March 31, 1536 – A Far-Reaching Conversation

Chapuys speaking to James Frain’s Cromwell (from Showtimes’ The Tudors)

On April 1, Eustace Chapuys wrote a long, newsy letter to Charles V reporting what was going on at the English court. The most interesting bit recounted a conversation he’d had with Thomas Cromwell the day before (which is why I’m posting this today).

A bit of context before I reveal the letter: shortly before taking the first clear steps towards the destruction of Anne Boleyn, Cromwell made overtures to Spain. And these overtures were facilitated by the relationship he had with Chapuys – one in which the two faithful servants were able to balance personal friendships with political differences to the advantage of both.

This was an iconic conversation, emblematic of the intrigue and deceit of the Tudor court – and giving a major clue as to what is to happen. Chapuys starts hinting about the possibility of a new Queen – and while Cromwell responds that the King will remain in his present marriage, he says it in a way designed to let Chapuys know he is lying. And he reassures Chapuys on the most important point – if the King did marry again it would not be a French princess. Based on this conversation, the two men understood that they were in agreement, and that England and Spain would soon be close again as soon as Anne Boleyn presented no impediment to friendship. The only thing missing was how this would happen…

I told Cromwell that I had for some time forborne to visit him that he might not incur suspicion of his mistress for the talk he had previously held with me, well remembering that he had previously told me she would like to see his head cut off. This I could not forget for the love I bore him; and I could not but wish him a more gracious mistress, and one more grateful for the inestimable services he had done the King, and that he must beware of enraging her, else he must never expect perfect reconciliation; in which case I hoped he would see to it better than did the Cardinal, as I had great belief in his dexterity and prudence; and if it was true, what I had heard, that the King was treating for a new marriage, it would be the way to avoid much evil, and be very much for the advantage of his master, who had been hitherto disappointed of male issue, and who knows quite well, several reasons which he might sufficiently understand; and that although a more lawful marriage should follow, and male issue from it would be to the prejudice of the Princess, yet the affection I bore to the honor and tranquility of the King and kingdom, and towards him particularly, made me desire another mistress, not for hatred that I bore to this one, who had never done me any harm. Cromwell appeared to take all this in good part, and said that it was only now that he had known the frailty of human affairs, especially of those of the Court, of which he had before his eyes several examples that might be called domestic, and he always laid his account that if fate fell upon him as upon his predecessors he would arm himself with patience, and leave the rest to God; and that it was quite true, as I said, that he must rely upon God’s help not to fall into mischief. He then began to defend himself, saying he had never been cause of this marriage, although, seeing the King determined upon it, he had smoothed the way, and that notwithstanding that the King was still inclined to pay attention to ladies, yet he believed he would henceforth live honorably and chastely, continuing in his marriage. This he said so coldly as to make me suspect the contrary, especially as he said so, not knowing what countenance to put on. He leaned against the window in which we were, putting his hand before his mouth to avoid smiling or to conceal it, saying afterwards that the French might be assured of one thing, that if the King his master were to take another wife, he would not seek for her among them. He then said that when an answer came from your Majesty upon the subject of our communication we should discuss everything and do some good work.

PS – remember how I mentioned this was a long, newsy letter? This is also where Chapuys tells Charles how Jane Seymour refused the offer of a purse of sovereigns, and was given Cromwell’s apartments (so that the King could visit her in secret). Lot’s of great stuff in there!

Want to read all of it? Here you go:

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December 9, 1539 – Gregory Cromwell Writes to His Wife

Elizabeth Seymour (probably), by Hans Holbein the Younger (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s is a bit of a feel-good post. While Jane Seymour was Queen, Thomas Cromwell managed to create a brilliant familial link to his sovereign – he had his son Gregory Cromwell marry Jane’s sister Elizabeth. While Jane’s death tempered the political benefits of the alliance, it was still a very successful marriage. We can see glimpses of their closeness in this letter that Gregory sent to his wife in December 1539 – while he was off in Calais to welcome Anne of Cleves. Back when this fourth marriage of Henry’s showed incredible promise.

Gregory doesn’t say much, even remarks that she will probably have heard his news before she reads his letter. He really seems to be writing just to make a sweet connection with his “bedfellow”…


The day before the making hereof we received the just news of my lady Anne’s repair hither the same being appointed upon Thursday next coming; which thing, although it be now news, yet I fear that lack of expedition in the conveyance of these my letters shall be occasion the same to be old before they shall be of you received, forasmuch as such news are more swiftly set abroad by tongues than writing. It is determined that she shall remain here Friday and Saturday all day, and upon Sunday, wind and weather serving, take her passage into England. After she once entereth the English pale but she and her whole train shall be at the King’s charge. Hitherto she hath been at her own. There are in her company three hundred horses, whereof one hundred rideth before for provision, and two hundred wait upon her. My lord deputy, with all the spears and officers of the town, shall receive her at the English pale; my lord admiral, with all us accompanying him, a little without the town; my lady Lisle, with all the other ladies and gentlewomen, at the town gates.

I am, thanks be to God, in good health, trusting shortly to hear from you like news, as well of yourself as also my little boys, of whose increase and torwardness be you assured I am not a little  desirous to be advertised And thus, not having any other news to write, I bid you most heartily well to fare.

At Calais the 9th of December. Your loving bedfellow,

Gregory Cromwell


RESOURCES: Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, by Mary Anne Everett Wood

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October 1537 – Henry is Ready to Marry Again…

Wolfe Morris as Thomas Cromwell in BBC's The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Wolfe Morris as Thomas Cromwell in BBC’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

Jane Seymour died on October 24, 1537, after giving Henry the son he had craved for so long.  At least two weeks before her funeral (held November 12), he was already thinking of his next wife: we have the letter, dated only “October,” in which Cromwell announces the death of the Queen – and instructs England’s representatives in France to open discussions with the French king.

This is one of those jaw-dropping scenes that The Six Wives of Henry VIII handled so well. Norfolk and Edward Seymour rolling shocked eyes when the cynical Cromwell starts to talk marriage with the King with Jane Seymour’s lifeless body behind them in the room – and Norfolk and Seymour standing open-mouthed when Henry responds with the physical requirements that are important to him (“I’m big in person, I need a big wife”). The actual letter (well, the summary reflected in Letters and Papers) is equally chilling:

They are to announce to Francis that though the Prince is well and “sucketh like a child of his puissance,” the Queen, by the neglect of those about her who suffered her to take cold and eat such things as her fantasy in sickness called for, is dead. The King, though he takes this chance reasonably, is little disposed to marry again, but some of his Council have thought it meet for us to urge him to it for the sake of his realm, and he has “framed his mind, both to be indifferent to the thing and to the election of any person from any part that with deliberation shall be thought meet.” Two persons in France might be thought on, viz., the French king’s daughter (said to be not the meetest) and Madame de Longueville, of whose qualities you are to inquire, and also on what terms the King of Scots stands with either of them. Lord William must not return without ascertaining this, but the inquiry must be kept secret.


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August 3, 1537 – Elizabeth Seymour Marries Gregory Cromwell

"Portrait of an Unknown Woman," said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“Portrait of an Unknown Woman,” said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In March 1537, Jane Seymour’s sister Elizabeth, a widow in a somewhat impoverished state, had written to Thomas Cromwell hoping to be considered for an award of lands from one of the dissolved abbeys. Instead, Cromwell took advantage of the opportunity to propose that she marry his only son and heir, Gregory. For Cromwell, this would be a huge step – he would be related to the King (not directly, more like an uncle-in-law, but the guys was a blacksmith’s son for goodness’ sake!). With Elizabeth’s consent, he worked out the terms with his good friend Edward Seymour and by June everything had been agreed.

Cromwell set his soon-to-be daughter-in-law up at Leeds Castle in Kent pending the wedding. She wrote him the following letter from there, making it clear that she had been well-educated (which is interesting to note since the lack of letters from Jane Seymour suggested to some historians that she might have been illiterate – this would argue against that conclusion). Without further ado, a charming missive from a bride-to-be to her powerful new father-in-law:

To the right honorable and my singular good lord, the Lord Privy Seal:

In most humble wise, as your assured poor beadwoman, I cannot render unto your lordship the manifold thanks that I have cause, not only for your great pain taken to devise for my surety and health but also for your liberal token to me, sent by your servant master Worsley; and farther, which doth comfort me most in the world that I find your lordship is contented with me, and that you will be my good lord and father: the which, I trust, never to deserve other but rather to give cause for the continuance of the same. Pleaseth it your lordship, because I would make unto you some direct answer, I have bene so bold to be thus long ere I have written unto you. And where it hath pleased your lordship as well to put me in choice of your own house as others, I most humbly thank you; and to eschew all sayings, I am very loth to change the place where I now am, and where my brother my lord’s house shall remove, the which, if such need e, shall be at one Ambrose Wellose, a quarter of a mile from your lordship’s place, as master Worsely can inform your lordship more plainly thereof. And where it hath pleased your lordship to give me leave, and also commandeth me, if I want, to send to you, and that I may be bold to open my heart, I ensure your lordship my heart hath been a great time in such trust; and now this letter from you, with that I find in it, doth me more pleasure than any earthly good for my trust is now only in you, and if I have any need I shall obey your lordship’s commandment herein. And thus I shall daily pray unto God for the preservation of your lordship most prosperously in health to continue. Amen.

Prayeth your humble daughter-in-law,

Elizabeth Ughtred

A quick note: we have letters from many great Tudor ladies in which they refer to themselves as “beadwomen,” often at the same time as they refer to themselves as friends and servants. While I cannot find a firm reference, the context suggests that the “beads” refer to the rosary so that they were assuring their recipients that they were praying for them. If anyone has any information about this, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below!


Letters: Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Vol. II, by Mary Anne Everett Wood – Chiefly from the originals in the State Paper Office, The Tower of London, The British Museum and other State Archives (Volume 2)


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May 14, 1536 – Cromwell Informs Gardiner of Recent Events (AKA “Spin in Tudor Times”)

Thomas Cromwell, as played by James Frain in Showtime's The Tudors

Thomas Cromwell, as played by James Frain in Showtime’s The Tudors

So just about everything we know about the fall of Anne Boleyn comes from people who didn’t actually KNOW but were just repeating stories. But on May 14, Cromwell wrote a letter to Gardiner and Wallop, the King’s ambassadors in France, to let them know what was going on. He knew they had heard the rumors, but it was time to give them the “official” version. They had written to the King, they were owed a response, this would be it.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much. The letter is most interesting in that it speaks a lot about the discovery process but deliberately makes short shrift of the facts: “I write no particularities, the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard, and therefore I doubt not but that this shall be sufficient…” I’m going to guess Cromwell was being prudent and practical (perhaps even still hoping to add additional charges!) rather than avoiding the subject out of guilt and shame. Either way, he simply cites the Queen’s “abominations” and a plot against the King’s life, and then with those necessities out of the way, moves quickly on to financial issues – settling money owed to Gardiner and to Wallop, which would soon be paid to them – and assuring them that the King thinks they are doing a fine job.

It really feels like, for Cromwell, everything was just business.


I know you have not as yet received answer to your letters: they were deferred until the arrival of the bailly of Troyes. Yet the King’s Highness thought convenient that I should inform you of a scheme that was most detestably and abominably devised, contrived imagined, done and countenanced – and so most happily and graciously by the ordinance of God revealed, manifested, and notoriously known to all men. You have surely heard the rumor, yet I shall express unto you some pain of the coming out and of the King’s proceeding in the same. The Queen’s abomination, both in incontinent living and other offenses towards the King’s Highness, was so rank and common that her ladies of her privy chamber and her chamberers could not contain it within their breasts (conceal it). Their disgust led to such frequent communications and conference of it that at the last it came plainly to the ears of some of His Grace’s counsel. Given their duty to his Majesty, they could not conceal it from him: with great fear, they declared what they had unto his Highness. Whereupon in most secret sort, certain persons of the privy chamber and others of her side were examined, in which examination the matter appeared so evident, that beside the crime, with the accident, there broke out a certain conspiracy of the King’s death which extended so far that all we that had examination of it quaked at the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave Him laude and praise that He had rescued him so long from it and now manifested the most wretched and detestable determination of the same. Thus were certain men admitted to the Tower for this cause, that is Mark and Norris, and her brother. Then was she apprehended and conveyed to the same place, and after her were sent thither Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton. Norris, Weston, Brereton and Mark are already condemned to death, having been upon arraigned in Westminster Hall on Friday last. She and her brother shall be arraigned tomorrow, and will undoubtedly go the same way. I write no particularities, the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard, and therefore I doubt not but that this shall be sufficient for your instruction to declare the truth if you have occasion so to do.

Your lordship shall receive 200£ of the 300£ that were out among these men, notwithstanding great suit has been made for the whole, which though the King’s Highness might give in this case yet His Majesty does not forget your service. And the third 100£ is bestowed of the Vicar of Hell (Francis Bryon), upon whom though it be some charge unto you His Highness trusteth ye will think it well bestowed. And thus fare you most heartily well.

From the Rolls in haste this fourteenth of May. Your loving assured friend, Thomas Cromwell

PS – And you Master Wallop shall not be forgotten. The certainty of the amount that ye shall have I cannot tell, but in the next letters you shall know it. I assure you the King’s Highness taketh both your services in as thankful part as you could wish or devise.


Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Volume 2,  edited by Roger Bigelow Merriman


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April 30, 1536 – Henry and Cromwell Writes to Gardiner About…Not That

Signature of Henry VIII (via Open Government License from the National Archives)

Signature of Henry VIII (via Open Government License from the National Archives)

On April 30, 1536, Henry VIII wrote to Stephen Gardiner, who was then serving as England’s ambassador to Francis I. The letter was a general set of instructions on certain diplomatic points that had been in issue between the two countries. Cromwell even sent a cover note, and enclosed cramp rings that Queen Anne would have blessed a couple of weeks ago right before Easter. The letters are completely innocuous (though they are an important part of moving forward in negotiations). So why do they deserve a mention?

It’s all about what they didn’t say. These letters were written and sent on the very day Mark Smeaton was arrested – the day before the May Day Joust where Henry walked away from Anne forever. An interesting PS was added to Henry’s instructions:

P.S.—Though this packet was made up this morning, and delivered to Thos. Barnaby, it has been delayed on account of the French ambassador signifying a wish for an audience. He has told the King that the French king was sending the bailly of Troyes to England “to open unto us the bottom of his heart,” and that he was commanded meanwhile to remove certain sinister opinions entertained of his proceedings; insisting that he had made no peace with the Emperor, and that, as he was informed for certain, that the Emperor and the bishop of Rome had determined upon summoning a General Council at Mantua at Whitsuntide come twelve months, he desired to know Henry’s resolution. The King replied that the matter was too weighty to be hastily disposed of, but that he considered, first, that all Christian princes had as good a right and an equal voice in the indiction of a General Council as either the Pope or the Emperor, and that no such council ought to be summoned without the consent of all; secondly, that though Henry thought it very necessary for the quiet of Christendom to have a Christian free General Council, his good brother would agree that Mantua was a most objectionable place, and most unsafe for princes to repair to.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I see these letters as Henry and Cromwell clearing the decks before the storm. These missives, sent at the last possible moment, would be sent out to smooth over all simmering controversies – so that when the French King (and everyone else) heard the news of Anne’s arrest, it would all blow over easily since no one would be worried about what that meant to them.

The next missive to Gardiner was not sent until May 14 – after the convictions of Brereton, Norris, Weston, and Smeaton but the day before the trials of Anne and George. It is interesting that no letters in this interim were recorded from Marillac (France’s ambassador to England) – while Chapuys informed the Emperor of the spate of arrests on May 2. I have to see this as part of Cromwell’s astute observations and careful planning…


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March 5, 1549 – Bill of Attainder Against Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour, by Nicolas Denisot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Seymour, by Nicolas Denisot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

March 5, 1549 was the day Thomas Seymour realized his life was over, the day that a parliamentary bill of attainder declared him guilty of 33 counts of treason and sentenced him to death.

Wikipedia gives such a dispassionate description of what the bill of attainder (also referred to as the act of attainder) represents. They call it “an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them, often without a trial…. Bills of attainder were passed in England between about 1300 and 1800 and resulted in the executions of a number of notable historical figures.

Luminarium adds more judgment: “[I]n the reign of Henry VIII they were much used, through a subservient parliament, to punish those who had incurred the king’s displeasure; many distinguished victims who could not have been charged with any offence under the existing laws being by this means disposed of.”

Yep. Think of Thomas Cromwell when you read that. Both for starting the widespread use of attainder in the first place as well as for ending up as one of its victims.

Though truth be told, in an age where simply displeasing the sovereign could be construed as treason, most cases simply had no hope of defense even for behavior that was not technically so. After all, for Catherine Howard and Jane Rochford laws were retroactively changed to ensure their deaths (in Catherine’s case, to make it treason for a non-virgin to marry the King in Rochford’s case, to remove insanity as an impediment to execution).

And we know that a defense makes no difference. Anne Boleyn got a trial and the opportunity to defend herself, but was still unanimously convicted. Her brother, George, put on such a good defense that the wagering favored an acquittal – and was also unanimously convicted. (I believe the only reason they weren’t convicted by act of attainder was to ensure that all doubts were removed from the equation. I see this as the ultimate proof of Anne’s innocence.)

But back to Tom Seymour. In another blog post (here), I describe his crime: breaking into a sleeping Edward VI’s bedchamber in the middle of the night and killing his dog. There really would have been no way to defend that, especially given his erratic and dangerous conduct since the death of Katherine Parr – and the implication that he had killed her. Attainder was merely the convenient approach – convenient, but still relatively thorough, since the bill was passed by the Lords and Commons rather than just the Star Chamber (a small group of noblemen).

Upon the bill’s approval, Tom was stripped of his property and titles. His daughter, Mary, was placed in the care of the Duchess of Suffolk – who didn’t really want her (Mary was penniless but as the daughter of a dowager queen required expensive protocols). That’s another blog post…here, if you’re interested.

January 1, 1540 – Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves Meet Privately at Rochester

Elvi Hale as Anne of Cleves, from The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The official meeting between the King and his new bride was scheduled for January 3, 1540, at Greenwich, but Henry VIII was far too much of a romantic for this – he wanted to “nourish love.” Spoiler alert (as if we needed one!) – this really didn’t go well…

There are a number of stories that are told about this meeting. The chroniclers all agree that the King’s “face fell” when he first saw her, and that he was so disappointed that he forgot to give her the presents he had brought her. They also all agree that the King began immediately to make inquiries about avoiding the marriage. But it is stories about what happened in the room that are the fun ones.

EnglishHistory.Net presents a contemporary account said to be by Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys:

And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king’s grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognized, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed here a token which the king had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window…. and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence…. and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king’s majesty, and his grace saluted her again, and they talked together lovingly, and afterwards he took her by the hand and led her to another chamber where their graces amused themselves that night and on Friday until the afternoon.

Antonia Fraser gives a slightly different version, taken from John Strype (Ecclesiastical Memorials…of the Church of England under Henry VIII). It’s the one that was used in the Six Wives of Henry VIII presented back in the 1970s. The Anne of Cleves episode, written by Jean Morris, was particularly brilliant. It opens with the marriage negotiations, showing us a king who looks much older than the one who married Jane Seymour – it’s the king that most people think of when they hear “Henry VIII” (these later years are really the ones that show Keith Mitchell’s greatness). Then we switch to Cleves, where Anne is about to have her famous portrait painted. We are given a key contextual point and learn that Anne has been told – and obviously believes – that Henry is “the handsomest and most courtly king ever born.” We also are given to understand that Hans Holbein was personally captivated by Anne of Cleves – perhaps because he met her when she was wearing simple clothes with her shoulders showing – and that Anne is surprised to hear herself called beautiful …

Then we get to the best part. Henry – in pain after a good hunt, learns that his bride-to-be is on English soil, and his romantic nature takes over. Rather than waiting for the official meeting scheduled for three  days, hence, he calls for “Clothes, clothes fit for the bridegroom,” checks on the gifts he has chosen for her, and grabs some chicken legs. While he is eating, his mouth full and his chin greasy, he comes up with his plan. “We will say that I am a messenger sent by the King. She receives me. When we are alone, I reveal myself. Not the King, but the lover. The ardent lover who can wait no longer.”

They ride the 30 miles to Rochester, and get there a bit late – when Anne would not be dressed to receive visitors (but not quite in her shift yet). He is admitted to her chamber as a messenger – a larger than life messenger covered by a plain, coarse cloak. And snickering every other line.

“So, this is to be the Queen of England, eh?” he says and kneels, awkwardly to kiss her hand.

“His Majesty has sent you, sir?

“Ya,” he snickers in “German.” 

“That was most kind.” She pauses, and looks at him. “I see the journey has tired you.”

Henry waves off the concern. “Twice as far would have been nothing, Madam, so long as it was to your side.”

Anne gives a quiet “Ah” (why would she encourage a messenger who was being overly familiar?); Henry continues with his attempts at gallantry.

“And er, does England please you as much as you will please England? The journey, these lodgings, your attendants? Are they all you could wish? One finger lifted, and all England is yours.”

“Everything is most comfortable, thank you.”

He gives another of his wheezy snickers. “And while we hear your views on England we will take a cup of wine with you.” The servant comes in, has a bit of a hard time not bowing to the King but also not turning his back on him, and Henry just pushes him with an “Oh go on, get out.”

Then Henry looks over and sees Anne’s lady, Lottie, still there. “Your woman may leave us as well.”

This clearly does not please Lottie, who sniffs, “Leave her Highness alone, Sir?”

“It’s not manners in Cleves, Mistress,” he starts to rage – then catches himself and calms himself with great effort. “Well, just here, manners are different.”

Lottie agrees (what choice does she have?) but turns to Anne to curtsy and assures her, sotto voce, “I shall be within call, Madame.”

Alone with his new bride, Henry sits and tries again to charm. “Ah, of to be Queen of England. What greater glory could any woman wish? When I was young, what was England then? A little country, disregarded in the councils of the world. Who feared England then, when we signed the treaty of Lille in 1514?”

Anne breaks in. “Thirteen.”


“The treaty of Lille was signed in 1513. October. The 17th

Henry is surprised, and utterly charmed. “Such a pretty thing, to prepare yourself for marriage by familiarizing yourself with your husband’s triumphs.”

Unfortunately, that turns his mind to other things…He sits, and a lecherous look appears on his face. “But there are better ways of pleasing a husband,” he says, patting his knee.

Anne pulls her dressing gown close around her and turns away. “I am not dressed to receive visitors so late at night.”

Henry ignores the dismissal and presses on. “That’s a mighty pretty piece of silk but nothing so fine as what it covers.”

That really gets her. She turns around, furious, and snaps. “Sir. This is too much. If the King were here himself…”

“But he is,” interrupts Henry.

Anne, still not getting it, looks around. “Oh? Where?”

“Sweetheart, behold him,” he yells, standing and removing his cloak to reveal a magnificent white doublet glittering with jewels. Anne looks him up and down and falls to her knees in horror.

The image cuts to Cromwell and Cranmer talking about the marriage contract outside the room. They hear an indignant scream from Anne, clearly in reaction to an inappropriate gesture. “My procuring has been successful,” says Cromwell, but then soon after that an annoyed and disgruntled King comes out of the room. A servant extends the tray of sables he had planned for her gifts, and Henry just waves him away. “Oh, tomorrow. Let a servant bring them tomorrow.”

Then he looks at Cromwell to delivers his famous lines. “I am ashamed that men have so praised the princess. I like her not.”

Again, not a good first date…


Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII and  John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials…of the Church of England under Henry VIII

Marilee Hanson, The First Meeting of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII (EnglishHistory.Net)

The Six Wives of Henry VIII series!

My other posts on the topic (including the description of their official meeting that did take place as planned on January 3) – check out the Anne of Cleves line of tags!

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August 8, 1540 – Marriage to Catherine Howard Made Public

Chapel  Royal at  Hampton Court Palace, aquatint engraving by w. H. Pyne published as plate 33 of The History of the Royal Residences; via Wikimedia Commons

Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, aquatint engraving by w. H. Pyne published as plate 33 of The History of the Royal Residences; via Wikimedia Commons

Henry VIII married Catherine Howard on July 28 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey. The wedding, officiated by Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, took place only nineteen days after the dissolution of the King’s marriage to Anne of Cleves – and on the same day as the execution of Thomas Cromwell, whose lands were awarded to Catherine as part of her marriage portion. Whether for these reasons, or purely personal ones, this new union was kept quiet for a time.

It was finally announced as most of the King’s other marriages had been: by having the bride “shown openly” at court and prayed for at mass around the country. As with Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, the King chose to attend the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court (for Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves, he used Greenwich Palace). There were no reports of people walking out during the mass (that happened the Sunday when people were suddenly asked to pray for “the King and his wife, Queen Anne” rather than “the King and his wife, Queen Catherine”) but there were quiet grumblings – the English people vastly preferred Anne of Cleves as a proper queen for their king rather than this new young thing though they were not prepared to fight for the idea.

After the announcement, the couple left on a honeymoon progress – an extended hunting trip through Surrey into Berkshire. They stayed at Reading before moving north to Ewelme, Rycote, Notley, Buckingham, and Grafton. On the way back down, they spent some time at the Moore with members of his council (requiring letters and papers to be carefully described as emanating from or addressed to the “Council at Court” or the “Council in London”). During the progress, the King adopted a new rule of living (the French ambassador guessed that it was to lose weight), rising between 5 and 6, hearing mass at 7, riding out early to hunt, then returning at 10 for dinner and business all afternoon. By the time the court returned to Windsor in October, the King claimed to be “a new man” and that his leg had stopped paining him. Unfortunately for Henry, this new condition wouldn’t last long….


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July 28, 1540 – Thomas Cromwell Executed

July 28, 1540 - Thomas Cromwell executed. Sad day for England. Read more on

James Frain as Thomas Cromwell in Showtime’s The Tudors

This was the end of an era. Incredibly, Thomas Cromwell was executed on this day. There is an old saying on Wall Street, “you’re only as good as your last trade.” This certainly was Cromwell’s problem.

Think about it. Henry worked unsuccessfully for seven years to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon – until Cromwell came along and created the Church of England. Henry was broke from all his profligate ways, until Cromwell came up with the idea of dissolving the abbeys. Finally, when Henry tired of his second wife, Cromwell came up with a way to dispose of her and blame her for all the country’s ills. For that kind of loyal and unfailing service, he should have been safe for life.

But then Spain and France forged an alliance that left England out in the cold. And Thomas Cromwell suggested that England’s best defense would be an alliance with the German league. Politically, he was right, but he failed to consider that the King had lost the habit (if he ever had it) of political marriages. When Henry took an immediate dislike to Anne of Cleves, it was too easy for him to believe that Cromwell had sacrificed him to his dreams of reform. All of a sudden, all of Cromwell’s accomplishments were recast through this selfish lens.

Normally, that should not have been fatal – except that Cromwell had made a permanent enemy of the Duke of Norfolk. Had Henry fallen in love with someone other than the old Duke’s niece, Cromwell would likely have been safe. But Norfolk used his increased access to the King to move Cromwell aside. Permanently.

Interestingly, Cromwell was the one person Henry executed that he openly regretted. Henry realized after the fact that he’d been manipulated. A bit too late for Thomas Cromwell…



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