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How many executions was Henry VIII responsible for?

How many people were sentenced to death during the reign of the Tudor king? Lauren Mackay considers the question…

Henry VIII. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Published: December 28, 2014 at 5:00 am
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It is impossible to tell for sure, and historians have no definitive number. It is estimated that anywhere from 57,000 to 72,000 people were executed during Henry’s 37 years’ reign, but this is likely to be an exaggeration.

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Henry’s break with Papal authority, and his second marriage – which was not sanctioned by the Pope – caused a rift between Henry and certain individuals at court, many of whom he knew well, and in some cases was close to.

Those who either refused to adhere to his Act of Succession or those considered to be heretics were executed, but Henry also executed numerous potential rivals to the throne; two wives and their alleged lovers; leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and his trusted advisor, Thomas Cromwell.

Lauren Mackay is the author of Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the Life and Writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys (Amberley Publishing)

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This Q&A was first published in 2014

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