A secret marriage with one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies, caused the disfavor of his queen. Their marriage appears from the outside as an amazing love story – Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton. Unchanged: A secret marriage with one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies, caused the disfavor of his queen. Their marriage appears from the outside as an amazing love story – Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton.
Born At Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire on 30 August 1548, Lady Mary Seymour was the long-awaited child of dowager queen Kateryn Parr, and her fourth husband Sir Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. The unexpected pregnancy left both parents overjoyed.
I recently picked up The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude and started looking for information on Thomas Seymour. It was while searching that I came across some new information.
On page 77, in the section of the book about the Protectorate, I found this line:
the admiral had seduced and deserted at least one innocent woman, who fell into crime and was executed.
The source for this statement is merely listed as “Latimer’s Sermons before King Edward”. So, of course, I went looking for this story in Latimer’s sermons. Unfortunately for me Froude did not give a more specific location in Latimer’s sermons. Luckily for me, the book is available online and I could do a search within it to find the reference to this woman.
The book is titled Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555, and I found the reference on page 164 (Latimer’s fourth sermon preached before Edward VI).
“I heard of a wanton woman, naughty liver. A whore, a vain body, was led from Newgate to the place of execution for a certain robbery that she had committed, and she had a wicked communication by the way. Here I will take occasion to move your grace, that such men as shall be put to death may have learned men to give them instruction and exhortation. For the reverence of God, when they be put to execution, let them have instructor; for many of them are cast away for lack of instruction, and die miserably for lack of good preaching. This woman, I say, as she went by the way, had wanton and foolish talk, as this: “that if good fellows had kept touch with her, she had not been at this time in that case.” [And amongst all other talk she said that such an one (and named this man) had first misled her: and, hearing this of him at that time, I looked ever what would be his end, what would become of him. He was a man the farthest fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England. First, he was the author of all this woman’s whoredom; for if he had not led her wrong, she might have been married and become an honest woman, whereas now being naught with him, she fell afterward by that occasion to other: and they that were naught with her fell to robbery, and she followed; and thus was he the author of all of this.
After reading all that I was left wondering: Who was this woman? Did this really happen or was it fabricated by Latimer to further tarnish the reputation of Seymour to the King?
This got me thinking…how well did Latimer know Thomas, or the Seymour family at that. I found online, “Hugh Latimer; a biography” and in Chapter Four it states that Latimer was in Wiltshire from 1531 to 1535. During that time Thomas Seymour was employed by Francis Bryan at court.
If you are not familiar with the Seymours, their home at Wolf Hall was in Wiltshire. In the book “Ordeal by Ambition” by William Seymour, states that their home was in Burbage. Hugh Latimer was preaching at West Kington. I used Google maps to see what kind of distance were between the two locations and it appears to be about 36-38 miles, a bit far for the family to attend mass. In “Hugh Latimer; a biography”, the author states that while Thomas Seymour was in the Tower he requested that “Mr. Latimer might come to him”. The author believed that Seymour had heard countless praises of Latimer from his late wife, dowager queen Kateryn and that Latimer had converted Parr to the Protestant faith. Latimer visited Seymour in the Tower and may have attended him the day of his execution.
Latimer, indeed, without mentioning Seymour’s name, assumed that his audience “knew what he meant well enough.” But there were many who doubted his guilt; Latimer’s words were consequently much censured; and in his next sermon before the Court, on March 29, he deemed it necessary to defend himself by narrating all that he knew of Seymour’s death.
Latimer was also the person who reported the small notes that Seymour had written:
The man being in the Tower, wrote certain papers, which I saw myself. They were two little ones, one to my Lady Mary’s Grace, and another to my Lady Elizabeth’s Grace, tending to this end, that they should conspire against my Lord Protector’s Grace; surely, so seditiously as could be.
These notes were reported to Latimer by his servant and were found in Seymour’s shoe. The notes were sewn between the soles of a velvet shoe. He also goes on to mention how creative Seymour had been in creating ink to write. “He made his ink so craftily and with such workmanship, as the like hath not been seen.” “He made his pen of the aglet of a point, that he plucked from his hose, and thus wrote these letters…”
John Lingard of Lingard’s History of England was no fan of Latimer or Somerset. He said that Latimer was merely staying on the good side of Somerset with his sermons.
So, from all this we can determine that Thomas Seymour may have known, or at least known of Latimer through his late wife. We can, if we believe Lingard, determine that Latimer was a man who understood he had to appease the Lord Protector.
I have been been unable to corroborate Latimer’s sermon about the wanton women who was executed because of Thomas Seymour. But it is my belief that Hugh Latimer’s sermon was fabricated to further slander Thomas Seymour’s name – many of the King’s subjects had become sympathetic to his story after his execution, just as they had with Anne Boleyn.
Hugh Latimer; a biography. by Demaus, R. (Robert), 1829 -1874; Tract Society, London. Publication date  Lingard’s History of England by Dom Henry Norbert Birt, O.S.B.. London. George Bell & Sons . The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude. Published by J. M. Dent & Company . Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555. Publisher Cambridge : Printed at the University Press . Ordeal by Ambition: An English Family in the Shadow of the Tudors by William Seymour. Published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd .
Here we take a look at statement made by Thomas Seymour to his keeper, Christopher Eyre during the time that Eyre was his keeper after his arrest.
16 February 1548 – Upon communication of the Lord Admiral with his keeper Christopher Eyre. Christopher Eyre was responsible to report the demeanor of Seymour and any statements he may have made to him and to assess his loyalty to the King and his succession.
The last week on divers times, the Lord Admiral said, that he was in good hope, that upon Friday he should come to his answer; for on the Friday, sayeth he, the Lords do not sit in Parliament; and therefore then they will come, or send to me; if not, Saturday or Sunday; so that then I shall know somewhat of their minds towards me; if that day past then I have no hope till Friday come again.
On the Friday, this examinate (Christopher Eyre) sayeth the Lord Admiral was very sad. And that he said he was very sorry to see his lordship so sad; And he answered that he thought as that day to have heard somewhat from my Lord’s Grace and the Council; now he seeth the contrary. And he said, I had thought before I came to this place that my Lord’s Grace, with all the rest of the Council, had been my friends, and that I had had as many friends, as any man within the realm; but now I think they have forgotten me.
Then he asked this examinate (Eyre), what the matter was why he was here. And this examinate (Eyre) answered he could not tell; and asked him, (which he knew not,) saying do not you know, my Lord? No by my trueth quoth he, for I cannot judge myself of an evil thought, never since last Parliament: And I am sure of this, that as concerning the King, there was never poor knave truer to his Prince than I am, and to all his succession, both my Lady Mary and my Lady Elizabeth. And as for my Lord my brother, I never meant evil thought to him. Mary, this, before she last Parliament, I thought that I might have the King’s Majesty in my custody, with the consent of the Lords and Commons of the Parliament: And to say that ever I went about to take the King, from my Lord my brother by force; I never meant nor thought it.
For Eyre, quoth he, if there be any man in all England to accuse me, that I should be a false knave to the King or his succession, or to the realm. I will wish no life. For if I had, I thought the stones will rise against me.
On the Sunday at dinner, this examinate (Eyre) bringing him meat, the Lord Admiral seemed more cheerful then he was before; whereupon this examinate (Eyre) said, I am glad my Lord to see you of better cheer and more merry, then you were won’t before, for this morning you would eat no bread: It is true, says the Admiral, for I would not have eaten indeed, if my Lords had not come, for I should have no stomach; but now I trust, my Lords went away pleased with my answer.
Christopher Eyre (Examinate)
From reading the testimony from the keeper of Thomas Seymour, after his arrest, he makes Thomas Seymour seem innocent and concerned of his future. The fact that Christopher Eyre was meant to keep an eye on Thomas Seymour would, in my opinion, mean that he was looking for evidence to use against him when he spoke. This testimony does not show a man who knows why he was imprisoned and seems to think that his friends (the many he had) had turned against him. This, is also evident in the testimony of his so-called friends.
When you read the above testimony do you get the impression that Thomas Seymour believed he deserved to be imprisoned? What is your take on Eyre’s quotes from the Lord Admiral? I still think he sounds like he is much lamenting the situation he is in and hopes not to die, but if someone thinks he would wish ill of the King than he would wish death. Think about that. Why do you think he went to see the King that night? Do you think he actually killed the dog or was he setup and framed for it?
When Anne Boleyn miscarried what her midwife called a boy it was also reported by the midwife that the child was malformed*. In Tudor England, at the time, a malformed baby meant that the mother had gravely sinned, whether it be witchcraft, adultery or incest. Are these the events that began the downfall of Anne Boleyn?
Henry was an extremely religious man and this miscarriage caused him to question everything. What had he done wrong to not be given a healthy, legitimate male heir? It was reported that Henry VIII had told a courtier the day after Anne’s miscarriage that he had been charmed into marriage with Anne due to magic spells or witchcraft. This is when, some believe, that Henry began to question all the actions he took to make Anne his queen. He set aside Katherine, broke from Rome and executed close friends like Thomas More.
We don’t know exactly how far along Anne was in her pregnancy when she miscarried but in my mind it is quite possible that the child was reported as malformed because of the gestation period. Although, having said that, one would believe a midwife would know the difference…so….is it possible the child was malformed? Yes, of course and that could be the reason her body rejected it. It was not a viable fetus.
If Anne had delivered Henry a healthy son things may have turned out much differently for the Queen. Or would it? In my opinion, I feel it would have been a temporary fix for Anne as Henry still may have put her aside. He would have been happy to have a male heir but I don’t believe that would have permanently changed his frustration with his wife. It may have been several months or years after the birth of a son but it would eventually happen. Henry would have had to be careful on the timing of this as not to concern his subjects with the paternity of the child if he accused her of adultery or incest.
I am of the belief that Henry was already tiring of Anne – he was courting Jane Seymour and growing increasingly frustrated with Anne’s boldness. This miscarriage was the catalyst for the events to come. If Anne could not give the King a son, then maybe Jane could. But, as many of us believe, Anne would not have gone down without a fight – she had her daughter’s future to be concerned about.
Some will argue that had Anne delivered of a healthy son that all would have been well for the couple. Is it possible? Well, of course, but I truly believe we have to look at all the events of the time. Henry was already pining for Jane, just as he had done with Anne and we know in that instance that he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Would Jane have eventually given in to become his mistress? I don’t believe so. Around this same time Anne was attacking the King’s closest adviser, Thomas Cromwell. Anne believed that Cromwell had gone too far with the dissolution of the monasteries. Anne had even threatened to have Cromwell executed. It was only a matter of time before Cromwell had had enough.
Queen Anne did not agree with the total dissolution of all monasteries and nunneries. She wanted reform, not complete destruction. The queen understood that many of the poor and sick, orphans and widows, indeed, all those in need, flocked to the open doors of the monasteries for help in time of trouble. Not only did they provide a help to these unfortunates, they also kept the country in better shape, with fewer beggars on the streets and fewer ruffians who had been forced to turn to crime to survive. The Queen wished to rid these religious houses of their ‘superstitions’ but she did not wish to see them destroyed. This put her in direct conflict with Master Cromwell. -The Anne Boleyn Files
With a son, Anne would have understood that the child would be the future King of England. Henry knew the history of past kings of England and could look no further than King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor joined forces with her son(s) to dethrone her husband and king. What would stop Anne from doing the same when her son came of an adequate age to rule?
Four months after Anne’s miscarriage it appeared that Henry was once again on her side when he helped to arrange an uncomfortable confrontation in church between Anne and the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Chapuys, as the envoy for his master Charles V had no choice but to bow to the Queen – acknowledging her in front of witnesses. This must have been humiliating for Chapuys but a victory for Anne and Henry. Only two weeks later Anne would be arrested. So was it really Henry after all who instigated the downfall of his wife, or was it Cromwell? And what was the catalyst to propel Anne to the inevitable? It is believed that one of Anne’s ladies, Elizabeth Somerset, Countess of Worcester blamed her own behavior to her brother (who had scolded her for loose living) that she was not as bad as the Queen. Saying that Anne was entertaining men late at night in her room, including Mark Smeaton. It wasn’t only Lady Worcester but other ladies in Anne’s household were also spreading rumors. The question will always be: Why?
There are so many “what ifs” and questions when it comes to the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall. We cannot change the fact that Anne Boleyn was unjustly executed, but I am of the firm belief that we do her a great service by still discussing her 482 years later.
*Note: The reference about the malformed fetus was taken from “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn” – the statement is believed to have originated from Nicholas Sanders a Catholic recusant writing in the reign of Elizabeth I to discredit Anne (and Elizabeth). We will never know for certain if the child was indeed malformed, however, we do know that things really began to change between Henry and Anne after that miscarriage.
Fraser, Antonia. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1989)
Ives, Eric. “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” (1986)
Licence, Amy. “The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories” (2016)
Loades, David. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (2010)
Richards, Natalia. “Falcon’s Rise” (2016)
Weir, Alison. “Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1971) TheAnneBoleynFiles.com The Last Days of Anne Boleyn
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When it comes to English monarchs, none is more revered or despised than Henry VIII. The masses are torn on whether to love him, or hate him.
Henry VIII did many great things for England during his long reign, but he also did many despicable things as well. History books and modern authors tend to only remember the negative attributes of this infamous monarch.
Here are some of the good things we should remember about Henry VIII:
Henry allowed the bible to be translated into English – this, for the sixteenth century was quite controversial.
In his Act of Succession he allowed his two daughters to follow his son. His daughter Mary became the first queen regnant in English history – quite magnificent actually.
Henry VIII was one of the founders of the English Royal Navy and helped to grow the number of ships within it exponentially.
He was also quite musical – while Henry VIII has been credited for writing Greensleeves it is highly disputed that he actually did, but what he did write, at the beginning of his reign, was a song called, Pastime with Good Company – or The King’s Ballad. Henry was a very talented musician…take a listen to a part of the King’s Singers performing it via a YouTube channel I found:
Here are the lyrics to the entire song:
Past time with good company I love, and shall until I die Grutch who lust, but none deny So God be pleased, thus live will I For my pastance Hunt, sing and dance My heart is set; All goodly sport For my comfort Who shall me let? Youth must have some dalliance Of good or ill some pastance Company me thinks then best All thoughts and fancies to digest For idleness is chief mistress Of vices all; then who can say But mirth and play Is best of all? Past time with good company I love, and shall until I die Grutch who lust, but none deny So God be pleased, thus live will I For my pastance Hunt, sing and dance My heart is set; All goodly sport For my comfort Who shall me let? Company with honesty Is virtue, vices to flee; Company is good and ill But every man hath his free will The best ensue The worst eschew; My mind shall be Virtue to use Vice to refuse Thus shall I use me…
Henry was quite the builder as well – I’m not sure of the exact number (may have been at least a dozen) but his builds compare to the most prolific monarch builder, King Edward I. The difference between the two men was that Henry’s building was done quickly – often making his men work overnight by candlelight and fires and so, because of this, many of his buildings no longer stand today.
Lastly, he gave the world Queen Elizabeth I. Need I say more?
Now…when we look at the not so flattering side of King Henry we quickly go to the fact that he married six times and that he executed two of his wives. It wasn’t only his wives that he executed but he also executed friends, like Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell – both deaths he regretted deeply afterward. Oh, and if you had any claim in your bloodline to the throne of England he’d also execute you.
The number of executions during the reign of Henry VIII has been estimated to be upwards of 72,000 – that number, in my opinion, is highly over exaggerated. If you consider the population of England during the reign of King Henry was 2.5 million people, that would mean that Henry executed about 2.8 percent of the population of England. Then we’d have to take into account how many people died of the plague and the sweating sickness as well as battles – there would be like, two people left. Okay, maybe a few more but you get where I’m going with this.
There is, however, a list on Wikipedia of Protestants executed under Henry VIII…that lists totals sixty-three victims from 1530-1546. So while King Henry executed a lot of people, I definitely question the 72,000 number that has been floating around.
Types of Executions
Executions during the reign of Henry VIII weren’t always the same. There were many ways to execute a person.
There was death by Pressing – the victim would have a large plank placed over their body to which weight would steadily be added to. This would lead to broken bones and eventually suffocation. Pressing was another great way to torture a person.
Another way one could have been executed during the reign of Henry VIII was by being Boiled Alive.
A statute was passed in England in 1531 by Henry VIII that made willful murder by means of poison high treason and punishable by death by boiling.
It was the action of one Richard Roose, cook of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester that prompted the measure. In February 1531, Roose poisoned the porridge of Rochester and his guests. But it wasn’t only those in the household at the time who received the poisoned porridge but also the poor who had gathered outside to collect alms. They were given whatever was leftover from the meal. All those that ate the food became extremely ill and two people actually died. Rochester had not eaten so he was spared. But when Roose was arrested he claimed that he had put a laxative in the porridge as a joke and meant no harm.
A joke, huh? Not really the kind of thing one should do as a joke.
The boiling of Roose was held in front of the public.
Here is a quote about the event from, The Men and Women of the English Reformation by S.H. Burke
‘He roared mighty loud,’says an old chronicle, ‘and divers women who were big with child did feel sick at the sight of what they saw, and were carried away half dead; and other men and women did not seem frightened by the boiling alive, but would prefer to see the headsman at his work.’
The victims of this punishment would have been strung up in a series of pulleys and ropes, hanging precariously above a drum of boiling liquid. The liquid could have been water, tar, oil, wine or whatever was the King’s desire. The executioner would slowly lower the person down into the liquid and then raise them back up to further the punishment and drag out the inevitable. This truly was a merciless was to die.
Hanged, drawn and quartered:
When I think about being hanged, drawn and quartered I’m often left wondering how much the victim felt and at what point did they no longer experience pain.
This punishment was typically held for those who were found guilty of high treason.
Here is the description from the website: Capital Punishment U.K.
First, the prisoner was dragged behind a cart from their jail or prison to where the execution was to take place. Once there, the prisoner was hanged in the normal way (i.e. without a drop to ensure that the neck was not broken) but cut down whilst still conscious. The penis and testicles were cut off and the stomach was slit open. The intestines and heart were removed and burned before them. The other organs were torn out and finally the head was cut off and the body divided into four quarters. The head and quarters were parboiled to prevent them rotting too quickly and then displayed upon the city gates as a grim warning to all.
At some point in this agonising process, the prison inevitable died of strangulation and/or hemorrhage and/or shock and damage to vital organs.
I’m fairly certain that when the heart was removed they were dead.
Burned to Death
Being burned at the stake was a common method of execution for centuries and not just in England. This included piling small sticks of wood around a large stake. The fire would be lit and hopefully the victim passed out from the smoke prior to their flesh burning.
One of the most notable cases of being burned at the stake was that of Anne Askew.
Anne Askew was burned at the stake for her religious beliefs – she was Protestant and the powers that be were attempting to get Anne to implicate Queen Kateryn Parr – she did not.
Anne had been unfairly racked ’till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder, in such sort as she was carried away in a chair’.
When it came time for her execution, Anne was brought to the stake, she was tied around her waist to the pole so that is held her limp body upright. It is believed that Anne did not suffer long because gunpowder had been placed near her body to end her suffering.
The form of execution that we hear about the most is death by beheading. This is how both Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard were executed, along with many others. The act was usually done by axe and in at least one special case it was done by sword. Most believe this was the most merciful way to die – quick and painless. Well, unless you were Thomas Cromwell or Margaret Pole, that is.
Death by Hanging
There were some instances when King Henry opted for a simpler execution – death by hanging. Most hangings were done at Tyburn.
When the prisoner was brought to the gallows they would have been greeted by a large crowd that sometimes grew to 100,000 people.
Among the people would have been people selling food and souvenirs. The gallows were common place for pickpockets to grow their wealth amongst the crowd.
When the prisoner or prisoners were led to the gallows the hangman would uncoil the free end of the rope from them and throw it up to one of the assistants on the beam above who then tied it to the beam leaving very little slack.
Ropes were also tied to the carts or stools from which the prisoners stood and the other end was attached to horse, and at the time of execution the horses were whipped away, pulling the prisoners off the carts and leaving them suspended. They would only have a few inches of drop at most and thus many of them would writhe in convulsive agony for some moments, their legs paddling the air – ‘dancing the Tyburn jig’as it was known, until unconsciousness overtook them. The hangman, his assistants and sometimes the prisoners’ relatives might pull on the prisoners’ legs to hasten their end.
Victims of Henry VIII
Now that we’ve covered the types of executions, let’s take a look at the most notable ones during the reign of Henry VIII.
King Henry VIII began his reign by executing two of his father’s most unpopular officials. Edmund Dudley (yes, he was kin to Robert Dudley – his grandfather) and Robert Empson in 1510. These two men didn’t stand a chance under the reign of the new young King Henry VIII. King Henry used their execution as a way to set the tone for his reign. He wanted to be liked and he knew by removing these two men that his subjects would rejoice in him.
Many people blamed both Empson and Dudley for the difficulty they had during the reign of Henry VII. That King Henry was notorious for taxing his subjects and many believed it was Empson and Dudley who were to blame.
Dudley and Empson were executed 17 August 1510, on Tower Hill, presumably by beheading and was buried at London Blackfriars and Empson at London Whitefriars.
Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley together became names associated with Henry VII’s ruthless scheme of excessive taxation. For their success during the reign of Henry VII they paid the ultimate price, their life, under the rule of the new king – Henry VIII.
Edmund de la Pole was the son of John de la Pole and Elizabeth Plantagenet, Edmund was nephew to Edward IV and future Richard III.
After the execution of Edward Plantagenent, Earl of Warwick in 1499, Edmund de la Pole was the next York claimant to the throne.
Edmund’s brother the Earl of Lincoln was killed in the attempted Simnel rebellion which shed a bad light on his entire family. Plus, when John de la Pole died Edmund had requested he receive the dukedom of Suffolk, which Henry VIII denied.
Outwardly, de la Pole appeared loyal, however, he was upset when Henry refused him the dukedom after his father’s death
In 1501, Suffolk, along with his brother Richard, fled to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. Supporters of the York family gathered around the Earl of Suffolk in Flanders in the knowledge that they were safe under the protection of Maximilian. Henry had no choice but to act decisively. Not only was there an obvious threat to him developing in Flanders, he had lost his eldest son, Arthur, to illness. Prince Henry was also a far from a strong boy then and his third son, Edmund, was already dead. Henry had to demonstrate that he was a strong and well-established king.
Suffolk’s relations who had remained in England were all arrested and imprisoned. In January 1504, 51 men were attained – the largest number in one single action in Henry’s reign. Sir James Tyrell, a former Constable of the Tower, was executed. He had been Governor of Guisness when Suffolk had fled there and this was enough to seal his fate.
Maximilian agreed to a treaty in 1502 to not back Edmund de la Pole should he make an attempt for the English throne. Then in 1506, when Philip of Burgundy (Philip the Handsome) was blown of course and expectantly became a guest, along with his wife Juana of Castile, of King Henry VII he was at the mercy of the desperate English king. Since Philip and his wife needed to set sail back to Castile they were at Henry VII’s mercy. Henry convinced Philip to hand over Edmund de la Pole so long as he only imprisoned him and did not harm him.
Unfortunately his son, Henry VIII did not follow through on the instructions of the two deceased rulers and executed de la Pole on the 30th of April 1513.
Edward Stafford was the son of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Katherine Woodville. Katherine was the sister of Elizabeth Woodville who was queen consort to King Edward IV (Grandfather to Henry VIII).
When Elizabeth Woodville married the King of England her kin were lucky enough to be given good marriages, titles and land. Her sister Katherine was no exception. At roughly seven years old, just before the coronation of her sister, Katherine was married to Henry Stafford – Stafford was merely 11 years old.
An Italian ambassador at the time wrote that Edward Stafford resented having to marry someone of such low birth – this was a common sentiment at the time at English court. Many resented the Woodville family and regarded them as upstarts.
Forty-four years after their marriage and five monarchs later, Edward Stafford found himself in a heap of trouble. As a descendant of Edward III, Stafford had what some believed to be a stronger claim to the throne since Tudor’s claim was through an illegitimate line. If something were to happen to the King and his daughter Mary then Stafford would be considered next in line to succeed to the throne of England.
After Henry VIII heard of these claims he ordered an investigation. It is treason to speak of, yet imagine the death of the King.
On the 8th of April 1521, the Duke was ordered to London from his castle at Thornbury. He set out for the court, seemingly unaware of any danger that may lie ahead.
He was greatly shocked when he was arrested and brought to the Tower.
At his trial, he was charged with ‘imagining and compassing the death of the king’, through seeking out prophecy from a monk named Nicholas Hopkins regarding the chances of the king having a male heir. The evidence to back this up was supposedly obtained from disgruntled former members of the Duke’s household.
Stafford denied all charges. A jury of 17 of his peers led by the Duke of Norfolk found him guilty. It was reported that Norfolk wept when the verdict was read.
The Secretary of the Venetian Ambassador in England, described the events on the day of Stafford’s execution:
This morning the late Duke of Buckingham was taken from the Tower to the scaffold, at the usual place of execution, with a guard of 500 infantry. He addressed the populace in English. Then on his bended knees he recited the penitential psalms, and with the greatest composure calling the executioner, requested that he would dispatch him quickly, and forgave him; after which he took off his gown, and having had his eyes blindfolded, he laid his neck on the block, and the executioner with a woodman’s axe (fn. 11) severed his head from his body with three strokes.
The corpse was immediately placed in a coffin and carried to the church of the Austin Friars, accompanied by six friars and all the infantry.
As with Edmund de la Pole, Edward Stafford would not be the last of those with royal blood and viable claims to the crown of England being executed
Elizabeth Barton is best known as the ‘The Nun of Kent’and then later ‘The Mad Maid of Kent’.Â Her prophecies were ultimately her downfall. In 1525, at nineteen years old, she became ill and fell into trances having visions ‘of marvellous holiness in rebuke of sin and vice.‘
A local priest by the name of Richard Master believed in Barton’s visions and reported them to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham. From there the story of the prophetic girl grew and grew.
Eventually Barton left her job as a servant and became a Benedictine nun. She continued to have visions and began to be known as ‘The Nun of Kent’.
It was when she started prophesying about the King of England that she got into some hot water.
Elizabeth Barton was not alone, also implicated in her downfall were six monks.
Barton would eventually confess that she was the cause of all this mischief, and that by her falsehood deceived ‘all these persons’ but this did not save them. At that point it was too late and there was too much evidence to prove their involvement.
On the 20th of April 1534, Barton and five of the monks were all drawn on a hurdle (fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution) from the Tower of London to Tyburn. At Tyburn they were hanged and beheaded with their heads set on London Bridge or at the gates of the city, which was customary to warn off others from participating in similar antics.
One of the monks received a stay of execution and was pardoned. It is believed that he signed the oath of succession Elizabeth Barton was around 28 years old when she was executed.
In the summer of 1535, not only were Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher executed but also three monks. 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.
The monks were all hanged, drawn and quartered while More and Fisher were beheaded.
1536 was a big year for executions in England. George Boleyn, Francis Weston, Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, William Brereton and Anne Boleyn were all executed as part of the campaign to bring down Queen Anne.
The men were all executed on the 17th and Anne on the 19th of May. They were all beheaded. The men by axe and Anne more mercifully by sword.
In 1537 the Pilgrimage of Grace warranted Henry to execute more people including Robert Aske and many of those involved in the uprising.
Also in 1537, Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, and five FitzGerald uncles (James, Oliver, Richard, John and Walter) were executed at Tyburn for treason and rebellion. Thomas had renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII. On 3 February 1537, the remaining Fitzgerald men who had been imprisoned were executed as traitors at Tyburn. They were hanged, drawn and quartered.
After the Pilgrimage of Grace, many conservative nobles were accused of treason, including Edward Neville who was arrested on 3 November 1538, for conspiracy, along with his cousin Henry Pole (son of Margaret Pole). They were charged with high treason for conspiracy with Henry’s exiled brother, Cardinal Reginald Pole.
Edward Neville was sent to the Tower, tried at Westminster, and beheaded on 8 December 1538 at Tower Hill.
The following day, on the 9th of December 1538, Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter who was also convicted of being part of the Exeter Uprising and corresponding with Reginald Pole, was beheaded on Tower Hill.
On the 9th of January 1539, the last man to be charged with high treason for their involvement in the Exeter Uprising, Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu, was executed on Tower Hill.
Then in March of 1539, the King had another close friend of his, Sir Nicholas Carew, Knight of the Garter and Master of the King’s Horse executed by beheading for treason against the king.
July 1540 saw another execution of a man who Henry VIII would greatly regret…Thomas Cromwell, nearly appointed Earl of Essex. Unfortunately for Cromwell, the executioner is thought to have been either an amateur or had been out the night before drinking heavily because he did quite a number on the man. Chronicler Edward Hall wrote that, 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 hand of God, and so patiently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and butcherly miser, which very ungoodly performed the office.
If you were every to read through Edward Hall’s Chronicles you may also believe that Henry VIII had 72,000 people executed because at moments it feels as if that was all he wrote about.
1541, 32 years into the reign of King Henry VIII, was another busy year of executions.
In 1540 several members of the Plantagenet household in Calais were arrested on suspicion of treason, on the charge of plotting to betray the town to the French. One of them was the illegitimate son of King Edward IV, Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle. Lisle was eventually released only to die from a heart attack shortly after.
Additional evidence was gathered against Leonard Grey, Deputy of Ireland, and so on the 25th of July he was convicted of treason and on the 28th he too was executed.
The most notable of all the executions of this time was the elderly Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury in May of 1541. I believe, she is the oldest person to be executed at the Tower of London. Salisbury’s execution was private but that doesn’t mean there were not witnesses, it just means the number of spectators were far fewer than a public execution.
In June of 1541, per Edward Hall’s chronicle, Lord Dacre was led on foot between the two Sheriffs of London, from the Tower through the city to Tyburn, where he was strangled, as common murderers usually were. He, along with other men, were charged with the murder of a simple man and an unlawful assembly in Sussex.
At the end of 1541, Ralph Egerton, servant to Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, was hanged, drawn and quartered for counterfeiting and using the King’s Great Seal. He died for helping illegals gain citizenship.
Also, around this time, a child named Richard Mekins, not yet 15, had been heard speaking against the sacrament of the altar contrary to the Six Articles. It is believed that the child only repeated words he heard others speak. Bishop Bonner followed the accusation and Mekins was arraigned and charged – ‘he was inevitably burned at the stake.
At the end of 1541, we also see the arrest of another queen to King Henry VIII, Katherine Howard. Katherine was accused of dissolute living before her marriage with one Francis Dereham, and that many had known about their relationship. She was also suspected of having an affair with Thomas Culpeper. All three were arrested as was Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.
For their confessions, Culpeper and Dereham were executed on the 10th of December.
Thomas Wriothesley writes in his chronicle that, ‘Culpeper and Dereham were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after exhortation made to the people to pray for him, he standing on the ground by the gallows, kneeled down and had his head stricken off; and then Dereham was hanged, membered, bowelled, headed and quartered’.
On the 13th of February 1542, both Katherine Howard and Jane Boleyn were beheaded on the Tower Green by axe.
We’ll wrap up our list of notable executions with Anne Askew by burning in 1546 and follow it by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey by beheading in 1546 – he was the last notable person executed before the death of King Henry VIII in January 1547.