Tudor Thomases (Part One)

In 16th century England, or Tudor court to be exact, there are both male and female names that we hear over and over.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a guest writer contribute to our page with Tudor Marys and Katherines. Next to those two there should also be Elizabeths, Anne’s and Margarets as well. But today we are looking at the male version of those names. While the name Henry was very popular there was a fan request to look at all the Tudor Thomases.

While I know I’m not the first to participate in this subject I’m always willing to accommodate my followers requests.

Since there are so many Tudor Thomases I’ve had to break it down into a couple posts. Hopefully I am able to provide you with information in this post that I have not before. Enjoy!

Thomas More

Thomas More

Thomas More, author of Utopia, friend of Henry VII and martyr, are just a few words to describe him.

More was the son of a lawyer and was educated at St. Anthony’s school in London. He served as a page in Cardinal John Morton’s household during the reign of King Henry VII.

Thomas also attended Oxford and then studied law at the Inns of Court. He began to practice law around 1501.

In 1504 he married, Jane Colt, who was the birth mother of his children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely and John. She has been described as ‘quiet and good-natured’ by author Peter Ackroyd of The Life of Sir Thomas More. It was reported by Erasmus that Thomas wished to give Jane more of an education than she received prior to meeting him; He tutored her himself in both music and literature.

Jane died in 1511, and shortly thereafter More wed Alice Middleton, a wealthy widow.

Thomas’ political career began in 1515, when he was sent to the Netherlands on an embassy charged with renegotiating a trade agreement.

After the downfall and death of another Thomas, Thomas Wolsey, More became Lord Chancellor of England. It was while in this role that More felt conflicted with Henry VIII’s decision to divorce Katherine of Aragon. While More did not agree with the King he never spoke ill of him publicly. Ultimately, this was the beginning of his downfall and martyrdom. In May 1532, More resigned his position as Lord Chancellor after the Submission of the Clergy occurred.

Thomas More also refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn and in 1534 was included in the Bill of Attainder that condemned Elizabeth Barton – the Nun of Kent, but was able to convince the House of Lords to remove his name.

After refusing to sign the Act of Succession, which removed the King’s eldest daughter from the line of succession, More was committed to the Tower of London on the 17th of April 1534.

Eventually More was condemned for treason when Sir Richard Rich made claims against him.

On 6 July 1535, Thomas More was beheaded.

Further Reading:
Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. 
Fox, Alistair. Thomas More
Guy, John. A Daughter’s Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg.
Marius, Richard. Thomas More.
Wagner, John A & Walters Schmid, Susan. Encyclopedia of Tudor England

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was the eldest son of another Thomas Howard (2nd Duke) and Elizabeth Tilney.

Duke of Norfolk

Norfolk was the leading military and political figure during the reign of Henry VIII. He was instrumental in the rise of his nieces, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Norfolk was a very ambitious man. When Anne Boleyn was Queen he was able to, with Anne’s assistance, marry his daughter Mary Howard to Henry’s illegitimate (yet acknowledged) son, Henry Fitzroy. This made her Duchess of Richmond.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was considered a conservative who was uncomfortable with the countries religious reform but he stood behind the king in support of his niece becoming the next queen of England.

Norfolk acted as Lord Steward and presided over the trials of his niece and nephew, Anne and George Boleyn.

After the birth of Henry VIII’s long-awaited heir, Norfolk was made godfather to Prince Edward and was also commissioner at the funeral of Jane Seymour in November 1537.

Thomas Howard, along with Charles Brandon were chosen to meet Anne of Cleves at Dover in 1539 and in 1540 Howard was more than happy to see the downfall of Thomas Cromwell.

Thomas and his son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were sent to the Tower of London after it was alleged that Surrey had displayed the royal arms in his own heraldry. Surrey was executed but Norfolk was spared due to the timely death of Henry VIII.

Further Reading:
Head, David M.  The Ebbs and Flows of fortune: The Life of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk.

Thomas Elyot

Thomas Elyot, son of Sir Richard Elyot (Wiltshire) and Alice De la Mare was one of the first people to write mainly in English.

Elyot was secured an appointment in 1510 by his father as a clerk of the assize.

Like, Thomas More, Elyot attended one of the Inns of Court in London and likely met the author of Utopia.

Around 1520, Thomas married Margaret á Barrow. Margaret was well-known for her education which was given to her by Sir Thomas More. The couple had three children today – John, Thomas and Richard.

In 1523, Elyot was appointed, through Cardinal Wolsey, as clerk of the royal council until he was dismissed in 1530 after the downfall of Wolsey. Elyot never advanced past the peerage of Knight.

Thomas Elyot published The Boke of the Governor which was well received at court and secured him an appointment as ambassador to Charles V. It was his job to convince Charles to accept Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – even though he himself did not agree with the matter.

In 1532, Elyot was replaced by yet another Thomas, Thomas Cranmer.

Further Reading:
Elyot, Sir Thomas. The Boke Named the Governour.
Kennedy, Teresa. Elyot, Castiglione, and the Problem of Style.
Lehmberg, Stanford E. Sir Thomas Elyot, Tudor Humanist


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Victims of Henry VIII: More, Fisher and Three Monks


In the summer of 1535, not only were Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher executed but also three monks: William Exmewe, Humphrey Middlemore and Sebastian Newdigate. All five men refused to swear the oath of supremacy and acknowledge Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England. Their penalty was death.

Here is look at the Hall Chronicles, a contemporary report of what happened. Some words or phrases have been changed to modern English for easier reading, but for the most part it is exactly how it reads in “Hall’s Chronicles: The History of England.”

“The XXVII Yere” – 1535

Charterhouse Monks

On the xix (19th) day of June, three monks of the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn – their quarters set up about London for denying the king to be supreme head of the Church. Their names were William Exmewe, Humphrey Middlemore and Sebastian Newdigate.


These men were arraigned at Westminster and had behaved themselves very stiffly and stubbornly. When they heard their indictment read about how traitorously they had spoken against the King’s Majesty, his crown and dignity, they neither blushed nor bashed at it, but very foolishly and hypocritically acknowledged their treason which maliciously they announced, having no learning for their defense, but rather being asked many questions, they used a malicious silence, thinking as by their examinations afterward in the  Tower of London it did appear for they said they thought those men, which was Lord Cromwell and others that there sat upon them in judgement, to be heretics and not of the Church of God, and therefore not worthy to be either answered or spoken unto. And therefore as they deserved they received as you have heard before. (They were executed.)

Bishop John Fisher

Also the xxii (22nd) day of the same month John Fisher, bishop of Rochester was beheaded and his head set upon London bridge. This bishop was of very many men lamented, for he was reported to be a man of great learning , and a man of very good life, but therein wonderfully deceived, for he maintained the Pope to be supreme head of the Church, and very maliciously refused the king’s title of supreme head. It was said that the Pope, for that he held so manfully with him and stood so stiffly in his cause, did elect him a Cardinal and sent the cardinals hat as far as Calais, but the head it should have stood on was as high as London Bridge or ever the hat could come to Bishop Fisher and then it was too late and therefore he neither wore it nor enjoyed his office.

Hodgson, Paul; John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, Confessor and Adviser to Lady Margaret Beaufort; St John's College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-fisher-14691535-bishop-of-rochester-confessor-and-adviser-to-lady-margaret-beaufort-146362
Hodgson, Paul; John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, Confessor and Adviser to Lady Margaret Beaufort; St John’s College, University of Cambridge

This man as I said was “accoumpted”, learned, yea and that very notably learned, and yet have you heard how he was deceived with Elizabeth Barton that called herself the holy maid of Kent, and no doubt so was he in the defense of that usurped authority, the more pity: wonderful it is that a man being learned should be so blind in the scriptures of God that prove the supreme authority of princes so manifestly.

Sir Thomas More

Also, the vi (6th) day of July was Sir Thomas More beheaded for the like treason before rehearsed, which as you have heard was for the denying of the King’s Majesty’s supremacy. This man was also “coumpted” learned, and as you have heard before he was Lord Chancellor of England, and in that time a great persecutor of such as detested the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, which he himself so highly favored that he stood to it until he was brought to the scaffold on the Tower hill where on a block his head was stricken from his shoulders and had no more harm. I cannot tell whether I should call him a foolish wise man, or a wise foolish man, for undoubtedly he, beside his learned, had a great wit, but it was so mingled with taunting and mocking that it seemed to them that best knew him that he thought nothing to be well spoken except he had ministered some mock in the communication in so much as is coming to the Tower, one of the officers demanded his upper garment for his fee, meaning his gown, and he answered he should have it, and took him his cape, saying it was the uppermost garment that he had. Likewise, even going to his death at the Tower gate a poor woman called unto him and besought him to declare that he had certain evidences of her in the time that he was in office (which after he was apprehended she could not come by) and that he would “intreate” she might have them again, or else she was undone. He answered, ” good woman have patience a little while for the king is so good unto me that even within this half hour he will discharge me of all businesses, and help thee himself.” Also, when he went up the stairs on the scaffold, he desired one of the sheriff officers to give him his hand to help him up, and said, “when I come down again, let me shift for myself as well as I can.

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein th eYounger
Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein theYounger

Also the hangman kneeled down to him asking him forgiveness of his death (as the manner is) to whom he said, “I forgive thee, but I promise thee that though shalt never have honesty of the striking of my head, my neck is so short.” Also, even when he should lay down his head on the block, he having a gray beard, striked out his beard and said to the hangman, “I pray you let me lay my beard over the block least ye should cut it.” Then his life was ended.


Hall, Edward; “The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke, commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle;” pages 817-818

Lee, Paul; “Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: The Dominican Priory of Dartford” page 116

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The Tower of London – the Most Haunted Castle in England

The Tower of London could be called the most haunted place in London as it has seen hundred of executions. Some justified, some not.

Many of the prisoners who entered the Tower only left to go to their execution. Most executions were public events and were well attended. Seems a little morbid now. Traitors could expect to be hung, drawn and quartered – the most inhumane of executions – the prisoner was hung and cut down still alive, their heart and entrails removed and burnt – then their body was divided into four parts and displayed publicly to warn others of what happens when you commit treason.

Yet, when we think of the Tower and executions, the most well-known execution is by beheading…with an axe. This was generally reserved for more important and distinguished prisoners. It was considered a more merciful death.

Public executions took place on Tower Hill, however more important figures like Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Jane Grey were executed within the Tower in a more private execution. This was done to avoid public attention and outcries for mercy. 


The following people were imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed (or vanished):

George Plantagenet
George Plantagenet
Edward V
Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick
Edward Plantagenet
Perkin Warbeck
Perkin Warbeck
1 Hans Eworth (Dutch artist, c.1525-a 1578) An Unknown Lady, called Anne Ayscough or Askew, Mrs Thomas Kyme (1521-1546) National Trust Collections Tatton Park, Cheshire 1560
Anne Askew
Thomas More
Thomas More
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn
Jane Boleyn
Jane Boleyn
Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard
Thomas Cromwell
Thomas Cromwell
Jane Grey
Jane Grey
Margaret Pole
Margaret Pole

George, Duke of Clarence – Arrested for plotting against his brother Edward IV, he was found guilty of treason and executed in secret at Bowyer Tower in 1477. Rumors spread that he had been drown in a butt of malmsey.

Edward V – Son of Edward IV, only 12 years old when he was brought to the Tower for his coronation. His uncle, Duke of Gloucester declared he and his brother illegitimate and crowned himself Richard III. The young princes vanished at the Tower and were never seen alive again. Last seen at the Bloody Tower.

Richard, Duke of York - Brother to Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower. Vanished from the Tower along with his brother, never to be seen again.

The story of the little princes is still to this day a heartbreaking story that brings tears to ones eyes. They are “among the most poignant ghosts” in the Tower. Their disappearance in 1483 is very suspicious of wrong doing, but by whom? The ghost of the twelve-year-old, King Edward V, and his nine-year old brother, Richard, Duke of York, can been seen in the Bloody Tower, they are still wearing the white night shirts they had on the night they disappeared. They stand silently, hand in hand, before fading back into the stones of the Bloody Tower. – Source

Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick - On 28 November 1499, Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, was executed by beheading on Tower Hill for treason. The son of George, Duke of Clarence, and the nephew of both Edward IV and Richard III.

Perkin Warbeck - On November 23rd, 1499, Perkin Warbeck was drawn on a hurdle from the Tower to Tyburn to be hanged. He died, not for his imitation of a Yorkist prince, but because of a plot to overthrow Henry VII. A plot which also cost the life of the last Plantagenet, Edward, Earl of Warwick.

Anne Askew – Persecuted for her religious beliefs under Henry VIII’s rule, Anne was sent to the Tower and tortured on the rack. Women had never been racked before Anne. She refused to give up her faith and was burned at the stake at Cradle Tower as a heretic.

Thomas More – Refused to accept his friend, Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but the King commuted his sentence to execution by beheading. The execution took place on 6 July 1535. When he came to the scaffold, he is widely quoted as saying (to the officials): “I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself”; while on the scaffold he declared that he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Anne Boleyn - The second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was arrested and accused of adultery and incest by a king anxious to remarry and produce an heir. On 19 May 1536 she was beheaded by sword within the walls of the Tower.

The most persistent ghost in the Tower of London is the ghost of Queen Anne Boleyn, and rightly so. Witnesses describe a female figure identified only by her dress. Queen Anne appears near the Queen’s House, close to the site where her execution was carried out. She can be seen leading a ghostly procession of Lords and Ladies down the aisle of the Chapel Royal of St. Peter and Vincula. She floats down the aisle to her final resting place. Queen Anne is buried under the Chapel’s altar. Her headless body has also been seen walking the corridors of the Tower.Source

George Boleyn - the brother of Queen Anne Boleyn who had been executed on the trumped-up charge of incest with his sister.

Jane Boleyn – Wife of George Boleyn, the brother of Queen Anne Boleyn. Her marriage to George Boleyn was an arranged and a very unhappy one. She was instrumental in the arrest of her sister-in-law, Anne and her husband George. Jane provided damning evidence against them to Thomas Cromwell. She later became a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Katherine Howard. Jane Rochford encouraged the young queen in her affair with Thomas Culpeper with whom she helped organize secret meetings. Her part as a go-between was discovered and Jane Rochford was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. She was interrogated and lost her sanity. A new law which allowed the execution of the insane was passed in order to have her condemned to death. She confessed before her death, “God has permitted me to suffer this shameful doom as punishment for having contributed to my husband’s death. I falsely accused him of loving in an incestuous manner, his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn. For this I deserve to die.” She was executed immediately after Katherine Howard.

Katherine Howard – The fifth wife of King Henry VIII and the cousin of Anne Boleyn. Katherine was arrested at Hampton Court for adultery and tried in vain to reach the King. She was dragged screaming back to her apartments. Her lovers were executed and she passed their gruesome, impaled heads on London Bridge on her way to Traitor’s gate, the entry to the Tower of London. Katherine asked William Kingston for a block so that she could practice her execution. Legend has it that her last words were: “I die a queen, but would rather die the wife of Culpeper.”

Katherine Howard escaped from her room in the Tower. “She ran down the hallway screaming for help and mercy. She was caught and returned to her room.” The next day she was beheaded. Her ghost has been seen sill running down the hallway screaming for help.Source

Thomas Cromwell - Cromwell was arrested on 10 June 1540 and imprisoned in the Tower. He was imprisoned for not pleasing the king – to be so blunt. The king deferred the execution until his marriage to Anne of Cleves could be annulled. Hoping for clemency, Cromwell wrote in support of the annulment, in his last personal address to the King. He ended it with the plea “Most gracious Prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy.” Mercy did not come and Cromwell was condemned to death without trial and beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540, the day of the King’s marriage to Catherine Howard.

Jane Grey - Queen for just nine days, Lady Jane Grey was found guilty of high treason and sent to the Tower. On 12 February 1554 she watched her husband go to his death before she too was beheaded on Tower Green, aged 16.

 Lady Jane watched as her husband was taken to Tower Hill where he was beheaded. She saw his body being carried back to the chapel, after which she was taken to Tower Green where she was beheaded. Lady Jane Grey’s ghost was last seen by two Guardsmen on February 12, 1957, the 403rd anniversary of her execution. She was described as a “white shape forming itself on the battlements”. Her husband, Guildford Dudley, has been seen in Beauchamp Tower weeping.Source

Margaret Pole - The Countess of Salisbury was the last direct descendant of the Plantagenet line – her father was George, Duke of Clarence who was drowned for treason in 1477 and her brother Edward, Earl of Warwick was beheaded in 1499. She was arrested two years before her execution and treated poorly – neglected as a prisoner in the Tower of London. She was not given a trial. She was small, frail and ill. But she was a proud noble. She was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on the block. She was forced down and struggled. The inexperienced executioner made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. She leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, with his axe. She was struck eleven times before she died. There were 150 witnesses to her execution. She was the oldest woman executed at 68 years of age.

The most grisly execution and thus haunting is that of the old Countess of Salisbury, the last of the Plantagenets.  Her ghost has been seen reliving this truly gruesome act. Also the shadow of a great axe has been seen falling across the scene of her murder.Source

Other notable executions:

  • John Fisher Bishop of Rochester (1534)
  • Implicated with Anne Boleyn (1536)
    • Mark Smeaton
    • Sir Henry Norris
    • Sir Francis Weston
    • William Brereton
  • Implicated with Catherine Howard (1542)
    • Thomas Culpepper
    • Henry Mannox
    • Francis Dereham
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1546)
  • Thomas, Duke of Norfolk (1546)
  • Thomas Seymour, High Admiral of England (1549)
  • Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector (1552)
  • Guildford Dudley – husband of Lady Jane Grey (1554)