Archive for Henry VIII

30 July 1540 – Blessed Thomas Abel

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on July 30 by Last Writes

The adage ‘publish and be damned’ was sorely tested in the case of Blessed Thomas Abel.

As Catherine of Aragon’s chaplain and a Catholic, he was naturally anti the 16th-century moves to ditch the Catholic church, in favour of establishing the Protestant Church of England. But, by all accounts, he felt particularly vehement because this step change was aimed primarily at ousting his beloved queen.


‘…by no maner of law it maye be lawfull for the moste noble Kinge of england…to be divorsid fro[m] the quenes grace [sic]’ he wrote in his ‘Invicta Veritas’ treatise condemning Henry VIII’s plan to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Ultimately, the main goal had been to enable Henry to divorce Catherine in order to clear the way for him to marry Anne Boleyn.

Of course, Abel was banged up for putting his thoughts down on paper, but that wasn’t the reason why he lost his life. Let’s just say his card was marked as early as 1532.


Meanwhile, Henry got his way and bagged Boleyn, but the legacy left behind was a new church, with a new leader – the monarch. And, for this reformation to catch hold, all sign of Catholicism had to be stamped out.

While many went underground, Abel seemed unable to contain his ecclesiastical endeavours and he was chucked in jail again, after he lent his covert-ish support to the ‘Maid of Kent’.

Here was a young girl who had divine visions and Abel was considered to be fuelling the religious resurgence by disseminating her prophecies.

The priest was accused of treason and this time kept in the Tower of London until his execution seven years later.

Pain and Abel

As it happens, Abel was dispatched two days after another Thomas – Cromwell to be precise. And like Cromwell it was not a quick job, for the priest was hanged, drawn and quartered. It took place at Smithfield, when he was roughly 43 years of age.

His was part of a job lot with fellow Catholics Edward Powell and Richard Featherstone, while three Protestants were being barbecued on stakes – Robert Barnes, William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard.

Given his death was in defence of the Catholic faith, Abel was blessed alongside Powell and Featherstone. And so the road to martyrdom began and Pope Leo XIII eventually beautified them in 1886.

Also on this day

30 July 1811 – Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor
30 July 1902 – John Bedford
30 July 1901 – Charles Watkins

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28 July 1540 – Thomas Cromwell

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , , , , on July 28 by Last Writes

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell

Like anyone in Henry VIII’s inner circle, your future could never be guaranteed or considered secure. So Thomas Cromwell found out today in 1540.

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.

Main man

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.

Chops away

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.

Also on this day

28 July 1794 – Maximilien Robespierre
28 July 1865 – Edward Pritchard
28 July 1976 – Christian Ranucci
28 July 1826 – Isaac Smith

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12 July 1537 – Robert Aske

Posted in Hanged in chains with tags , , , on July 12 by Last Writes

There have been some prolific executors in history. Take Henry VIII for example. The English king avoided a would-be turbulent reign by bumping off would-be insurgents. As many as 72,000 were prematurely put to death apparently during the Tudor king’s 38-year reign.

One such miscreant was Robert Aske who is said to have played Russian roulette with his death penalty and lost. But more of that later.

Aske no questions

A Yorkshire lawyer by trade, Aske got into politics and was very vocal about his fervent religious opinions. So imagine when a king of England decides to dump the Catholic church in favour of a new church that gave him Almighty powers.

And imagine if that same king was from a bloodline that had just toppled the ruling House of York and grabbed the throne under shady circumstances not two generations before.

Well, the self-respecting Yorkshireman wouldn’t have a bar of it. Aske led from the front in what was termed the Pilgrimage of Grace uprising in 1536. He amassed a small army of around 9,000 men and seized control of York. Soon his support grew to about 40,000.

Henchmen close to the king opened negotiations and they promised a general pardon if Aske got his army to stand down. Amazingly the not-so-wily lawyer believed the promises. And for that, once he’d safely dismissed his army, Aske was captured and promptly had up for treason.

Crimes against the king carried the ultimate penalty – and commoners (as Aske was) would normally have been hanged, drawn and quartered. But some sources claim he opted to be hanged in chains, thinking it would be less painful that being strung up, then having his innards rudely whipped out, before being beheaded and quartered.

But if that’s true, the poor sap overlooked one thing. He’d forfeited a death that was over in less than a half a day for one that was ekeed out over many. For hanging in chains meant slow suffocation, a painstaking death which took days.

Whichever the method he was definitely hanged from the walls of York castle as a lesson to all insurgents and Aske died on this day aged roughly 37.

If you had the unenviable task, which would you choose? Cast your vote in our hypothetical quiz.

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