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December 10, 1541 – Culpeper and Dereham Executed at Tyburn

Axe and Scaffold at Medieval Festival (photo by sorokopud via DepositPhotos)

Today must have been a sobering day for Catherine Howard. On this day in 1541, her two paramours, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham, were executed. Culpeper was beheaded but Dereham was hanged, drawn, and quartered. According to custom, both their heads were placed on spikes atop London Bridge.

Thomas Culpeper definitely got the better deal in this case. First, he knew that he was cuckolding the King of England, the penalty for which was death. Second, his sentence was commuted to beheading, which was a much gentler end than the other options.

I feel much more sorry for Dereham – all he did was sleep with a young woman he intended to marry. For that, he suffered the ultimate penalty. There are few fates worse than hanging, drawing and quartering.  The grisly punishment starts with the condemned man being dragged behind a horse to the place of his execution. He would then be hanged without a drop, so that his neck would not break and release him from his pain. While was still conscious, he would be cut down and emasculated. He would then have to watch his stomach being slit open and his intestines burned before his eyes. Finally his head would be cut off and his body cut into four quarters.

(Even worse, Dereham might have avoided such a fate if he had avoided his former mistress. After Catherine was Queen, Dereham got her to appoint him as her personal secretary. Whether this was out of ongoing obsession or rank greed doesn’t matter – it was a stupid move either way.)

Tragedy all around.


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December 10, 1541 - Culpeper and Dereham Executed at Tyburn
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