REVISITING ENGLAND'S ROYAL MONSTER - POSTLUDE : HIS "VICAR GENERAL"
The Monster’s “Vicar General”
Thomas Crumwell fell far and fast. Here we quote from Gasquet’s “HENRY VIII AND THE ENGLISH MONASTERIES” (1899):
“By a nemesis of fate he passed to the scaffold suddenly, almost untried, and certainly unheard in his own defence, and this was possibly by virtue of an Act he had devised and obtained, to get rid of inconvenient rivals and others bold enough to oppose his lawless policy or thwart his schemes. Rumors had not been wanting that the Minister’s influence over Henry had not been so paramount, for some time before his final disgrace. The King, to whom Wolsey had “”kneeled the space sometimes of three hours to persuade from his will and appetite”, but without success, did not become more easy to lead in Crumwell’s time. Report spoke of scenes in the audience chamber, when the Royal willfulness developed such an extreme of passion as to result in the boxing of Lord Crumwell’s ears right soundly.
Castillon, the French Ambassador, had heard his majesty read a lesson to the Lord Privy Seal, and tell him “he might be fit to look after household duties but not to manage the business of kings.”On 11th June, 1540, Marillac, who had succeeded Castillon as Ambassador of France, wrote that he had heard, an hour before sending his dispatch, that Crumwell had been sent to the Tower……… On 23RD June, the Ambassador received a full account of what had taken place, and wrote the substance of his information to the Constable of France. From this letter it appears that Crumwell was altogether unprepared for his downfall. When the Lieutenant of the Tower entered the Council Chamber at Westminster and informed him that he was ordered to take him prisoner, Crumwell, moved with indignation, threw his hat on the floor, and declared that he had never done anything but for the King and in his service. Some of the Council called out that he was a traitor, and must be judged “ by the laws he had himself made", and which, as Marillac explains, “were so sanguinary that a few words, often perhaps spoken inadvertently or in good faith, could be construed into the crime of high treason.”The Duke of Norfolk tore the Order of St. George from his neck, and the Garter was also taken from him. Before the news spread, Crumwell had already been lodged in the Tower, and the people obtained their first knowledge of the arrest by seeing the King’s officers, attended by a large retinue of archers, enter the fallen Minister’s house for the purpose of searching it. ……….
"As vice regent under the great seal, he “licensed divers persons detected and suspected of heresy, openly to preach and teach", saying “that he would fight even against the King to maintain these heresies …. And then and there most traitorously pulled out his dagger and held it up on high saying these words: Or else this dagger thrust me to the heart if I would not die in that quarrel against them all, and I trust if I live a year or two, it shall not lie in the King’s power to resist or let it if he would.”
Furthermore the said Thomas Crumwell “hath acquired and obtained into his possession by oppression, bribery, extorted power and false promises” immense sums of money and treasure.
Posterity may be grateful that the avenging hand came upon him so suddenly. His arrest, unexpected by all, gave him no time to destroy the papers which had accumulated in the course of his administration, and which we may well believe he would have been unwilling for other eyes than his own to see. On the morning of the 10th June, 1540, he was supreme in England, the evening saw him a prisoner in the Tower, and his fate practically sealed. After begging in the most servile terms that his life might be spared, he was brought out to the scaffold on Tower Hill, on 28th of June. He died confessing all his crimes, disavowing protestant heresy and claiming fidelity to the Catholic Church and the Sacraments. Henry VIII held Crumwell’s son Gregory – a person of low intelligence – in his power.