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

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…


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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One thought on “July 28 – Henry VIII gets married while his master secretary is executed”
  1. Henry V111 seemed to enjoy getting married, like a young bride swept away on a tidal wave of euphoria, the excitement of the wedding dress the champagne the gifts…. but maybe that is not being fair on this king, he was no callow youth, no giddy girl unlike his young bride of just seventeen years of age, he was obviously doing it for another son he told himself, and maybe he was but he was also driven by lust over his new wife, he had been married four times and he told himself they had all been disastrous, except for his third who had given him his only male heir, we know he adored his Catherine but she could not have felt the same about him, I feel her family had a lot to do with her union with the king, like the Seymours and the Boleyn’s when the king showed any interest in a family member they encouraged it and offered advice, what to say how to behave it was only normal, all the noble families of the land were ambitious, and the Howard’s especially as they had Plantagenet blood in them, it was Catherine’s cousin the Earl of Surrey who went to the block for daring to display the royal arms of King Edward on the family’s own coat of arms, they were a very proud family, and her uncle the duke must of told Catherine she was worthy to be married to the king, but she was used to men her own age and not very bright ones either, we can assume they were handsome though and marrying an obese man not very mobile and at least thirty two years her senior, could not have sent her into spasms of ecstasy, yet being young she of course enjoyed the accolade of being queen, there is a charming painting of Oakland’s Palace how it looked in Henry V111’s day, built of red brick with courtyards mullioned windows and surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of the Surrey countryside, it was used by the king in his youth when he hunted there and later became the residences of all his children, today in the year 1540 it became the venue for the kings fifth marriage, today people would have called him an old fool and Catherine a gold digger, in a sense they were but Catherine being one of his subjects would have found it well nigh impossible to refuse the kings offer of marriage, you could not say no to your king, Anne Boleyn did but he was not offering her marriage, not initially he was, Catherine had all the pressure of her family on her as well, but she must have found it rather daunting however, she must have reassured herself it would be a giggle, with the optimism of the young and so this ill matched couple plighted their troth amid cheers and laughter, and the wine was washed down at the wedding feast and the king must have hoped that soon Catherine would be pregnant, but over a year later his rosy glow had vanished and he was faced with the awful truth that once again, this marriage was as cursed as the others, his grief and misery show the depth of feeling he had for his fifth wife, and only the coldest of hearts would not feel sympathy for this much married monarch, today also whilst the king and Catherine were being joined together in holy matrimony, his one time faithful servant was led out of his prison in the Tower of London, and butchered to death by a young hapless executioner, Sir Thomas Cromwell who had engineered the fall of Queen Anne Boleyn had now trod the same path of many of his victims, did the king merry as he was on this his wedding day, did he think of his miserable former servant who had written desperately to him pleading for mercy mercy mercy? Possibly not people were expendable to Henry V111, yet he did in time regret his death, Cromwell had extricated him out of many an undesirable situation, and he knew his other ministers were just a rag bag of scoundrels it had been Cromwells intelligence and loyalty that had set him apart from the others, so two events happened today on the 28th July the year of our Lord fifteen hundred and forty, a wedding and a death, the bells of Old St Clements church must have rung for the bride and groom and maybe, for Thomas Cromwell to.

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