Thomas Culpeper

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Thomas Culpeper (executed December 1541) was an young courtier in Henry VIII's time. He was distantly related to the powerful Howard clan, who were immensely powerful at the time. They were particularly powerful after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529, and for a brief time under the reign of Anne Boleyn, who was one of their cousins. It seems that Culpeper entered royal service during Anne's time. Although there is no record of any meeting between either Anne Boleyn or Jane Seymour and Culpeper, which would suggest that his real prominence didn't begin until after 1537.

Culpeper was reportedly enormously attractive. He was described as 'a beautiful youth' and he was a great favourite of the king's. Henry eventually made Culpeper one of his most trusted attendants. He was part of the group of privileged dignitaries who greeted Henry's German bride Anne of Cleves when she arrived in England for her marriage.

In terms of personality, however, Culpeper was a monumentally-unpleasant individual; arrogant, selfish, cruel and conceited. In either 1539 or 1540, he was convicted of rape and murder when he pulled a park-keeper's wife into the bushes and had his men hold her down while he violated her. When some villagers tried to save the woman, Culpeper killed one of them. Henry VIII pardoned him, treating the horrific incident as something of a joke.

In 1540, Culpeper caught the attention of Henry's new teenage bride, Catherine Howard. It is probable that there was some kind of affair between them in 1541, although the extent of it is still debated by historians. In any case, it was discovered by the Council when they interrogated one of Catherine's maids, who had suspected the couple since a royal journey to Elizabeth I's childhood home at Hatfield. Culpeper was condemned to death and beheaded at Tyburn on December 10th.

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