December 9 – Sir Edward Neville, a man who called Henry VIII “worse than a beast”

On this day in Tudor history, 9th December 1538, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Sir Edward Neville was beheaded on Tower Hill.

The courtier, gentleman of the privy chamber and son of George Neville, 2nd Baron Bergavenny, had been condemned to death for treason. He had been found guilty of conspiring against the king in the Exeter Conspiracy of 1538, along with members of the Pole family. Neville was also accused of saying “The King is a beast and worse than a beast” – very reckless words.

Find out more about Neville’s life and downfall…

Here are links to some more videos on those involved in this alleged plot:


Sir Edward Neville and the Exeter Conspiracy

On this day in Tudor history, 9th December 1538, Sir Edward Neville, courtier, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and son of George Neville, 2nd Baron Bergavenny, was beheaded on Tower Hill.

In August 1538, Geoffrey Pole had been arrested on suspicion of being in contact with his brother, Cardinal Reginald Pole, who had denounced King Henry VIII and his policies in a treatise. Geoffrey underwent seven separate rounds of interrogations on 4th November 1538 and information he gave to the Crown led to the arrests of his brother, Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu, his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Neville, and Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, and Exeter’s wife and son. They were all accused of treason, for plotting with Cardinal Reginald Pole and conspiring against King Henry VIII.

According to his indictment, Sir Edward Neville was accused of openly saying “The King is a beast and worse than a beast…I trust knaves shall be put down and lords reign one day, and that the world will amend one day.” Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter, also gave information to the Crown, telling of how, when her husband had gone North in autumn 1536, during the Pilgrimage of Grace Rebellion, and she was worried about him being one of the first in battle, Neville had prophesied “Madame, be not afeared of this, nor of the second, but beware of the third.”

Neville protested his innocence at his trial on 4th November 1538, but was attainted of high treason and condemned to death.

He was executed by beheading on Tower Hill on this day in 1538 and was buried at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower.

Here are a few more facts about this alleged Tudor traitor:

  • He had been close to King Henry VIII early in his reign and was said to resemble him. Cardinal Wolsey even mistook him for the king when both men were masked in court entertainments, saying that Neville was “A comely knight of goodly personage that much resembled the King’s person in that Mask than any other”.
  • He was a gifted singer, and loved jousting and hunting.
  • In 1516, he served as master of the buckhounds.
  • In January 1510, he jousted against William Compton and caused panic when he injured them and people thought that Compton was actually the king.
  • The king was Neville’s second son’s godfather.
  • He was knighted following his courageous actions at the Siege of Tournai in 1513
  • He was banned temporarily Henry VIII’s presence after the fall of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521 due to the duke being Neville’s brother’s father-in-law.
  • He accompanied Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn on their visit to Calais in 1532, was made the King’s standard bearer soon after, and served as a sewer at the coronation banquet of Queen Anne Boleyn in 1533.
  • He was married to Eleanor, daughter of Andrew Windsor, keeper of the great wardrobe, and widow of Ralph, ninth Baron Scrope of Masham.
  • Neville and Eleanor had seven children together.

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