Archive for Tudors

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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21 March 1556 – Thomas Cranmer

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , , , , , on March 21 by Old Sparky

Thomas CranmerThomas Cranmer was a wily old dog. He was pretty in touch with the changing world under the Tudors…that is until his luck finally ran dry. Cranmer was executed on this day in 1556, for his support of Lady Jane Grey against Mary I.

Why was he supportive? Well Cranmer had committed his life to freeing England from the iron grip of Catholicism, after he’d become a Lutheran convert during a stint in Germany.

Essex boy

Having gained a fellowship in Cambridge, Cranmer married a pub landlord’s daughter, who sadly died in childbirth so he entered the priesthood just as the plague forced him to flee to Essex, where he was thrown into the path of Henry VIII.

At the time, Henry was hell-bent on extricating himself from a marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so he could legally jump the bones of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Cranmer said ok, and headed up an envoy to the then head of the English church – the Pope.

Rising star

However, divorce was a dirty word to the Catholics and his mission was denied but as Cranmer had impressed the Roman emperor, he was made a special envoy instead.

Little did the Catholics know he’d married again, otherwise he’d have been barred, but what they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them and the savvy clergyman bided his time and was finally made archbishop of Canterbury.

Then bam, he quickly annulled Henry’s first marriage and, after that, the reforms came thick and fast. England broke away from Rome, Henry was declared head of the English Church and Cranmer flourished. He even helped to translate the Bible into English, writing verses that are still in use today as well as co-writing the Book of Common Prayer.

Grey matter

All was rosy until Henry’s successor – the sickly Edward VI – passed away. Lady Jane Grey’s father-in-law tried to dismiss Mary I and install Grey on the throne in a move Cranmer heartily supported as the only other option was (staunch Catholic) Mary.

Mary I won and gleefully, one of her first victims was Cranmer – maybe in part due to the role he played in her mother’s divorce. At first he was tried for treason for his support of the Grey plot, but Mary deviously absolved him of guilt as she had bigger plans for Cranmer…and those included a heresy charge.

Of course the sentence was the same, so what was the big deal?

Well, maybe Mary wanted him to decry Protestantism and maybe the new queen was so committed to reinstating the Catholic Church that she would do all in her power to get key players to denounce the newfangled church. But first she had to get the backing of the nation and that wasn’t going to be easy because they seemed to like new church. After all, for once everyone could understand the prayers and could join in the services.

Right and wrongs

Cranmer, as a key advocate of the Church of England, was publicly tried and forced to denounce his support of Protestantism, yet despite this he was still sentenced to death.

The ex-archbishop was burned at the stake in Oxford and, as the legend goes, the 65-year-old is said to have theatrically thrust his right hand – the one that had signed his name to the anti-Protestant claims – into the flames. His death and others like him (such as Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, who are all honoured by a stone monument at one end of Giles Street) earned the queen the insalubrious soubriquet, Bloody Mary.

Talking of popular titles, it’s said that the nursery rhyme ‘Three Blind Mice’ is based on the three priests, according to Albert Jack in his book ‘Pop Goes the Weasel: the Secret Meaning of Nursery Rhymes.

Also on this day

21 March 2008 (and every Good Friday) – Devout Catholics in the Philippines re-enact the crucifixion of Christ. Some are actually nailed to crosses. No-one dies though.
21 March 1804 – Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d’Enghien
21 March 1817 – Ann Statham
21 March 1901 – Herbert Bennett

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