, rather she was the anchor to a war England couldn’t win. The men of Europe postured and moved troops around for months, by which time, Henry was totally infuriated, disgusted by Anna, and trapped in a scenario where no one would even write to England about the impending war. Henry needed to be free, he needed an annulment, and he needed someone to take the fall. But Henry had just given Cromwell the honour he always dressed of; Cromwell was now Earl of Essex and owner of lands that encompassed his beloved home town. Cromwell was a high-ranking nobleman, the Lord Great Chamberlain, Lord Privy Seal, Vicegerent of England and Ireland, Chancellor of the Exchequer, head statesman in the House of Lords and much more. But to show the Emperor that England was not a threat, someone needed to suffer.



Thomas Cromwell, traitor?

Cromwell was arrested on June 10, 1540, for being a traitor. He had said to Stephen Gardiner, one night at home at Austin Friars, that he would not turn from the Reformation, even if Henry did, Cromwell would fight the king if necessary. Angry words from a man who never seemed to recover from malaria. Was it treason? Technically yes, by Cromwell’s own laws of never speaking against the king. Cromwell’s long-time servant Thomas Wriothesley betrayed him and told the king that Cromwell was talking about Henry’s impotence, sending the king into a rage. More rumours were thrown on the pile – that Cromwell wanted to marry Princess Mary and become king, that Cromwell was colluding with extreme Lutherans in Zurich, and was a heretic by failing to enforce the Six Articles of religion. By laws Cromwell wrote in the early 1530s, a subject could be attainted without trial and sentenced to death. Cromwell was stripped of all titles, but Henry still allowed him to be beheaded, rather than more horrific penalties. In his prison cell, Cromwell wrote out all the paperwork needed to prove that Henry was not truly married to Anna due to her pre-contract in childhood, plus lack of consummation and lack of inward consent. Once the paperwork was done, Cromwell lost his head on July 28; all he worked for scattered to the wind as Henry married Katherine Howard. Gregory and Elizabeth, plus Richard Cromwell, Ralph Sadler, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Wyatt, and countless more mourned the loss of Cromwell, but many rejoiced.

It was said Henry regretted the loss of Cromwell within a month of the arrest; Cromwell was still in the Tower when the king realised how much Cromwell did every day (while putting up with Henry’s atrocious leg smell), but it was too late to back down. By Christmas, Henry was angry at his councillors for lying about Cromwell’s crimes. Henry nor England really saw any kind of success after that, and no man could hold Cromwell’s position, instead, dozens were brought in to fill the void. Henry died a fat old man and Cromwell was forgotten, all except for one portrait of him, hidden away and saved for us today.

To commemorate the anniversary of Cromwell’s unjust execution, I am having a free kindle promo on Amazon worldwide from July 27 – July 31. Both novels in the Queenmaker Series, Frailty of Human Affairs, and Shaking the Throne, all about Thomas Cromwell and Nicóla Frescobaldi, will be free to download. Book three, the final chapter of Cromwell’s life, No Armour Against Fate, will be available from November 1.

Go to Amazon (or local Amazon of choice) to get your free books, or check out carolineangusbaker.com

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The Life of Jane Seymour – Third Wife of Henry VIII

Described by Polydore Vergil as “A woman of the utmost charm both in appearance and character” and Sir John Russell as, “the fairest of all his wives”. Eustace Chapuys described Jane as “of middle stature and no great beauty”.

Jane was of a natural sweet-nature, unlike her predecessor Anne Boleyn and had also been considered virtuous.

Before you continue reading, if you’d prefer, you can listen to a supplemental podcast I made about Jane with the help of Matthew Lewis:

Jane Seymour – Third Wife of Henry VIII

As you may or may not recall, Jane Seymour was at the very bottom of my list of Tudor queens – she has just always seemed so boring to me. To my surprise, while researching this article, I began to uncover a woman who was a bit more interesting than I initially suspected.

Jane’s Family Tree

We know her best as the third wife of Henry VIII but Jane Seymour, through her mother, was descended from King Edward III through his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Mortimer, Lady Hotspur.

Jane’s father, Sir John Seymour was descended from of a man who travelled with William the Conqueror to England by the surname of St. Maur – and eventually that name transformed into the Seymour name we know today.

John Seymour, was a close companion of King Henry VIII and had been knighted in the field of battle by his predecessor, King Henry VII at the Battle of Blackhearth.

Portrait of Sir John Seymour by unknown artist.

John and Margery Seymour had ten children in all. Their eldest, John, was (as the oldest son) expected to do great things, but when he died years later his parents were devastated. Next there was Edward, who then claimed the prized position of eldest son, then Henry who was okay with a simpler life outside of court, followed by Thomas, another John (d. 20 July 1520), Anthony (d. young), then Jane, Elizabeth, Margery (d. young) and Dorothy. This order of children does not seem correct to me because it has always been noted that Jane and Thomas were close in age. If there were two siblings in between that would not be the case. Author Antonia Fraser gives a better account, from her 1992 book called “The Wives of Henry VIII”: John, Edward, Henry, Thomas, Jane, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Margery, Anthony and John. With no real evidence of who was older, Anthony or Margery – yet we do know the youngest three children (in this instance) all died young.

Jane, Thomas, Edward and Elizabeth Seymour. The surviving Seymour siblings minus Henry and Dorothy.

The Early Years

Author Elizabeth Norton says that Jane was too young to remember when her older brother died – I strongly disagree with that statement since she would have been about eleven years old at the time – a good age for recalling the death of an older sibling. Jane also lost her youngest siblings Anthony, Margery and John. Anthony and Margery are believed to have died young from the Sweating Sickness – the very reason why Jane was especially fearful of catching it herself in later years – because she had seen what it had done to her brother and sister.

In Jane’s early years she was witness (at about age four or five) to her father leaving Wolf Hall to fight at the Sieges of Thérouanne and Tornay in France. Around that same, the Battle of Flodden was taking place in the North of England – led by Queen Katherine as regent. One must wonder if Jane understood what was happening around her at this time and if she worried for her father’s safety from the security of her family home at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire.

Author Amy Aubrey Locke of The Seymour Family said that Jane Seymour probably had a quiet, humdrum childhood. That Jane spent little time with books but much at needlework. Some of her childhood needlework was still in existence up to 1652. What we do know about her education is that Jane was literate in English and that she did not learn Latin, which was the gateway to further learning.

Jane most likely shared a classroom with her brother Thomas since they were so close in age. As we’ve learned recently, Thomas had no interest in learning and it makes one wonder if that motivated Jane to be a better student. We also know that Jane enjoyed the outdoors – this was a very important part of her education as a country gentlewoman. Jane became an expert horsewoman and hunting was one of her favorite outdoor sports.

Nineteenth century author, Agnes Strickland believed Jane Seymour was educated at French court, as a maid to the English princess, Mary Tudor when she married King Louis XII of France in 1514. While there is no definitive proof of this, Strickland claimed that there was a portrait of a girl at the Louvre that she believed was Jane Seymour. I’m skeptical of this information since Jane would have been only five or six years old at the time and that seems very young to be a maid in any household, let alone the household of a queen in France.

Old Enough to be Married

Between John, his wife Margery and their son Edward, their connections at Tudor court ran deep – Edward had been spending much time at court and knew well who could help him find his sister a position at court. Once she arrived at court this would open a world of marriage prospects for the single Jane.

What is not doubted is that in 1529, before Katherine of Aragon lost the title of queen, Jane served in her household as a lady-in-waiting. It is likely that Jane was in the household of a notable lady prior to that of the queen since, as author David Loades states, a position like that “could scarcely have happened except from an established position within the court”.�

Jane Seymour arrived at court when she was eighteen or nineteen, but at what capacity is still unknown.

Some believe that Sir Francis Bryan, a distant cousin, had a hand in her placement in the household of Queen Katherine, as well as that of Queen Anne.

History says that at one time Jane was attached to the son of Sir Robert and Lady Dormer – a neighbor of Wolf Hall. Unfortunately, it is believed that Jane was of too modest of rank to marry a Dormer.

Author Janet Wertman of Jane the Quene said in an interview once that she believed Jane was desperate to marry and resentful of her siblings. It’s interesting when you see that Jane was 27 when she married, nearly a decade older than most women and both of her younger sisters had acquired marriages before her.

It says a lot that her younger sister Elizabeth married sometime before 1530 – most likely an indicator that Jane wasn’t perceived as a great catch – that her sister’s beauty was much greater. Being that John Seymour had so many children and three daughters to marry off this left very little in the way of a dowry for any marriage, yet with that being said Elizabeth married Sir Anthony Ughtred – of the prominent Ughtred family.

While in the household of Queen Katherine, Jane would have been expected to go to mass often and work on needlework, but she would not have been expected to have learned discussion. The most important role at court for Jane would have been that of a woman looking for a husband – in this, Jane was not versed in courtly flirtation. The modus operandi of single ladies at court, or in the household of the queen, was to play hard to get. Be unavailable. This was a skill that came naturally to Jane and may have been one of the reasons why she was still single in her 20s.

Jane Joins the Household of Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in secret around the beginning of 1533; That summer Henry redesignated Katherine of Aragon as dowager Princess of Wales and her household was reorganized. Jane was one of the ladies who had been removed from the household since she was suspected of sharing similar religious views with Katherine. From there she was sent to the household of the new queen, Anne Boleyn.

Jane Seymour and an older Anne Boleyn

By August of that year, Anne, heavily pregnant with her daughter Elizabeth, took to her Chamber at Greenwich Palace. Jane and the other ladies would have been there to tend to the Queen’s needs. Their duties, since men were not allowed in the Queen’s rooms during a lady’s lying-in, were to guard the door, wait tables and routine work such as lighting fires and keeping the place clean. The Queen’s ladies would have slept on pallet beds in the Queen’s Bedchamber in case something happened during the night, but once the big day grew closer it was the royal midwife who slept near the Queen in their place.

Princess Elizabeth was born on the 7th of September 1533 and the birth was reported as easy. Jane’s duties at this point would have been to bring water and wine when Anne was in need of them. Both the King and Queen were disappointed in the arrival of a daughter but were confident that sons would follow.

The tide began to turn for Queen Anne after her miscarriage in July or August 1534. Those who were against the marriage from the start used this to fuel their ambitions to have Anne removed.

Things Were About to Change

In the summer of 1535, King Henry and Queen Anne embarked on their annual progress across England. One of their stops along the way was the home of John Seymour – Wolf Hall, on the 4th of September.

Stops along their progress were generally chosen due to size and convenience, but it’s also possible that the king wished to visit the home of the woman he fancied – Jane Seymour. In addition, the King enjoyed the company of John Seymour, her father. At the moment Anne Boleyn was still safely secure on her throne and Katherine of Aragon was still alive – so Henry would not have been thinking about marrying since he would have had plenty of wives to go around.

So much is unknown about that visit to Wolf Hall, especially if Jane was present. As a member of the Queen’s household, surely Jane would have been there…or would she? We do not know how the entourage for the progress was constructed since there is no documentation of it. Author David Loades states that it is just as likely that Jane stayed behind in London. No matter where she was Jane’s whereabouts in the summer of 1535 are unknown.

January of 1536 saw much change in England; On the 7th of January Katherine of Aragon died at Kimboltan Castle. Two days later, dressed in yellow, Henry and Anne triumphantly paraded to mass with their daughter Elizabeth. It is believed that the color yellow was the color of celebration. The couple wore the color to celebrate the death of the former queen…this is a subject that has been heavily debated.

At the time, Queen Anne was pregnant again and had good reason to be concerned with the sex of the child. If this child proved to be a girl, or if she miscarried, all would be lost. She understood that the tide had turned and many wished her removed as queen.

Because of the death of his first wife and pregnancy of his second wife, King Henry decided to stage a tournament. He was forty-four years old at the time and chose to participate in the jousting events, even though he hadn’t jousted in several years. It was on the 24th of January 1536, seventeen days after his first wife died that King Henry fell in the tiltyard during a joust. The King lay motionless for two hours and some thought all hope was lost.

It had been reported that Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk burst into the Queen’s chambers to tell his niece the King was dead. Anne Boleyn was visibly upset – she was pregnant with the King’s child but without the King she had no protection from those who wished her harm. Henry recovered from his fall and five days later Anne suffered a miscarriage of a male fetus.

Showtime’s “The Tudors” – Jane Seymour on Henry VIII’s lap. Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime

There was another story, told by Jane Dormer (a woman who served Queen Mary), that Anne had walked in on Jane Seymour sitting on the King’s knee and that is what caused her to miscarry the child. This tale is completely fabricated – this can be proven by the fact that Dormer was born in 1538 – two years after the events occurred. Jane Dormer claimed that she heard the story from one of Anne’s ladies, in old age, whose memory may not have been so good after so many years had passed.

The Rise of Jane Seymour

After this final miscarriage the door was left open for her enemies to hatch plans to have her removed. Some may have been planning this already and were interrupted when Queen Anne became pregnant again. It was clear to many that God did not smile upon the marriage as Anne could not provide the King with a son.

Even Cromwell and Chapuys had discussed the topic of Anne being replaced by another – quite a leap if you consider the two men were on opposite ends of the religion spectrum. It also appears that Chapuys was aware of Jane Seymour being a lady of interest to become wife number three. Shortly after that conversation it was reported by that Chapuys received a letter from the Marquess of Exeter and his wife Gertrude that said the lady had rejected a royal gift by the king.

After Jane had refused the gift from King Henry word spread quickly about the King’s interest in her. When he found out, Henry informed Jane not to pay attention to the rumors.

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger

Not long after, in March 1536, while the King was at Westminster and Jane at Greenwich the King sent her yet another gift – to which Jane fell to her knees and kissed the royal missive telling the messenger that she was “a gentlewoman of fair and honurable lineage without reproach”. Saying she had “nothing in the world but her honour, which she would not wound for a thousand deaths”. It was those words that made Henry realize that any time he was in the presence Jane that it should be done in front of family…to witness them. He wanted to make sure he did things right this time.

Eventually Jane had accepted a gift from the King, and Anne Boleyn had noticed something around her attendants neck. She asked her lady if she could look at her new necklace and Jane, knowing Anne would be livid if she saw, drew back. The Queen then snatched it from Jane and opened it to find a portrait of the King. You can about imagine the scene in your head.

In mid-April 1536, Edward and Anne Seymour moved into the apartments at Greenwich which previously had belonged to Thomas Cromwell. The fact that Cromwell was willing to give up his apartments to Jane shows that he had decided to join the charge against Anne. A secret passage joined the two chambers (Henry and Jane’s), so Henry could visit Jane without anyone noticing.

During the trial of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour was noticeably absent from court. She spent time in the household of the King’s favorite, Sir Nicholas Carew “in almost regal splendour” – the Carew home was only seven miles from London. On the 15th of May it was noted that she was in a house looking onto the river within a mile of Whitehall. It was at this location that Sir Francis Bryan kept Jane in the loop. Jane’s reaction to Bryan telling her of Anne’s execution had not been noted.

The question remains – did Jane believe Anne to be guilty of the charges against her? At the time, when Jane caught the King’s eye, Anne was already in disfavor with Cromwell and a majority of English subjects had blamed her for the lack of papal authority in England.

On the 18th of May the Imperial Ambassador wrote to Cardinal Granvelle of Jane Seymour, saying:

“She is sister to Sir Edward Seymour, of middle stature and no great beauty…shis is over twenty-five years old and has long frequented the court…she is not a woman of great wit, but may be of good understanding. It is said that she is included to be proud and haughty, and has a good affection towards the Princess�”�Chapuys was, of course, referring to Mary.

On the 19th of May, the day Anne Boleyn was executed, Cranmer issued a dispensation for Henry and Jane to marry �although within the third degree of affinity�. What that affinity is is unknown but one can assume that the King was just covering his bases to make sure this marriage, his third, was completely valid.

Jane the Quene

The day after the execution of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour traveled to Hampton Court Palace and was secretly betrothed to Henry VIII. The King’s swift action was “ill taken” by many people seeing it as a marriage that was planned prior to the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn. Henry, aware of this, attempted to keep the betrothal secret for some time but it was a matter of hours and word had spread all over court.

When we think of Jane Seymour it is usually of that of a woman who was a pawn for her family…a sweet and kind lady who tried to bring Mary back into the King’s good graces…but what about a woman who knew that her placement on the throne would be at the cost of another’s life? What about that woman? There was a side of Jane Seymour that we don’t hear about…the side that was willing to take part in the events that placed her on the throne next to King Henry VIII. Think about that for a moment.

After the not so secret betrothal, some believe that Jane, and possibly Henry, went to her family home in Wiltshire – Wolf Hall.

On the 30th of May 1536, Henry and Jane married at Whitehall in the Queen’s Closet.

Wedding of Jane & Henry on Showtime’s, “The Tudors”

Henry’s personal wedding gift to Jane was a gold cup designed by Hans Holbein and engraved with their initials entwined with a love knot. Jane’s motto appeared three times on the cup. “Bound to obey and serve”.

Drawing of the cup Hans Holbein the Younger Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
On the 1st of June 1536, Henry and Jane traveled by barge to Greenwich.

Only a week after the wedding King Henry was already talking about the  “prince hoped for in due season”. Henry was optimistic that soon he would have that legitimate male heir he longed for and lost two wives over.

June 1536

A lot happened at the beginning of June:

On the 2nd of June, Jane was shown to the court as Queen.

On the 3rd of June, Sir John Ruseell wrote a letter to Lord Lisle that said this about the new queen:

I assure you she is as gentle a lady as ever I knew, and as fair a Queen as any in Christendom. The King has come out of hell into heaven for the gentleness of this and the cursedness and unhappiness of the other…

Then, on the 4th of June, she was proclaimed Queen of England at Greenwich.

On the 5th, her brother Edward was created Viscount Beauchamp.

On the 7th of June the royal couple traveled by barge from Greenwich to Whitehall. As they rode down the Thames there was much fanfare – “every ship shot guns”  and Chapuys sent his trumpeters and musicians to float around the barge to play music for the newlyweds.

 

The Tower of London at this time was draped in streamers and banners in salute of the couple – must have been quite the site.

The King’s appearance at this time was not the marvel it had once been – Henry was still a tall man of 6’2 but had put on much weight with age. It was noted at the time that the king wore a hat to hide the fact that he no longer had much hair.

The following day, on the 8th of June, Parliament convened and passed an Act confirming that both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor were illegitimate which settled the succession of any child that may be born to Jane, or any future wife.

Now when we look at the relationship between Queen Jane and the Lady Mary it is often showcased as Jane pushing Henry VIII to bring his daughter back to court and reinstate her in the line of succession. While Jane was determined to bring the King’s daughter back into favor it wasn’t necessarily her doing.

That same month, the Lady Mary finally appeased her father by declaring herself illegitimate and recognized him as the Head of the Church of England – both things were required for her survival.

Jane’s gentle pushes with Henry in regards to his daughter may not have been what got her back in the King’s good graces, but it did show Henry what a good heart his new queen had.

Only a couple of weeks after the King received the letter of submission from his daughter, he and the queen traveled to Hunsdon and visited with Mary for the day. It was this visit that the Queen presented the Lady Mary with a “very fine” diamond ring and Henry gave his daughter 1,000 crowns and told her if there was anything else she needed that she need only to ask.

Queen Jane;s first couple of month’s in her new position were a whirlwind of activity. After their return from Hunsdon, Jane had her first reception with an ambassador when King Henry planned a moment for the Imperial ambassador (Chapuys) and Jane to talk. During their conversation Chapuys told Jane that he wished for her to be the all-needed peacemaker. He used the term, “Pacific” for Jane. When Henry returned and heard what the ambassador had called Jane he agreed and said that Jane wished for peace – “besides that her nature was gentle and inclined to peace, she would not for the world that he were engaged in war, that she might not be separated from him”.

It appears that the King and Queen were very happy with one another at this point of their marriage. The only thing that could have made it better was if Jane became pregnant, something she was all to aware of.

Henry and Jane went on a summer progress and traveled east to Rochester, Sittingbourne and Canterbury all the way to the coast ending at Dover Castle. They had many hunting expeditions and were said to have killed 20 stags on the 9th of August alone.

While they were on progress plans were being made for Jane’s coronation – initially there were plans to hold the coronation on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, on the 29th of September, which would have been perfect to coincide with all the festivities that were already associated this day. Eustace Chapuys reported that Henry would “perform wonders” for his new queen and no doubt wipe-out any memories of the last, disgraced queen’s coronation.

Then there was an outbreak of plague that put a halt to all plans for a coronation. Maybe by the time the plans resumed the queen would be with child. But, as we now know, the coronation never happened.

The Happy Couple

The King and Queen returned to London in December of 1536, and on the 22nd of that month the couple rode through the city in great state.

According to Agnes Strickland, there was a record that indicates the severity of the weather that winter. It was said that the King, Queen and the whole court rode across the Thames on horseback to Greenwich Palace.�

In early spring 1537, Jane discovered she was pregnant. Henry had great reason to rejoice, for he believed she was carrying the son he had desired for so long. The pregnancy was announced in April when Henry relayed the great news to the Privy Council.

Jane’s life changed immediately after she realized she was pregnant. As always, when a Tudor queen was pregnant she could longer be intimate with the king – for fear of harm to the child. Jane’s life would have included a great lack of excitement from what he had experienced previously. Her biggest concern was to protect the child she was carrying.

By late May at Hampton Court, it was announced that the child had moved in her womb. One courtier wrote, “God send her good deliverance of a prince, to the joy of all faithful subjects.”.

The Birth of a Prince

On the 16th of September, Jane took to her chamber at Hampton Court in preparation for the birth of what was hoped to be a prince. Lady Mary had been with Jane for the last few weeks and would also be present in the chamber with her step-mother. By early October it seemed obvious that the birth was imminent. Then on the 9th of October the Queen.s labor began. Jane’s labor lasted three days and three nights. It was rumored that she would have to be cut open to secure a safe delivery of the child. There is no evidence of a cesarean since that procedure was not known at the time, and no proof that Henry had to choose between Jane and the child if one had to be saved.

At two in the morning on the 12th of October an exhausted Jane delivered a healthy, fair-haired boy. Her labor was long and painful but she had survived the delivery and so had the child.

Henry was over the moon with glee that he finally had a son, a legitimate heir to the throne of England. They named the child Edward, Duke of Cornwall from the moment he was born. Church bells tolled and fires were lit throughout the city to celebrate the birth of a prince.

By ten in the evening on the same day Jane was sitting in her bed having someone write a letter to Cromwell (for her) to inform him that they had delivered a son, a prince. Her letter was signed, “Jane the Quene“.

On the day of Prince Edward’s christening the guests had gathered beforehand in the queen’s apartments. Jane was lying on a bed of crimson lined with cloth of gold. Around her she wore a crimson mantle edged with ermine. Her blonde hair flowed loosely. Beside Jane sat the King. When the little Prince was brought to Jane she gave him her blessing.

In the Annals of the Seymours, the author states that at the time it was required for the queen to attend the christening, and that the Queen was carried from her room to the chapel on a pallet or sofa – she was propped up with cushions and wrapped in a crimson velvet mantle. It also states that King Henry sat next to her during the entire ceremony. While this makes for a great visual there is no evidence to corroborate the story.

The following day Jane suffered a bad attack of diarrhea, which left her very ill. By evening she was feeling better.

The Death of a Queen

That night she fell ill again and early the following day her health was of growing concern. At that time it seemed obvious that she was suffering from childbed fever.

Jane’s conditions continued to worsen and Henry was called to be by her side. In the early hours of 24 October 1537, the queen slipped quietly away. Queen Jane was dead. Henry was destroyed by the death of his wife – his favorite wife, for she gave him a long desired son.

The people of England shared in their King’s grief – this is evident by a ballad that was written about her and was published in the popular, Ancient Poems of the Peasantry of England. We’ll end this podcast with this beautiful, yet historically inaccurate ballad.

Queen Jane was in travail
For six weeks or more,
Till the women grew tired,
And fain would give o’er.

O women! O women!
Good wives if ye be,
Go, send for King Henrie,
And bring him to me.

King Henrie was sent for,
He came with all speed,
In a gownd of green velvet
From heel to the head.

King Henrie! King Henrie!
If kind Henrie you be,
Send for a surgon,
And bring him to me.

The surgeon was sent for,
He came with all speed,
In a gownd of black velvet
From heel to the head.

He gave her rich caudle,
But the death-sleep slept she.
Then her right side was opened,
And the babe was set free.

The babe it was christened,
And put out and nursed,
While the royal Queen Jane
She lay cold in the dust.

So black was the mourning,
And white were the wands,
Yellow, yellow the torches,
They bore in their hands.

The bells they were muffled,
And mournful did play,
While the royal Queen Jane
She lay cold in the clay.

Six knights and six lords
Bore her corpse through the grounds;
Six dukes followed after,
In black mourning gownds.

The flower of Old England
Was laid in the cold clay,
Whilst the roy al King Henrie
Came weeping away.

Sources:

Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1994)
Locke, Amy Aubrey; The Seymours (1914)
Loades, David; Jane Seymour – Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife (2013)
Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall (2015)
Licence, Amy; The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)
Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour – Lord Protector (2016)
Skidmore, Chris; Edward VI – The Lost King of England (1981)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
Bell, Robert & Dixon, James Henry; Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1857)
Pollard, A. F. (Albert Frederick); England under Protector Somerset : an essay (1900)
St. Maur, Richard Harold; Annals of the Seymours (1902)
https://archive.org/stream/genealogicalhera03burk#page/200/mode/2up
Ives, Eric; The Live and Death of Anne Boleyn
Doran, Susan; The Tudor Chronicles
Wertman, Janet; Jane the Quene (2016)

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Who was responsible for the downfall of Anne Boleyn? (Guest Post)

Today we take a look at one fan of the Tudor dynasty’s take on the downfall of Anne Boleyn. The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of the owner of this site. There were no sources included. We post these articles to draw discussion on topics such as the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Some believe that Henry VIII was solely responsible for the death of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Was he really, and did he really want her dead?

Long before her actual trial, the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, had heard from other European princes that Henry had voiced his desire for an annulment due to the fact that Anne could not bare him a living son, but one must also consider the fact that his eyes had alighted on Jane Seymour. So, even though earlier on he had not considered marrying Jane, this could not be the sole cause of wanting his second wife out-of-the-waysince at one point he had expressed an angry attitude towards Chapuys, saying that his master, the Spanish Emperor must acknowledge Anne as the true Queen.

Eustace Chapuys hated Anne, not only because she had replaced Catherine of Aragon, but also because he was a staunch friend of Many Tudor,and his main desire was to see her reinstated to the succession. When Henry no longer loved Anne, the wheels may have started turning in his mind as to how this could advantage Mary, because it is a well-known fact that George Boleyn, the brother of Anne, had thought of planning to get Mary killed. When Anne fell out of favour, she definitely saw Mary as a firm enemy, but there is to written evidence that she ever publicly aired the same views as her brother.

When it was certain that the King wanted to marry Jane Seymour,Chapuys saw a golden opportunity. He was aware that Cromwell, originally a great supporter of Anne, due to their shared zeal regarding the Reformation, had fallen foul of her over the selling off of the monasteries to the nobility instead of using them to make houses for the sick or change them into schools. However, the key reason for Anne wanting Cromwell to go to the block,was the fact that she learned that he had given his rooms at Court to the Seymours, so that the King could see Jane whenever he wanted in the presence of her family, so that no scandal should be attached to her name.

Chapuys was a great politician and saw a chance to make really good friends with Cromwell, who now himself hated Anne. Thus there are now three people who want Anne out-of-the-way, but Chapuys and Cromwell want her dead. Cromwell began to think how this could be arranged. It was now his head or hers. In spite of the King no longer desiring her, she was still Queen in name and could get what she wanted. However, Cromwell persuaded the King to set up a group of the nobility to carry out what was then called Oyer and Terminer, which, in simple terms, meant you could literally carry out an investigation behind someone’s back. Although Anne must have been worried as she was bound to have sensed the underlying tension going through the court, she would not have realised exactly what was going on.

It is common knowledge that Cromwell decided to “get her”on charges of adultery with Norris,Brereton, Weston and Smeaton. He also accused her of incest with her brother George, but managed to bring in plotting the death of her husband which was High Treason. The latter occurred, due to the questioning of one of her Ladies in Waiting who had heard Anne say that she thought Norris visited her apartments so frequently because he was hoping to marry her if the King should die. History books often quote her famous statement that Norris “looked to step into dead men’s shoes “. This statement itself was enough to condemn her .

So was Anne herself responsible in a way for letting a death sentence prevail? The reason I say this is because she was known to be flirtatious, outspoken,frequently to have men in her chambers late at night, especially her brother who was her closest confidant and with whom she shared her deepest secrets. These factors made her a very easy target for Cromwell, even though, since she was always closely surrounded by servants it would have been impossible for her to commit all the crimes linked with her name.

The King was such a proud man, that the thought of his wife committing adultery would have enraged him like an angry bull. However, it must be noted that a King was above the law, so maybe the final blame does lie with Henry. After all he did sign all death warrants, so why didn’t he just say no? Perhaps the rumours among the populace that Anne was in fact a witch, who had seduced him into marriage by witchcraft, stuck in his mind. Maybe he worried that ending this marriage would be as complicated as when he had tried to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Maybe he was worried that the staunchly Catholic Mary would take the throne, thus interfering with his Reformation policy. Perhaps he also feared the thought that any woman, even Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, would not be able to sustain peace in England after his death thus plunging the country into Civil War.

We will never really know, because we can’t ask him why Anne’s actual death was an absolute necessity. We know that her death was quick as Henry ordered death by the sword, not the ax. Also she could have been burned, which was her greatest fear.

It is up to the reader to decide who was really to blame.

Written by Catherine Hunt


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Thomas Cromwell: Downfall and Execution

Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIII’s champion when it came to Anne Boleyn – he also assisted in the downfall of Anne. It appears to us now that Cromwell knew how to survive at the court of Henry VIII….for awhile, at least.

It wasn’t until Anne of Cleves that thing start to sour for Cromwell. When Henry VIII felt rejected by his new Queen he turned on Cromwell, blaming him for everything. As we all know the King rarely accepted blame in anything and those closest to him were most affected by his anger. Many have tried to say that the reason behind Cromwell’s downfall is what happened with Anne of Cleves – but if you read the below “Bill of Attainder” you will see no mention of Anne of Cleves. None. In my opinion, Cromwell’s downfall was not much different from Wolsey’s. As in Thomas Wolsey’s case, many thought Cromwell, who had come from nothing, had too much control over the King. Even though the King allowed it because he always behaved as though he couldn’t be bothered with running the Kingdom.



Letter – 10 June 1540 Charles de Marillac (French ambassador) to King Francis I:

Joos van Cleve - Portrait of Francis I, King of France (ca. 1532-1533)
Joos van Cleve – Portrait of Francis I, King of France (ca. 1532-1533)

[London,] – Has just heard that Thomas Cramvel, keeper of the Privy Seal and Vicar-General of the Spiritualty, who, since the Cardinal’s death, had the principal management of the atfairs of this kingdom, and had been newly made Grand Chamberlain, was, an hour ago, led prisoner to the Tower and all his goods attached. Although this might be thought a private matter and of little importance, inasmuch as they have only reduced thus a personage to the state from which they raised him and treated him as hitherto everyone said he deserved, yet, considering that public affairs thereby entirely change their course, especially as regards the innovations in religion of which Cromwell was principal author, the news seems of such importance that it ought to be written forthwith. Can add nothing but that no articles of religion are yet concluded, and that the bishops are daily assembled to resolve them, and meanwhile Parliament continues.

Was on the point of closing this when a gentleman of this Court came to say from the King that Marillac should not be astonished because Cromwell was sent to the Tower, and that, as the common, ignorant, people spoke of it variously, he (the King) wished Marillac to know the truth. The substance was that the King, wishing by all possible means to lead back religion to the way of truth, Cromwell, as attached to the German Lutherans, had always favoured the doctors who preached such erroneous opinions and hindered those who preached the contrary, and that recently, warned by some of his principal servants to reflect that he was working against the intention of the King and of the Acts of Parliament, he had betrayed himself and said he hoped to suppress the old preachers and have only the new, adding that the affair would soon be brought to such a pass that the King with all his power could not prevent it, but rather his own party would be so strong that he would make the King descend to the new doctrines even if he had to take arms against him. These plots were told the King by those who heard them and who esteemed their fealty more than the favour of their master. The King also sent word that when he spoke with Marillac he would tell things which would show combien grande a este la coulpe dudit Cramvel (blank) du dit seigneur a si long temps sceu le dissimuler et la juste occasion de maintenant y avoir donn ordre.
French. Modern transcript, pp. 3

(‘Henry VIII: June 1540, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 349-364)



Letter – 11 June 1540; Thomas Cranmer to Henry VIII:

690px-thomas_cranmer_by_gerlach_flicke
Cranmer – Portrait by Gerlach Flicke (1545)

Heard yesterday in the King’s Council that Cromwell is a traitor. Expresses his amazement and grief that he should be a traitor who was so advanced by the King and cared for no man’s displeasure to serve him, and was so vigilant to detect treason that King John, Henry II., and Richard II., had they had such a councillor, would never have been so overthrown as they were. Loved him as a friend, and the more for the love he seemed to bear the King; and now, although glad that his treason is discovered, is very sorrowful; for whom shall the King trust hereafter? Prays God to send the King a councillor he can trust, and who, for all his qualities, can serve like him.
A fragment.

(‘Henry VIII: June 1540, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 364-376)

Letter – 12 June 1540; Cromwell to Henry VIII:

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell,
Hans Holbein the Younger, (15321533)

Prostrate 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 (1) 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 friendsnot 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 heart of your most sorrowful subject, and most humble servant and prisoner, this Saturday at your [Tower] of London.

(‘Henry VIII: June 1540, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 364-376)



Bill of Attainder of Thomas Cromwell: 29 June 1540 (passed)

Attainder of Thomas Crumwell, earl of Essex, whom the King has raised from a very base and low degree to the state of an earl, and who nevertheless, as is proved by many personages of great honor, worship, and discretion, has been the most detestable traitor that has been seen during the King’s reign, and has of his own authority set at liberty divers persons convicted of misprision of treason and others apprehended upon suspicion of treason; and also has, for sums of money, granted licences for the export of money, corn, &c., contrary to the King’s proclamations; and also has appointed commissioners in important affairs without the King’s knowledge; and also being a person of as poor and low degree as few be within this realm, has said publicly, That he was sure of you (i.e. the King), and it is detestable that any subject should speak so of his sovereign; and also has give passports to divers persons to go over sea without search; and also, being a detestable heretic, has dispersed into all shires false and erroneous books, many of which were printed beyond seas, tending to the discredit of the blessed sacrament of the altar and other articles of religion declared by the King by the authority of Parliament, and has caused parts of the said books to be translated into English, and although the report made by the translator thereof has been that the matter was expressly against the sacrament of the altar, has, after reading the translation, affirmed the heresy so translated to be good; and also has obstinately maintained that every Christian may be a minister of the said sacrament as well as a priest; and also, being the King’s vicegerent to reform errors and direct ecclesiastical causes, has, without the King’s knowledge, licensed heretics to preach and teach, and has actually written to sheriffs in sundry shires, as if it were the King’s pleasure, to set at large many false heretics; and also upon complaints being made to him of heretics, has defended the said heretics, and rebuked the credible persons, their accusers, &c.; and moreover, 31 March 30 Hen. VIII., in the parish of St. Peter the Poor in London, upon information made to him against certain new preachers, as Robert Barnes and other, whereof part be now in the Tower for preaching against the King’s proclamations, did arrogantly say in defence of their preaching, That if the King would turn from it, yet I would not turn; and if the King did turn and all his people I would fight in the field in my own person with my sword in my hand against him and all other, and held up his dagger saying, Or else this dagger thrust me to the heart if I would not die in that quarrel against them all; and I trust if I live one year or two it shall not lie in the King’s power to resist or let it if he would, and affirming the words by a great oath, &c.; and moreover by bribery and extortion he obtained innumerable sums of money, and, being so enriched, has held the nobles of the Realm in great disdain, and being put in remembrance of others of his estate which your Highness hath called him unto offending in like treasons, said, 31 Jan. 31 Hen. VIII., in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, Midd., That if the lords would handle him so, that he would give them such a breakfast as never was made in England, and that the proudest of them should know. To suffer as a heretic or traitor, at the King’s pleasure, and forfeit all property held since 31 March 30 Hen. VIII. Saving clause excepting the deanery of Wells from forfeiture.
(‘Henry VIII: April 1540, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 209-251)



Nobility vs. Cromwell

…the nobility resented Cromwells influence with the king and his pro-monarchy, anti-nobility policy. And while many of the nobles benefited from the sale of clerical lands, many others had relatives dedicated to religious service. Also, reverence for the church and its servants was as deeply-held as reverence for the monarchy. Henrys attacks upon the church struck many as unnatural and wrong; since they could not turn on the king, they turned on Cromwell and blamed him for every unpopular policy. Henry VIII, who relished his popularity, allowed his faithful servant to be impugned. Thus, Henry could meet with his nobles, listen to their complaints, and even agree with them since many were his dearest friends. The king remained popular while his chief minister became increasingly despised and isolated. It is worth noting that one of Cromwells friends, Richard Moryson, argued that merit and not birth should be the only qualification for entry into the privy council. Moryson eventually became a member himself. (https://englishhistory.net/tudor/thomas-cromwell/)

The Day of Execution: 28 July 1540

Translated from Hall Chronicle the best I can into modern day language:

I have come here to die and not to unburden myself as some might think. I am condemned by law to die and my Lord God who has appointed me to this death for my offense. Since the time that I have had years of discretion I have lived as a sinner and offended my Lord God and now I ask him for forgiveness for my offenses. I ask you all to pray for me. Oh Father forgive me. Oh Son forgive me. Oh Holy Ghost forgive me. Oh three persons in one God forgive me. And now I pray that all of you here bear witness that I die in the Catholic faith not doubting once in my faith nor doubting in any sacrament of the Church. Many people have slandered me and reported that I have been a bearer of such as have maintained evil opinions that are untrue, but I confess that like God by his Holy Spirit doth instruct us in the truth so the devil is ready to seduce us, and I have been seduced. Bear me witness that I die in the Catholic faith of the Holy Church. I desire you to pray for the King, that he may live long with you, in health and prosperity. After him that his son, Prince Edward, may long reign over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remains in the flesh I will not waver in my faith.

And then made he his prayer, which was long, but not so long, as both Godly and learned, and after committed his soul into the hands of God and so patiently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged butcherly miser, which very ungoodly performed office. (Hall’s Chronical;Hall, Edward, d. 1547)

After Cromwell

HenryVIII2_1389961fIt was not long after the execution of Cromwell that ambassador Marillac had commented in a letter that Henry VIII was upset about the loss of Cromwell. Just as the King later lamented over the death of Wolsey he was now remorseful that Cromwell, the man who ‘helped’ him run the kingdom was now gone.

The most curious part of this all is that Henry VIII raised Cromwell to Earl of Essex on18 April 1540 – it was less than three month later that Cromwell was dead. How and why did things change so quickly for him? Why would the King grant him the earldom if he was only going to have him executed?

This is always the most curious thing when talk about Henry VIII – the man was very unpredictable. What do you think? What happened in those two months that changed everything for Cromwell?


The Rise And Fall Of Thomas Cromwell HD by limoslight

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