10 December 1541 – Culpeper and Dereham are executed at Tyburn

A still of Culpeper's execution from The Tudors series.
A still of Culpeper’s execution from The Tudors series.
On 10th December 1541, Thomas Culpeper, gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and Francis Dereham, a secretary to Queen Catherine Howard, were executed for treason at Tyburn. Dereham suffered a full traitor’s death, being “hanged, membered, bowelled, headed, and quartered” while Culpeper’s sentence was commuted to beheading. Their heads were then set on pikes and displayed on London Bridge as a warning to others of the fate of traitors.

Chronicler Edward Hall writes of their downfall:

“At this tyme the Quene late before maried to the kyng called Quene Katheryne, was accused to the Kyng of dissolute liuyng, before her mariage, with Fraunces Diram, and that was not secretely, but many knewe it. And sithe her Mariage, she was vehemently suspected with Thomas Culpeper, whiche was brought to her Chamber at Lyncolne, in August laste, in the Progresse tyme, by the Lady of Rocheforde, and were there together alone, from a leuen of the Clocke at Nighte, till foure of the Clocke in the Mornyng, and to hym she gaue a Chayne, and a riche Cap. Vpon this the kyng remoued to London and she was sent to Sion, and there kept close, but yet serued as Quene. And for the offence confessed by Culpeper and Diram, thei were put to death at Tiborne, the tenth daie of December.”1

Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley writes:

“This yeare, the fyrst daye of December, was arrigned at the Guyld Hall in London Thomas Culpepper, one of the Gentlemen of the Kinges Pryvie Chamber, and Frauncis Dorand, gentleman, for high treason against the Kinges Majestie in mysdemeanor with the Quene, as appeered by theyr inditements which they confessed, and had their judgments to be drawne, hanged, and quartered, the Lord Mayor sitting there as cheife, the Lord Chauncellor on his right hand, and the Duke of Norfolke on his left hand, the Duke of Suffolke, the Lord Privye Seale, the Earles of Sussex, of Hertford, and divers other of the Kinges Counsell, with all the judges, sittinge there also in commission the same daye. And the tenth day of December the said Culpeper and Dorand were drawne from the Tower of London to Tyburne, and there Culpeper, after exhortation made to the people to pray for him, he standinge on the ground by the gallowes, kneled downe and had his head stryken of; and then Dorand was hanged, membred, bowelled, headed, and quartered. Culpepers body buryed at St. Pulchers Church by Newegate, theyr heades sett on London Bridge.”2

Francis Dereham had been arrested and interrogated after John Lassells, brother of Mary Hall who had been brought up in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household with Catherine Howard, informed Archbishop Thomas Cranmer that “one Fras. Derham had lain in bed[with her, in his doublet] and hose, between the sheets an hundr[ed nights], and a maid in the house had said she would lie no longer with her because [she knew not what ma]trimony was.”3 A report from the King’s Council to William Paget, the English ambassador in France, states that Dereham “confessed that he had k[nown her car]nally many times, both in his doublet and [hose between] the sheets and in naked bed.”4 However, this was long before Catherine’s involvement with King Henry VIII.

Thomas Culpeper’s name was mentioned by both Catherine and Dereham. During an interrogation, Dereham stated “that Culpeper had succeeded him in the Queen’s affections”.5 When Catherine was examined, she confessed to have secret assignations with Culpeper while she, the king and the royal court were on the northern progress over the summer. She also confessed to calling him her “lytle sweete foole” and giving him cap, a chain and a cramp ring. Catherine denied having a sexual relationship with Culpeper, but Culpeper sealed his fate by confessing that “he intended and meant to do ill with the Queen and that in like wise the Queen so minded to do with him.”6

You can read the full report of Catherine’s examination in my article 12 November 1541 – The Examination of Queen Catherine Howard.

Dereham and Culpeper were tried for treason at Guildhall, London, and found guilty of treason and sentenced to death – click here to read more about that and also Catherine’s fate, and that of Lady Rochford.

Dereham, Culpeper, Catherine and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, were not the only people to be arrested and imprisoned in 1541, various members of the Howard family were imprisoned and you can read more about them in Marilyn Roberts’ articles Katherine Howard, the Duchess and Norfolk House and Terror for the Howards at Christmas

Also on this day in history, 10th December 1472, the birth of Anne of Mowbray, Duchess of York and Norfolk, child bride of Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York and one of the Princes in the Tower. Click here to read an article about the discovery of her remains in 1964.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, p. 842.
  2. Wriothesley, Charles (1875) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 155, p. 131-132.
  3. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1334.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 1366.
  6. Baldwin-Smith, Lacey (2009) Catherine Howard, p. 174, citing P.R.O., S.P.I, vol. 167, f.159.

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3 thoughts on “10 December 1541 – Culpeper and Dereham are executed at Tyburn”
  1. There are contradiction on your pages as to where Thomas Culpepper is buried!…

    Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were executed at Tyburn on 10th December 1541. Culpeper’s sentence had been commuted to beheading, because of his status, but Dereham had to suffer the full traitor’s death. Culpeper was buried at St Sepulchre Holborn.

    Read more: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/1-december-1541-the-trial-of-francis-dereham-and-thomas-culpeper/#ixzz3wpUps03I
    Culpepers body buryed at St. Pulchers Church by Newegate, theyr heades sett on London Bridge.”2

    Read more: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/10-december-1541-culpeper-and-dereham-are-executed-at-tyburn/#ixzz3wpVAABHE

    1. Hi Kim,
      They’re not contradictions, they’re the same place – “St Puchers Church Newegate” is St Sepulchre Holborn, that’s how we spell it and describe it today. Hope that helps.

  2. Henry clearly hated Francis Dereham to allow him to suffer the full judicial sentence for Treason, the terrible fate described before, for he had commuted deaths before to beheading. He seems to have chosen not tobin this case, as he was reported as stating that as Dereham had spoilt Katherine for him, he would suffer the full punishment subscribed by law. Please note, however, Henry did not invent hanging, drawing and quartering, it had been a punishment here since at least the fourteenth century and at least some version across Europe for much of the Medieval era. The Tudor period saw this savage punishment used more and more, especially for radical or religious treason, plus the fact that it was still the official punishment for acts of riot, rebellion, protest and other stuff called treason at the start of the Victorian era, shows it was considered useful in order to enforce the authority of an increasingly paranoid state.

    Thomas Culpeper was of slightly higher rank than Dereham, thus he was spared part of the sentence and beheaded at Tyburn instead, but he was also granted this mercy as Henry had known him personally. Henry was fond of him and Thomas had cared for the King when his leg was bad, plus he had served in his privy chamber for years. He slept in his chambers. Even though his alleged betrayal would have cut him to the quick, would have hurt him most, save that of the Queen, Henry allowed him a gesture of mercy by allowing him to be beheaded. Fortunately, his death was quick.

    Did they deserve to die? Where they guilty? Both had pleaded guilty, but the crimes assigned them, that meant that they intended to sleep with the Queen, even though evidence cannot prove either man did so. To intend to go further, a thought crime, was presumption of Treason and it was presumed that all these acts of adultery and imagination of the Kings death, the latter an old form of Treason. Having changed their pleas to guilty there was nothing left to say. Of course they did not deserve to suffer these terrible deaths, it was horrible and cruel, but the law said otherwise. It is also pointed out by Professor Wilkinson that their pleas and finding of quilt condemned Katherine, just as her legal declaration of guilt by Parliament, confirmed their guilt. The three were foolish in their behaviour, but there was no actual evidence of criminal adultery. There was nothing to point positively to sexual acts after marriage, but it could be implied as could their confession that they wanted more. This is what condemned them, their tongues and thoughts, not actions.

    RIP Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper.

    P.S. Today would have been my dad’s 89th birthday. I am sure he would have vloved your site, he loved history and that is where I get my love of history and early knowledge. Thanks for another detailed and well researched article.

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