Cromwell in The TudorsOur informants at the court of King Henry VIII have today intercepted a letter written by Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to Stephen Gardiner and John Wallop, the King’s ambassadors in France. In this letter, which was written to inform Gardiner and Wallop of recent events in England, the man who was once happy to be the Queen’s right hand man and friend shows his true colours and his fickle nature.

Here is a transcript of the letter:-

“The King has deferred answering their letters sent by Salisbury till the arrival of the bailly of Troyes. Has to inform them, however, of a most detestable scheme, happily discovered and notoriously known to all men. They may have heard the rumour of it. Will express to them, however, some part of the coming out, and of the King’s proceeding.

The Queen’s incontinent living was so rank and common that the ladies of her privy chamber could not conceal it. It came to the ears of some of the Council, who told his Majesty, although with great fear, as the case enforced. Certain persons of the privy chamber and others of her side were examined, and the matter appeared so evident that, besides that crime, “there brake out a certain conspiracy of the King’s death, which extended so far that all we that had the examination of it quaked at the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave him (God ?) laud and praise that he had preserved him so long from it.” Certain men were committed to the Tower, viz., Marks and Norris and the Queen’s brother; then she herself was apprehended and committed to the same place; after her Sir Fras. Weston and Wm. Brereton. Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Marks are already condemned to death, having been arraigned at Westminster on Friday last. The Queen and her brother are to be arraigned tomorrow, and will undoubtedly go the same way.

I write no particularities; the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard. Gardiner will receive 200l. of the 300l. “that were out amongst these men, notwithstanding great suit hath been made for the whole; which though the King’s highness might give in this case, yet his Majesty doth not forget your service; and the third 100l. is bestowed of the vicar of Hell [Sir Fras. Brian], upon [whom] though it be some charge unto you, his Highness trusteth ye will think it well bestowed.” From the Rolls in haste, 14 May.

P.S.—Wallop will not be forgotten, though Cromwell cannot tell at present how much he is to have. The King is highly pleased with the services of both.”1

Don’t hold back, Cromwell, tell us what you really think!

This letter really sickens us here at The Anne Boleyn Files. Here the word “incontinent” means lacking self-control and he is painting the Queen as some kind of queen of debauchery, when we all know that her household has a very strict moral code. This letter reads just like the indictments (sensational and shocking tabloid style language) and his words regarding the upcoming trial of the Queen and Lord Rochford, that they “will undoubtedly go the same way” are not Cromwell being psychic but him knowing that their trials have been prejudiced by the trials of Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton – the Queen is unlikely to be found innocent of adultery when those four men have already been found guilty of sleeping with her! I think Cromwell also knows that the jury will do his bidding anyway.

Cromwell finishes his letter by promising that both Gardiner and Wallop will benefit from the fall of Queen Anne Boleyn and these men, as will Sir Francis Bryan. Vultures, vultures, all of them… What is the court coming to? It is clear that the Queen and Lord Rochford will be found guilty at their trial and we all know that the punishment for such offences is death, but will King Henry VIII really allow a Queen of England to be executed? The Queen he fought so long to marry?

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x.873, Letter from Cromwell to Gardiner and Wallop, 14th May 1536

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20 thoughts on “14 May 1536 – Cromwell Shows His True Colours!”
  1. In a response to a comment on the article noting Thomas Boleyn’s participation in the trial of the four innocent men, Claire said “Poor Thomas, I doubt he had much choice in the matter, I bet he had the others breathing down his neck and was in fear of his own life.” Wouldn’t the same apply to Thomas Cromwell, at least if you believe (and I do) that Henry wanted to get rid of Anne, and, was involved in the “conspiracy”?

    Also, the whole story has to be a “moralists delight”, with Anne brought low by someone using the similar tactics to those she used to displace Catherine of Aragon … and Cromwell eventually executed on the same type of evidence (lies) that he used against Anne (and Thomas More).

    1. Esther, you made some very good points. I think the entire Tudor court environment more or less lent itself to the types of intrigues and backstabbing that went on. Henry’s court was not unlike a toxic, corrupt company. The “big players” inevitably succeeded via unethical means.

      I do see a bizarre irony in Anne’s downfall. If she’d been willing to accept a lesser role as the king’s mistress, she would likely have kept her head and her daughter might very well have become queen anyway (assuming Henry had no other children with other wives.) Elizabeth was generally accepted as a bastard successor, regardless of Anne’s marriage to Henry.

      Anne was a sensible woman, I’m sure the irony of her situation was not lost on her.

      1. If Anne had been willing to be the king’s mistress … talk about changing history. Elizabeth may not have become queen … without the attack on her own legitimacy, Mary may have married earlier (possibly, a dispensation given to allow her to marry one of her cousins — the future James V of Scotland, or Reginald Pole) and may have had a child. Furthermore, I think that even if Elizabeth did become queen, things would still have been quite different. She may not have been so completely paranoid about marriage or naming a successor, for example.

        1. Funny … only Elizabeth wouldn’t have existed then. If A&H would have cohabited years earlier, got a child etc., that child/children could have been boys, and these children would never have had exactly the same genome as Elizabeth’s, perhaps considerabyl different, even if a girl.
          All this if A wouldn’t have done B business simply doesn’t work, unless you start with Adam and Eve:
          Question: What would have been different if Hitler hadn’t come to power on 30 January 1933?
          Answer: He would have come to power on 1 February 1933!

      2. Yes, indeed of course, if only. Just like you said she deffinately would have most of kept her head but she did not choose that route did she, of course not, she wanted more and she was compliant as well as guaranteed to make sure that she got it too, if at least not for her sake but her family’s sake/sakes or both theirs and hers.

        Good joke Christine 🙂 it made me laugh 🙂

  2. Cromwell was always the King’s man. Henry wanted to dispose of Anne, and Cromwell came up with the means of diposal. Unfortunately for Cromwell, when it was his turn, he didn’t see the danger he was in. He was blindsided by the very man he had served so well.
    What goes around, comes around.

  3. And if Anne had become Henry’s mistress she may well have had a child prior to Elizabeth. Can you imagine if she had had a son? You have to wonder if Henry would have gone forward and annulled/divorced Katherine at that point to marry Anne and make their son legit (somehow).

  4. Just goes to show you what kind of a man that Cromwell really was and the King come to that! He was just greedy and out for what he could get just like the rest of them, if he did not have anything or much already. He had more than enough, or so you would think it but he obviously did not, he just wanted more and more. More really was more to the Tudors especially to certain ones even more so. It just goes to show as well that they were just about willing to do anything for it all as well, regardless of the consequences. Even if it meant to make up a lie/lies about someone and then have them killed. *Shakes head* then *Sighs*

  5. I’m always happy when Cromwell gets his for the Anne of Cleves fiasco. I shouldn’t be happy about it but I just can’t help myself! And it does make you wonder “what if”

  6. In early 1536 Cromwell had been in talks with a lawyer who specialized in church law which indicates that the King wished to annul his marriage to Anne. Even Anne herself suspected this as when brought the news of COA’s death she had been distraught saying that now the King would do to her the same as he did to Catherine. This was despite the fact that she was pregnant at the time.
    Cromwell did not make up the charges against Anne. Others who were hostile to Anne came to him with incidents that had actually happened and which it was his job to investigate. It was true that Anne had flirted with certain gentlemen of the court and perhaps said certain things that were unwise. Likely if Anne had been in favor with the King then these things would not have been reported or if they had would have been seen as what they were banter and courtly love. But Henry at this stage was blaming his wife for the failure of the marriage and was ready to believe the worst of her.

  7. Tudor rose. Cromwell tried to pass a poor law which if it had been accepted in it’s original form would have been the most comprehensive law passed until the 19th Century. Part of it was the then novel idea of helping the able bodied poor to find employment by creating work that helped communities such as building roads and digging irrigation ditches. Those who were unable to work due to illness, disability or old age were to be given charity. Cromwell had his servants give out daily several hundred free meals to destitute people. I agree that the people in the Tudor Court were ambitious and ruthless but they, like us, were products of their time. To say that Cromwell was just ‘greedy and out for what he could get’ is only looking at one side to the story.

    1. Emma has made the two most intelligent comments on here; pity no one seems to be listening. All this nonsense about Thomas Cromwell! What was he supposed to say in that letter? “Oh, hi guys, yeah Henry wants rid of his wife, so I thought I’d help him kill her for no good reason”.

      1. Thanks PAOA. As an Anne fan who believes Cromwell was not responsible for her downfall I get a lot of negative comments so it was nice to have a compliment. 🙂

  8. Claire I have a question. On the Wikipedia page about Thomas Cromwell I found this piece of information, ‘By 18 March, an Act for the Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries, those with a gross income of less than £200 per annum, had passed both houses. This caused a clash with Anne Boleyn, who wanted the proceeds of the dissolution to be employed for charitable purposes, not paid into the King’s coffers. Anne instructed her chaplains to preach against the vicegerent, and on 2 April 1536 her almoner, John Skip, denounced Cromwell before the entire court as an enemy of the Queen. ‘ I’m wondering if there are any sources that confirm that information, do you have any ideas? Greetings 🙂

    1. Hi Anna,
      John Skip was Anne’s almoner and he did preach a sermon on Passion Sunday 1536 (2nd April). Do you have the Eric Ives book on Anne? He explains the sermon on p307-310. Skip used the text John 8 v46 “Which of you can convict me of sin?” and attacked the royal council, accusing them of “gross sycophancy” (Ives). The “you” in the Bible verse Skip identified as the congregation and royal counsellors and the “me” referred to the clergy and his sermon was “a no-holds-barred rebuttal of the generalized attacks on the clergy”. Ives explains that “preached in the interval between the Dissolution Bill being passed by parliament and the royal assent being given, Skip’s sermon was Anne’s call to courtiers and counsellors alike to change the advice they were giving the king and to reject the lure of personal gain” so he was “attacking Cromwell’s motives and integrity.”
      See my section on Skip at and also the following primary sources on the sermon:-
      LP x.615 at
      National Archives record SP6/2 – and SP6/2

      1. How do you know that was aimed at Cromwell personally? I have found no record of Cromwell and Anne Boleyn falling out; and historian John Scolfield completely debunks it in his biography.

        1. In a letter dated 1st April 1536, Chapuys reported a meeting between himself, “the young marquis[Exeter], the widowed countess of Kildare, lord Montagu, and other gentlemen” where he was informed that Anne Boleyn and Cromwell were “on bad terms” – Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538, note 43.
          I’ve actually changed my mind a lot about Cromwell since writing this post, but having read Skip’s sermon, I find it hard to believe that Haman could have symbolised anyone other than Cromwell and the people listening would surely have taken it as an attack on him and the Act of Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries.
          At the end of the day, Cromwell was doing his job as a dutiful servant to Henry VIII. I believe that Henry wanted rid of Anne and Cromwell organised a way to do it. The buck has to stop with Henry but Cromwell was the genius behind the actual plot itself and I would say that he used it as an opportunity to get rid of Norris and Brereton.

    2. The King’s coffers not Cromwell’s. It seems strange that Anne would blame Cromwell when as I said earlier less than a year before he had tried to get a bill passed that would greatly help the poor.

  9. Cromwell and Anne had never had a close working relationship. Contary to popular belief he was neither part of her faction or was she responsible for his promotions. Anne favoured the French reformists whilst Cromwell was keen on developing relations with the more radical Schmalkadic league. Also Anne may have never quite forgot that Cromwell had been part of Wolsey’s household. So Anne and Cromwell being on bad terms does not neccesarily mean that they were in the midst of a struggle to the death. Even if Anne did disaprove of Cromwell in April 1536 she no longer had the power to do anything about it. She wouldn’t have been a threat to Cromwell. About this time Cromwell had been instructed by Henry to look into the possiblity of annuling his marriage to Anne. Something he had found to have been easily acheivable. As to the only member of the King’s council to fit the ‘Hamman’ tag being Cromwell I think that actually apart from Cranmer it could fit about all of them. The Seymours and their supporters for instance.

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