Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – B

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – B

Ambassador Chapuys was comfortable with sharing any and all versions of the truth that reached his ears.  According to the Spaniard, Henry was declared the lover of Mary Boleyn and her mother, Elizabeth; Anne was declared the King’s daughter; Elizabeth was declared Norris’s child; and, Protestantism was declared responsible for the loose morals which led to these scandals.  In fact, Chapuys reported to Bishop Grenville on May 19, 1536, that the religious leaders Anne promoted “persuaded the Concubine that she had no need to confess, she grew more audacious in vice; and, moreover, they persuaded her that according to the said sect it was lawful to seek aid elsewhere, even from her own relations, when her husband was not capable of satisfying her” (Gairdner X 909).  This was quite a condemnation to brandish about the international diplomatic community while encouraging the English peoples in the belief that “isolation and danger of England was all laid to her account” (Froude 386).

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Eustace Chapuys, Ambassador from Spain

In this accusatory atmosphere, Henry turned his attentions completely toward Jane Seymour.  “She was not witty either, or brilliant; but she was modest, quiet, with a strong understanding and rectitude of principle” (Froude 441-442). These qualities appear to have been what attracted her to the King. “Jane seems to have had no enemies, except Alexander Aless [a Scottish Protestant divine who was on the fringe of the events of 1536] who denounced her to Luther as an enemy to the Gospel, probably because she extinguished the shining light of Anne Boleyn” (Pollard 347). There was “no sign that she herself sought so questionable an elevation. A powerful party in the State wished her to accept a position which could have few attractions, and she seems to have acquiesced without difficulty” (Froude 444).  For a more detailed account of Henry’s relationship with Jane at this juncture, see the blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincular Part VI-E.

Not surprisingly, Eustace Chapuys played both angles.  Although he did write to Charles V that Henry’s pursuit of Jane while Anne was still alive and imprisoned “sounds ill in the ears of the people” (Gairdner X 908).  He addressed Henry with great sympathy assuring the King that he had been blessed, as many “great and good men, even emperors and kings, have suffered from the arts of wicked women.”  The Ambassador felt it was “greatly to Henry’s credit that he detected and punished conspiracy before it came to light otherwise” (Gairdner X 1071).

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Jane Seymour

The conspiracy was the adultery committed by Anne.  Surprisingly, Henry dissolved their marriage two days before her death, yet, executed her for adultery.  Why divorce her “when the sword divorced them absolutely” (Gairdner XI 41)? There never was an official reason for the divorce.  No mention was made of the cause for the dissolution of the marriage except that it was the “consequence of certain just and lawful impediments which, it was said, were unknown at the time of the union but had lately been confessed to the Archbishop by the lady herself” (Wriothesley 41).  Therefore, Anne’s reputation was further sullied.  The implication was that the Court did not know of the impediments to her marriage to Henry but she most certainly did and had gone through with it anyway.  Archbishop Cranmer urged Anne to face the marriage tribunal “that it might be for the salvation of their souls” (Wriothesley 40).

As mentioned in the blog entry,Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part VI-F, if Anne and Henry were never legally married then it is impossible that she could be tried and executed for adultery.  Yet, her reputation was such that stories such as these were given credence.

With such an attitude toward Anne, observers had their theories for the divorce.  As previously shown, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, believed it “was a privie contract approved that she had made to the Earle of Northumberlande afore the Kings tyme, and she was discharged, and never lawfull Queene of England” (Wriothesley 41).  Chapuys wrote to Charles V that he had “been informed that the said archbishop of Canterbury had pronounced the marriage of the King and of his mistress to have been unlawful and nul in consequence of the King himself having had connexion with Anne’s sister, and that both he and she being aware and well acquainted with such an impediment, the good faith of the parents could not possibly legitimize the daughter” (Gairdner X 54). “The statute declaring the Concubine’s daughter princess and lawful heir has been repealed, and she has been declared bastard” (Gairdner XI 41).   As an aside here, Henry never disowned Elizabeth, he believed her to be his daughter, and he simply wanted her declared illegitimate to ensure that any issue (meaning sons) from further marriages would be the legal heirs.

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

No official record emerged with an actual description for the impediment.  Did the Council members appeal to Parliament to trust their conclusions and pass the statute to end the marriage (which was done in June after Anne’s execution)?  Was Henry’s goal to illegitimate Elizabeth and ensure any children of successive unions the right to the throne?  Either a pre-contract or consanguinity would have proved effective for that purpose.  So even Anne’s divorce was cloaked in intrigue and the information presented with it was designed to throw further guilt and suspicion upon her.

“On the day of the execution, Henry the Eight put on white for mourning, as though he would have said, ‘I am innocent of this deed:’ and the next day was married to Jane Seymour” (Ellis 66).  Although his wearing white was corroborated in other sources, it appears as if Henry held off marrying Jane Seymour until the end of May although they were pledged on May 20, 1536. Imperial sources claimed that after hearing of Anne’s execution, Henry “entered his barge and went to the said Semel [Jane Seymour], whom he had lodged a mile from him, in a house by the river” (Gairdner X 926). Before Anne’s death many at Court knew there was “no doubt that he will take the said Semel to wife; and some think the agreements and promises already made” (Gairdner X 908). Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (who signed official documents from Lambeth as from Lamehithe by T. Cantuarien was listed as the source in this document as T. Cantuarien) delivered the official dispensation document on May 19, 1536, allowing “Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, to marry, although in the third and third degrees of affinity, without publication of banns” (Gairdner X 915).

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According to tradition, Henry VIII stood at this spot in the park of his Hunting Lodge at Richmond when Anne Boleyn was executed. 

Ambassador Chapuys wrote on May 20th to Cardinal Granvelle that he had been informed “that Mrs. Semel came secretly by river this morning to the King’s lodging, and that the promise and betrothal (desponsacion) was made at 9 o’clock” (Gairdner X 926). Chapuys knew that something was afoot as Henry had called for “Parliament to commence on the 8th proximo….” Chapuys held hope that “the Concubine’s little bastard will be excluded from the succession, and that the King will get himself requested by Parliament to marry” (Gairdner X 926).  Jane Seymour was Henry’s obvious choice despite his implying to foreign diplomats, especially Chapuys, that he would select a bride from the continent.  Chapuys did not fall for Henry’s pretense knowing that “to cover the affection he has for the said Semel he has lodged her seven miles hence in the house of the grand esquire, and says publicly that he has no desire in the world to get married again unless he is constrained by his subjects to do so” (Gairdner X 926).  The charade fooled no one. “The great concerns of nations are of more consequence to contemporary statesmen than the tragedies or comedies of royal households.  The great question of the hour was the alternative alliance with the Empire or with France” (Froude 403).  “To the Catholic she [Anne] was a diablesse, a tigress, the author of all the mischief which was befalling them and the realm.  By the prudent and the moderate she was almost equally disliked; the nation generally, and even Reformers like Cromwell and Cranmer, were Imperialist:  Anne Boleyn was passionately French” (Froude 385).  By marrying Jane Seymour, Henry put an end to the marriage machinations of the Empire and France.

On 30 May 1536, the “weke before Whitsontyde the kyng maryed lady Jane doughter to the right worshipfull sir John Seymour knight, whiche at Whitsontyde was openlye shewed as Queue. The viii. day of June the kyng held his high court of Parliament in the whiche Parliament the kynges two first manages, that is to say with the lady Katheryne, and with the lady Anne Bulleyn were both adjudged unlawful” (Hall 819).

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

 

 

 

 

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Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII -A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – A

May 6, 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn addressed a letter to her husband, Henry VIII, while languishing in the Tower of London awaiting trial.  In this letter, Anne upbraided Henry for “cruel usage” while she assured him of her devotion.  Queen Anne suggested to Henry that he not “ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault where not so much as a thought thereof preceded.  And, to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).  Here was a woman who privately and publically maintained her plea of innocence. “This tenderness of conscience seemed to give much credit to the continual protestations of her innocence, which she made to the last” (Burnet 112-113).


Letter Anne Boleyn wrote to Henry VIII while she was in the Tower May 6, 1536.

Sir William Kingston, Anne’s custodian in the Tower, reported to Secretary Thomas Cromwell that on the morning of her execution, Anne “had made great protestations of it (her innocence) when she had received the Sacrament” (Burnet 114). Twenty-first century sensibilities may not understand the importance of this act but to those living in the Tudor era this would have been very powerful.  First, knowing she was going to die soon, Anne would not have risked lying; and, secondly, swearing against the truth while taking Holy Communion would have been unthinkable.  In fact when told that Mark Smeaton, the only man accused who confessed to adulterous behavior, had not retracted his statement when on the scaffold, Anne said, “Did he not exonerate me before he died, of the public infamy he laid on me? Alas! I fear his soul will suffer for it” (Gairdner X 1036).

Anne strengthened her plea of innocence by stating that when she shortly faced the seat of God’s judgment she did “doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).  Shortly before her death, Anne declared, “that she did not consider that she was condemned by Divine judgment”(Gairdner X 1070).  She “prayed the Judge of all the world to have compassion on those who had condemned her” (Gairdner X 1036).

Lancelot de Carles, an attaché to the French Ambassador wrote on 2 June 1536, “no one to look at her would have thought her guilty” as she “protested she had never misconducted herself towards the King” (Gairdner X 1036). “The queen exhibited such constancy, patience, and faith towards God that all the spectators, even her enemies, and those persons who previously had rejoiced at her misfortune …testified and proclaimed her innocence and chastity” (Stevenson 1303).

Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn

It was for naught.  Anne was executed and her good name and reputation along with her body.  Henry was determined to blacken her character and ensure there would be no lasting loyalty towards her.  He certainly succeeded—for centuries. Even during the reign of his and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I Regina, there was hesitancy to honor Anne too blatantly.  Elizabeth herself seemed reluctant to associate too closely with her mother (Although, the ring, now known as the Chequers Ring, she wore most certainly had the portrait of her mother encased in it—see the blog entry https://elizregina.com/2014/01/, “Her Mother’s Memory.”), yet, as Queen she did much to promote her cousins and those who were part of her mother’s circle, such as Matthew Parker whom she appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.  But in the immediate aftermath of Anne’s execution, Henry was in charge and he was going to forge the reputation of his previous Queen regardless of what she had previously meant to him.   Anne herself had tried to mitigate Henry’s attitude.  In her communication to Henry in May 1536, Anne implored him to “let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me: 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” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).

“The strongest proof, or show of proof, against her, lies in the bitter hatred which Henry evidently bore to her, personal in its nature, and insatiate by her death, until he had destroyed her memory also” (Herbert, Henry 218-219).  To marry Jane Seymour, Henry could have divorced or executed Anne.  Did he have to do both and destroy her reputation?  “If the charages were merely invented to ruin the Queen, one culprit besides herself would have been enough.  To assume that Henry sent four needless victims to the block is to accuse him of a lust for superfluous butchery, of which even he, in his most bloodthirsty moments, was not capable” (Pollard 346).  Henry was seen as a victim and viewed with compassion.  After her death a few of her adherents were prosecuted for “maintaining that Henry had put her to death unjustly” (Friedmann 300). Yet, if Anne Boelyn was truly innocent, “Never since the world began was a dastardly assassination …rewarded with so universal a solicitation for the friendship of the assassin” (Froude 441). Once Henry turned his attention to Jane Seymour, the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, “his innocent and unsuspecting Queen” was “scarified; for she stood in the way of his gratification.  She was therefore accused of infidelity to the royal bed, and many a disgraceful story was circulated to calumniate the devoted victim” (Nott 18).

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

Anne had not endeared herself to the vast majority of English commoners nor to the nobles, which “could not have made Henry’s difficulties less” (Froude 286). Her “conduct during the last two years had not recommended her either to the country or perhaps to her husband” (Froude 385).  Anne had been disliked for her haughtiness and arrogance. Had she been more gracious and less brass, she may have managed to overcome the English peoples’ prejudice against her. She had taken on such a political role that multiple enemies emerged. Henry was easily convinced that “he had fallen in love with an unworthy woman, as men will do, … and even before his marriage, had been heard to say that, if it was to be done again, he would not have committed himself so far” (Froude 386).  So why did he marry Anne and break from the Catholic Church?  Was he bewitched as Lord and Lady Exeter famously told Ambassador Chapuys that he, Henry himself, believed?   Was he caught in the web of religious and political events?  Was it his pride? Was he truly attached to Anne?  Was he so sure she would give him a son?  Was it a bit of all of these suggestions and more? Regardless, marry her he did and destroy her he did.

With Katherine of Aragon dead, avenues of disentanglement from Anne opened up. Henry was freer without the pressure of taking back Katherine if he disposed of Anne and he had certainly reached the point where he was questioning his second marriage.  The King was convinced that “the marriage was never good nor consonant to the laws” (Froude 431). Inflaming the situation were the many rumors that resurfaced and the many more rumors that were started.

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