“Thomas Cromwell”


(Someone) makes a request of (the King), who offers anything short of his crown. The petitioner asks the head of Thomas Cromwell. The king orders two earls to fetch Cromwell and have him executed.


This ballad exists only as a fragment in the Percy folio. There is a ballad in Percy's _Reliques_ called "On Thomas Lord Cromwell," but it is not the same piece.

Cromwell (c. 1487-1540) was one of Henry VIII's chief ministers; he held power for many years as a result of his willingness to serve his master's needs. As such, he was one of the main forces behind the Anglican Revolution (though Cromwell probably didn't have strong feelings on the issue either way).

Born in obscurity, he entered Wolsey's service in 1514, and grew steadily in important and influence thereafter, being elected to parliament in 1523, then entering Henry's service in 1530. Among his productions was the 1534 Act of Supremacy (making the King of England head of the English church).

Made Earl of Essex in 1540, he arranged Henry's marriage with Anne of Cleves (wife #4); when this marriage proved an instant disaster, Henry sent him to the tower. Catherine Howard (wife #5) and her family probably helped secure his execution.

Ironically, Cromwell's great-great-nephew Oliver Cromwell would later pull down a King (though Charles I, of course, was not a descendent of Henry VIII). - RBW

Historical references

  • June 10, 1540 - Arrest of Thomas, Lord Cromwell at the order of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.
  • July 28, 1540 - Execution of Cromwell by Henry VIII. (His fifth wife Katherine Howard, the Duke of Norfolk's niece, is said to have put him up to it)


  1. Child 171, "Thomas Cromwell" (1 text)
  2. Roud #4002
  3. BI, C171


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1750 (Percy folio)