Cromwell’s Botched Execution


Thomas Cromwell (1485 – 28 July 1540), was an English lawyer and statesman who served a principal secretary and chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, after holding numerous offices in the King’s service

Cromwell’s downfall started after the death of the king’s third wife, Jane Seymour, in 1537, a few days after the birth of her only child, the King’s longed-for son, the future Edward VI.
Searching for a fourth wife for Henry, Cromwell found a new bride, Anne of Cleves, a German princess who would bring England a powerful new alliance.
Before agreeing to the idea Henry dispatched Hans Holbein the Younger to paint her portrait. He provided a very flattering portrait of the woman, which may have deceived the king.
When Anne arrived in England in December 1539 and Henry met her in person, he was shocked by her plain appearance
“I like her not! I like her not!‘ he shouted, complaining that Anne was “nothing so well as she was spoken of”.
However, the wedding ceremony took place but the marriage was not consummated. Henry said that he found it impossible to enjoy conjugal relations with a woman he found so unattractive.

Cromwell’s tenure as the King’s right-hand man was nearing its end.
The King’s anger and the change in the European balance of power gave Cromwell’s conservative opponents, most notably the Duke of Norfolk, the opportunity they had been hoping for and Catherine Howard, Norfolk’s niece, was soon considerately put in the king’s way
It would have been simple for Cromwell to arrange an annulment of Henry’s marriage, but this would allow Catherine to marry the king, causing Cromwell great danger.

In April 1540, just three months before he went to the scaffold, he was created Earl of Essex and Lord Great Chamberlain. This infuriated his enemies, determined to get rid of this low-born minister. They started a whispering campaign against Cromwell and told Henry that he was plotting against him.
It took little to ignite the King’s arbitrary and unpredictable character, and he did not hesitate to order Cromwell’s arrest on multiple charges. including treason and heresy.
He was taken to the Tower on 10 June 1540 and condemned to death without trial.

His only chance of survival was to persuade Henry to pardon him. Therefore, he wrote a series of ardent letters from the Tower, the last of which ended with a desperate postscript: “Most gracious prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy.”

He was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540; on the same day Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

The execution was particularly bloody and painful.
On the scaffold, Cromwell made a prayer and a speech professing to die, “in the traditional faith” and denying he had aided heretics. He then committed his soul to God,
and begged the headsman, “Pray, if possible, cut off the head with one blow, so that I may not suffer much.
Yet, the executioner had a great deal of difficulty severing his head.
Chronicler Edward Hall wrote that Cromwell “ so patiently suffered the strokes of the axe by the hands of a ragged Boocherly miser who very ungoodly perfourmed the Office”
Other accounts underline that more than one blow were necessary, and that “two executioners were chopping the Lord Cromwell’s neck and head for nearly half an hour”
Afterwards, his head was set on a spike on London Bridge

L’esecuzione raffazzonata di Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell (1485 – 28 luglio 1540), avvocato e statista inglese, fu segretario e primo ministro del re Enrico VIII dal 1534 al 1540, dopo aver ricoperto numerosi altri incarichi al servizio del re

La caduta di Cromwell iniziò dopo la morte della terza moglie di Enrico, Jane Seymour, nel 1537, pochi giorni dopo la nascita del figlio, l’agognato figlio maschio del re, il futuro Edoardo VI.
Alla ricerca di una quarta moglie per Enrico, Cromwell trovò una nuova sposa, Anne of Cleves, una principessa tedesca che avrebbe portato all’Inghilterra una nuova potente alleanza.
Prima di accettare l’idea, il re inviò Hans Holbein il Giovane a dipingerne il ritratto.Il pittore fornì un ritratto troppo lusinghiero della donna, che trasse in inganno il re.
Quando Anne arrivò in Inghilterra nel dicembre 1539 ed Enrico la incontrò di persona, rimase scioccato dal suo aspetto.
“Non mi piace! Non mi piace!’ gridò, lamentandosi che Anne non era affatto bella come gli era stato detto .
Tuttavia, la cerimonia nuziale ebbe luogo ma il matrimonio non fu mai consumato. Il re si giustificò dicendo che gli era impossibile avere rapporti coniugali con una donna che trovava così poco attraente.

La posizione di Cromwell come braccio destro del re si stava avviando alla fine.
La rabbia del re e il cambiamento nell’equilibrio di potere europeo diedero agli oppositori di Cromwell, in particolare il duca di Norfolk, l’opportunità in cui speravano da tempo e la nipote di Norfolk, Catherine Howard, fu presto premurosamente messa sul cammino del re-
Sarebbe stato semplice per Cromwell organizzare l’annullamento del precedente matrimonio, ma ciò avrebbe permesso a Catherine di sposare il re, causando a Cromwell un grande pericolo.

Nell’aprile del 1540, appena tre mesi prima di salire sul patibolo, fu creato Conte di Essex e Lord Gran Ciambellano. Questo fece infuriare i suoi nemici, decisi a sbarazzarsi di quest’uomo di bassa estrazione sociale. Iniziarono allora una campagna di dicerie contro Cromwell e convincendo il re che il suo ministro stesse complottando contro di lui.
Ci volle poco per far infiammare il carattere arbitrario e imprevedibile del re, che non esitò a ordinare l’arresto di Cromwell con molteplici accuse. compreso il tradimento e l’eresia.
Fu condotto alla Torre il 10 giugno 1540 e condannato a morte senza processo.

La sua unica possibilità di aver salva la vita era di convincere Enrico a perdonarlo. Pertanto, gli scrisse una serie di lettere imploranti dalla Torre, l’ultima delle quali si concludeva con un poscritto disperato: “Principe misericordioso, io grido pietà, pietà, pietà”.

Fu decapitato pubblicamente a Tower Hill il 28 luglio 1540, nello stesso giorno in cui il re sposava la sua quinta moglie, Catherine Howard.

L’esecuzione fu particolarmente cruenta e dolorosa.
Sul patibolo, Cromwell recitò una preghiera e fece un discorso in cui proclamava di morire, “nella fede tradizionale” e negava di aver sostenuto gli eretici. Poi affidò la sua anima a Dio,
e supplicò il boia: “Vi prega, se possibile, tagliatemi la testa con un sol colpo, in modo che io non abbia a soffrire molto”.
Tuttavia, il boia ebbe serie difficoltà a decapitarlo.
Il cronista Edward Hall, suo contemporaneo, scrisse che Cromwell “sopportò pazientemente i colpi d’ascia dalle mani di un lurido macellaio che portò a termine l’incarico molto male”
Altri resoconti sottolineano che fu necessario sferrare più di un colpo e che “due carnefici impiegarono quasi mezz’ora a tagliare il collo e la testa di Lord Cromwell “.
In seguito, la testa venne esposta su un palo sul London Bridge

72 thoughts on “Cromwell’s Botched Execution

  1. Horrible way to die. I wonder if Henry’s VD was starting to play with his mind. I have read that his relationship with Anne of Cleves was more placid after the divorce and he sort of considered her like a sister.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OH THAT POOR MAN. DEAR LORD HENRY WAS SO IMPOSSIBLE JUST COULDN’T PLEASE THAT SLOB .THANKS LUISA , HOPE YOUR COPING ALRIGHTY WITH OUR CRAZY WEATHER, IVE BEEN ON HIGH ALERT DAY AND NIGHT AROUND HERE . SENDING YOU LOVING THOUGHTS. 😘😇👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A fascinating post that brought back memories of how , in another life, I once Played Margaret More, the daughter of Thomas More in a play called A Man for All Seasons, about Henry’s marriage to Anne. And of course, Cromwell was the one busily brokering all of that in that play.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is the gray eminences that influence the powerful.
        By the way, I found out that they are called that way from Père Joseph (François Joseph Leclerc du Tremblay). He was a Capuchin monk whose close collaboration with Cardinal Richelieu earned him the nickname ‘L’Eminence Grise’ (the Grey Eminence, a reference to the colour of his robe).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a fantastic novel-biography descripting Cromwells life: the trilogy WOLF HALL, BRING UP THE BODIES and THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT by Hilary Mantel. Everyone being interested in Cromwells life should read it. Thank you for the interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

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