“Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.”
~~Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex~~
Heresy. Damned to hell for heresy, so the attainder says, so Audley says, so Gardiner says, so Norfolk says, so Rich says and due to their evilness, so his Majesty, the God here on earth my father slaved to says. The bastards, for years they were determined to make it so, and today they get their way. My wife, my Elizabeth, she is distraught, overwhelmed, disgusted. Always at my side, today she carries me. Always tolerant of my shortcomings, today she forgives all. For the last seven years, I carried his secret, their secret… and today the promises made begin in earnest. She knew of my promises not, and agrees to them anyway. “Come here, dear.” I draw her in close, and she gives me a warm hug. “Elizabeth, I am heading to The Tower. I pray they allow me to see him. I need to reassure my father that we are prepared to carry forward.” My wife gently weeps, and I wipe her tears. “Wait here, love. After he goes to God, we need to ride out.” How will I find the words? How do I look them in the eyes, without breaking in two? My heart bleeds, my stomach turns, and my soul blackens at the thought of what I must do. Oh my God, give me strength. This situation is hopeless all but for Your benevolent intervention.
As I enter The Tower, all eyes are upon me, and Sir William Kingston accompanies me to father’s cell. The man looks near to meet his maker, prematurely aged by the dampness and death of this place. “This must be quick, Gregory. Within the hour, the execution will commence. I pray the ax falls swift and true, though nothing goes easy for your father.” Kingston is right, far more so than he even knows. Low born, my father worked exhaustively and clawed his way up to the power he held so close to His Majesty. Now stripped of all titles, he is low once again. Was it all worth it? Most would say no, but they know him not… they know his life, his dreams, his love for his family not. All they see is the monster in their mind created by the hate of his enemies, not the man I know, not the man I love. More the pity. The sound of the lock unbolting churns in my mind as Sir Kingston opens the door, and I look over. There he is, the man who molded me, raised me as any a father could, unshaven, disheveled, his eyes circled black from lack of sleep. Sir Kingston remains, so all hope of speaking freely is gone. I walk towards him, and my father hugs me close.
I look at my father in the eye, and near tears say gently, “I will keep all my promises, father, from this moment forward.”
My father, the man I thought the strongest man in Christendom, nods meekly. “Thank you, Gregory.” He takes off his gold chain and band from beneath his shirt, and hands to me. “You know.”
I look in my hand, and recognize immediately what was handed to me. ‘Tis my mother’s wedding band. “Yes, father.”
My father places his dirty hand on gently my face and says quietly, “Be strong, Gregory. Stay away from court, and have courage.”
As I nod at my father, Sir Kingston places his hand on my shoulder. “It’s time, Gregory. Go on down to Tower Hill.” As I attempt to hug my father, Sir Kingston pulls me way, “Now Gregory.” I follow his commands. What choice do I have? As I exit out to Tower Hill, my heart freezes. The scaffold lay in the center, with people crowded all about it, pushing forward, with a sickening gleeful desire to see the deed done. Obviously, His Majesty desires to make an example of my father, as a more public death could not be imagined. A guard escorts me down to the front, and I stand between the only two friends to my father in this hellish place, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Sir Thomas Wyatt. I look back, and see him, his hands chained as if there was any chance on escape, being pulled through the masses. People spit, jeer and pull at him. Behind me, I hear Norfolk and Surrey laughing, as if those bastards have some magical power of avoiding a similar fate. My eyes burn, and tears come. As my father climbs the stairs to the scaffold, I become a little weak at the knees, and Dearest Thomas Cranmer grabs a hold of me.
Thomas Cromwell: I am racked with fear, but I will show these bastards not. I try to calm my nerves and look out at the crowd, all jeering, many screaming for the executioner to move forward before I have made my peace with His Majesty and with God. Is she here? No, God willing she will know not until I’m gone. I look over and see my son, and nod to him and His Grace, who is holding onto Gregory with all his might. Thank God for him, making sure my son does not collapse in from of these bastards… my dearest friend in this life, my only friend that knows all. With them I see that gentlest of men, whose words will live on to eternity. I cry out, “Gentle Wyatt ~~ Good Bye ~~ Pray for me!” Oh my, I should have said nothing. The pour gentle soul is now crying. I try and reassure this blessed poet. “Do not weep for if I were no more guilty than you were when they took you, I should not be in this pass”.
I take a deep breath and begin… “I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should do so, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I have had yeres of discrecion, I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And it is not unknowne to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came thereunto, I have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche.* Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have been a bearer, of suche as hath mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long live with you, maie long reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe.” Source: Edward Hall
Thomas Cramner: Oh Thomas, faithful to his death, Our Lord will welcome him. I whisper to Gregory, “Your father quotes the Niceen Creed, as did Luther, and refers to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Most of these heretics know what he speaks of not.”
Gregory Cromwell: I am frozen in fear of what comes next, but I find the words I feel my father would share. “Ah, yes. I pray you are careful, Your Grace. Wait, be patient. Your time will come. We need quiet reformists who wait for opportunity, not dead martyrs.”
Thomas Cranmer: I nod. Gregory is right. I need to wait for a better day. It will come, if not with His Majesty than later with his son. I look to Thomas, and our eyes lock. I mouth to him, us so used to hushed tones, I know he’ll hear my message clear. “I’ll carry on. I promise.”
Man From Crowd: “Kill the heretic! Spike his head! Death is not good enough for the likes of him!”
Crowd: A wave of chants flow through the crowd. “Kill him! … Kill him! … Kill him! … Kill him! … Kill him!”
Thomas Cromwell: I look out at the crowd. There they are, my judge, jury and executioners, Nolfolk, Gardiner and Rich. They stand smugly, Norfolk laughing as the crowd chants, Gardiner and Rich snickering. I glare them down cold and then walk up to the man paid to do the deed. I hand him his payment of crowns, and state, “Pray, if possible, cut off the head with one blow, so that I may not suffer much.”
Gregory Cromwell: I pray silently. “God, give my father strength. Give me strength. Take him home, with you. All he ever did was for His Majesty’s glory, for your glory. As my father walks up to the block, and kneels before it, Sir Wyatt, His Grace and I kneel. I quickly look about to see if this will be a respectful death. No, most remain standing, an insult to my father and all he stood for. My eyes burn through the tears.
Thomas Cranmer: As I kneel, I look down and begin praying. I can’t watch this. I just can’t. “I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die. KNOW that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. HE brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Source: Book of Common Prayer.
Thomas Cromwell: As I kneel at the block, in my mind in deadening silence. Instead, visions of my life pass through my mind… my life with her, my life with them. If she speaks truth, we will be eternally joined. God make it so. Before I lay my head on the block, I pray earnestly, “O Lord Jesu! which art the only health of all men living, and the everlasting life of them which die in thee, I, wretched sinner, do submit myself wholly unto thy most blessed will; and being sure that the thing cannot perish which is committed unto thy mercy, willingly now I leave this frail and wicked flesh, in sure hope that thou wilt, in better wise, restore it to me again at the last day, in the resurrection of the just. I beseech thee, most merciful Lord Jesu Christ! that thou wilt, by thy grace, make strong my soul against all temptations, and defend me with the buckler of thy mercy against all the assaults of the devil. I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope, and trust, is in, thy most merciful goodness. I have no merits nor good works which I may allege before thee. Of sins and evil works, alas! I see a great heap; but yet, through thy mercy, I trust to be in the number of them to whom thou wilt not impute their sins; but wilt take and accept me for righteous and just, and to be the inheritor of everlasting life. Thou, merciful Lord! wast born for my sake; thou didst suffer both hunger and thirst for my sake; thou didst teach, pray, and fast for my sake; all thy holy actions and works thou wroughtest for my sake; thou sufferedst most grievous pains and torments for my sake: finally, thou gavest thy most precious body and thy blood to be shed on the cross for my sake. Now, most merciful Saviour! let all these things profit me, that thou freely hast done for me, which hast given thyself also for me. Let thy blood cleanse and wash away the spots and foulness of my sins. Let thy righteousness hide and cover my unrighteousness. Let the merits of thy passion and blood-shedding be satisfaction for my sins. Give me, Lord, Thy Grace!, that the faith of my salvation in thy blood waver not in me, but may ever be firm and constant: that the hope of thy mercy and life everlasting never decay in me: that love wax not cold in me; and finally, that the weakness of my flesh be not overcome with the fear of death. Grant me, merciful Saviour! that when death bath shut up the eyes of my body, yet the eyes of my soul may still behold and look upon thee; and when death bath taken away the use of my tongue, yet my heart may cry and say unto thee, Lord! into thy hands I commend my soul; Lord Jesu I receive my spirit. Amen.” Source: Foxe’s Book of Protestant Martyrs 195. Thomas Cromwell
Thomas Cromwell: I lay my head on the block, close my eyes with only thoughts of her, of them, and await my fate. Out of nervousness, I open them once more. Tears come as I look upon a woman right before me, draped and hidden in her long black cape, just as when I met her first. I mouth silently, “I love you, always.” Our eyes lock, and with her strength filling me, I find my courage and hold firm.
Gregory Crowmell: “Oh my god, nooooo!
Thomas Wyatt: Though stunned, my body shocked, my stomach churning as the executioner repeatedly completes his office, blood spewing, I catch poor Gregory as he faints. A kindness from God, he missed most.
Thomas Howard: Oh how fitting, it’s botched!! I elbow Gardiner, “So much for the merciful death, eh?” I listen to my son and smile widely. Who better with words than him? Surely not Cromwell’s man, Wyatt.
Henry Howard: I look on smugly, the common base-born bastard dead at last. “Now is the false churl dead, so ambitious of others’ blood. These new erected men would, by their wills, leave no noble man a life. Now he is stricken with his own staff!” Source: “Thomas Cromwell,” by Geoffrey Robertson.
Thomas Cranmer: My heart breaks in two, my soul torn asunder. God, why? Why so hard for him? My thoughts are jarred as a caped woman collapses to the ground before the scaffold, wailing pitifully. God tells me. I hear Him clear. “Rush to her, now, Thomas before the heretics. Bring her home, and I’ll bring him.”
~~~~~~~~~~ FADE TO BLACK ~~~~~~~~~~
Note: All text in italics above are direct historical quotations, sourced when appropriate.
The pillar perished is whereto I leant,
Whereon the strongest stay of mine unquiet mind—
The like of it no man again can find,
From east to west, still seeking though he went: always;
To mine unhap! for hap away hath rent misfortune fortune;
Of all my joy the very bark and rind;
And I, alas, by chance am thus assigned;
Dearly to mourn till death do it relent. keenly;
But since that thus it is by destiny,
What can I more but have a woeful heart—
My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry, lamentation;
My mind in woe, my body full of smart,
And I my self, my self always to hate;
Till dreadful death do ease my doleful state?
~~ Sir Thomas Wyatt ~~