Archive for January 29th, 2008

1547: Not Thomas Howard, because Henry VIII died first

7 comments January 29th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1547, the Duke of Norfolk was to have been beheaded.

But thanks to the previous day’s death of the corpulent 55-year-old King Henry VIII, the duke’s death warrant was never signed, and the condemned noble died in bed … seven years later.

A force in the gore-soaked arena of English politics for two generations, Thomas Howard had steered two nieces into the monarch’s bed. Both girls had gone to the scaffold,* and the disgrace of the second, Catherine Howard, brought a collapse in the whole family’s fortunes. Thomas Howard’s son Henry was not as lucky as the father: Henry was beheaded just a few days before the king succumbed, on the same charge of treason that almost claimed Thomas this day.

Though Howard pere would survive long enough to see his title restored, this day was far from the last chapter of his grasping family’s encounter with that classic Tudor denouement, the chopping-block. Thomas, his executed son, and his executed grandson today stock the family tombs at St. Michael, Framlingham — itself a sort of late monument to the aristocracy unmade by Henry’s reforms more than by his executioners.

* “She has miscarried of her savior,” Howard famously remarked of the male heir his niece Anne Boleyn delivered stillborn. A few months later, the Duke presided over Anne’s trial and voted to condemn her to death. (Hat tip: Fiz.)

Part of the Themed Set: The English Reformation.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Beheaded,England,Lucky to be Alive,Nobility,Not Executed,Politicians,Power,Scandal,Treason

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Themed Set: The English Reformation

14 comments January 29th, 2008 Headsman

Simultaneous with — but in many senses outside — the Protestant Reformation sweeping continental Europe, England in the 16th and early 17th centuries shook with the day’s fatal upheaval.

If the transition from Catholicism proposed by Henry VIII appears theologically mild in retrospect, it wrought earth-shattering changes: desperate conflict between faiths in shifting dynastic alliances; the germ of a vast middle class seeded with confiscation of the Church’s enormous estates; the evolution of governmental forms — and political theory — to comport with a landscape of redistributed power.

Many thousands suffered the ultimate penalty in those days for reasons godly, venal, or a little of both. The next three dates frame the contest over a century’s time, the violent birth of modern England.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: Themed Sets


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