28 July 1540 – Thomas Cromwell
A trained lawyer, he managed to earn the stripes necessary to enter Henry Tudor’s advisory council and for a long time he was a close confidante.
Cromwell played a key role in the English Reformation, which saw the break away from Roman Catholicism towards the newly formed Church of England. Of course this was brought about to allow Henry to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon to make way for his next conquest – the doomed Anne Boleyn.
He was on a roll. Almost as soon as Cromwell had helped facilitate Henry’s marriage to Boleyn, he was extricating him from it so the king could bag Jane Seymour.
By 1535, he was supreme judge and in his new capacity as vice-general, he oversaw 13 monasteries being disbanded.
The big hitch
But all these brownie points were wiped out in one fell swoop when he encouraged Henry to marry following the death of Seymour. She’d died just a couple of weeks after bearing Henry’s one and only son and heir.
Cromwell helped mastermind what could have been the coup of the century – the uniting of two Protestant powers to help consolidate the Reformation. There was only one big hitch – Anne of Cleves was no looker and Henry was none too impressed with his ugly, new bride. Others at court picked up on Henry’s dissatisfaction and turned it to their advantage.
Up to that point, many others at court hadn’t got a look in. They all used this mess as an excuse to get him ousted and the ploy worked.
Cromwell was executed at Tower Hill, sadly at the hands of a novice axe-man. Three chops and eventually his head was detached on this day in 1540, aged about 55.