28th July 1540 – Two executions and a wedding

Posted By on July 28, 2017

This day in history, 28th July 1540, was a rather busy one. Thomas Cromwell, the king’s former right-hand man, and Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, a client of Cromwell, were executed by beheading and King Henry VIII married for the fifth time.

On 28th July 1540, at Oatlands Palace, in Surrey, King Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, daughter of Edmund Howard and Jocasta Culpeper, and niece of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The groom was forty-nine years of age, and the bride may have been just sixteen1, and the wedding was a low-key affair, with Henry’s fourth marriage only just having been annulled. It was kept quiet for over a week, and Catherine did not appear in public as queen until 8th August.

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While Henry VIII was busy marrying wife number 5, his former chief minister Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, was being beheaded on Tower Hill. Cromwell had been arrested on 10th June 1540 at a council meeting, and a bill of attainder was passed against him on 29th June 1540 for the crimes of corruption, heresy and treason.

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14 thoughts on “28th July 1540 – Two executions and a wedding”

  1. Jenn says:

    I read that after Cromwell’s execution, Henry almost immediately regretted it. What a moron. Apparently Elizabeth I learned from her father’s mistakes and when she got angry at one of her council members she just banished them for a few days.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, 8 months later he blamed his privy council for it.

  2. Esther says:

    Does anyone know if Henry VIII ever regretted causing any death other than Cromwell? Also, if Anne Boleyn’s alleged “last letter from the Tower” was, in fact, with Cromwell’s papers when he fell, wouldn’t Henry have seen it at that time? I would think Norfolk might use it (attack Cromwell by showing how he got Henry to execute six innocent people). IMO, that Henry still regretted Cromwell’s death (not Anne’s) tells me that either (a) the letter was not in the papers at that time (and therefore was not genuine) or (b) it wouldn’t have made a difference — Henry wanted Anne dead/

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Esther, Henry according to one source did regret executing Anne, certainly he regretted executing Cromwell who he knew had been a useful servant to him, as for any of his other victims who know’s? We all have regret’s when we get older, how many times has any of us said ‘ I wish I’d acted differently’, but for a King like Henry who had control over life and death and who during the the turbulent Anne Boleyn years and those that followed after, for such a man to know he had shed much blood, some quite unnecessarily like Margaret Pole for example, he must have had some moments when he did suffer qualms of conscience, as for Anne’s last letter I cannot see how that can be genuine, Master Secretary with his devious mind wouldn’t have dared let Henry read any letter’s from the queen imprisoned as she was, I feel he would have burnt it right away, she was exactly where Cromwell wanted her, he couldn’t allow his Royal master to weaken towards her, also at the end she signs herself as plain Anne Boleyn, not Anne The Queen, which was how she always ended her letters as the few remaining ones left by her testify, but others may take a different view.

      1. Lou Rae says:

        Christine, I understand your points, but I don’t really think Henry ever actually felt a qualm of conscience or regret for anything he did (except Cromwell, and then only because he realized he’d killed off his most loyal servant and a guy who got things done). I think if he did feel any regret, like most abusers it would not be for what HE had done, but for the fact that THEY “made him do it”. Just my two cents…

  3. Banditqueen says:

    Henry was a man who came up short and blamed everyone else. Thomas Cromwell had been in charge of some of the most traumatic and thunderous changes in our history, but he was also an effective and efficient servant and administrator and fixer. He had ideas about reforms not only of the government and church but also to bring about poor relief which involved labour schemes but also financial support. He is rightly criticised for the destruction of the monastic system as is Henry, who was the prime mover, but he should also be criticised for not using the buildings for social purposes. On this point Queen Anne Boleyn fell out with him, but it may not have led to the fatal consequences which followed, that is hotly debated. However, he should be praised for looking to replace the support network to the army of unemployed his reforms had created, long term and state funded relief and work. He should also be praised for giving the privy council actual work to do and making it actually administer the country and remedy local problems. It was possibly Cromwell’s delicate balance in diplomacy which also saved Henry from an Imperial kick up the backside from sea during his marriage problems in the 1530s. Please don’t ask me for a source as I am only guessing based on his foreign policy which seems somehow to work well as Francis and Charles V were always fighting each other. Cromwell was very adaptable in matters of state and that made him good at his job, odious though some people found his reforms. He couldn’t have been all that bad as he was known as the Widows Helper. Not only do we have the famous cases of Mary Boleyn and Jane Rochford, whom he helped but numerous letters show he helped many ordinary women as well. If you needed something done you asked Cromwell. His job meant he probably did things which he hated, like having to inform Katherine not to return to the King or convey Henry’s angry letters to his daughter, Mary. It was to Cromwell ironically that Mary wrote for help to reconcile her to her father in the first place. Cromwell is also condemned for his cruelty and hypocrisy in matters of persecution on religious grounds with monks hung in chains, Anabaptist executions, people called Sacramentarian, particularly one John Lambert, who he had known for years, shared the same beliefs but whom he stood by and allowed to burn and for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. While this is partly justified there are some errors and mitigation here. Henry made Laws called the Six Articles which made the penalty for acting against major Catholic beliefs, such as Transubstantiation a capital crime. If you denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament at the Alter, the Consecrated Bread and Wine, literally believed to become so, you could be charged with heresy and blasphemy. If you didn’t back down you would be tried and the penalty for persistent heresy was death by burning. The Six Articles, which followed the much vaguer Ten Article appear to have proscribed as heresy even things which didn’t come under traditional heresy laws. Now the State and not the Church defined what counted as heresy. Henry Viii was personally involved in the case of Lambert, who appealled to royal justice and made his arguments before the King, who hearing he didn’t accept the Real Presence said that Lambert was condemned by Christ’s own words at the Last Supper. There was nothing Cromwell could do but keep his views to himself. He was responsible for many of the other things but it was all part of the bigger reform of the Church and State and in eyes of the Henrican government, the victims of these changes were those who had defied the laws connected to Henry’s Supremacy, even though in reality they were people of integrity, holding to traditional beliefs.

    Love or hate Thomas Cromwell he was a major statesman who made a great impact on England as an evolving modern nation. He wasn’t a fanatic or a man with some weird tyrannical mind but the King’s first and best minister. One thing is certain he gained a number of enemies, partly because he was a low born clerk who studied law and was a soldier of fortune and partly because he caused a few problems for the traditional nobility who saw him as an upstart. He had tried to do his best to make Henry rich and powerful and to enhance his reputation and ideas in Europe. His failure was that Henry had no chemistry with his bride, Anne of Cleves and what should have been a good firm and long term German alliance fell apart. Anne came from a strategic and well placed Duchy with military might and strong ties to the growing and powerful Protestant League. She may not have been his dream bride but she could have given him sons and a good alliance. Cromwell was blamed for the marriage and it’s failure and he was used to get Henry out of it, as a prisoner. Henry was open to the mumbles against his favourite minister and his enemies could now bring a less favoured servant down. The actual charges in the Bill of Attainer were probably rubbish, although Cromwell may well have overstepped the mark with his decisions and profiting from the spoils of the fallen, but he, like many before him went to the chop on the say so of others. Henry regretted his decision to execute Cromwell and complained to his council that by their malice he had killed his most faithful servant.

    1. Christine says:

      I agree about Cromwell making enemies due maybe to his lowly birth, there has always been class snobbery in England and his mentor Cardinal Wolsley had had the same humble beginnings, he started of life as the son of an insignificant Ipswich butcher yet by the time he died, in disgrace and broken hearted he had risen so high to be practically ruler of the country, in the early days of the young king Henry was quite happy to let Wolsley take over the reins of government and he amassed a large fortune and called Hampton Court his home, amongst other residences, he was powerful and pro French and Queen Katherine mistrusted him, however he also angered his King when he tried yet failed to secure the divorce and the Boleyn faction sought to bring him down, the Tudor court was a hotbed of intrigue and one day you were high in favour, the next your head sat not so easily on your neck, plots and rivalries caused by jealousies and all eager to step one rung up the ladder meant you were never safe at Henry’s court, if his long time friend and most faithful servant could fall so could his once loved queen, and then so could anyone, like with lots of things, we only hear more about the awful instead of the good, Cromwell was trusted by a lot of people as Bq mentions, Jane Rochford relied on him to assist her after her husband’s death and so did Mary Boleyn on a few occasions, the lady Mary asked him for help in contact with her father which shows how much people relied on his diplomatic skills, he had been a champion of Anne Boleyn but as her struggle for power became more apparent Cromwell found himself in open conflict with her and they disagreed over where the revenues from the monasteries should go to, Anne believed it should be for the well being of the poor old and sick, but he disagreed and he wanted it for the treasury, he then became friends with her enemies the Seymour’s and gave Jane Seymour his suite of rooms at court, he was crafty and saw Annes star slipping whilst Janes was in the ascendant, Wolsley had lost favour because he could not bend Romes arm over the divorce and it cost him his life, ironically both these favoured servants of the King fell because of his marital affairs, Cromwell over his masters disastrous fourth marriage, it just gos to show how the court was full of vultures, ready to pounce on their victims, whilst he was out of favour they struck, and this evil genius who had masterminded the downfall of a crowned queen also lost his head, I cannot feel sorry for Thomas Cromwell, he had risen high through his own skill and had been rewarded, he had become a peer of the realm and had the ear of the King, those who chose to embroil themselves in the heady politics of Henrys court must have known I think, what dangers lay there, it seems to me it was like a jungle, predators lurking everywhere, you needed all your wits to survive and inevitabley some didn’t.

  4. Banditqueen says:

    Henry hoped for more from his seventeen year old bride than he had with the twenty four year old Anne of Cleves. But what did this young noblewoman to offer, given their age difference and that her father was the youngest brother of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk and penniless? Well, she was still a member of the greatest noble house of the old nobility, she was young and beautiful, a good prospect to have plenty of children and she was lively and she made him feel good. Katherine was raised to run a large household and to be a wife of a nobleman but she had also not had as protected as she could have been in a segregated household which resulted in a) her molesting by her music teacher aged 12 to 14 and b) a consensual but unseemly sexual relationship with a gentleman rogue who was connected to the household. Katherine could offer alliance with more traditional ways and despite more suspect biographies, she was better educated than movies show, she was supportive of him as a man and King, she was a traditional woman, she would not interfere with his political rule and he found her attractive.

    Henry Viii was now past his best, in his late forties, had aged prematurely, gained much weight, was affected by ulcers, although not as large as he was after her death, with growing paranoid temper and moods, but he could still offer her power and honour. Henry still dressed with magnificent splendour and he could still be romantic. He treated her with care and dignity, he wooed her and courted her, he was generous to her and he did nothing to harm her in any way. There is nothing to prove that Katherine was forced to marry the King and she was courted over several months. Her uncle and grandmother must have encouraged her as they saw a chance to promote the Catholic cause, she was introduced to the court as a maid of honour to Queen Anne of Cleves and it is thought that she may have been presented or noticed by Henry during a banquet by Bishop Stephen Gardiner. Whatever the original circumstances of their first romantic conversation, Henry was secretly taken across the river to meet Katherine at a house near Lambeth and he is reported to have fallen in love with her. We don’t know many details but Henry adored Katherine and he showered her with gifts, clothes and houses. They had a reasonable sex life for several months, she danced and was musical and she light up the court with fun and grace and laughter. Henry was almost reborn. Katherine was his dream wife and he felt as if he was happy at last.

    There was one problem. Katherine could have her head in the clouds and Henry became ill with depression and his leg for about a month in March 1541 and withdrew from the world, keeping Katherine from him for weeks. Henry suffered intermittently from impotency we believe, which seems to have returned over the next few months and he may have only had irregular sex with his young wife at that time. Katherine found ways to keep herself busy and at this time she received regular visits from one earlier acquaintance, Thomas Culpepper, who came on errands from the King and from time to time, with the help of others he came to visit her in private. Katherine was also sent letters from family members seeking help, but not all were given places at court, although some had been her companions under Anne of Cleves. She also took her role as intercessor seriously and helped in a few famous pardoning. She also showed charity to Margaret Pole, put in the Tower due to her son’s treason in 1539. She didn’t show herself always so charitable and could show a snide side. She took revenge on Princess Mary by dismissing two maids as she didn’t show the Queen the correct respect. She also used threats to some of her maids who criticised her behaviour with her visitors at night.

    It was during the northern progress that things went down hill although to Henry, Katherine still appeared as a dutiful wife. She was still bound to him in every way and he still slept with her as his wife. We are also told that Katherine was graceful and she was a true lady in public, dressing in silver to his gold and she was given glowing reports on her beauty and bounty during the progress. However, Katherine was keeping poor company in the night time with Thomas Culpepper, talking into the night for hours, but it is not clear if they had a sexual relationship and they both denied these accusations.

    It was the discovery of Katherine’s earlier love affair and her unfortunate sexual assault by Henry Mannox which eventually led to the allegations that Katherine had a lover. The investigation took weeks and at first few details came out. However, Mannox said he had playfully seen Katherine’s secret parts and Francis Dereham, her former lover said yes, but they called each other husband and wife. Katherine told a different tale and although she admitted their relationship she denied any promise of marriage and her views on their sexual relationship was contradictory. In one part of her lengthy confession Katherine said she was raped but in other places it is clear she is describing a consensual relationship. Henry was horrified and upset by these revelations but they were not treason as they were before their marriage. The revelation about Thomas Culpepper visiting Katherine in her rooms and the assumption that she also had relationships with Francis Dereham which condemned them all. Henry was overwhelmed with anger and grief because he had loved Katherine and devoted everything to her and in his mind she had betrayed him. We have no clear answer to the question of adultery as in sexual intercourse with her alleged lovers and so there is no evidence to contradict her claim that only conversation took place. Assumption based on admissions that both Katherine and Thomas Culpepper intended to go further was what condemned them. Henry wasn’t the same afterwards and his final wife was carefully selected, a widow with experience, a woman in her thirties and great intelligence. Katherine Parr was more the wife Henry should have had.

  5. Christine says:

    From a breeding point of view it was a sensible match, Catherine with her healthy youthful body and coming from a large family represented fertility and she was from a noble family, one of the noblest in the land, however because of her youth and quite unorthodox upbringing (unbeknown to everyone but her family) she really was quite unsuitable to be queen consort, she was being wooed by the King whilst he was married to his fourth wife, he was enchanted with her fresh young face and lively personality, she had all the positive energy of the young and with her Henry felt young again, no doubt when the King proposed to her the Howard’s were beside themselves with joy, a member of their family to be Queen Of England, her uncle being the head of the family must have discussed with her the importance of it all, how to behave etc and her grandma no doubt, and it’s true she did have good reports of her queenly behaviour yet the pair of them together must have looked incongruous, she was about thirty three years younger and said to be a very little girl, and so Henry who was rapidly becoming as wide as he was tall must have appeared like a giant with his big red face and whilst she was able to dance all night, sadly he was not as mobile and often retired to bed early, the sad tale of Henry V111 and Catherine Howard echoes many other tragic love stories about a much older man who fell in love with a younger woman, though Henry and Catherine were King and queen yet people’s feelings are the same and in this his fifth marriage, I do have sympathy for Henry V111, he was completely in love with his child bride or was the fact that he felt in her he could regain his youth, Henry was practical as well and as mentioned he possibly thought she could bear him a son, he knew he had impotency problems so an older wife would be no good, he needed a young bride and the bonus was she delighted him, his daughter Mary did not approve which really I think was quite understandable being that she was younger than her, she quite possibly disapproved of her frivolity as Mary was a serious girl and thought her father was making a fool of himself, however she was Catholic but Mary no doubt thought she just that by birth and was not as fervent as she was, but no wife of her fathers was going to compare with her much loved mother anyway, Catherine Howard to be fair I think did try to be a good wife and queen to her husband, but she was too young I think to take her role seriously and raging hormones dictated her feelings and sent her on a downward spiral of disaster, we will never know if her meetings with Culpeper were innocent but their meetings alone at night did her reputation no good, it was not the way for a queen to behave and she could swear as many times as she liked that nothing untoward had happened, but a man and a woman meeting at secret in the night is suspect, Henry was heart broken as he thought she was the wife who he had been searching for all his life, then her life at her grans house came out and what was no doubt innocent frolics was twisted into something sordid, so she looked like a common tramp instead of just a very young innocent girl who really had just been led astray, did he have to execute her I doubt it, but then we are writing on events that happened half a century ago and to kill a queen now would raise shocked eyebrows and a huge backlash, today we would consider it barbaric, I think Henry should have just banished her from the court, he was the injured party here, he had made a mistake he thought she was virtuous, she had made a fool of him with one of his favoured servants and had not been a virgin when they married, she was despoiled, not Madonna at all but more like Jezebel whose own servants had thrown her to the dogs, she appeared not loving and affectionate but full of avarice who had preyed on him and had laughed at him behind his back, none of this was true, she was I believe just a very young girl who gave into her own feelings not realising what a highly dangerous game she was playing, he did have respect for the King I am sure and was fond of him, but maybe she feared him more, Catherine paid with her life and her broken body joined Henrys second queen in St. Peter. Ad.Vincula, like Anne Boleyns body her bones have never been properly identified, Dr. Moat was certain he had identified Anne but there is still controversy with one historian believing she could have been Catherine, then again Catherine’s bones were young and could well have dissolved in the limestone that was in the flooring of that sad little church, it was later called the saddest spot on earth.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Christine I completely agree and it was a rather sad end for a lively and vibrant young woman. Her love for life must have stayed with Henry and he is believed to have seen her ghost many times dancing through the palace, at the parties at court, her laughter could be heard and there is one weird tale which does have a historic basis. Henry ordered a feast after Katherine’s death and every dish was pink as with a Saint Valentine Feast. Remember Katherine was killed on 13th February and the next day normally would have been a day to feast and remember love. The feast would be pink. Henry in a source is said to have ordered a feast and invited lots of beautiful women, maybe as a way of coping, rather than that which is often assumed to celebrate coldly. In literature, however, this event has been depicted differently. For example Margaret George gives an inventive and rather intimate description of the banquet, placing it on Valentine’s Day. The dishes were black and it is described as a mourning feast. Henry suddenly starts in fright and is described as standing up and clawing at the air as if reaching to touch something or someone. He was calling Katherine’s name and she was clearly on his mind. Maybe the feast described is this one in the sources and perhaps it was on Valentine’s Day because we know that the feasts and court ritual was part of the religious year, so certain feasts were never moved. The banquet was probably planned well in advance and due to the ways things worked at the Royal Court, it had not been cancelled and went ahead regardless. Whatever the truth of the story it has a deeper meaning in that it illustrates that Henry was disturbed by Katherine’s death and her life obviously had affected him deeply.

      Katherine possibly could have been banished to remote imprisonment under secure house arrest or a religious establishment, not that many of those survived, but former ones had been converted. She was after all a woman he had felt strong love for and he was grieving, despite having condemned her to death. You are right hormones and feelings have always rushed around when it comes to love and young people have had them in every century, so yes, a young and slightly immature Queen probably would fall to temptation. Katherine found herself left alone for longer than anticipated when Henry was unwell and her friendship with Culpepper filled a gap. Her hormonal rush possibly meant that she fancied the wrong person and well maybe stuff happens. The two said they had not had sex but wanted to go further, but we don’t have any evidence that anything happened, but as you say, meeting men late at night was not wise and gave the impression it had.

      Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn are unusual in that noble women and Queens didn’t normally get the death penalty, although there are a few examples in Europe. They are obscure and not well known, so rare was this end. Henry Viii is the only King of England to execute a Queen, let alone two, but King John and others had executed alleged lovers. It’s now definitely known that more than two, maybe three of our Queens or noble women had extra marital affairs and illegitimate children passed off as their husband’s. That they either got away with it or their husbands didn’t care we also know as we don’t know which children they were. Either they succeeded in having their husband’s accept their son or daughter as their own or it was because it was presumed a married father was the legitimate father unless the fact was denied. It’s clear that no action was taken, otherwise we would know for certain. Had Katherine had a child with a lover it would be treason because her child would undermine the royal blood, the Royal line as Henry saw it. It may even have been with this in mind that a final decision was taken to execute everyone, two alleged lovers and Queen.

      A King couldn’t look as if he was a fool in his own house and theories around masculine honour have been put to say why Henry couldn’t just put his wife away or banish her. Now I:m sure some Medieval historian has written a huge tome to explain all of them and yes, we can’t put a modern spin on the events of 500 years ago, when we were all wired differently, but there were King’s who had done just that. Isabella of Bavaria, while not being put out of the way for alleged adultery as she had to rule for her mad husband, was still attacked and upbraided for her actions, although this is now believed to have been misrepresented. Caroline of Brunswick was put on trial in Parliament, although it all fell apart and she was banned from her own coronation. King John didn’t hesitate to hang his first wife’s lovers. Joanne of Naples was belatedly imprisoned and had been tried for adultery and murder, although again her life has recently been re examined. Eleanor of Aquitaine had an affair with her uncle, Raymond of Toulouse, although she was not punished, but forced to return to het husband, Louis Vii of France and she was divorced as she could only give him daughters. She moved on to her new toy boy, Henry of Anjou, our Henry ii. She later rebelled with his sons and was imprisoned. Henry Viii could have even forced through an annulment even if Katherine didn’t accept a contract with Francis Dereham who did, based on their sexual relationship. Really, which set of Bishops was going to say no. However, he went down the road of brutality and she was beheaded. I’m not entirely convinced he had any alternative if he believed Katherine was guilty, but it was not impossible for one to have been found.

      1. Christine says:

        Hi Bq, that’s very interesting about the feast, I should imagine it was a way of helping Henry to cope, having beautiful women around and a nice lot of food and drink was his way of trying to forget I should imagine, but yes it must have been planned in advance, I suppose anyone else would have cancelled it but Henry was King and I guess he thought the show must go on, the court was full of pretty women who he could console himself with, but I wonder if that’s true that he saw Catherine’s ghost, I should imagine it was an hallucination, according to what a medium once said, after death the spirit is resting, within a week or so that’s when they start to walk, some may call it nonsense but I should imagine for most of his life Henry was tormented by the people whose deaths he had caused, though no doubt his ever ready conscience told him it was gods will! It’s true though what you say about our queens we have had down the centuries, they haven’t been exactly queen material, Caroline Of Brunswick is said to have been quite an eccentric and Eleanor Of Aquitaine was a right virago, she is said to have treated her first husband with contempt, he was in love with her rather childishly so her biographer Alison Weir comments and although he divorced her he did it rather reluctantly, he was put out when she eloped with Henry but I’m not sure about the tale that she had an affair with her own uncle is true, Weir states that it was just rumour yet people who lived long ago did not see things we do now, indeed a medieval Spanish King had an affair with his aunt, god knows how the offspring would have turned out as we know today children born of such close blood relations are likely to be weak and deformed, as for King John, he is another King who invites controversy, he was such a dissolute man he seduced the wives of his nobles down to the meanest scullery maid, and yes he was so enamoured of his young wife he would spend most of the day in bed with her when he should have been seeing to affairs of state, their marriage was very tempestuous like Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn, and she took lovers knowing that he did, she was no calm Griselda either, yet she was never put on trial and executed, no King has ever condemned his queen to death except Henry V111 and that is what has put a blemish on his character, most of our kings have acted very cruelly, and foolishly, yet they never had their wives executed like Henry V111 did, that’s what makes him unique, there is a sketch of him made in old age and the artist has captured every vice imaginable, cruelty greed self pity, his eyes are narrowed in suspicion and his mouth is pursed in an angry scowl, I believe he felt he could not afford to grant Catherine mercy, he had been made to look a fool of throughout his kingdom and Europe, he could not allow people to think he was going soft, he was very jealous of his reputation yet little did he realise people thought of him as a tyrant, he believed women should have high moral standards, that was the 16th century mind and yes, queens especially had to be above reproach yet I somehow think he thought all women should be like that, pure and not easily led astray whearas men were by nature lustful, they couldn’t help it, a woman had no excuse yet Henry himself expected women to fall into his bed, could he not have found it in himself to try to understand that a very young girl would find it far more difficult to resist temptation, but she was his queen and she should have behaved like his queen, no matter that she was just a teenager, Cranmer found it distressing talking to her as she got in such a state, and I should imagine that at her execution there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, poor Catherine.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Yes, Chris, she was a lovely young woman if the accounts are to be believed and her youth must have made a lot of sympathy for the young woman who was no more than 19 or 20 and maybe 18 at her death. This was a society where the authorities had no problem with saying a girl or boy of fourteen is adult and old enough to be executed. There don’t appear to have been many, but enough to be reported. A young man of fourteen was burnt at the stake, another one is noted under Mary, another of fifteen under Henry, Jane Grey was sixteen or seventeen and her husband about her age, or a year younger when they were executed. There is a report on the rioters of Evil May Day 1517, when a dozen or so were executed for treason under riot laws before the King staged his grand gesture to pardon 500 young rioters to note the youth of them. We don’t know exactly how younger but youngling sounds like a mid teen. We have to remember the concert of teenagers as a separate identity is something which has evolved over the last century or so, with teenagers having their own cultural expression, but then although the term youth was used, young adults were meant to grow up. A boy was a man at 14 even in the twentieth century for some time, with regards to work and so on. We are only recently acknowledging that a teenager thinks differently and impulse control is not as well developed in the brain until our twenties. The hormones have not changed and how people feel at any time in history, but adults have been slow on recognition of this basic fact. There is endless literature criticizing youth but we don’t seem to get that we behave like that because we are young. The human model is a bit dim when it comes to recognising the natural stages of its own development. Katherine was in a terrible state, not necessarily because she was guilty, but because she was simply terrified and her youth made her even more so. It has to be admired how dignified she was at her death and I think she did get some sympathy from the witnesses. Fortunately she had a private execution, but even that could mean several hundred people, but didn’t have to face the cup final crowd on Tower Hill. In a society were youth execution was permitted it must have been particularly dreadful for their parents to see their children die in these horrible ways. It was bad enough to execute people in the first place, but the youth are the future and young lives not being allowed to reach potential is shocking.

  6. Christine says:

    Indeed that is true, teenagers have for centuries been called idle wasters who like to lounge in bed all day, yet now recent studies have shown that the brains of teenagers are wired to need more sleep, it is as we mature we become insomniacs, many pensioners I know are up at six most mornings whilst their grandchildren are still snoozing under the duvet at 12, we become physically mature but our brain lags behind, hence the disastrous things we do in our youth, it was in the 18th or 17th century I read a young lad of only nine had been hung for setting fire to a barn, ok arson is serious but he obviously could not have understand the danger, now today his parents would be the ones to be prosecuted as he would be considered a minor, I cannot remember if anyone died or cattle, sheep maybe, but I find it disgusting they executed a child for what he possibly thought was just a game.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      They hung kids for a loaf of bread as well. I don’t know that case but oh how dreadful, a kid of nine, that is horrible. A child that young even for murder would be treated so now. Child killers are very rare and 14 is the normal standard for criminal responsibility, although in some cases it’s younger. The famous case in Liverpool when those two ten year olds murdered a little boy of two was a different thing because of the brutality involved. They had tortured him and planned it, but they themselves had been brutalized and subjected to child horror video nasties. They had no childhood and had copied the things they saw. Due to the media circus and hysteria they were deemed responsible and unusually tried as adults. The crime they had committed was terrible but people forget that they were both children, with a child’s brain and there was a great outcry. They were sentenced to serve a very long term of prison but it was reduced on appeal to the European Court. It was decided to release them when they were eighteen. They got more consideration than the poor child they had killed, really should have served longer, but a lot of questions were never resolved about why two ten years olds kill in the first place. Thankfully we dont condemn children or adults to death in the U.K but this sounds like the sort of outcry they would have made in the eighteenth century and this is a terrible case of a poor kid acting out, possibly it was an accident and as you said, he may have believed it was a game and not understand the consequences, yet this severe society treated him as an adult, when even they knew an adult was 14 at least. By the eighteenth century, which saw the expansion and tightening of the penal code, with some 200 to 300 so called crimes being punished by the death penalty. It was all about control of course and control through terror. Terrible, terrible times.

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