EXECUTIONS during Henry's reign as shown on The TudorsThis is a featured page


Executioner
Executions during King Henry VIII's reign
as shown on The Tudors

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Charges which resulted in a death sentence were usually heresy or treason during this period of history.

Heresy being a deviation from the orthodox catholic religion and its doctrines which had been established for many years.

Treason being an act of disloyality to the King such as plotting his death or committing adultery with his wife. The Treason Act of 1351says that a person was guilty of high treason under the Act if they:
  • "compassed or imagined" (i.e. planned) the death of the King, his wife or his eldest son and heir;
  • violated the King's companion, the King's eldest daughter if she was unmarried or the wife of the King's eldest son and heir;
  • levied war against the King in his Realm or adhered to the King's enemies in his Realm, giving them aid and comfort in his Realm or elsewhere
For a list of the punishments for all crimes see : Tudors Historical Trivia page
For the production notes of Season 4, the Director Ciaran Donnelly was asked - The extended narrative of The Tudors moves in cycles: Henry has a succession of enemies, advisors, wives and executions. Is repetition an issue over such a long period?

Yes it is. I’ve done quite a number of executions over the course of the past four seasons and each of them has its own individual visual style; otherwise the audience is simply going to think, ‘oh well here’s another execution’ without seeing the particular meaning of each one. So for instance the execution of Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) I was very much trying to get the terror and loneliness of what it might feel like to be up there on that platform before some man is about to cut your head off. At that time there was a lot of awful news coming out of Iraq about beheadings and I suppose that influenced the very in which I thought of the scene from the point of view of the person about to be executed. So in that scene we shot it from the platform looking down at the crowd. In this season we have the execution of Katherine Howard which I took from a very different point of view. My interpretation of the scene and the character is that she has been used and in fact lusted after by the men of Henry’s court. She’s a very young girl who has been offered to the King as a kind of plaything.
So I see her as a lost innocent in a very masculine and cruel world. Normally we stage our executions within the walls of the Tower of London but in her case we’ve moved it to a town square where there will be a much bigger and more varied crowd who kind of stand in for the audience. I want to show a sense of collective bewilderment and even horror that such a young girl should be executed by the King at his whim.
So, this execution has a very different feel: the shots are quite slow, the editing has its own pace, and the crowd is totally silent. Its also staged in such a way that she is executed after her lady in waiting which only serves to underline her own terror as she approaches the bloody block.

By way of contrast, the executions of her former lovers Dereham and Culpepper are rowdy, riotous affairs - like some kind of Saturday afternoon football match, reflecting the fact that no one felt any sympathy at all for them. The camerawork in those is all hand held and shot right down amongst the crowd so we feel what it might have been like to go out and ‘enjoy’ an execution - shouting, throwing vegetables and all the rest - in Tudor times. it’s a total circus

Season 1

Steven Waddington as Edward Stafford
Character:
Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham

Executed for:
Treason

He was accused of listening to prophecies of the King's death and his own succession to the throne and for expressing an intention to kill the King. These are generally accepted to be trumped up charges.
*There is no historical evidence that Buckingham's hands had to be held out or that he did not die with dignity as the series depicts.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
at Tower Hill on 17th May 1521 and was posthumously attainted in July 1523.
Edward Stafford- Beheading
Edward Stafford- Beheading
Simon Fish
Character:
Simon Fish

Executed for :
Heresy


Method of Execution:
Burning

Historically Fish was arrested on charges of heresy but died in 1531 of bubonic plague in prison before his trial. In November of 1531 a book peddler was burned named Richard Bayfield, whose death was similar to the fictional one of Fish portrayed in The Tudors (he prayed in English while burning). The series was correct to state that Thomas More had *6 people burned (but Fish was not one of them) for heresy during his Chancellorship and also had 40 others imprisoned.

*Along with Bayfield, there was also Thomas Hitten (1530), Thomas Bilney (1531), John Frith, John Tewkesbury, John Bainham & William Tyndale . [source: Moynahan, God's Bestseller]
Simon Fish & Thomas More
Simon Fish
Thomas More watches Fish burn

Season 2

Cook
Character:
Fisher & More's Cook

Executed for:
Poisoning

Method of Execution:

Boiled in water until dead

In execution by boiling, the condemned is stripped naked and either placed in a vat of boiling liquid, or in a vat of cold liquid which was then heated to boiling. The liquid could be oil, acid, tar, water, or molten lead. During the reign of King Henry VIII it was a punishment especially reserved for poisoners.
"The preamble of the statute of Henry VIII (which made poisoning treason) in 1531 recites that one Richard Roose (or Coke), a cook, by putting poison in some food intended for the household of the bishop of Rochester and for the poor of the parish of Lambeth, killed a man and woman. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be boiled to death without benefit of clergy. He was publicly boiled at Smithfield." [Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911]


The Act was repealed in the year 1547.

"He was "boiled in a cauldron, locked in a chain and pulled up and down with a gibbet at divers times till he was dead." - source Crime and Punishment in England by John Briggs
Cook -Execution
Cook -Execution
Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Boleyn & his son George Boleyn watch as the cook charged with poisoning the bishops who are in opposition to the King's great matter is executed by being boiled alive. In the series they are responsible for paying the man to do it.
Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan
Character:
Bishop John Fisher

Executed for:
Treason
The charge was that he did "openly declare in English that the king, our sovereign lord, is not supreme head on earth of the Church of England" by not taking the Oath of Supremacy. He was the only one of the English bishops that dared to resist the king's will and the only person to die for the Catholic faith while a member of the College of Cardinals. He was Katherine of Aragon's confessor and a champion for her cause.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
on Tower Hill, June 22, 1535
John Fisher - Beheading
John Fisher - Beheading
Last Words:
"Good people, I ask you to love the King and obey him for he is good by nature even if he is not right in his religious policies; that I am condemned to die for wishing to uphold the honor of God and the Holy See. Now good Christian people, I ask for your prayers. I am only flesh and fear death as much as any man. It's true that I long since made up my mind to die if need be for Christ and his church. Now that the moment is at hand, I need your help."


Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More
Character:
Thomas More

Executed for:
Treason
He would not take the Oath recognizing Henry's position as Supreme Head of a new English church. It should be noted that More accepted Parliament's ability to decide the succession in favor of the king's children with Anne Boleyn, for it was a legal issue and Parliament was within its rights to decide it. In More's opinion, neither a temporal ruler nor Parliament had the right to override the Holy See's authority. The Pope was the only validly appointed head of the Universal Church.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
on Tower Hill, July 6, 1535
Thomas More - Execution
Thomas More - Execution

Last Words:
"I die the King's good servant, but God's first."

Pedaric Delany as George Boleyn
Character:
George Boleyn

Executed for:
Treason

He was accused of having an incestuous relationship with his sister, the queen.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
George Boleyn - Execution
George Boleyn - Execution
Last Words (in the series):
"I say to you, trust in God and not in the vanities of this world,
for if I had done so I would still be alive as you are now"
[See his actual words here : George Boleyn - Historical Profile]


Stephen Hogan as Henry Norris
Character:
Henry Norris

Executed for:
Treason
Accused of adultery with the queen which he denied saying : “I would rather die a thousand deaths
than be guilty of such a falsehood”


Method of Execution:
Beheaded
Henry Norris - Execution
Henry Norris - Execution
Jame Gilbert as William Brereton
Character:
William Brereton

Executed for:
Treason

Accused of adultery with the queen. In the series he is depicted as a catholic zealot who is prepared to martyr himself and confessed to the adultery. In history, he did not confess and is considered to be entirely innocent of the charges. Mere collateral damage when Cromwell decided to add his name to the list of alleged lovers as he was an one of the most wealthy landowners.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
William Brereton - Execution
William Brereton - Execution

Last words (historically) :

"The cause whereof I die, judge not.
But if you judge, judge the best.
"
David Alpay as Mark Smeaton
Character:
Mark Smeaton

Executed for:
Treason

The only accused who confessed to adultery with the queen and implicated the other men.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
His sentence of being hanged, drawn and quartered being commuted possibly due to cooperating and confessing.
Mark Smeaton - Execution
Mark Smeaton - Execution

Last words (historically) :
"Masters, I pray you all pray for me, for I have deserved the death."

[Untitled]
Character:
Anne Boleyn

Executed for:
High treason, adultery & incest.

Ambassador Chapuys reported that Anne " was principally charged with her brother and other accomplices; that there was a promise between her and Norris to marry after the King's death which it thus appeared they hoped for, ... [and] that she had poisoned [Katherine of Aragon] and intrigued to do the same to [Mary]". (She was not accused of witchcraft although Henry said he believed she had enchanted him.).
Adultery on the part of a queen was not a treasonable, civil offence necessitating execution: the accusations were designed to impugn her moral character. The treason was plotting, with her "lovers", the king's death, to ostensibly marry one of them afterwards ; Henry Norris.





Method of Execution:
Beheaded by sword
Anne Boleyn - Execution
Anne Boleyn - Execution
Last Words (in the series):
"Good Christian people, I have come here to die according to the law and thus yield myself to the will of the King, my lord. And if in my life I ever did offend the king's grace then surely with my death, I do now atone. I pray and beseech you all to pray for the life of the king, my sovereign lord and yours who is one of the best princes on the face of the earth, who has always treated me so well. Wherefore I submit to death with a good will, humbly asking pardon of all the world. If anyone should take up my case, I ask only to judge it kindly ...Thus I take my leave of the world and you and I heartily desire you all to pray for me....Lord Jesus receive my soul.."
[see her actual words here : Historical Profile of Anne Boleyn]



Season 3

Gerard McSorley as Robert Aske
Character:
Robert Aske

Executed for:
Treason


He was one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace which revolted against the king. When Aske was sentenced to death he begged to be fully dead before being dismembered. Henry agreed and instead had him hanged in chains- that is sticking him in a gibbet while still alive. Instead of taking about six minutes to die, it would have taken about six agonizing days.

Method of Execution:
Hanged in Chains
Robert Aske as played by Gerard McSorley
Robert Aske as played by Gerard McSorley
Characters:
Members of the pilgrimage of grace.

Executed for:
Revolting Against the King.

Execution Method:
Hanged
Pilgrimage of Grace - Hangings
John Lambert as played by Ben Price
Character:
John Lambert

Executed For:
Heresy

Method of Execution:
Burning

He had picked a theological dispute with a pastor in London because he didn’t buy into transubstantiation, the Catholic doctrine (still extant today) that the bread blessed on the altar became the literal body of Christ. The king himself debated theology with the accused and when Henry induced Parliament to pass the Act of the Six Articles, essentially establishing this essentially Catholic doctrine as the basis for the Church of England and criminalizing dissent.... Lambert was made an example of, and became a turning point in the balance of power with regard to the progress of the reformation.
John Lambert - Execution
John Lambert - Execution

last words, “None but Christ! None but Christ!”
*in the series he says "All for Christ, all for Christ"
Characters:
John Constable, Lord Darcy
& Charlie Raw

Executed for:
Treason - They were members and leaders of the pilgrimage of grace that revolted against the King.

Method of Execution:
Beheaded

*Executions not shown*
Members of Pilgrimage of Grace
Characters:
Lady Salisbury & her son Henry Pole [Related to Reginald Pole who the Pope was preparing to take over the Throne if the rebellion has succeeded]

Executed for:
Treason

A shirt embroidered by Lady Salisbury showing the 5 wounds of Christ, a symbol of the Pilgrimage of the Grace was used as evidence of her involvement. She was 67 years old, frail and ill, was dragged to the block & it was reported that she refused to lay her head on it, and in the struggle that ensued, the executioner's first blow made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. Several additional blows were required to complete the execution.
[Source: Catholic Encyclopedia]


Method of Execution:
Beheaded


*Executions not shown*






Lady Salisbury as played by Kate O'TooleHenry Pole as Played by Jake Maskell
James Frain as Thomas Cromwell
Character:
Thomas Cromwell

Executed for:
Heresy & Treason

He had arranged the failed marriage of the King to Anne of Cleves,and his enemies used Henry's displeasure to their advantage. They charged he had encouraged and spread heretical literature, allowed heretics to preach, released them from prison, and allied himself against their enemies. Significantly, it was reported that in March 1539 Cromwell said that, even if Henry turned from Protestantism, 'yet I would not turn, and if the king did turn, and all his people, I would fight in this field in mine own person, with my sword in my hand against him and all other'. That was treason. He was also charged with selling export licenses illegally, granting passports and commissions without royal knowledge

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
Thomas Cromwell - Execution
Thomas Cromwell - Execution



Season 4

Character:
Thomas Culpepper

Executed for:
Treason

(Adultery with the Queen)

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
Thomas Culpepper's death
Thomas Culpepper's death
Thomas Culpepper...
Character:
Francis Dereham

Executed for:
Treason

(Premarital Sexual Relations with the Queen)

Method of Execution:
Hung, Drawn, & Quartered
Francis Dereham
francis dereham being hanged season 4 episode 5
Francis Dereham is drawn
Character:
Jane Boleyn


Executed for:
Treason


(Accomplice to Katherine Howard's adultery)

Method of Execution:
Beheaded
Jane Rochford delivers her execution speech
Jane Boleyn and the axe
Katherine Howard
Character:

Katherine Howard


Executed for:
Treason & Adultery

Method of Execution: Beheaded
Katherine touches the block
Katherine Howard's Execution
Katherine and the axe

Anne Askew

Character:
Anne Askew

Executed for:
Heresy

Method of Execution:
Burning
Burning of Anne Askew










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Started By Thread Subject Replies Last Post
royalfalcon That Look Away Moment! Poll (page: 1 2 3 4 5 ... last page) 335 Oct 12 2011, 10:36 AM EDT by Elliemental
Thread started: Aug 5 2011, 12:00 PM EDT  Watch
There were a great deal of gory execution scenes in The Tudors. I thought it might be interesting to vote for the one that we found the most disturbing. We put a plus by the one we found the most gory and a minus against the one that made us shudder the least. Eventually we will be left with just the winner. Please adjust the number when you plus and minus.Please just one vote per person per day.

Anne Boleyn's Execution (10)
George Boleyn & the men who were executed with him (10)
Catherine Howard & Jane Boleyn (10)
Thomas Culpeper & Francis Dereham (10)
Robert Aske (10)
Thomas Cromwell (10)
Duke of Buckingham (10)
Thomas More (10)
Bishop John Fisher (10)
Anne Askew (10)
6  out of 6 found this valuable. Do you?    
Keyword tags: Executions Polls The Tudors
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anneboleynfan92 The "BEST" Execution in "The Tudors"? (page: 1 2) 28 Feb 22 2012, 9:02 PM EST by howardfan
Thread started: Aug 16 2011, 2:20 AM EDT  Watch
Odd way to describe it but who's death really was the best scene...historically or visually.

I have to say the whole of Anne's final episode was excellent (i thought). However I also thought Catherine (of aragon's) death was sad too (though not an execution).
2  out of 2 found this valuable. Do you?    
Keyword tags: Executions
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WilesWales Anne's Execution - The Truth (page: 1 2 3) 48 Jun 4 2011, 11:15 AM EDT by WilesWales
Thread started: Apr 1 2011, 12:12 PM EDT  Watch
Anne was very calm at her execution, and she admistered this speech, which is the one that she spoke without much drama. If one reads between the lines she is very, very clever at delivering these lines as nothing but a spit at both Henry, Cromwell, and a great thing for Elizabeth (just me at best...).
ANNE BOLEYN'S SPEECH AT HER EXECUTION
MAY 19, 1536, 8 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING

"Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.

After being blindfolded and kneeling at the block, she repeated several times: To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.

5  out of 6 found this valuable. Do you?    
Keyword tags: Anne Boleyn Execution
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Renton405 Beheading by the axe 12 Mar 30 2011, 9:33 AM EDT by WilesWales
Thread started: May 15 2010, 10:07 PM EDT  Watch
Is beheading by the axe on the block painful? I hear by some it is a painless death, but others say that the head can be alive after it is severed for a few seconds. That must be really creepy if that is true(the view of your head falling of your body with your own eyes). Some people say beheading is less painful than even lethal injection, just much more gory. Do you think Henry's wives were given a painless death?
7  out of 19 found this valuable. Do you?    
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