Thomas Culpeper was born to Alexander Culpeper and his wife Constance nee Harper in Bedgebury, Kent. He had an older brother also named Thomas. Culpeper was a cousin of Jocasta Culpeper
, mother of Kathryn Howard
Thomas Culpeper purchased Higham Park estate near Canterbury.
Culpeper was a member of the court of Arthur Plantagenet Viscount Lisle, illegitimate son of King Edward IV
Viscount Lisle discovered that Culpeper had a talent for finding the things he desired. Moving in high circles, Thomas Culpeper soon became a favourite of King Henry VIII
Culpeper had risen to become Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, a very high honour.
Culpeper was appointed Keeper of the Armoury for the King’s Body.
Culpeper was accused of raping a park keeper’s wife and the murder of a villager. It is possible that it was Thomas’s elder brother, also called Thomas, that was the guilty party. Nevertheless, despite the charge, the King pardoned Culpeper.
Thomas Culpeper was chosen to be one of the party that would greet Anne of Cleves
when she arrived in England.
Kathryn Howard was chosen to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies-in-waiting.
Kathryn Howard had caught the eye of King Henry. The Howard family, who were Catholics, hoped that if Catherine could win the King’s heart he may return to Catholicism. On the advice of her family she encouraged Henry and he soon fell in love with her.
1540 (28th July)
King Henry VIII married Kathryn Howard at Oatlands Palace, Surrey.
Culpeper was besotted with Kathryn Howard and when Henry VIII went to Dover, leaving Kathryn behind, the two spent much time together.
Culpeper and the Queen began meeting secretly, often late at night. Kathryn’s lady-in-waiting Lady Rochford
, widow of George Boleyn
, helped the two to meet secretly.
Kathryn and King Henry went on a progress of the north of England.
1541 (9th August)
While the royal progress was at Lincoln it is known that Thomas and Kathryn had a secret meeting, again arranged by Jane Boleyn.
1541 (23rd August)
The royal progress had reached Pontefract Castle. The secret meetings between Thomas and Kathryn continued.
1541 (late August)
sought an audience with Kathryn at Pontefract Castle and asked for a position. Kathryn appointed Dereham as her private secretary.
Dereham had discovered that Thomas Culpeper was very close to Kathryn. Dereham was jealous and made no secret of the fact that it was he, not Culpeper, that would marry Kathryn after the king died.
1541 (1st November)
John Lascelles, a reformist who did not want Catholicism restored and brother of Mary Hall who had been a chambermaid to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, told Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
about Kathryn’s past. Cranmer began to investigate.
1541 (2nd November)
Cranmer gave Henry a letter explaining what he had learned about Kathryn. Henry did not believe the accusations and ordered a secret enquiry to prove the stories false.
1541 (early November)
Thomas Cranmer interviewed Lascelles and his sister who confirmed that Kathryn had had intimate relations before her marriage. Francis Dereham and Henry Manox were both questioned. Dereham admitted he had been involved with Kathryn before her marriage but not since. He implicated Thomas Culpeper who confessed to adultery.
1541 (early November)
When Henry learned about Dereham’s earlier relationship with Kathryn and that Culpeper had confessed to adultery, he was distraught. He ordered that Kathryn be confined to her quarters at Hampton Court.
Thomas Wriothesley questioned the Queen’s servants and learned about the secret meetings between Culpeper and Kathryn Howard.
1541 (5th November)
Henry left Kathryn at Hampton Court and moved to Whitehall Palace.
1541 (7th November)
Kathryn was interviewed by Cranmer and the Duke of Norfolk. She initially claimed she was innocent but then decided to tell the truth.
1541 (12th November)
Kathryn was arrested on charge of treason for having committed adultery.
1541 (14th November)
Kathryn was moved to Syon House.
1541 (22nd November)
Kathryn’s status as queen was removed.
1541 (1st December)
Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were tried for treason at Guildhall. Culpeper was charged with adultery, Dereham with having led the Queen into a base life. Culpeper pleaded guilty but Dereham protested his innocence. Both men were found guilty and were sentenced to death, Dereham by being hung drawn and quartered, Culpeper by beheading.
1541 (10th December)
Thomas Culpeper was executed by beheading at Tyburn.