Thomas Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 28th July 1540. This was also the day that Henry VIII married Katherine Howard. Cromwell was condemned to death without trial and, after the execution, his head was set on a spike on London Bridge. Edward Hall records that Cromwell made a speech of the scaffold, professing to die, ‘in the traditional faith’ and then so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungodly perfourmed the Office.”
This is Hall’s record of the full speech:
“I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should do so, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I have had yeres of discrecion, I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And it is not unknowne to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came thereunto, I 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, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche. Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have been a bearer, of suche as hath 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 of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long live with you, 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.”
There are a few myths surrounding Cromwell’s execution but the one that comes up most often, and seems the most likely, is that it took the executioner 2 or 3 swings of the axe to behead him.
Henry VIII did end up regretting Cromwell’s death and it was later recorded that he ‘sometimes even reproaches with Cromwell’s death, saying that, upon light pretexts, by false accusations, they made him put to death the most faithful servant he ever had.’
Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p839
LP XVI. 590
Thomas Cromwell being led to his execution in The Tudors.