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. Oxoniensia.org.  Web. 22 June 2016. <http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/1998/allen.pdf>.

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).

Ralph_Agas_map_of_Oxford_1578_Jesus_marked

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. Wikipedia.com, Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ralph_Agas_map_of_Oxford_1578_Jesus_marked.jpg>.

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).

References:

Illustrations:

Figure 1
Allen, Brigid.  “The History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603.”  Oxoniensia Vol. LXIII, 1998. Oxoniensia.org.  Web. 22 June 2016. <http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/1998/allen.pdf>.

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. <http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/108771/Highlights-of-the-Bodleian-Librarys-Map-Collection-v1.pdf>.

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. Wikipedia.com, Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ralph_Agas_map_of_Oxford_1578_Jesus_marked.jpg&gt;.

Figure 3
Google Maps. “Jesus College, Turl Street, Oxford, United Kingdom.”  Map.
“Map data ©2016 Google.” 2016. Google Maps Web. 17 July 2016. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jesus+College/@51.7538773,-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. <https://books.google.com/books?id=hBZPAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA236&dq=history+of+oxford+ackermann&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy5oj3yf3NAhXK1CYKHcfTBQ8Q6AEIJzAC#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20oxford%20ackermann&f=false>.

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. <http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/108771/Highlights-of-the-Bodleian-Librarys-Map-Collection-v1.pdf>.

“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 Online.org. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://welshjournals.llgc.org.uk/browse/viewpage/llgc-id:1386666/llgc-id:1422443/llgc-id:1422616/getText>.

Allen, Brigid.  “The History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603.”  Oxoniensia Vol. LXIII, 1998. Oxoniensia.org.  Web. 22 June 2016. <http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/1998/allen.pdf>.

“The Beginning.” Jesus College Oxford. Jesus College Oxford.ac.uk. 2016. Web. 6 Feb. 2016. <http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/about/the-beginning>.

 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. <https://books.google.com/books?id=QjUGAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA239&dq=Proceedings+and+Excursions+of+the+Oxford+Architectural+and+St.+Frideswide&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjT4u21tILOAhUBwiYKHVQ_DewQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Proceedings%20and%20Excursions%20of%20the%20Oxford%20Architectural%20and%20St.%20Frideswide&f=false>.

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. <https://books.google.com/books?id=84s_AQAAIAAJ&pg=PA532&lpg=PA532&dq=second+letters+patent+jesus+college+oxford+1589&source=bl&ots=EtyuDCz0-h&sig=aS3yZPIvIfC8SG4i5T-GphjN8HI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipq52H0MPNAhWJKyYKHcVpBjEQ6AEIJDAC#v=onepage&q=second%20letters%20patent%20jesus%20college%20oxford%201589&f=false>.

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  Partnership.org, 2005-2012. Web. 4 July 2016. <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A40655.0001.001/1:91?rgn=div1;view=fulltext>.

Google Maps. “Map data ©2016 Google.” 2016. Google Maps Web. 17 July 2016. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jesus+College/@51.7538773,-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. Archive.org. Web. 22 June 2016. <https://archive.org/details/jesuscollege08hard>.

“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. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol2/pp97-101.

Ingram, James, Ed. “Jesus College.” Memorials of Oxford Volume II.  Oxford:  John Henry Parker, 1837. Google Book Search. Web. 16 July 2016. <https://books.google.com/books?id=6jkuAAAAMAAJ&pg=PR166&lpg=PR166&dq=bestow+his+estate+of+the+maintenance+of+certain+scholars+of+Wales+to+be+trained+up+in+good+letters&source=bl&ots=KeEl-ESiyE&sig=liLIIQ0uupOTq-iZ_P5U_Cp6uSA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjjp8eIvv3NAhXF0iYKHR7lCmEQ6AEIKjAE#v=onepage&q=bestow%20his%20estate%20of%20the%20maintenance%20of%20certain%20scholars%20of%20Wales%20to%20be%20trained%20up%20in%20good%20letters&f=false>.

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. Wikipedia.com, Aug. 2012. Web. 7 July 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ralph_Agas_map_of_Oxford_1578_Jesus_marked.jpg&gt;.

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.<https://books.google.com/books?id=QjUGAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA239&dq=Proceedings+and+Excursions+of+the+Oxford+Architectural+and+St.+Frideswide&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjT4u21tILOAhUBwiYKHVQ_DewQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Proceedings%20and%20Excursions%20of%20the%20Oxford%20Architectural%20and%20St.%20Frideswide&f=false>.

Plummer, Charles, ed. Elixabethan Oxford:  Reprints of Rare Tracts. Oxford: Oxford Historical Society, 1887. Archive.org.  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. <https://books.google.com/books?id=AZYDAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=jesus+college+oxford&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwirjN6LtMjJAhUJaT4KHesUAgg4WhDoAQg3MAI#v=onepage&q=jesus%20college%20oxford&f=false>.

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. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol3/pp264-279. 

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, Oxford.ac. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/all_statutes_071015.pdf>.

“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute Two.” Jesus College, Oxford.  Jesus College, Oxford.ac. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/all_statutes_071015.pdf>.

“Statutes of Jesus College, Oxford V1.7 Statute Fourteen.” Jesus College, Oxford.  Jesus College, Oxford.ac. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/all_statutes_071015.pdf>.

“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
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).

chapuys
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
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 elizregina.com entitled “Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory” https://elizregina.com/2014/01/20/elizabeth-regina-her-mothers-memory/  and “Lady Bryan:  An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove” https://elizregina.com/2014/01/07/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.

hunsdon
Hunsdon

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).

Bellayguillaume
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.

OathofAllegiance
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.

147-Papal-bull-s
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).

aylmer
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).

ChristinaDucchess_of_Milan
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).

Suffolks
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).

Katherine-of-aragon
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).

anneboleyn
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
http://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/894_Anne_Boleyn_regains_her_head

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

 

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

Why did Parliament suddenly declare a marriage unlawful which it had previously declared lawful? Not only is it a mystery to us over half a millennium later, it was baffling to contemporaries.  “What an astonishment and wonder was it for us at home to see it, and for all the world beside to hear, that after all this importunate suit to get her to his wife, the King caused her by parliament to be condemned as a foul detestable adulteress” (Harpsfield 254).  Even later commentators expressed it was “natural to sympathize with a person cruelly persecuted, unlawfully condemned, and murderously sacrificed to the lust of bloody vengeance, not to the majesty of the law… that it is as difficult positively to pronounce the judgment virtually unjust, as it is easy to declare it actually illegal” (Herbert, Henry 324). So, while many enemies condemned Anne and willingly believed all of the charges against her, there were many who believed in her goodness.

Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury, drew on sources including George Cavendish when he praised Anne for her respectable lineage and the education her parents provided.  Her accomplishments in singing, dancing and playing musical instruments were particularly stressed.  Herbert of Cherbury, no fan of Anne’s, declared “Briefly, it seems the most attractive perfections were eminent in her” (Herbert, Edward 285). Astoundingly, these very talents were vilified by the Marian Archdeacon of Canterbury, Nicholas Harpsfield, and will be discussed later.  Even her nemesis Thomas Cromwell spoke to the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, of Anne’s good qualities: he praised her “sense, wit and courage” (Gairdner X 1069).

edward herbert
Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury, from 1609-1610

John Foxe, author of Actes and Monuments, (commonly referred to as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs), wrote rather fulsomely of Anne yet, the specific information and circumstances portrayed are accurate.  Foxe declared that “many things might be written more of the manifold virtues, and the quiet moderation of her mild nature” how she required her chaplains to point out to her any part of her character or behavior “whatsoever they saw in her amiss.”  Continuing in this thread, Foxe expressed “how bountiful she was to the poor; …insomuch that the alms which she gave in three quarters of a year, in distribution, is summed to the number of fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds”  and she always had “a stock there to be employed to the behalf of poor artificers and occupiers” (Foxe V 232-233).  He praised her as “a zealous defender of Christ’s gospel …as her acts do and will declare to the world’s end” (Foxe V 233).  Confident in her goodness, Foxe knew that more would “be declared of her virtuous life (the Lord so permitting) by others” (Foxe V 234). One such fan was the Scottish theologian, Alexander Alesius (also called Aless or Alesse).

John_Foxe
John Foxe

Alesius, who was in London the day Anne was executed, expressed his grief along with Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. According to Alesius, when Cranmer learned of Anne’s death, he “raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘She who has been the Queen of England upon earth will to-day become a Queen in heaven.’ So great was his grief that he could say nothing more, and then he burst into tears” (Stevenson 1303-22). Alesius reported himself so overcome with grief he could not venture out and about in town for several days.

Even some men, willing to believe the worst of Anne, conceded how hers was a “pitiful case” and that one has a “duty to lean to the side of innocence, where guilt is not manifestly proven, and to look with suspicious eyes on persecution where the object of the persecutor is notorious” (Herbert, Henry 325).  These sentiments led to several writers, such as Alesius who told Elizabeth Regina in 1559 he believed it his duty to “write the history, or tragedy, of the death of your most holy mother, in order to illustrate the glory of God and to afford consolation to the godly” (Stevenson 1303-8). With similar thoughts, John Foxe praised “the rare and singular gifts of her mind” which brought forth Anne’s “desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with gentleness, modesty and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England” (Foxe).

AnneBoleynAB
Anne Boleyn

Alesius clearly believed that Anne was framed for her pursuit of “the purer doctrine of the Gospel.” He believed this because with her “modesty, prudence, and gravity, as her desire to promote the pure doctrine of the Gospel” and her kindness to the poor, only the “enemies of the Gospel, whose intention it was, along with her, to bury true religion in England” could perpetuate such charges (Stevenson 1303-15). The Scot stressed to Elizabeth, “Thus much have I introduced about the tragedy of your most pious mother, in order that this illustrious instance might manifest the glory of God, and that the craft and power of man in vain oppose themselves to Him” (Stevenson 1303).  John Foxe could not help but gloat that Anne’s legacy was that “the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course” (Foxe).

Cranmer also praised Anne for her religious practices in a letter he wrote to Henry at the time of her arrest.  By professing he “loved her not a little, because of the love which she seemed to bear to God, and his Gospel; but if she was guilty, all that loved the Gospel must hate her, as having given the greatest slander possible to the Gospel” (Burnet 111).  The Archbishop did have a sense of loyalty to Anne as she had been one of his greatest champions, yet, he also was pragmatic. Once it became clear that the King would not back away from the charges put against Anne (he had his eye on Jane Seymour), Cranmer acquiesced in all that was required of him.

Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

There were “tears and lamentations of the faithful who were lamenting over the snare laid for the Queen, and the boastful triumphing of the foes of the true doctrine” (Stevenson 1319).  John Foxe also believed in Anne’s role in Protestantism exclaiming “the end of that godly lady and queen. Godly I call her, for sundry respects, whatsoever the cause was, or quarrel objected against her…. Again, what a zealous defender she was of Christ’s gospel all the world doth know, and her acts do and will declare to the world’s end” (Foxe).

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part VI-G

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part VI-G

George Constantyne was a member of the entourage of Sir Henry Norris.  As an eyewitness to Anne’s execution, he “was unfavourable to her innocence.”  The opinion was not grounded in any information he received from Norris “nor upon any personal observations which he had enjoyed the opportunity of making while holding the situation [in Norris’ household].” His opinion had been “derived merely from the information or belief of those persons with whom he had conversed at the time of the execution” (“Transcript of an Original Manuscript” 54).  Yet, it would have been difficult for anyone not to believe the heinousness of the accusations as it was “published in parliament that it might from thence spread abroad over all” (Cavendish II 209). 
AnneBoleynAB
The Nidd Hall Portrait depicting a more careworn Queen Anne Bolyen.

Surprisingly, one person who leaned toward believing in Anne’s innocence was none other than her greatest adversary, Spanish envoy, Eustace Chapuys.  The diplomat, while not revealing his source, claimed a lady from Court “sent to tell me in great secrecy that the Concubine, before and after receiving the sacrament, affirmed to her, on the damnation of her soul, that she had never been unfaithful to the King” (Gairdner X 908).  Taking an oath on the sacrament was a very powerful ‘truth serum’ in the Tudor time-period.  Recall that the Earl of Northumberland swore in the same manner that there was never a pre-contract between Anne and him.  All contemporary chronicles believed his oath as they could not fathom that he could have lied on the sacrament in front of two bishops.  Regardless of her innocence or guilt, Anne was scheduled for execution on May 18, 1536, but a delay in the travel of the expert executioner from France moved her death to the following day.  Constable Kingston, always faithful in his reports to Master Secretary Cromwell, let him know that John Skip Anne’s “Almoner is continewaly with hyr, and has bene syns ii of the clock after midnight” (Gairdner X 910).  Anne was preparing for death in the only way she knew.Tower_plan1597
Anne would have stayed at the Queen’s Lodgings (g) before her execution.

Events happened so quickly from the time of Anne’s arrest to her final hours it is difficult to imagine her true mindset.  How could she have absorbed all the implications and possible repercussions?  Was she simply tired of the fight?  For many years she had had to watch for enemies, furrow out sycophants, and expend energy maintaining control. Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower, expressed confusion by her approach to death.  He reported in a letter to Secretary Cromwell that Anne requested his presence to hear her speak of her innocence and told him of her disappointment in the delay in her death.  “Mr. Kyngston, I hear say I shall not dy affore none, and I am very sory therfore, for I thowth to be dede by this time, and past my payne. I told hyr it shuld be no payne, it was so sottell” (Gairdner X 910).  And then Anne “said, ‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,’ and she put her hands about it, laughing heartily.  I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy and pleasure in death” (Wroithesley 42).  Kingston, being a practical, military man, perceived Anne’s pain as physical, whereas she perhaps was referring to emotional pain.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The burial marker for Queen Anne Boleyn in St. Peter ad Vincula.

It would not be surprising if Anne would welcome release from the terror and sorrow she had experienced over her final few weeks.  She had witnessed her brother’s death; she lived with the knowledge that innocent men had died on her behalf (from frivolous behavior that had been construed to condemn them all); she had lost the affection and protection of her husband through divorce; she had relinquished the status and role of Queen; she had been abandoned by many from her entourage –including her father; and, she feared for the safety of her daughter. 

Anne’s Arrival at Tower Green
A Portuguese gentleman (who had gone into the Tower and stayed with English friends to circumnavigate the ban on foreigners) wrote to a friend in Lisbon “On the next Friday, which was the 19th of the same month, the Queen was beheaded according to the manner and custom of Paris, that is to say, with a sword, which thing had not been seen in this land of England” (Bell 105). The King had sent to “St. Omer for a headsman who could cut off the head with a sword instead of an axe, and nine days after they sent he arrived” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 70).
exec site
A modern marker at the execution site–although this is most likely not the exact site of Anne Boleyn’s execution.  Note the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the background. 

The day before “the Lieutenant of the Tower writ to the Lord Cromwell, that it was not fit to publish the time of her execution” (Smeeton 46).  In order to preserve the solemnity of the occasion this was granted.  It was also reported that Anne requested “that she might be executed within the Tower, and that no foreigner should see her (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 70). Consequently, a scaffold “having four or five steps, was then and there set up” (Bell 105).  Anne was escorted from her lodgings by Kingston, she reportedly “looked frequently behind her, and when she got upon the scaffold was very much exhausted and amazed” (Gairdner X 911).  Was she looking literally for an expected last minute reprieve?  Did she think her merciful king would pardon her and allow her to retire to a convent?  Despite her physical manifestation of these possibilities, she stated when pressed to confess, “I know I shall have no pardon, but they shall know no more from me” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 70). Anne was prepared for death.  “When she arrived at the scaffold she was dressed in a night-robe of damask, with a red damask skirt, and a netted coif over her hair” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 70).  The Queen, “assisted by the Captain of the Tower, came forth, together with the four ladies who accompanied her…” (Bell 105).  Within the Tower Green “were present several of the Nobility, the Lord Mayor of London, some of the Aldermen, and several others, rather as witnesses, than spectators of her fatal end” (Smeeton 46). Those ‘several others’ mentioned were identified as men representing “certayne of the best craftes of London” (Wriothesley 41).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The grave markers as placed under the altar in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.

Among the gentlemen on the scaffold was “the headsman, who was dressed like the rest, and not as executioner; and she looked around her on all sides to see the great number of people present, for although she was executed inside, there was a great crowd” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 70).  Then Anne “besought the Captain of the Tower that he would in no wise hasten the minute of her death, until she should have spoken that which she had in mind to say; which he consented to” (Urban 56).

Anne’s Speech on the Scaffold
This blogger must ask for the indulgence of the reader at this juncture.  Because Anne’s speech on the scaffold is her last, formal one, it is obviously important.  Several variations exist from contemporaries and from later translations—many have been reproduced below.  The consistency is surprising with differences mostly in the interpretations based on the perspective of the recorder (such as the Catholic Imperial view).  The implications of the intent of her speech will be explored further although there will be no comment on the records as interpretation will be left to the reader.

Our Portuguese source recorded her words as: “Good friends, I am not come here to excuse or to justify myself, forasmuch as I know full well that aught that I could say in my defence doth not appertain unto you, and that I could draw no hope of life from the same.  But I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly to the will of the King my Lord.  And if in my life I did ever offend the King’s grace, surely with my death, I do now atone” (Bell 105).

Her words arrived at the Imperial Court as: “And as the lady looked all round, she began to say these words, ‘Do not think, good people, that I am sorry to die, or that I have done anything to deserve this death.  My fault has been my great pride, and the great crime I committed in getting the king to leave my mistress Queen Katherine for my sake, and I pray God to pardon me for it.  I say to you all that everything they have accused me of is false, and the principal reason I am to die is Jane Seymour, as I was the cause of the ill that befell my mistress.’  The gentlemen would not let her say any more” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 71).

Lancelot de Carles, the French envoy conveyed the image of an unrepentant Anne unwilling to go into details of why she was facing death yet eager to promote the reputation of Henry as she “recommended your good king in whom I have seen such great humanity and the acme of all goodness; fear of God, love of his subjects” (Bernard).

The account offered later by George Constantyne was similar to de Carles.  Anne declared “I do not intende to reason my cause, but I committe me to Christ wholly, in whome ys my whole trust, desirynge you all to praye for the Kynges maiestie that he maye longe regne over you, for he ys a veraye noble prince and full gently hath handled me” (Mackintosh 385).

The English Courier, Charles Wriothesley showed Anne as pliant, “Maissters, I here humbley submit me to the lawe as the lawe hath judged me, and as for myne offences, I here accuse no man, God knoweth them; I remit them to God, beseeching him to have mercye on my sowle, and I beseech Jesu save my soverienge and maister the Kinge, the moste godlye, noble, and gentle Prince that is, and longe to reigne over yow” (Wroithesley 41-42).

The chronicler Edward Hall presented Anne as coming to die, “for aecqrdyng to the lawe and by the lawe I am judged to dye, and therefore I wyll speake nothyng against it.” She would “accuse no man, nor to speake any thyng of that, wherof I am accused and condemned to dye” she would pray that God would save the king and “send him long to reygne over you, for a gentler nor a more mercyfull prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, & soveraygne lorde. And yf anye persone wyll medle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.”  Anne ended by saying “And thus I take my leve of the worlde and of you all, and I heartely desyre you all to praye for me. O Lorde have mercy, on me, to God I comende my soule” (Hall 268).

Sources quoted later by Burnet and Wyatt claimed her words were as follows: “My honourable Lords, and the rest here assembled, I beseech you all, to hear witness with me, that I humbly submit myself to undergo the penalty to which the law hath sentenced me: as touching my offences, I am sparing to speak, they are best known to God: and I neither blame nor accuse any man, but leave them wholly to him: beseeching God who knows the secrets of all hearts, to have mercy on my soul.  Now, I bessech the Lord Jesus to bless and save my Sovereign master the King, the noblest and mercifulest Prince that lives: whom I wish long to reign over you.  He made me Marchioness of Pembroke, vouchsafed to lodge me in his own bosom, higher on earth he could not raise me, and hath done well to lift me up those blessed innocents above” (Smeeton 46).

Anne’s Execution
With her address spoken to the crowd, which Antony Pykeryng reported to Lady Lisle in Calais was “a thousand people”, Anne readied herself for execution (Gairdner X 918).  Although there are several different descriptions of her clothing, all accounts agree that Anne removed her mantle (or cape) of ermine and her English style hood.  She was given a small linen, white cap to cover her hair and after kneeling “fastened her clothes about her feet, and one of the said ladies bandaged her eyes” (Gairdner X 911).  Perhaps she and her ladies practiced these acts because tucking her skirts around her feet must have been done to ensure her modesty if she fell awkwardly—something they discovered during rehearsals?  This blogger would like to remind readers that during execution with a sword there is no use of a block.  Therefore, when chroniclers mention that Anne knelt, she was kneeling as if in prayer; she would not be resting her neck on a block.  Granted execution by a sword was traditionally deemed as more merciful than the axe but the strength to remain kneeling upright awaiting the strike of the sword would require a tremendous amount of courage and self-control.

anne-boleyn-execution2 (1)
The Execution of Anne Boleyn 

So Anne knelt “but the poor lady only kept looking about her.  The headsman, being still in front of her, said in French, ‘Madam, do not fear, I will wait till you tell me.’ The sword was hidden under a heap of straw” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 71). Most sources agree on what happened. While kneeling Anne “said: ‘To Christ I commende my soule, Jesu receive my soule’ divers tymes” (Hall 268-269).  While she prayed, the executioner called out for the sword to be brought to him and when Anne turned her blindfolded face in the direction of the steps, thinking the assistant would carry the sword up, he came up behind her.  And “suddenlye the hangman smote off her heade at a stroke with a sworde” (Wroithesley 41-42).  She died as she lived, boldly.

Anne’s Final Path to St. Peter ad Vincula
With foreigners banned from the execution and Eustace Chapuys, the ready source of information, absent from the thick of things due to illness, his reports were not as reliable as typical.  He reported that Anne’s “head will be put upon the bridge, at least for some time” (Gairdner X 908).  This was not the case.  Immediately after her execution, the ladies attending Anne “fearing to let their mistress be touched by unworthy hands, forced themselves to do so” (Gardiner X 1036).  They quickly wrapped her body in a white cloth and placed it along with her severed head “into a common chest of elm tree, that was made to put arrows in” (Bell 107).  The usually efficient Kingston had not provided a coffin for the body and the case was the only option on hand.  After Anne’s body was placed in the make-shift casket “the body was taken by the ladies, and the whole carried” (Gairdner X 911) the short distance to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, “the church within the Tower and buried” (Hume, Martin “How Anne Was Beheaded” 71).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Exterior of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.

For References, please refer to Path to St. Peter ad Vincular Part I

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part VI-F

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part VI-F

Is Adultery Adultery If You Are Not Married?
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer visited Anne on May 16th.  Constable of the Tower Kingston reported to Cromwell “the King told me that my lord of Canterbury should be her confessor, and he was here today with her” (Gairdner X 890).  Others believed that Cranmer was not there to offer spiritual comfort but to offer a deal to Anne.  Proof of an offer could be in something Anne said that Kingston relayed to the Secretary.  He told Cromwell, “Thys daye at dynar the Quene sayd that she should go to anonre (a nunnery) and ys in hope of lyf” (Bell 103).  If Anne believed she was going to a nunnery, Cranmer must have assured her that if she agreed to an impediment to her marriage her life would be spared.  As events proved, she may have been offered life, but what she received was the more merciful death by sword instead of burning.
kingstonletter
Letter from Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London to Thomas Cromwell, May 16, 1536. 

Henry, not satisfied with the vengeance of executing Anne, decided to annul his marriage to her and declare Elizabeth illegitimate.  Similar to his sudden recollection after 20 years of marriage to Katherine of Aragon of the impediment of her being his brother’s widow and thus against the teachings of Leviticus, Henry recalled a previous attachment of Anne’s to the Earl of Northumberland, then Lord Henry Percy. Northumberland was brought in for questioning.  He took an oath before two archbishops, that no contract or promise of marriage had existed between him and Anne.  He “received the sacrament upon it, before the duke of Norfolk and another of the privy council; and this solemn act he accompanied with the most solemn protestations of veracity” (Hume III 227).

So why does Anne confess to a pre-contract? Did she and Lord Percy promise to marry each other, per verba de futuro, which “the poor queen was either so ignorant, or so ill advised, as to be persuaded afterwards it was one; though it is certain that nothing but a contract, per verba de praesenti could be of any force to annul the subsequent marriage” (Burnet 263-264). Did she offer a “confession, into which she was frighted, or for some other reasons, tho’ not found upon record” (Smeeton 49).  Did she accept “some hopes of life that were given her, or at least she was wrought on by the assurances of mitigating that cruel part of her judgment of being burnt, into the milder part of the sentence, of having her head cut off” (Burnet 265).  Or had her imminent death “deprived her of all manner of mans, as well as all manner of desire to dispute the point” (Smeeton 49).
lord percy
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.

Archbishop Cranmer, in possession of the articles objecting to the validity of the marriage ,called for the King and Queen to “appear in his Ecclesiastical Court at Lambeth to show cause why a sentence of divorce should not be passed.  Dr. Sampson appeared for the King, and Drs. Weston and Barbour for the Queen, by the King’s appointment” (Wriothesley 40). The day after Cranmer met Anne, “sentence was pronounced by the archbishop of Canterbury of the nullity of the marriage between the King and Anne Boleyn, in the presence of Sir Thos. Audeley, chancellor, Charles duke of Suffolk, John earl of Oxford, and others, at Lambeth, 17 May 1536” (Gairdner X 896).  Thus we learn, “at a solomne court kept at Lambeth by the Lord Archbishoppe of Canterburie and the doctors  of the lawe, the King was divorsed from his wife Queene Anne, and there at the same cowrte was a privie contract approved that she had made to the Earle of Northumberlande afore the Kings tyme; and so she was discharged, and was never lawfull Queene of England, and there it was approved the same” (Wriothesley 41).   Most historians cite Anne’s admission to a pre-contract with Lord Percy as the grounds for the nullification of the marriage. (Which makes this blogger wonder why the Northumberland marriage was not dissolved as it would have been invalid also.) Others such as Pollard and Friedmann support Ambassador Chapuys claim that the marriage was “invalid on account of the King having had connection with her sister [Mary Boleyn]” (Gairdner X 909).
Mary_Boleyn
Mary Boleyn

Regardless of which reason was the catalyst to the divorce, many historians offer a sympathetic bend to Cranmer and the nullification proclamation he had to produce.  Hume referred to him as “the afflicted primate” (Hume III 227).  Smeeton proclaimed Cranmer “could not avoid giving sentence” (Smeeton 49). As mentioned previously, Cranmer was a practical man and knew his survival depended on providing what Henry VIII wished, yet he was not alone in indulging the King. “These particulars are repeated in the act that passed in the next parliament, touching the succession to the crown…” (Burnet 265).  Henry’s children with Katherine and Anne were declared illegitimate and he was granted the right to “designate his heir by letters patent or by his will.  This enactment furnishes a striking proof of the King’s absolute power” (Butler 408).  The process in the “Ecclesiastical Court was submitted, after Anne’s death, to the members of the Convocation and the two Houses of Parliament; and the Church, Commons, and Lords, ratified it” (Wriothesley 41).  So “the meeting of Parliament (June 9, 1536), was found to be wholly subservient to the wishes of the King” (Butler 408-409).  Therefore, divorce from Anne Boleyn was not the only outcome Henry had aimed for; he had to have her dead. Anne discredited and dead would enable any successive marriages and offspring to be without taint. “He would have his bed free from all such pretensions, the better to draw on the following marriage” (Smeeton 48).  The new Parliament met and passed the act proclaiming the divorce between Henry and Anne and declared all previous issue as illegitimate.  “Moreover the act confirmed Anne Bullen’s sentence as being grounded upon very just causes and settled the crown after the king’s death upon the issue of queen Jane, or of any other queen whom he might afterwards marry” (Thoyras 424).  Henry certainly covered all the angles while maintaining an escape clause as well.
anne boleyn signature
Signature of Anne the Queen.

Knowing Anne could be flirtatious, indiscrete and open in her interactions with others, Henry accepted her guilt.  He ignored the rationale that he could “trust her innocence and had reason to be assured of it, since she had resisted his addresses near five years, till he legitimated them by marriage” (Burnet 319).  This man, who was previously so passionate toward his wife, not only cruelly executed her but besmirched her reputation and stained the childhood of his daughter with the question of her legitimacy. Rumors advanced to such a degree that Ambassador Chapuys wrote to Cardinal Granville “that the Concubine’s daughter was the bastard of Mr. Norris, and not the King’s daughter” (Gairdner X 909).  A Portuguese dispatch proclaimed that after Anne’s execution “the Council declared that the Queen’s daughter was the child of her brother and that she should be removed from her place” (Gairdner X 1107).
a and e
Queen Elizabeth and her visual likeness to her mother, Anne Boleyn.

As mentioned in a previous blog, there were numerous political, religious and social reasons for Henry’s move against Anne.  There were also personal ones.  Henry was determined to marry Jane Seymour.  A divorced Anne would still be the Marchioness of Pembroke—wealthy with powerful allies.   Anne faced the reality.  Recognizing her death was imminent, she would have agreed to conditions Archbishop Cranmer presented to her.  Recognizing her daughter’s safety depended on her actions, she gratefully grasped the more merciful death by sword.  Recognizing Henry’s malice, she ignored the obvious issue:  If she were not legally married to Henry because of a pre-contract or affinity then there was no treason based on adultery.

For References, please refer to Path to St. Peter ad Vincular Part I