Fact of the day: 28th July

On this day in 1540 Thomas Cromwell was executed at the order of Henry VIII of England on charges of treason.

Cromwell was one of the strongest advocates of the English Reformation. He helped to engineer an annulment of the king’s marriage to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, in order to allow Henry to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn.

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After failure to obtain approval from the Pope, in 1534 parliament endorsed the king’s claim to be head of a breakaway Church of England.

Cromwell subsequently plotted an evangelical, reformist course for the embryonic Church of England from the unique posts of vicegerent in spirituals and vicar-general.

During his rise, Cromwell made many enemies, including his former ally Anne Boleyn; he played a prominent role in her downfall.

He later fell from power after arranging the king’s marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves. Cromwell hoped that the marriage would breathe fresh life into the Reformation in England, but it turned into a disaster for Cromwell and ended in annulment just six months later.

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Cromwell was arraigned under a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. The king later expressed regret at the loss of his chief minister.


Fact of the day: 19th July

On this day in 1545 The Tudor warship Mary Rose sunk off Portsmouth; in 1982 the wreck is salvaged in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545.

While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight.

The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.

The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule.

The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961.

The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew.

Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments.

Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.

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Fact of the day: 16th July

On this day in 1557 Anne of Cleves (b. 1515) died.

Anne of Cleves was Queen of England from 6 January 1540 to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII.

The marriage was declared never consummated, and she was not crowned queen consort.

Following the annulment of their marriage, Anne was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King’s Beloved Sister.

She lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry’s wives.

When Anne’s health began to fail, Mary allowed her to live at Chelsea Old Manor, where Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, had lived after her remarriage.

Here, in the middle of July 1557, Anne dictated her last will. In it, she mentions her brother, sister, and sister-in-law, as well as the future Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Suffolk, and the Countess of Arundel.

She left some money to her servants and asked Mary and Elizabeth to employ them in their households. She was remembered by everyone who served her as a particularly generous and easy-going mistress.

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Anne died at Chelsea Old Manor on 16 July 1557, eight weeks before her forty-second birthday. The cause of her death was most likely to have been cancer.

She was buried in Westminster Abbey, on 3 August, in what has been described as a “somewhat hard to find tomb” on the opposite side of Edward the Confessor’s shrine and slightly above eye level for a person of average height. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in the Abbey.

She also has the distinction of being the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die (she outlived Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, by 9 years).

She was not the longest-lived, however, since Catherine of Aragon was 50 at the time of her death and Anne was only 41.

Fact of the day: 10th July

On this day in 1553 Lady Jane Grey took the throne of England.

The King, Edward V, died on 6 July 1553. On 9 July Jane was informed that she was now queen, and according to her own later claims, accepted the crown only with reluctance.

The next day, she was officially proclaimed Queen of England after she had taken up secure residence in the Tower of London, where English monarchs customarily resided from the time of accession until coronation.

Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead.

Northumberland faced a number of key tasks to consolidate his power after Edward’s death.

Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Lady Mary to prevent her from gathering support.

As soon as Mary was sure of King Edward’s demise, she left her residence at Hunsdon and set out to East Anglia, where she began to rally her supporters.

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Northumberland set out from London with troops on 14 July; in his absence the Privy Council switched their allegiance from Jane to Mary, and proclaimed her queen in London on 19 July among great jubilation of the populace.

Jane was imprisoned in the Tower’s Gentleman Gaoler’s apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower.

The new queen entered London in a triumphal procession on 3 August, and the Duke of Northumberland was executed on 22 August 1553.

In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful queen and denounced and revoked Jane’s proclamation as that of a usurper.

Fact of the day: 2nd July

On this day in 1492 Elizabeth Tudor, English daughter of Henry VII of England (d. 1495) was born.

Princess Elizabeth was born on Saturday 2 July 1492 at Sheen Palace in Surrey (later rebuilt by her father as Richmond Palace, the remains of which are now part of Richmond-Upon-Thames, London).

Elizabeth spent much of her short life at the royal nursery of Eltham Palace, Kent, with her brother Prince Henry (the future King Henry VIII) and her sister Princess Margaret (later Queen of Scotland) under the guidance of a Lady Mistress, presided over by her mother.


Elizabeth’s oldest brother, Prince Arthur, as heir to the throne, was brought up separately in his own household.

Just before her death, Henry VII proposed a marriage alliance between Elizabeth and the French Prince, Francis, who later became King Francis I of France.

Princess Elizabeth died on Monday 14 September 1495 after suffering from Atrophy at the age of three years and two months. Elizabeth was brought from Eltham in state and buried on the north side of St. Edward the Confessor’s Shrine in Westminster Abbey on Friday the 27th.

Princess Elizabeth was the first of four of King Henry and Queen Elizabeth’s children to die prematurely and they were greatly affected.

The large sum of £318 was spent on her funeral and Henry erected a small tomb to his daughter in the abbey made from Purbeck and black marble.


On top of the monument is a finely polished slab of black Lydian, upon which were placed inscriptions to Elizabeth and her effigy of copper gilt, both of which are now lost.

Later, Princess Elizabeth’s younger brother Prince Edmund (who died in 1500 at the age of 15 months) and her younger sister Princess Katherine (who died in 1503 shortly after birth) were also laid by her side.

Fact of the day: 11th June

On this day in 1509 Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VII died on the 22 April 1509, and the young Henry succeeded him as king, adopting the regnal name of Henry VIII.

Soon after his father’s burial on 10 May, Henry suddenly declared that he would indeed marry Catherine, leaving unresolved issues concerning the papal dispensation and a missing part of the marriage portion.

The new king maintained that it had been his father’s dying wish that he marry Catherine.  Whether or not this was true, it was certainly convenient.

Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had been attempting to marry his granddaughter (and Catherine’s niece) Eleanor to Henry; she had now been jilted.

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Henry’s wedding to Catherine was kept low-key and was held at the friar’s church in Greenwich on 11 June 1509.

On 23 June 1509, Henry led Catherine from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey for their coronation, which took place the following day.

It was a grand affair: the king’s passage was lined with tapestries and laid with fine cloth. Following the ceremony, there was a grand banquet in Westminster Hall.

As Catherine wrote to her father, “our time is spent in continuous festival.”

Fact of the day: 16th May

On this day in 1532 Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England.

As the conflict over supremacy between the Papacy and the King reached its apogee, More continued to remain steadfast in supporting the supremacy of the Pope as Successor of Peter over that of the King of England.

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In 1530, More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine, and also quarreled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws.

In 1531, Henry had isolated More by purging most clergy who supported the papal stance from senior positions in the church.

In addition, Henry had solidified his denial of the Papacy’s control of England by passing the Statute of Praemunire which forbade appeals to the Roman Curia from England.

Realizing his isolated position, More attempted to resign after being forced to take an oath declaring the King the Supreme Head of the English Church, pursuant to Parliament’s Act of Supremacy of 1534. He tried to limit the oath “as far as the law of Christ allows.”

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Furthermore, the Statute of Praemunire made it a crime to support in public or office the claims of the Papacy.

Thus, he refused to take the oath in the form in which it would renounce all claims of jurisdiction over the Church except the sovereign’s.

Nonetheless, the reputation and influence of More as well as his long relationship with Henry kept his life secure for the time being and he was not relieved of office.

However, with his supporters in court quickly disappearing, in 1532 he asked the King again to relieve him of his office, claiming that he was ill and suffering from sharp chest pains. This time Henry granted his request.