Foundation of Jesus College, Oxford

Foundation of Jesus College, Oxford

As princess, Elizabeth’s classically oriented education is well documented, as are her intellectual gifts; therefore, it would not have been viewed remarkable that as queen she expressed the intent to charter an establishment for higher education stressing orthodox religious learning linked with a humanist element. The document, after an allusion to the prosperous reign and favor of the Almighty,* lays down the dedication or rather vision

“’…to the Glory of God Almighty and Omnipotent, and for the spread and maintenance of the Christian religion in its sincere form, for the eradication of errors and heresies, for the increase and perpetuation of true loyalty, for the extension of good literature of every sort, for the knowledge of languages, for the education of youth in loyalty, morality, and methodical learning, for the relief of poverty and distress, and lastly for the benefit and well-being of the Church of Christ in our realms, […] we have decreed that a College of learning in the sciences, philosophy, humane pursuits, knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, to the ultimate profession of Sacred Theology, to last for all time to come, be created, founded, built, and established….’**Elizabeth I, 27 June 1571” (“All the Welshmen Abiding and Studying in Oxford”).

Quite an ambitious set of goals.  Elizabeth, in the context of all the ecclesiastical changes occurring in England, was taking an important step by establishing the first Protestant College in Oxford. The Charter language was not ambiguous; its purpose, clearly stated above, was for the “benefit and well-being of the Church of Christ in our realms.”’ Clergymen were, consequently, to be educated beyond theology in an array of subjects from the sciences to Hebrew.  Interestingly, although as the first Protestant ‘Renaissance’ institution Jesus College was important, a more direct influence on the college was the attraction of Welsh scholars (to be discussed later in fuller detail).

While commonly called Jesus College, Oxford, its formal name is quite impressive: “Collegium Jhesus infra civitatem et Universitatem Oxoniae ex fundatione Reginae Elizabethae, Anglice vero [Jhesus College wythin the Citie and Universitie of Oxforth, of Quene Elizbethe’s fundacion]” (Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford 5). Organized by the Letters Patent to consist of a Principal, eight Fellows and eight Scholars, the college would be given the “usual corporate rights of holding, defending, acquiring and alienating property, ut pars, parcella et membrum ejusdem Universitatis’” and empowered to “accept a bequest from Price of £60 a year, and other property up to £100” per annum from beneficiaries (Salter and Lobel).  Included in the charter was the permission to acquire the site and buildings of White Hall and to appoint eight commissioners to draw up the statutes for the governing of the college.  All the appointees would be “according to Dr. Price’s mind” (Ingram 37).

Location of Jesus College

“Dr. Price had already fixed upon the site of his College when he made his ‘humble petition’ to the Queen, and we find it specified in the Letters Patent ‘in fundo solo situ et procinetu nuper Aulae nostrae vulgariter nuncupatae White Hall’; while the Charter formally grants to the new College:

totam ilam domum situm septum ambitum circuitum et procinctum dictae nuper Aulae vulgariter nuncupatae White Hall…cum omnibus et singulis suis juribus membris et pertinentiis universis et cum omnibus antiquis privilegiis, libertatibus et liberis consuetudinibus ejusdem Aulae” (Hardy 8-9)

The foundation charter listed out the space the college would physically occupy when Queen Elizabeth “gave the greatest parte of the ground whereupon the College is built” (Salter and Lobel).  In Oxford there had been many survivors of “previously much larger numbers of academic halls, which offered student accommodation but little formal discipline or teaching” although many of these halls were independent and had their own Principals (The Beginning). Despite the autonomy of the halls, oftentimes, individual colleges absorbed them. Dr.  Price’s task therefore, of locating a suitable site to provide for the physical aspect of his dream to “bestow his estate of the maintenance of certain scholars of Wales to be trained up in good letters” probably was not as difficult as may seem with multiple halls available (Ackermann 141).

Accordingly, has shown in the history of Jesus College, the lands Elizabeth I granted in her Royal Charter of Foundation, contained a “certain Religious House or Cell called Whyte Hall, (which before the Dissolution of Monastries belonged to the Priory of St. Frideswide) for the site of the College” (A Pocket Companion for Oxford 84). King Henry VIII and his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, had ordered the investigation and eventual dissolution of the Augustinian Priory, St. Frideswide, which had been located in Oxford from the early 1100s upon the original site established by St. Frideswide for her more modest abbey in the 600s (St. Frideswide is the patron saint of the city and university of Oxford).  The King’s agents suppressed the Medieval priory in April of 1524 “in accordance with Wosley’s scheme for the erection upon its site of a great college” (“Houses of Augustinian Canons”).  Unfortunately for Wolsey, his fall and death prevented the final establishment of Cardinal College and eventually Henry VIII took advantage and created Christ College.  Many of the St. Frideswide buildings became part of the new institution after 1546.

Therefore, 25 years later when Dr. Price was searching for a location to establish Jesus College, White Hall, which dated back to the 13th century and was described as “a large tenement with a great stone gate”, was available (Jesus College, Oxford 29). The location of Jesus College on the “land which was given by the queen extended from Ship St. to Market St., and … was occupied by two tenements; on the north was Little White Hall, facing the city walls; on the south was Great White Hall in Market St. (or Chayny Lane) belonging to St. Frideswide’s” (Salter and Lobel).***  These two buildings along with Lawrence, part of Lincoln College, merged to be referred to as White Hall. Several other student hostels (one identified as Elm Hall, another Plummer) and a buttery, attached to White Hall all along Turl Street, were also added (Hardy 11 & 17, Allen 109, Moore 238, Chalmers 393 and Salter and Lobel).

E. G. Hardy, writing in his extensive history of Jesus College, does believe that the land “no doubt was purchased with Dr. Price’s money, and then generously bestowed upon the new College by its royal Foundress” (Hardy 11). Other sources, H. E. Salter and Mary Lobel amongst them, claim that the land was in the possession of the Crown after the dissolution of St. Frideswide and was simply granted by Elizabeth to Price. Regardless, property east of Great White Hall, “fronting Market St. and Turl St., and there built what the Benefactors Book calls ‘all the old Buildings towards ye East and South …. If the Benefactors Book is accurate, they must have been built between 1571 and 1574 when Price died” (Salter and Lobel). Regardless of whether Elizabeth donated the Crown lands or Price purchased them, it is clear that “the timber for building is said to have come partly from Shotover and Stow forests, grants being made by Queen Elizabeth for this purpose” (Oxford Architectural and Historical Society 186).

To ensure the rights to the properties, once the land was being populated with buildings, the College acquired a lease from Lincoln College for Laurence Hall (which was paid at £2 per annum until 1816–Salter and Lobel) plus paid a quit-rent to Christ Church for White Hall which was initially 26 shillings and 8 pence, but it had been reduced before 1631 and listed as 8 pence until 1833 when the property was purchased out-right (Jesus College, Oxford 31). Officially and charmingly, the land was described in Christ Church’s records as extending “from the Street to the Walnut tree; & in breadth from the Bowling Alley to the mud-wall, although no measurements were given” (Jesus College, Oxford 31).

Below is a portion of a bird’s eye view of Oxford looking from the north, originally drawn by Ralph Agas in 1578. Oxonia antiqua instaurata sive urbis & academiae Oxoniensis topografica delineatio olim a Radulpho Agas impressa A.D. 1578 nunc denuo aeri incisa A.D. MDCCXXII (1578). The original map was damaged, but it has been reproduced with this copy engraved by W. Williams in 1732. It shows streets and buildings pictorially – High Street runs from left to right with St Mary’s Church at the center. In the lower -right side can be seen the city wall with the North Gate just visible at the right” (Agas).  The new buildings of Jesus College “from the gateway to the corner of Cheyney Lane” [Market Street] are shown as is White Hall and some of the other Halls, at the corner of Ship Street—the rest of the site is still garden (Hardy 18-19).  Agas’s plan shows Laurence Hall as “an isolated group of buildings standing to the south and west of the present Ship Street/Turl Street corner” (Allen 110).
Allen map
Figure 1 — Allen, Brigid.  “The History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603.”  Oxoniensia, 108, Vol. LXIII, 1998.  Web. 22 June 2016. <>.

Above is a detail view from Ralph Agas’s 1578 plan of Oxford (looking south), showing (1) Laurence Hall, fronting Somnore Lane (Ship Street); (2) adjoining former buttery and hall of White Hall to west and Turl Street frontage to east; (4) former White Hall building, fronting Cheyney Lane (Market Street); (5) garden, possibly from St. Fridenswide’s Priory, extending southwards from Somnore Lane (Allen 108).


Figure 2 —Map of Oxford. Part of Ralph Agas’s Map of Oxford (1578). North is at the Bottom. Jesus College, Oxford is Marked in Green. Digital image.  Wikipedia., Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <>.

Jesus College save  Map data ©2016 Google

Figure 3— “Jesus College, Turl Street, Oxford, United Kingdom.” Map. Google Maps. Google, 25 July 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.

Foot Notes
*…‘tum contra illicitas enormitates et nefarios abusus, tum contra haereticum malignas et pestiferas impietates  (Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford 5)

**For the original Latin
Ad summi et omnipotentis Dei gloriam et honorem, ad Christianæ et sinceræ religionis amplificationem et stabilimentum, ad errorum et falsarum persuasionum extirpationem, ad augendum et continuandum pietatis cultum, ad omnis generis  bonarum literarum incrementa, ad linguarum congnitionem, ad juventutis in pietate et virtute ac disciplina et scientia educationem, ad pauperum et inopia afflictorum sublevationem, denique ad Ecclesiæ Christi regni nostri ac subitorum nostrorum communem utilitatem et felicitatem, [de gratia nostra speciali, et ex certa scientia et mero motu nostris], quoddam Collegium eruditionis scientiarum, philosophiæ, bonarum atrium, linguarum cognitionis Hebraicæ Græcæ et Latinæ, ad finalem sacræ theologiæ professionem, perpetuis futuris temporibus duraturum creari, erigi, fundari et stabiliri decrevimus
(“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute One”).

***The main buildings of Jesus College are located in the centre of the city of Oxford, between Turl Street, Ship Street (also known as Somnore Lane and Jesus College Lane), Cornmarket Street, and Market Street (previously called Cheyney Lane).



Figure 1
Allen, Brigid.  “The History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603.”  Oxoniensia Vol. LXIII, 1998.  Web. 22 June 2016. <>.

Agas, Radulpho. Oxonia antiqua instaurata sive urbis & academiae Oxoniensis topografica delineatio olim a Radulpho Agas impressa A.D. 1578 nunc denuo aeri incisa A.D. MDCCXXII (1578). University of Oxford: Highlights of the Bodleian Library’s Map Collection. Shelfmark: Gough Maps Oxfordshire 4. Web. 7 July 2016. <>.

Figure 2
Map of Oxford. Part of Ralph Agas’s Map of Oxford (1578). North is at the Bottom. Jesus College, Oxford is Marked in Green. Digital Image.  Wikipedia., Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <;.

Figure 3
Google Maps. “Jesus College, Turl Street, Oxford, United Kingdom.”  Map.
“Map data ©2016 Google.” 2016. Google Maps Web. 17 July 2016.,-1.258128,18z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x4876c6af745d6ae5:0xf4b0d23c6f0e9f15!8m2!3d51.7534359!4d-1.2568897

Works Cited:

Ackermann, R. “Jesus College.” A History of the University of Oxford Its Colleges, Halls and Public Buildings Volume II. London:  L. Harrison & J. C. Leigh, 1814. Google Book Search. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

Agas, Radulpho. Oxonia antiqua instaurata sive urbis & academiae Oxoniensis topografica delineatio olim a Radulpho Agas impressa A.D. 1578 nunc denuo aeri incisa A.D. MDCCXXII (1578). University of Oxford: Highlights of the Bodleian Library’s Map Collection. Shelfmark: Gough Maps Oxfordshire 4. Web. 7 July 2016. <>.

“All the Welshmen Abiding and Studying in Oxford: Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion 1986.” Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru.  Aberystwyth: The National Library of Wales, 2009.  Cylchgoronau Cymru Ar-lein, Welsh Journals Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <>.

Allen, Brigid.  “The History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603.”  Oxoniensia Vol. LXIII, 1998.  Web. 22 June 2016. <>.

“The Beginning.” Jesus College Oxford. Jesus College 2016. Web. 6 Feb. 2016. <>.

 Oxford Architectural and Historical Society.  “Walks and Excursions, Lent Term, 1883. Saturday, Feb.17, 1883.” Proceedings of the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society, New Series, Vol. IV, 1880 to 1885. Oxford: Parker and Co.,1885. Google Book Search. Web. 19 July 2016. <>.

Cook, John Douglas, et al. “Jesus College, Oxford.” The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, Volume 89: 532. London:  The Saturday Review, 28 Apr.1900. Google Book Search. Web. 24 June 2016. <>.

Fuller, Thomas.  “The Church-History of Britain from the Birth of Jesus Christ Until the Year M.DC.XLVIII.” 1845 Edition. Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1845. Text Creation, 2005-2012. Web. 4 July 2016. <;view=fulltext>.

Google Maps. “Map data ©2016 Google.” 2016. Google Maps Web. 17 July 2016.,-1.258128,18z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x4876c6af745d6ae5:0xf4b0d23c6f0e9f15!8m2!3d51.7534359!4d-1.2568897

Hardy, E. G. Jesus College. University of Oxford, College Histories. London:  F. E. Robison and Co., 1899. Web. 22 June 2016. <>.

“Houses of Augustinian Canons: The Priory of St Frideswide, Oxford.” A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Ed. William Page. London: Victoria County History, 1907. 97-101. British History Online. Web. 14 July 2016.

Ingram, James, Ed. “Jesus College.” Memorials of Oxford Volume II.  Oxford:  John Henry Parker, 1837. Google Book Search. Web. 16 July 2016. <>.

Jesus College, Oxford. Ed.Wikipedians. Google Book Search. Web. 5 Feb.2016. Map of Oxford. Part of Ralph Agas’s Map of Oxford (1578). North is at the Bottom. Jesus College, Oxford is Marked in Green. Digital image.  Wikipedia., Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <;.

Moore, James.  The Historical Handbook and Guide to Oxford:  Embracing a Succinct History of the University and City from the Year 912, Second Edition. Oxford: Thomas Shrimpton & Son, 1878. Google Book Search. Web. 17 July 2016.

Oxford Architectural and Historical Society.  “Walks and Excursions, Lent Term, 1883. Saturday, Feb.17, 1883.” Proceedings of the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society, New Series, Vol. IV, 1880 to 1885. Oxford: Parker and Co.,1904. Google Book Search. Web. 19 July 2016.<>.

Plummer, Charles, ed. Elixabethan Oxford:  Reprints of Rare Tracts. Oxford: Oxford Historical Society, 1887.  Web. 25 June 2016.

A Pocket Companion for Oxford:  Or, Guide Through the University. Oxford:  Clarendon Printing House, 1766. Google Book Search. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. <>.

Salter, H. E. and Mary D. Lobel led. “Jesus College.” A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, The University of Oxford. London: Victoria County History, 1954. 264-279. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2016. 

Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford; with Royal Patents of Foundation, Injunctions of Visitors, and Catalogues of Documents Relating to the University, Preserved in the Public Record Office Vol. III. Oxford: J. H. Parker, 1853. Web. Google Book Search.  17 July 2016.

“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute One.” Jesus College, Oxford.  Jesus College, Web. 25 June 2016. <>.

“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute Two.” Jesus College, Oxford.  Jesus College, Web. 25 June 2016. <>.

“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute Fourteen.” Jesus College, Oxford.  Jesus College, Web. 25 June 2016. <>.

“Visual Arts and the Gothic.” Gothic Literature: A Gale Critical Companion. Ed. Jessica Bomarito. Vol. 1: Topics. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 475-526. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII—B

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII—B

Anne Boleyn’s journey that took her from Hever to St. Peter ad Vincula was certainly unfathomable considering the affection Henry showered upon her.  She seemed comfortable in her elevation regardless of the humble façade she often presented.  Even to Henry she exclaimed, “You have chosen me from low estate to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire” (Denny 283).  In a letter she wrote to Cardinal Wolsey, Anne implied that he, in his wisdom, brought her honor despite her unworthiness.  Anne thanked Wolsey for the “gret payn & travelle that your grace doth take in steudyeng by your wysdome and gret dylygens how to bryng to pas honerably the gretyst welth that is possyble to come to any creator lyving, and in especyall remembryng howe wrtchyd and unworthy I am in comparyng to his hyghnes” (Cavendish II 252).

Hever Castle

Henry, born to privilege, accustomed to flattery and not often gainsaid made the decision to raise Anne to the highest position in the land. To have her fall so quickly and so thoroughly by divorce and execution was astounding considering Henry “had committed himself far too deeply, and the parliament had been committed along with him, to the measure by to which the marriage was legalized” (Froude 401).

Over the years, credit and/or blame for Anne’s disgrace come from many quarters.  An interesting source Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, credits himself for Anne’s fall. He claimed to have been informed by a witness who overhead Anne say that it was because of Chapuys that she had lost favor with Henry. Chapuys confessed to Bishop Grenville, “I was rather flattered by the compliment, and consider myself very lucky at having escaped her vengeance; for kind-hearted and merciful as she is, she would without remorse have cast me to the dogs” (Gairdner X 54). Many courtiers believed that Anne “never forgave any one, whom she thought an enemy” (Herbert, Henry 171).

Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys

This proved a very interesting characteristic and one that was put to the test.  Henry, the devoted husband, readily turned the tables on Anne by ordering her arrest and eventual execution.  Yet, in a letter to Henry, at her trial and on the scaffold, Anne obviously did not view Henry as an enemy for she readily forgave him and took measures to ensure she expressed no malice.  Was this an act of a loving wife?  Was this a mission of a concerned Reformer?  Or, was this a strategy of a determined mother—a mother who would not be able to protect and advance the welfare of her daughter?

In a letter to Henry on May 6, 1536, Anne’s innocence comes through in the well-written missive. She boldly declared, “I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocency shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared” (Bell 99).  Anne beseeched Henry to “neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart towards your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant princess your daughter” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).  Concern for her daughter certainly dictated her behavior.  Anne did not risk upsetting Henry and humbly closed the letter “I will leave to trouble your grace any further, with mine earnest prayer to the Trinity to have your grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions” (Bell 100).

Letter 6 May 1536.
Anne Boleyn’s letter to King Henry VIII written on 6 May 1536, from the Tower of London.
British Library MS. Cotton, Otho C. x. fol. 232r

At her trial, “she stood undismayed; nor did she ever exhibit any token of impatience, or grief, or cowardice” (Stevenson 1303:24).  Upon hearing her sentence, Anne addressed the Court:  “I do not say that I have always borne towards the king the humility which I owed him, considering his kindness and the great honour he showed me and the great respect he always paid me; I admit, too, that often I have taken it into my head to be jealous of him …. But may God be my witness if I have done him any other wrong” (Gairdner X 1036).

Anne’s actions and words continued judiciously to circumvent Henry’s role in her downfall. Upon the scaffold “to her last breath she stood to acquit and defend him by her words…” (Cavendish 214).  Her recorded words to the spectators were, “I pray God save the king and send him long to reigne over you, for a gentler nor a more mercyfull prince was there never and to me, he was ever a good, a gentle, & soveraigne lorde” (Hall 819).  Another witness to the Queen’s execution also claimed that Anne instructed her ladies to “be faithful to the King’s Grace, and to her whom with happier fortune ye may have as your Queen and Mistress” (Sylvanus 56). Could anyone be more magnanimous to offer support to your successor?  For further discussion on the speech given at the scaffold, see the entire blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII

In his work, Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum Commentarii, John Foxe claimed Anne’s scaffold speech was evidence of her faith and faithfulness.   Atque vero mortis causam hic non disquiro, quae suum aliquando iudiceum habituara est:  verba solum morientis notaare volui, singulari fide, et modestia erga regem suum plena (Freeman 799).  “And truly I do not investigate the cause of her death which was decided by others, I wished only to note her dying words for their singular faith and complete modesty towards her king” (Freeman 799).  “First, her last words spoken at her death declared no less her sincere faith and trust in Christ, than did her quiet modesty utter forth the goodness of the cause and matter, whatsoever it was”  (Foxe 407).  Modesty would not be a word that comes to the mind to describe Anne’s relationship toward Henry. This new comportment was most likely to ensure the safety of her daughter.

John Foxe

Several commentators believed, like Gilbert Burnet, that Anne’s fear for “her daughter made her speak so tenderly; for she had observed, that Queen Katherine’s obstinacy had drawn the King’s indignation on her daughter; and therefore, that she alone might bear her misfortunes, and derive no share of them on her daughter” (Burnet 319).  The fallen Queen, “spake in a style that could give the King no just offence, and as she said enough to justify herself, so she said as much for the King’s honour as could be expected” (Burnet 319).

Anne’s soothing Henry was dictated by convention, religion and concern for her daughter. Her “fear of drawing the king’s anger on her daughter Elizabeth, prevented her from insisting upon her own innocence.  As she knew the king’s temper perfectly, and could not vindicate herself without charging him with injustice, she was afraid Elizabeth would become the sacrifice of the king her father’s resentment” (Thoyras 421).  Praise to Anne for “whose royal and flourishing regiment we have to behold, not so much the natural disposition of her qualities, as the secret judgment of God in preserving and magnifying the fruit and offspring of that godly queen” (Foxe II 408).

a and e
Elizabeth Regina and Queen Anne Boleyn

Anne’s behavior in her final days and hours seems to have impressed many with her commitment to her innocence, faith and daughter.  The political aplomb she displayed for years surfaced in the intelligence to know her behavior would reflect / manifest upon her daughter’s future.  Although historians will continue to debate the influence Anne had on the Reformation movement in England and throughout Europe, it is clear that “her influence survived, too, in the little girl at Hunsdon, who grew up to be very like her….” (Friedman II 297).

For References please see Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part I

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII-A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII—A

Although Elizabeth was still at Greenwich at the time of her mother’s execution, she was soon moved to Hunsdon.  Please refer to the blog entries at entitled “Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory”  and “Lady Bryan:  An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove” for further information about Elizabeth’s childhood at the time of her mother’s arrest and execution.


It was while at Hunsdon that Sir John Shelton wrote to Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell, on Wednesday 16 August 1536, assuring him he would follow the King’s orders which stripped Elizabeth of the title Princess and kept her in her chamber.  Explanations for this included a story that Queen Jane Seymour slandered Anne and said to the King, “Your Majesty knows how bad Queen Anne was, and it is not fit that her daughter should be the Princess” (Hume 72-73).

Many historians believe that Elizabeth was confined to her rooms after her mother’s disgrace because Henry could not bear any mention of her as a reminder of her mother.  Others consider that Henry secluded Elizabeth for her own protection against the rumors and stories swirling around Court, a view seemingly supported by French Ambassador Guillaume du Bellay.  Du Bellay commented that at a banquet celebrating the marriage of Henry and Jane Seymour, although “Madame Ysabeau is not at that table, the King is very affectionate to her. It is said he loves her much” (Gairdner XI 860).

Guillaume du Bellay

Therefore, under the instructions of her father, Lady Margaret Bryan, Elizabeth’s governess, protected her as much as possible.  While Henry was eradicating all trace of Anne by altering, removing or destroying emblems, heraldry, portraits, etc., the Court was avoiding any mention of Anne Boleyn.  After her execution Anne’s existence was basically erased. We do not know when or how Elizabeth learned of her mother’s end, therefore, speculation is useless. We do know that after Elizabeth became queen, several chroniclers such as John Foxe were able to tell Anne’s story “at least as he and many of her contemporaries had grasped it at the time” (Zahl 18).

When Elizabeth gained the throne and did not immediately defend her mother’s memory, to many onlookers it seemed strange “that during her long and glorious reign, none wrote in vindication of her mother, which officious courtiers are apt to do often, without any good grounds; so that silence was made an argument of her guilt, and that she could not be defended.  But perhaps that was an effect of the wisdom of the ministers of that time, who would not suffer so nice a point, upon which the Queen’s legitimation depended, to be brought into dispute” (Burnet 115-116).

The conclusion that Elizabeth did not defend Anne as proof of her mother’s guilt ignores the work of John Foxe, George Wyatt and others; although, it is conceded that Elizabeth Regina did stress her paternity.  Elizabeth, unlike her sister Mary, never passed legislation to restore her parents’ marriage.  Why should she?  Henry VIII’s will had placed her in line to the succession as did the Acts of Succession, the latest in 1543; she had gained the throne uncontested in 1558; and, as a political survivor, she realized there was no need to bring to the fore the controversy of her mother’s execution.  Elizabeth’s usual maneuverings were to watch and wait—and this was no exception.  A pro-active stance trying to prove Anne’s innocence was unnecessary and could prove politically harmful.

Oath of Succession

Alexander Aless, a Scottish theologian and diplomat recalled that Anne’s innocence was demonstrated not only by her character but also by no greater “evident proof than this, that whereas she left you, her only child, your father always acknowledged you as legitimate” and nothing could “persuade the illustrious King that you were not his daughter” (Stevenson 1303:46). John Foxe wrote that Henry VIII in his Last Will and Testament did by name, “accept, and by plain ratification did allow, the succession of his marriage to stand good and lawful” (Foxe V 232).

Opposite of the views of Anne’s proponents were those of her detractors such as Nicholas Sander.  He deduced that Elizabeth “under the pressure of the fear … that because she was the issue of a marriage condemned by the Church and the sovereign Pontiff, a doubt might be raised touching her birth and her title to the throne” (Sander 241). Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton described Anne as “the ruin of many pious, worthy and famous men who favoured not that unlawful marriage” (Zahl 13).

Perhaps because of a sliver of doubt in her mind, in 1572 Elizabeth had Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, track down the papal bull of dispensation from 1528 that had sanctioned her parents’ marriage. Queen Elizabeth wanted to have the document on file in case she needed to prove her legitimacy, beyond any doubt. Although this document would not be needed in England, it is assumed by this blogger that Elizabeth Regina wanted to have it for her own marriage negotiations within Catholic Europe.

Heading of the Papal Bull concerning the dissolution of Henry VIII marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

Henry’s marital status with Anne (the dispensation and later divorce) was one of the troubles he bequeathed Elizabeth.  The “sole advantage to Henry was that his infidelities to Anne ceased to be breaches of the seventh commandment.  The justice of her sentence to death is also open to doubt.  Anne herself went to the block boldly proclaiming her innocence” (Pollard 345).  Although Anne did not directly address the accusations against her on the scaffold, she did take communion prior to her death and did not confess guilt.  To die without confession would have been unheard of for a practicing Christian of that time period.  William Kingston Constable of the Tower of London bore witness and reported on the day of Anne’s execution, ‘thys morning she sent for me that I myght be with hyr at soche tyme as she reysayved the gud lord to the in tent I shuld here hyr speke as towchyng her innosensy always to be clere” (Cavendish 229)

Not defending her innocence was seen as troubling to contemporaries whereas modern eyes would admire her.  Anne’s “faint way of speaking concerning her innocence at last was judged too high a compliment to the King in a dying woman, and shewed more regard to her daughter than to her own honour” (Burnet An Abridgement 115). She “was, it seems, prevailed on, out of regard to her daughter, to make no reflections on the hard measure she met with, nor to say any thing touching the grounds on which sentence passed against her” (Burnet An Abridgement 114).

As witnessed in a letter to Queen Elizabeth concerning her mother, Alexander Aless stated that the “Queen exhibited such constancy, patience, and faith towards God that all the spectators, even her enemies…testified and proclaimed her innocence and chastity” (Stevenson 1303:27).

a and e
 Elizabeth Regina and Queen Anne Boleyn

Anne’s reputation, written by contemporaries or near contemporaries, was a study of contrast.  Was she a pious, Protestant heroine or lecherous woman “following daily her frail and carnal lust”(Gairdner X 876). Defending her in the immediate aftermath of her death was not a politically astute thing to do with her guilt having been ‘proven’ and, yet, defending her during her daughter’s reign invited accusations of sycophantic behavior.

Could there be a middle ground?  Apparently not, even when a Catholic appeared to take Anne’s side, it was viewed with suspicion.  Andre Thevet, a French Franciscan, wrote Universal Cosmography in which he stated he had on good authority from multiple sources “that King Henry at his death, among his other sins, repented in particular of the wrong he had done the queen, in destroying her by a false accusation” (Burnet 268).  Considering the monasteries, including the Franciscan Order, had suffered at the hands of Henry VIII and inadvertently Anne Boleyn, the influence of this statement is strengthened.  What cause would Thevet have to defend Anne despite her pro-French inclinations?

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer must have believed Anne innocent of the deeds and her acquired reputation yet as a pragmatist he realized that when dealing with Henry he had to tread cautiously.  The postscript of a letter written to Henry at the time of Anne’s arrest covered both angles “I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the Queen, as I heard of their relation.  But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject” (Burnet 262).   Cranmer wanted to preserve the Reformation which in its infancy could not be too closely associated with a blighted leader.

With Anne credited for encouraging the Reformation movement in England, her supporters kept her memory alive. John Foxe referred to her as Godly, “for sundry respects, whatsoever the cause was, or quarrel objected against her. Certain this was, that for the rare and singular gifts of her mind, so well instructed, and given toward God, with such a fervent desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with like gentleness, modesty, and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England. Principally this one commendation she left behind her, that during her life, the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course. Again, what a zealous defender she was of Christ’s gospel all the world doth know…” (Foxe II 407).

Bishop John Aylmer, at one time a tutor to Lady Jane Grey, questioned that by banishing Rome from England, was there no “greater feat wrought by any man than this was by a woman?” Alymer was thankful that God had “given Queen Anne favour in the sight of the king” and although he praised many people who were instrumental in promoting the Reformation he felt that “wherefore, that many deserved much praise for helping forward of it, yet the crop and root was the queen, which God had endued with wisdom that she could, and given her the mind that she would, do it” (Cassell 176).

John Aylmer

Raphael Holinshed praised Anne posthumously in 1577.  “Now because I might rather saie much than suffcientlie inough in praise of this noble queene, as well for hir singular wit and other excellent qualities of mind, as also for hir favouring of learned men, zeale of religion, and liberalitie in distributing almes in reliefe of the poore” (Holinshed 797).

Even Secretary Cromwell admitted to Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys that Anne had courage and intelligence–“Et sur ce me loucha grandement le sens expert et cueur de la dicte concubine et de son frère” (Friedmann 297).

Anne was defended periodically as records of the following years show accounts against persons who maintained that Henry had put her to death unjustly.  An example would be proceedings against John Hill of Eysham.  On 26 June 1536 it was reported that Hill claimed that Henry had caused Mr. Norris, Mr. Weston, “and the other Queen to be put to death” for “a frawde and a gille” (Gairdner X 1205).

In France poems were written in her honour, and in Germany the Protestants expressed strong disapproval of the king’s act” (Friedmann II 300).  An anecdote about Christina of Denmark, the Duchess of Milan written by George Constantyne, an Evangelical-eyewitness to many of the events of 1536, to Thomas Cromwell revealed the international view towards Henry.   Suspicious that “the kynges majestie was in so little space rydde of the Quenes, that she dare not trust his cownceill, though she durst trust his majestie” although she “suspecteth that her great Aunte was poysoned; that the second was innocentlye put to deeth; And the thred lost for lacke of kepinge in her child bed” (Constantyne 61).

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

For References please see Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part I 

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – G

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – G

History does not grant us insight into the mind of Anne Boleyn.  Her aspirations for the Protestant faith, which was in its infancy, were well known and her advancement of friends and family was equally ambitious.  Were these reasons enough to turn public opinion against her?  Were these reasons enough for Simon Grynaeus, a German theologian to deem her a “woman entitled to no respect” (Brown IV 761)? Contemporaries labeled her as “incredibly vain, ambitious, unscrupulous, coarse, fierce, and relentless” (Friedmann II 297), “full of pride, ambition, envy, and impurity (Sander 25) with an “overbearing manner that left her without a friend save her own immediate connections and personal allies” (Froude 402).  Her “arrogance and that of her family made them hated” (Pollard 349) and they were easily blamed for putting Henry “in this perverse and wicked temper, and alienated him from his former humanity” (Gairdner VI 351).  “Could any enemy the King had wish him a greater plague than, with such exceeding immoderate outrageous appetite to have this woman to his wife, so pitifully to have been blinded, and so willfully and so headlong to have precipitate himself to such a danger” (Harpsfield 253)?

AnneBoleyn4               Henry_VIII_Coin
Anne Boleyn “Most Happy”                          Henry VIII Coins

Yet, Henry was truly in love with Anne.  As seen in a love letter written to her in perhaps 1538, Henry assured her that ‘henceforth my heart will be dedicated to you alone.’ He also apologized profusely for suggesting she could be a mere mistress.  Did she have ambitions to become Queen or the wherewithal to ensure a secure future for herself as an untainted bride of a member of the nobility?

Henry wrote, ‘Beseeching you also that if I have in any way offended you, you will give me the same absolution for which you ask, assuring you that henceforth my heart will be dedicated to you alone, and wishing greatly that my body was so too.’  Added to these sentiments, Henry speaks of his ‘unchangeable intention’ to marry Ann.  He praised her for the ‘demonstrations of your affection’ and the ‘beautiful words of your letter’ which he felt obliged him ‘to honour, love and serve’ Anne forever.  Henry also professed his ‘loyalty of heart’ and his ‘desire to please’.  He signed the letter, ‘H seeks A.B., No Other Rex’ (“Passionate Love Letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn on Public Display”).

Henry love letter
Love Letter Written by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

With her future consisting of execution and her Protestant cause ending in stalemate, would it have been better for Anne to “become rather his mistress, as Katharine Parr, the last and most fortunate of his queens, declared to himself it was better to be, than his wife” (Herbert, Henry 107)?

This blogger cannot fathom the hatred for Anne that so quickly consumed Henry.  This, what turned out to be deadly rage, must have been boiling for some time.  Divorce was not enough, nor was execution.  Henry’s rage required both punishments be inflicted on Anne along with the defamation of her character (with the consequence of illegitimatizing their daughter).  That he sought revenge was obvious; facts were irrelevant.  Had Anne “been so lost to all prudence and sense of shame, she must have exposed herself to detection, and afforde her enemies some evidence against her” (Hume 328).  Proof was unnecessary; punishment was swift and severe.  Henry had grown tired of an argumentative, strong-willed wife.

Anne, an attractive, vivacious woman had captured Henry’s attention by “playing well on the lute” and being “a good dancer” (Sander 25). Yet, by the “vengeance of God, this woman which at such time as with her playing, singing, and dancing, …she compassed ere the year turned about, to her perpetual shame and ignominie, lost her head” (Harpsfield 254-255). Although Chapuys reported that “everybody rejoiced at the execution of the putaine; there were some who spoke variously of the King” (Froude 442).

Even if Henry suspected the treasonous adultery, his reaction to Anne was completely different from that of finding out about Catherine Howard’s infidelities (which were more of a certainty than Anne’s).  Obviously, his response is one of those mysteries of history which rests on the foibles of an individual.

The patterns of history have changed from accepting without question Anne’s guilt to defending her in her innocence—we will never know for certain.  She was a remarkable woman who led an extraordinary life.  Anne, a woman of religious vision, a patron of the poor, and an advocate of education, was foremost a human being.  Flawed by vanity and besieged by fear she was an intelligent, outspoken woman with strong opinions.  One does not have to view her with sympathy but perhaps understanding.

a and e
    Elizabeth             Anne

Must she be either a villain or a saint, victim or aggressor?  She was a human being who played a pivotal role in history on her own and as the mother of Elizabeth Regina, under whose leadership her vision would be realized.

For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – F

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – F

The fall of Anne Boleyn will never be fully understood or explained. Her descent  appears to have happened so quickly as to baffle scholars and lay-people alike.  Most likely it was the result of many factors that came to head all at once: the revenge of Cromwell for past slights, the political situation — both domestic and international — the religious circumstances and the disillusionment of King Henry.

Henry’s role in Anne’s demise, often described as that of an innocent victim–a righteous man who, when presented with the facts of his adulterous wife, follows the letter of the law and allows officialdom to prosecute her as appropriate. Rumors spread that there were spies in her household and that “the King hates the Queen, because she has not presented him with an heir to the realm, nor was there any prospect of her so doing” (Stevenson 1312).  Henry, frustrated by a politically active, argumentative wife, saw Anne’s demise as the only way out.  Divorce was not enough, nor was execution.  Henry’s rage required both punishments inflicted on Anne along with the defamation of her character.

henry viii younger
King Henry VIII

No rumor was considered too fanciful to believe.  Stories circulated that the honor Anne had acquired to join the royal court in France stemmed from the fact that at “fifteen she sinned first with her father’s butler, and then with his chaplain, and forthwith was sent to France” (Sander 25).  While in France, Anne was supposed to have been the lover of many couriers and “her conversation hath been so loose and base” (Harpsfield 253) and her behavior “so rank and common” (Friedmann 298) that understandably she was “audacious and licentious in the prosecution of her detestable and abominable vices” (Gairdner X 54).

There was no end to the implied and declared evils of Anne by the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys.  He claimed her to be a seductress and murderess, “whose importunate and malignant cravings are well known” (de Gayangos 1133).  Convinced that Anne would try to poison Queen Katherine and Princess Mary, Chapuys reported that although the “Queen has no fears, but is marvelously concerned for the Princess” (Gairdner VI 351). Added to the speculation that Anne tried to murder members of the royal family, there was laid the charge of her role in the deaths of public figures.  Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Sir Thomas More were “both inscribed on the black-list of the revengeful mistress, who never rested from her ill offices toward them, until their heads had fallen” (Herbert, Henry 171).

“Yet did not our King love her at first”(Herbert, Edward 285).  Although Henry was touted as a hero of the Protestant cause and liberator of the English peoples, he also was blamed for how he “stained the purity of his action by intermingling with it a weak passion for a foolish and bad woman, and bitterly he had to suffer for his mistake” (Froude 324).  “A long catalog of misdeeds had been registered…”  It was puzzling to many that Henry did not realize Anne had “worn a mask so long” and never gave Henry “occasion for dissatisfaction.  Incidents must have occurred in the details of daily life, if not to rouse his suspicions, yet to have let him see that the woman for whom he had fought so fierce a battle had never been worthy what she had cost him”  (Froude 402).

Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn 

These sentiments are very different from when Anne was at her heyday; yet, all was not as it seemed as observed by Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Bayonne, Ambassador from France on December 9, 1528.  “I see they mean to accustom the people by degrees to endure her, so that when the great blow comes it may not be thought strange. However, the people remain quite hardened, and I think they would do more if they had more power; but great order is continually taken” (Brewer IV 5016).

Hence a severe ordinance was issued “against any that spoke ill of her; which shut people’s mouths when they knew what ought not to be concealed.”  Anne could do as she pleased and “if perhaps taken with the love of some favored person, she could treat her friends according to her pleasure, owing to the ordinance. But that law could not secure to her lasting friendships, and the King daily cooled in his affection” (Gairdner X 1036).  Therefore, with the King’s new policies and his actions, such as the execution of More, causing so much hostility toward Anne Boleyn, the Crown’s agents were kept busy trying to preserve public order and ensure the people would accept the new edicts.  Records show several examples of the investigations into many reported violations.  Although the punishments are not always documented, below are brief summaries of some of the charges against those of all stations of life.

In April of 1532 Charles Brandon’s kinsman, William Peninthum was assaulted and killed by the men in the service of the Duke of Norfolk.  When Thomas Cromwell investigated it came to light that the root of the trouble came from “opprobrious language uttered against Madam Anne by his Majesty’s sister, the Duchess of Suffolk, Queen Dowager of France” (Brown IV 761).

Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Mary, Dowager Queen of France, Duchess of Suffolk.

Edward Earl of Derby and Sir Henry Farington wrote a letter to Henry VIII concerning the widespread discontent over his marriage to Anne Boleyn.  The men informed Henry that they felt compelled to send a letter of the examinations they had made of various witnesses because of “the discharge of our duties” (Ellis 42).  Sir Edward and Sir Farington “perceyve your graces pleasor is that a lewde and noghty priest inhabytyng in thise partyes, who hathe of late reported and spoken befor and in the audyence of certeyn persons sundry and diverse unfyttyng and sklaunderous words, aswell by your Highnes as by the Quenes grace” (Ellis 42).  They assured Henry that they “have called befor us suche persons whose names and dsposicions hereafter do enue; and the same persons did examyn upon ther othes at Ley in the Countie of Lancaster” (Ellis 43).

In 1533 a Warwickshire priest called Anne “a harlot and maintainer of heretics” and expressed the hope that “she would be burned at Smithfield” (Haigh 141).

Evidently, in Lancashire, when Sir Richard Clerke, a vicar at Leigh, read out the proclamation declaring Katherine of Aragon as Princess Dowager, “Sir Jamys Harrison priest hering the said proclamacion, said that Quene Katharyn was Quene, And that Nan Bullen whuld not be Quene, nor the King to be no King but on his bering” (Ellis 43).  Substantiated by many witnesses, a more strongly worded exclamation was related that “Sir Jamys said I will take non for Quene but Quene Katharin; who the devell made Nan Bullen that hoore Quene, for I will never take her for Quene, and the King on his bering” (Ellis 44).

Katharine of Aragon 

A scuffle between an ostler of the White Horse in Cambridge with a customer, Henry Kilby, in May of 1534 did not go unnoticed by the authorities.  During a discussion over the religious changes occurring in the country, the inn worker declared that “this business had never been if the king had not married Anne Boleyn” (Wilson).  He was duly reported after blows were exchanged between the two men.

Sir Walter Stonor described, in a letter to Master Secretary Cromwell, the affidavit presented by John Dawson of Watlyngton in June of 1534.  Dawson and a William Goode, the constable, documented a conversation which took place between Mrs. Burgyn of Watlington in Oxfordshire and her midwife, Joan Hammulden.  It was alleged that while in labor Burgyn praised Hammulden by saying that “for her honesty and cunning … she might be midwife to the Queen of England, if it were Queen Catherine, and if it were Queen Anne she was too good to be her midwife, for she was a whore and a harlot for her living” (Elton 279).  Mrs. Burgyn counter claimed that Joan replied that “it was never merry in England since there was three queens in it and …there would be fewer shortly” (Gairdner VII 840).

On 20 August 1535, the high constable of South Brent, John Gillinge, and John Buckett informed Thomas Clerk and William Vowell that “David Leonard, hooper, an Irishman, had said, ‘God save king Henry and queen Katharine his wedded wife, and Anne at his pleasure, for whom all England shall rue” (Gairdner IX 136).

In 1535, Margaret Chaunseler (of Suffolk) earned notoriety by calling Queen Anne “a goggle-eyed whore” (Elton 137) and a lay brother of Roche Abbey thought that Anne was not the queen but ‘Anne the bawd’ (Haigh 141).

roche abbey
Roche Abbey Ruins

No slander was deemed too outrageous to be believed. As Chapuys succinctly said to his emperor, “These things are monstrous and difficult to believe yet, the obstinacy of the King and malice of this cursed woman everything may be apprehended” (Gairdner VII 726).  While not prosecuted in any way, Eustace Chapuys continued his diplomatic campaigned against Anne.  In May 1536, he wrote to Monseigneur de Granvelle describing Anne as “the English Messalina, or Agrippina” (Gairdner X 54). For an interesting article on Agrippina see Romm, James. “The Woman Who Would Rule Rome.” History Today 64.4 (2014): 10-16. Print.  Meanwhile, all the time Anne was being protected against these raucous mutterings, her descent was in progress.  Many at Court were watching and waiting.

For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I


Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – E

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – E

Although as Queen, Anne expected strict moral behavior from her women and was well known for performing charitable works — even making garments for the poor herself, she could never overcome the reputation of a calculating flirt.

Anne played the game.  She became the “finished coquette, playing fast and loose, hot and cold, as Henry appeared more or less urgent and enamored.”  She also encouraged the addresses of Wyatt and “inflamed Henry’s passions to the height of jealous fury” (Herbert, Henry 340).  Anne was indeed playing with fire as most of her contemporaries would not have appreciated nor accepted the idea of a young, unmarried girl flirting with married men.  She was tarnishing her reputation to such a degree that in 1536 it was easy for most people to accept her guilty of the licentious behavior she was accused of committing.  Many never questioned it because she had spent her formative years in France and everyone knew what had happened there. When she was “sent to France; where also she behav’d her self so licentiously, that she was vulgarly call’d the Hackney of England, till being adopted to that Kings Familiarity, she was termed his mule” (Herbert, Edward 286-287).

Anne Boleyn

Upon her return from France, Lord Percy expressed an interest in Anne “but Misstris Bolen, whether she were ignorant, as yet, how much the King loved her, or howsoever had rather be that Lords Wife, than a Kings Misstris, took very ill of the Cardinal this his unreasonable Interruption of her Marriage” (Herbert, Edward 286).  Therefore, Anne was all set to marry Henry Percy but for the intervention of Cardinal Wolsey whom she never did forget nor forgive.

Why would she not have preferred to be the wife of Lord Percy or any other gentlemen rather than the King’s mistress? This blogger must concede that from the time period in which she lived, Anne relinquishing her honor to Henry before their marriage would have been viewed as wanton. Even her Protestant supporters would have been shocked by her behavior.  We can surmise that Anne did not spend six years balancing the King’s passion for her with her chastity to casually surrender one of her most valuable assets.  She has been defended that “up to this time, Anne’s conduct was irreproachable, and it is unmanly, as well as unjust, to attribute baseness, where no baseness is shown” (Herbert, Henry 338). Both she and Henry had to have been pretty certain that his divorce from Katherine was imminent before they committed to a physical relationship.  This action though would taint her image and encourage gossip.

lord percy
Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland

Carlo Capello, the Venetian Ambassador to England, wrote to his superiors a description of Anne Boleyn in late October of 1532, close to the time Henry and Anne’s relationship changed.  “Madam Anne is not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and in fact has nothing but the English King’s great appetite, and her eyes, which are black and beautiful” (Brown IV 824).  Lancelot de Carle, later the Bishop of Riez, said Anne’s eyes were her most attractive feature “always most attractive which she knew well now to use with effect.  Sometimes leaving them at rest and at others, sending a message to carry the secret witness of the heart.  And, truth to tell, such was their power that many surrendered to their obedience” (Riehl 24).  Modern language would refer to her as having star-power or charisma  which was unsettling to people and affected her reputation. Even one of her greatest distracters acknowledged that she was “amusing in her ways” (Sander 25). Nothing less would have kept a man like Henry enthralled and enamored with only her eyes to credit for it.

Anne certainly knew how to make the most of herself.  “She was the model and the mirror of those who were at court, for she was always well dressed, and every day made some change in the fashion of her garments” (Sander 25).  Anne played “well on the lute, and was a good dancer” (Sander 25). Yet, were these talents enough?  Harpsfield questioned how Henry could put aside the virtuous Katharine “for such an incestuous woman, being in all other qualities beside so far inferior to her, as she was in very chastity itself” (Harpsfield 255).  Once again, we are back to the issue of Anne’s reputation.  When the charges against Anne were brought forward, many courtiers who had responded with ‘obedience’ to the pull of her personality needed to justify their actions.  Thus, witchcraft, dishonesty and duplicity were brought forward as rationales.

Anne Boleyn Bendor
Recently confirmed portrait of Anne Boleyn, Royal Collection Archives

People felt the need even to justify their religious views. Those who did not support the Reformation said “it now appeared how bad that cause was which was supported by such a patron.  But it was answered, that her faults could not reflect on those who, being ignorant of them,” had supported her. (Burnet 115).  People who were less evangelical raised their “hopes of a reaction built on the fall of those ‘apostles of the new sect,’ Anne Boleyn and her relatives…” but those hopes, “were promptly and roughly destroyed” (Pollard 349).

Understanding the religious differences between Anne’s more evangelical leanings and others of the time (be it moderate Protestants and Roman Catholics) one should realize that she was “her Religion, there is no probability that it should (at first) be other than what was commonly profest” (Herbert, Edward 287).  Besides, her views were popular with many in power at the time as she promoted those clergy who shared her ideas.  It is apparent from “original Letters of hers, that she was a special Favourer of the Clergy of that time, and a preferrer of the worthiest sort of them of Ecclesiastical Livings, during her chief times of Favour with the King” (Herbert, Edward 287).

Those of the old faith were much more vocal against Anne Boleyn, “damned as the cause of all the trouble” (Haigh 141). Anne was blamed for the deaths of Thomas More and Bishop Fisher.  Nevertheless she did not leave off her evil conversation, which at length brought her to shame” (Gairdner X 1036).

thomas morejohn fisher
            Sir Thomas More                         John Fisher

Her religious views were not of the extreme variety at the time (although more so than Henry’s).  While she would have created enemies from those who staunchly followed the ‘old faith,’ she did not initially upset people on religious grounds. Her abrasive personality, her willfulness, and her flirtatiousness were things that created negative responses from people.

We see Anne’s elevation was opposed for her religious views and mostly for her lack of virtue as seen in the eyes of the people of the 16th century.  An interesting emphasis placed on the international element comes from Henry William Herbert.  He asserts that Cardinal Wolsey opposed Anne not because of her religious views nor because of her personally; he opposed her elevation because she was not of foreign royal blood.  Her acquisition of the throne would “alienate and affront foreign Princes, breed intestine strifes, and give undue preponderance in the state, to private families” (Herbert, Henry 340). This interpretation proves interesting.  Anne’s preference for France and Cromwell’s (remember Cromwell was Wolsey’s protégé) for the Imperial faction has been previously discussed as an element in Anne’s downfall in the blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part IV.   Here is another case of the interplay between national, even personal policy and foreign policy.  The King was a being of State.  What he did or did not do effected diplomacy—both foreign and domestic.  To marry a subject created discord amongst the English themselves and frustration with foreign nations as the perceived thwart to their ambitions.  In Henry VIII’s immediate predecessors we have examples of what Wolsey feared—strife within the English aristocracy and disgruntled foreign courts.  Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, yes; Richard III’s wife, Anne Neville, yes; and Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, yes—although the marriage was contracted as a way to end the factional warfare.

Thomas wolsey
Cardinal Wosley
For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I