On this day in Tudor history, 10th December 1541, Thomas Culpeper, a gentleman of the privy chamber, and Francis Dereham, a member of the queen’s household, were executed at Tyburn.
They had been found guilty of high treason for intending to do ill with Queen Catherine Howard, i..e intending to commit adultery with her, and had been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Dereham suffered the full traitors' death, while Culpeper was beheaded.
Find out more about what happened from a primary source account in today's talk.
You can find out more in the following videos:
Also on this day in history:
- 1472 - Birth of Anne of Mowbray, Duchess of York and Norfolk, child bride of Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York and one of the Princes in the Tower.
- 1591 – Executions of Edmund Gennings, Roman Catholic priest, and Swithin Wells, Roman Catholic, on a scaffold set up outside Wells' house at Holborn. They were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason due to their Catholic faith and for celebrating the mass.
On this day in Tudor history, 10th December 1541, just a month and eight days after an investigation into Queen Catherine Howard’s past had been ordered, two men were executed at Tyburn. They were Thomas Culpeper, a gentleman of the privy chamber, and Francis Dereham, a member of the queen’s household.
Both men had been tried for treason at Guildhall on 1st December 1541 for high treason. Neither man was accused of actually committing adultery with the queen, the trial focused on their intentions. By meeting secretly with the queen on the recent royal progress, Culpeper and the queen were ‘inciting’ each other to have “carnal intercourse”, and Dereham joining the queen’s household, having previous had a sexual relationship with her, was seen as evidence that he wanted to reignite their relationship. They were both found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Culpeper and Dereham were drawn on hurdles from the Tower of London to Tyburn on 10th December 1541.
Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley records:
“This year, the first day of December, was arraigned at the Guild Hall in London, Thomas Culpepper, one of the Gentlemen of the King’s Privy Chamber, and Francis Dorand, gentleman, for high treason against the King’s Majesty in misdemeanor with the Queen, as appeared by their indictments which they confessed, and had their judgments to be drawn, hanged, and quartered, the Lord Mayor sitting there as chief, the Lord Chancellor on his right hand, and the Duke of Norfolk on his left hand, the Duke of Suffolk, the Lord Privy Seal, the Earls of Sussex, of Hertford, and diverse other of the King’s Council, with all the judges, sitting there also in commission the same day. And the tenth day of December the said Culpeper and Dorand were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after exhortation made to the people to pray for him, he standing on the ground by the gallows, kneeled down and had his head stricken off; and then Dorand was hanged, membered, bowelled, headed, and quartered. Culpeper’s body buried at St. Sepulchres Church by Newgate, their heads set on London Bridge.”
Francis Dereham had been arrested and interrogated after John Lassells, brother of Mary Hall who had been brought up in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household with Catherine Howard, informed Archbishop Thomas Cranmer that “one Francis Derham had lain in bed with her, in his doublet and hose, between the sheets an hundred nights, and a maid in the house had said she would lie no longer with her because she knew not what matrimony was.” A report from the King’s Council to William Paget, the English ambassador in France, states that Dereham “confessed that he had known her carnally many times, both in his doublet and hose between the sheets and in naked bed.” However, this was long before Catherine’s involvement with King Henry VIII.
Thomas Culpeper’s name was mentioned by both Catherine and Dereham. During an interrogation, Dereham stated “that Culpeper had succeeded him in the Queen’s affections”. When Catherine was examined, she confessed to have secret assignations with Culpeper while she, the king and the royal court were on the northern progress over the summer. She also confessed to calling him her “little sweet fool” and giving him cap, a chain and a cramp ring. Catherine denied having a sexual relationship with Culpeper, but Culpeper sealed his fate by confessing that “he intended and meant to do ill with the Queen and that in like wise the Queen so minded to do with him.
Dereham, Culpeper, Catherine and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, were not the only people to be arrested and imprisoned in 1541, various members of the Howard and Tilney family were imprisoned, including Catherine’s stepgrandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.
Although both men should have been executed with a full traitors death but as gentlemen they were entitled to ask for this to be limited to beheading. Henry granted that to Thomas Culpeper because he was a known favourite for many years and he was close to the King as he attended him during his night time, bound his leg and was a body servant. Henry may have regarded him as a son almost and apparently he was fond of him. Knowing Tom Culpeper was betraying him with his wife must have been hard to take, regardless of how far it had gone. He had to sign their death warrants. The remission of his death sentence in full was remitted to beheading but Henry chose to let Francis Dereham die even though his crimes were before Kathryn married him. However, it was assumed that Kathryn intended to carry on her love affair with Dereham because he had entered her service as Queen. The three of them admitted they wanted to go further so they were condemned on presumption of treason as adultery wasn’t a crime but imagining the death of the King was as was fathering a child which could be passed off as an heir. Henry chose to consign FD to a full traitors death because as he put it Francis had “spoiled” Kathryn for him by sleeping with her while she was a virgin . It was a capricious act and a personal one by Henry. It was an awful death and not even the horrible crude Francis Dereham deserved that.