On this day in Tudor history, 1st December 1541, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were tried for high treason at Guildhall, London. Both men had been linked romantically with the king’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard.
Culpeper, a member of Henry VIII’s privy chamber, and Dereham, a secretary to Queen Catherine Howard, were both found guilty of treason. They were sentenced to a full traitor’s death, to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Find out more about the trial of Dereham and Culpeper, and also what was happening to Catherine Howard and her lady, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, in the video and transcript below.
You can find out more about Catherine Howard, her downfall, and Lady Rochford in these videos:
February 13 – The Executions of Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford – https://youtu.be/4nGL47QKe4k
January 21 – The Act of Attainder against Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn – https://youtu.be/jxxcTAxn0_k
November 11 – Queen Catherine Howard is moved to Syon House – https://youtu.be/y9k104vsC6I
November 7 – Queen Catherine Howard confesses – https://youtu.be/cJcDEoccZfo
November 6 – Henry VIII abandons Catherine Howard – https://youtu.be/eeQx3R6f0Do
November 2 – The Beginning of the End for Catherine Howard – https://youtu.be/vZe2DtALUsc
The trial of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham
On this day in Tudor history, 1st December 1541, Thomas Culpeper, a member of King Henry VIII’s privy chamber, and Francis Dereham, a secretary to Queen Catherine Howard, were tried for high treason at Guildhall, London. They had both been linked romantically with the queen.
Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley records:
“This year, the first day of December, was arraigned at the Guild Hall in London, Thomas Culpepper, one of the Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, and Francis Dorand, gentleman, for high treason against the King’s Majesty in misdemeanor with the Queen, as appeared by their indictments which they confessed, and had their judgments to be drawn, hanged, and quartered […]”
Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, wrote to his master, Emperor Charles V of the proceedings:
“This same clerk was again sent on St. Andrews’ day to tell me that the day after Colpeper and Durem (Durham) would be tried for high treason, begging me to send one of my secretaries to be present at the trial. The same notice and invitation has been handed round to the ambassador of France, to the Venetian Secretary, and to the gentleman of the duke of Clèves, who is still here. All the privy councillors witnessed the trial, which, after a long discussion lasting six hours, ended in the condemnation of the two abovementioned gentlemen, who were sentenced to be hung and quartered as traitors. Durem (Durham) did confess having known the Queen familiarly before she was either betrothed or promised to the King; but said he did not know that there was any wrong in that, inasmuch as they were then engaged to each other. Colpeper persisted in denying the guilt of which he was accused, maintaining that he never solicited or had anything to do with her; on the contrary, it was she who had importuned him through Mme. de Rochefort, requesting him (Colpeper) to go and meet her in a retired place in Lincolnshire, to which she appointed him, and that on that occasion he (Colpeper) having kept the appointment, she herself told him, as she had on the first instance sent him word through Mme. Rochefort, that she pined for him, and was actually dying of love for his person. It is thought that both will be beheaded to-day.”
So, Dereham and Culpeper were both found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Both men 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 of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Both of their heads were placed on pikes on London Bridge, and the quarters of Dereham’s body were displayed around the city as a warning to other would-be traitors. Culpeper’s remains were buried at St Sepulchre, Holborn.
Queen Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford
But what about the queen and her lady, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford – what was happening with them?
Well, Chapuys records:
“Dame de Rochefort would have been sentenced at the same time had she not, on the third day after her imprisonment, been seized with a fit of madness (frenesi) by which her brain is affected.
True is it that now and then she recovers her reason, and that the King takes care that his own physicians visit her daily, for he desires her recovery chiefly that he may afterwards have her executed as an example and warning to others.
The Queen is still at Syon House, and it is believed that the King, to show clemency in her case, will make no innovation whatever with regard to her, or do more than he has hitherto done until Parliament meets and decides what her fate is to be.”
So Catherine was at Syon and Jane was being nursed back to health at Russell House on the Strand, the London residence of Sir John Russell, Lord Admiral, and his wife Anne, under the supervision of the King’s own doctors. The king wanted Jane to be fit enough to execute.
On 21st January 1542, a bill of attainder against Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Rochford was introduced into the House of Lords. According to this bill, the women were guilty of treason and could be punished without there being any need for a trial. It received the King’s assent on 11th February 1542. Jane was taken to the Tower of London on 9th February 1542 and Catherine was taken by barge from Syon to the Tower of London the following day. Both women were beheaded on 13th February 1542.