July 28 – Henry VIII gets married while his master secretary is executed

Posted By on July 28, 2022

On this day in Tudor history 28th July 1540, King Henry VIII married for a fifth time.

He married his fourth wife’s maid of honour, the young Catherine Howard, at Oatlands Palace.

While the king was getting married, his former chief advisor, Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell was being executed for corruption, heresy and treason.

Find out about both of these events in the videos and transcripts below…

Transcripts:

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

The first mention chronicler Edward Hall makes of the new queen is an entry for 8th August:
“The eight day of August was the Lady Katheryn Howard, niece to the duke of Norfolk, and daughter to the lord Edmund Howard, showed openly as Queen at Hampton Court, which dignity she enjoyed not long as after ye shall hear.”

And chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley even dated the marriage to 8th August, writing:
“This year, the eight day of Awgust, being Sunday, the King was married to Katherin Howarde, daughter of the late Edmund Howard deceased, and brother to the Duke of Norfolk, at his manor of Hampton Court, and that day she dined in her great chamber under the cloth of estate, and was there proclaimed Queen of England.”

The king’s fifth marriage appeared happy at first, with Henry doting on his young bride and having a new lease of life. Catherine’s biographer, Lacey Baldwin Smith, writes of how the King, who had previously felt “the weight of age close upon him”, was suddenly “filled with fresh vitality”, started getting up early (between 5 and 6am) to go hunting and that the French ambassador wrote of his “good spirits” and “good humour”. Henry VIII was happy, he had high hopes for the future, but, sadly, his hopes would be dashed just over 15 months later when he was made aware of Catherine’s sexual history and then her secret assignations with Thomas Culpeper, a groom of his privy chamber. Henry was devastated. Catherine Howard was executed for treason on 13th February 1542, after having been found guilty of treason by a bill of attainder.

While Henry VIII and Catherine Howard were getting married at Oatlands, Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Henry VIII’s former right-hand man, was being beheaded on Tower Hill. He had been found guilty by a bill of attainder of the crimes of corruption, heresy and treason.
This Tudor statesman, who had served King Henry VIII faithfully for many years, had an awful end, his execution being botched by a what was described as a “butcherly” executioner.

Henry VIII never spoke of any regret for the execution of his fifth wife, but according to Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador, the king later regretted Cromwell’s execution, blaming it all on his Privy Council, saying that “on the pretext of several trivial faults he [Cromwell] had committed, they had made several false accusations which had resulted in him killing the most faithful servant he had ever had.”

So, a wedding for the king on this day in 1540 while his former advisor suffered on the scaffold.

On this day in Tudor history, 28th July 1540, the same day that Henry VIII married Catherine Howard, the king’s former chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, the man who had negotiated Henry’s previous marriage to Anne of Cleves, was executed on Tower Hill having been found guilty by a bill of attainder of the crimes of corruption, heresy and treason.

Chronicler Edward Hall recounts his execution:
“And the. xxviii. daie of luly was brought to the skaffold on the tower hill, where he saied these wordes folowyng.
I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should so do, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe condempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I haue had yeres of discrecion, I haue liued a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgeuenes. And it is not vnknowne to many of you, that I haue been a great traueler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came therunto, I haue offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgeuenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeue me. O father forgeue me. O sonne forgeue me, O holy Ghost forgeue me: O thre persons in one God forgeue me.
And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche. Many hath selaundered me, and reported that I haue been a bearer, of suche as hath mainteigned euill opinions, whiche is vntrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct vs in the truthe, so the deuill is redy to seduce vs, and I haue been seduced: but beare me witness that I dye in the Catholicke faithe of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long liue with you, in healthe and prosperitie. And after him that his sone prince Edward, that goodly ympe, maie log reigne ouer you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I wauer nothyng in my faithe. And then made he his praier, whiche was long, but not so. long, as bothe Godly and learned, and after committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very vngoodly perfourmed the Office.”

This Tudor statesman, who had served King Henry VIII faithfully for many years, had an awful end, his execution being botched by a “butcherly” executioner who took a few strokes to finish him off.

Thomas Cromwell had been arrested at a Privy Council meeting at Westminster on 10th June 1540, accused of being a traitor. He wrote to his master, King Henry VIII, from his prison in the Tower of London pleading his innocence and begging for mercy, but his pleas were ignored. According to Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador, writing to the Duke of Montmorency in March 1541, Henry VIII later regretted Cromwell’s execution, blaming it all on his Privy Council, saying that “on the pretext of several trivial faults he [Cromwell] had committed, they had made several false accusations which had resulted in him killing the most faithful servant he had ever had.”
Cromwell was not the only man executed that day on Tower Hill, he was followed on to the scaffold by his client, Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, who has gone down in history as the only man to be executed for the crime of “treason of boggery” (buggery) in the Tudor period. He was also charged with treason and using magic. Both men’s heads were displayed on London Bridge.

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