12 June 1540 – Thomas Cromwell writes to Henry VIII

Thomas Cromwell, engraving from 1859
Thomas Cromwell, engraving from 1859

On 12th June 1540, Thomas Cromwell, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his arrest on 10th June for treason, wrote to King Henry VIII regarding his “most miserable state”, asking for mercy and pleading his innocence.

You can read the full letter in my article from last year – click here.

Cromwell tried his hardest in his letter and it’s a hard heart that is not moved by the final words of the letter:

“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.”

But it was in vain. His pleas for mercy were ignored and he went to his death on 28th July 1540.

Also on this day in history

  • 1530 – Catherine of Aragon told her husband Henry VIII, who was courting Anne Boleyn and trying to get his marriage to Catherine annulled, to abandon his “wicked” life.
  • 1553 – Edward VI’s council commanded the judges of the King’s Bench to turn Edward’s “Devise for the succession” into a legal will. Click here for more on this.

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8 thoughts on “12 June 1540 – Thomas Cromwell writes to Henry VIII”
  1. I wonder so much about this man. Was he just a backstabbing, power hungry, upstart or was he genuinely trying to please his King? I guess we’ll never truly know, but I will get that book you told me about. There does seem to be a story to tell about the infamous Thomas Cromwell.

  2. I wonder did Cromwell not realize when he was interrogating Thomas More that exactly the same thing could, and most likely would, happen to him.

    1. Cromwell did not expect to end up like Thomas More, he was doing everything the king wanted him to do and saved his master very well. Regardless of what he did his ending was very sad.

  3. The precise reasons for his fall are still fairly obscure, aren’t they? I know the usual story is that it was because Henry was disappointed in the Cleves marriage, but rather like the story of Anne’s fall being due to her last miscarriage, it seems that those elements were only part of a very complicated stew.

  4. I’m not sure what to think about Cromwell.

    I was going to say “What mercy did he show Anne?” and go on from there, creating a long list; I think Hilary Mantel ended up distorting history in her attempt to make Cromwell seem more reasonable; and I think a recent BBC documentary, Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII’s Enforcer, took “the ends justify the means” reasoning even beyond Cromwell’s ends (whatever they were) to the long term effects of the English Reformation. So I thought it might, if anything, be time for the pendulum to swing back against him.

    But then I thought: perhaps no one from that time would come out looking very good, and perhaps it’s wrong to be hard on Cromwell in particular.

  5. Rowan, so agree your first comment. I have warmed to him post Mantel, in spite of myself! Fact is, I guess, there are few absolute monsters – we used to reflect that ‘even the Nazis loved music and their children’. Seems that, for the first time in English history, ordinary working men of remarkable talent were able to scrabble up the social pole to the truly heady heights of power but what they had to do to stay there may have surprised even them. I find now that I do want to believe the best.

    1. It’s difficult to believe the best of both Cromwell and Anne, though. If someone presents a more positive view of Cromwell, as Hilary Mantel does, they’ll tend to present a more negative view of Anne.

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