Perhaps the most dynamic figure of 16th century English politics, Cromwell was the chief architect of the country’s turn away from the papacy and its embrace of the reformation. A statesman and a schemer — he’s immortalized in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which won the Booker prize in 2009 — he fell badly into disfavor with the notoriously capricious King Henry VIII after arranging a disastrous royal marriage with a German princess. His enemies exploited the moment; Cromwell was accused of a lengthy list of conspiratorial charges, including treason, corruption and heresy, stripped of his titles and beheaded at the Tower of London. Henry VIII, though, would soon lament the loss of his prized minister.
Next Sir Lancelot