The execution of Thomas Cromwell (1540)

Anne of Cleves as portrayed by Holbein in 1539

Anne of Cleves as portrayed (perhaps flatteringly) by Holbein in 1539

Henry VIII as portrayed by Holbein in 1536

Henry VIII as portrayed by Holbein in 1536

July 28th –  On this day in 1540, Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell was beheaded at Tower Hill on trumped-up charges of treason and heresy, having eighteen days earlier been attainted, or  in other words essentially found guilty without trial.  He had finally fallen out of favour, and victim to the sort of court intrigue that to that date he had himself customarily been behind, over his ill-advised choice of Anne of Cleves as the new wife for the King.

The lawyer, politician and chronicler Edward Hall recorded Cromwell’s last words, as follows:

Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Holbein in c1533

Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Holbein in c1533

“I am come hether to dye, …  for …  I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For … I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And …  beyng but of a base degree, …  have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe … .  Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have … mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe … . And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long …  reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe”.

Hall also recorded, as follows:

“[H]e … committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed [botched] the Office [Execution]”.

Plaque marking site of execution on Tower Hill

Plaque marking site of execution on Tower Hill

Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Cromwell's nemesis at court, as portrayed by Holbein

Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Cromwell’s nemesis at court, as portrayed by Holbein

The Tower of London, where Cromwell was executed, is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights”, “Rebellious London”  and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (, or by phone (020-8998-3051).

2 thoughts on “The execution of Thomas Cromwell (1540)

  1. rafterd1972

    Through my years of reading English history I have always had a love/hate relationship with Thomas Cromwell. However, it seems a lame excuse for his execution, but Henry probably jumped on it in order to get rid of Cromwell. Thanks for including his last words.
    I received a copy of your book yesterday. I look forward to reading it.

  2. deliberatelydebbie

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Thomas Cromwell is just one of the many characters that I have become quite fascinated with…love him or hate him, Thomas Cromwell (as far I am concerned) remained a loyal servant to King Henry VIII, but was sadly misunderstood and criticized for his own ideas and personal beliefs…this in turn led to his wrongful conviction. I’m sure many would argue this point but it is merely an opinion I have formed based solely on my interpretations of each documentary and story I have viewed/studied. The ‘Tudor’ era is one complete with conflicts and controversy love and great romance…often ending with great tragedies.


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