28 July 1540 – Henry VIII Marries Catherine Howard, his Rose without a Thorn

Posted By on July 28, 2014

Katherine HowardOn 28 July 1540, the same day that Thomas Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Hill, 49 year-old Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, who was somewhere between 16 and 20 years of age, at Oatlands Palace.

Henry VIII’s marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, had been declared null and void on 9 July 1540, “by reason of a precontract between lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into and never consummated”, so Henry was now free to marry Anne’s former maid-of-honour, the girl he referred to as his “rose without a thorn”.

The wedding was private and low key, due to the recent annulment and Catherine made her first public appearance as Queen on 8th August at Hampton Court Palace. However, her time as queen was to be rather short-lived.

You can read more about the marriage and Catherine’s background in my article The Marriage of Catherine Howard and Henry VIII, and more about the myths surrounding Catherine in Catherine Howard – Material Girl?. MadeGlobal Publishing is releasing Conor Byrne’s book on Catherine Howard next month, Katherine Howard: Rose without a Thorn, and my book The Fall of Catherine Howard: A Countdown should be out by Christmas.

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Karma and Cromwell or a Waste of a Brilliant Mind?

Posted By on July 28, 2014

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell

On this day in history, 28th July 1540, Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Henry VIII’s former right-hand man, was beheaded on Tower Hill. He had been arrested on 10th June 1540 at a council meeting, and a bill of attainder passed against him on 29th June 1540 for the crimes of corruption, heresy and treason.

After a speech in which he denied the charges against him and affirmed his faith in the resurrection and justification by faith alone, he knelt at the block and suffered an awful death at the hands of “a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the office” (it took a number of blows to behead him). You can read all about his execution, and that of one of his clients, Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, in my article 28 July 1540 – The Executions of Thomas Cromwell and Walter Hungerford.

Every time I write about Thomas Cromwell’s arrest or execution I receive comments here or on The AB Files Facebook page such as “Karma’s a bitch, Master Cromwell”, “he got everything he deserved…”, “what goes around comes around…” etc. and I will eat my hat if I don’t receive at least one like that today. Obviously some people hold him responsible for the fall of the Boleyns, which saw six innocent executed, and the dissolution of the monasteries, but does anyone deserve to die such a death? Really?

Personally, I don’t hold him responsible for either of those events, I lay the blame at Henry VIII’s door and see Cromwell as, in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s words, “Henry VIII’s enforcer” or Henry’s “fixer”. Cromwell’s fall was about humiliation and revenge, not a crime he had committed. Henry VIII was angry and humiliated – he’d been forced to marry a woman he wasn’t attracted to and he’d had to admit that he had been unable to consummate the union – and the Duke of Norfolk was seething over the dissolution of Thetford Priory, the resting place of his ancestors, and someone had to pay. Cromwell had risen too far in some people’s eyes and they were just waiting for him to make a mistake. He was vulnerable after the Cleves affair, so they attacked and turned the King against him. What a waste of a brilliant mind! Of course he was brutal and ruthless, and there is much to dislike about him, but he was not a monster and there is much to admire about his rise from his humble beginnings in Brewhouse Lane, Putney, where his family ran a brewery, to his position as Henry VIII’s chief adviser.

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