28 July 1540: Henry VIII marries wife number five
Wedding bells chime as Thomas Cromwell loses his head
For Thomas Cromwell, 28 July 1540 was not a good day. More than a month earlier, he had been dragged from a meeting of Henry VIII’s council and thrown into the Tower of London. Accused of treason, the king’s disgraced chief minister begged his old master for mercy, but it was no good. At Tower Hill, he was hauled to the block, where the executioner – “a ragged and butcherly miser”, said one witness – wasted little time in carving off his head.
or the young Catherine Howard, however, this was a date to remember. Even as Cromwell was being taken to the scaffold, the Duke of Norfolk’s pretty teenage niece was dressing for the most important day of her life. Only a few days earlier, the king had secured an annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, and his eye had already fallen on Catherine as her replacement. It was apparently love – or lust – at first sight, at least for Henry.
Did Catherine know that, even as she was repeating her marriage vows at Surrey’s Oatlands Palace, Cromwell’s freshly severed head was rotting on a spike? We will never know. What we do know, though, is that her 49-year-old husband seemed aflame with passion, since reports suggest he could barely keep his hands off her.
At first, all seemed well, but as month followed month, the relationship began to turn sour. Perhaps, as the king’s attentions waned and her own eye began to wander, Catherine sometimes reflected on the fate of the man who had once been the king’s closest confidant. | Written by Dominic Sandbroook
28 July 1683
28 July 1790
The Forth and Clyde Canal was officially opened. Designed by Yorkshire engineer John Smeaton and running from Bowling on the Clyde to Grangemouth on the Forth, the 35-mile-long waterway took 22 years to complete.
28 July 1821
Jose de San Martin declared Peru’s independence from Spain in Lima. Independence was not, however, ensured until Antonio José de Sucré’s victory over forces loyal to Spain at the battle of Ayacucho in December 1824.
28 July 1902
Philosopher Karl Popper was born in Vienna. The rise of Nazism led him to emigrate to New Zealand in 1937. From 1946 he taught at the LSE. Appointed professor of logic and scientific method at the University of London in 1949, he was knighted in 1965.