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.

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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            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.

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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 – B

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – B

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

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Eustace Chapuys, Ambassador from Spain

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

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

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Jane Seymour

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

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

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

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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). 
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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.

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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).
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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).
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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.

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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).
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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-E

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

The Verdict, Please
Not surprisingly judgment was given against both Queen Anne and Lord Rochford.  “After thei had communed together…” the first Lord was called to give the verdict. He “sayde guiltie, and so everie lorde and earle after their degrees sayde guiltie to the last and so condemned her” (Wriothesley 38).  Anne’s sentence contained that she should be “brent here within the Tower of London, on the Greene, else to have thy head smitten off as the Kinge’s pleasure shal be further knowen of the same” (Bell 102). Burning was “the death which the law appoints for a woman attainted of treason, yet, since she had been queen of England, they left it to the king to determine, whether she should die so infamous a death, or be beheaded” (Burnet 264).

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A Tower of London precinct area.  Photo from this blogger’s visit in 2003.

How Anne conducted herself after she was condemned must be interpreted from the accounts left.  Chapuys claimed “she preserved her composure, saying that she held herself pour toute saluee de la mort,[always ready to greet death] and that what she regretted most was that the above persons, who were innocent and loyal to the King, were to die for her” (Gairdner x 908). “When the sentence of death was pronounced, the queen raised her eyes to heaven, nor did she condescend to look at her judges” and left the chamber (Stevenson 1303).   Compared to these rather stoic reactions, we have a more romantic recollection.  “When this dreadful sentence was pronounced she was not terrified, but lifting up her hands to heaven said, ‘O Father! O Creator! Thou who art the way, the truth, and the life, thou knowest that I have not deserved this fate.’  And then turning to the judges, made the most pathetic declarations of her innocence” (Hume 328).

Jacob van Meteren, a Dutch historian, claimed to have transcribed the verses from a gentleman, Crispin, Lord of Milherve, who was present at the trial. Agnes Strickland recreated Milherve’s account of what Anne said after her trial:  “My lords, I will not say your sentence is unjust, nor presume that my reasons can prevail against your convictions. I am willing to believe that you have sufficient reasons for what you have done, but then they must be other than those which have been produced in court, for I am clear of all the offences which you then laid to my charge. I have ever been a faithful wife to the king, though I do not say I have always shown him that humility which his goodness to me and the honour to which he raised me merited. I confess I have had jealous fancies and suspicions of him which I had not discretion and wisdom enough to conceal at all times. But God knows, and is my witness, that I never sinned against him in any other way” (Strickland 260).  No other sources claim such a speech and the legitimacy of it is in doubt.  Although substantiated somewhat by Lancelot de Carles in his poem, this collaboration historians doubt as they suspect that de Carles and Milherve are one in the same.

Lancelot Anne Boullantmmmm
Copy of Lancelot de Carles’ poem.

After the trial the Queen was taken “back to warde agayne and two ladies wayted on her, which came in with her at the first, and wayted still on her, whose names were the Ladie Kingstone and the Ladie Boleyn, her aunte” (Bell 103). 

The King’s Pleasure
Meanwhile, Henry “showed his delight at the coming fate of Anne. Never had the court been so gay as now” (Gairdner X 1069). Henry “accustomed to dissemble, could not hide his joy that means had been found to rid him of Anne and to enable him to take a new wife” (Friedmann II 266).  Ambassador Chapuys claimed to Cardinal Granville that Cromwell confessed “that these were artifices of princes; and he dared to add (at which I was astonished, especially as the case only applied to the King his master) that princes often do things so extravagant and dishonest that he would rather lose one of his arms than think of acting so” (Gairdner X 1069). Pretty rich coming from the man who orchestrated the fall of the Queen.

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Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys.

Between the King and Secretary Cromwell, Anne’s fate was sealed. While “everybody rejoiced at the execution of the putain, there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others, and people speak variously of the King” (Gairdner X 908).  The Spanish Ambassador told his king that “already it sounds ill in the ears of the people” that the King had been “going about banqueting with ladies sometimes remaining after midnight, and returning by the river” (Gairdner X 908).   Henry had musicians and singers accompany him on his journey to where Jane Seymour was staying—actions which many people interpreted as showing his delight in getting rid of his unwanted queen. Some people believed the King did not feel any qualms about his involvement with Jane Seymour because while he had been “oppressed with the heavy cares of state, she [Anne] had been enjoying herself with others, so he, when the Queen was being beheaded, was enjoying himself with another woman” (Stevenson 1303).  Furthermore, the King said “he believed that upwards of 100 gentlemen have had criminal connexion” with Anne.  And the Spanish Ambassador exclaimed “You never saw a prince or husband show or wear his horns more patiently and lightly than this one does.  I leave you to guess the cause of it” (Gairdner X 54).  Chapuys also informed Cardinal Granville “every evening his State barge, gaily illuminated, and with bands of musicians and a throng of gorgeously attired lords and ladies on board, floated up or down the Thames, conveying his Majesty and his Court” (Davey 24).  It had been said that the “King had already fixed on a wife, to wit Jane Semel” (Gairdner X 1069).  Chapuys heard that “even before the arrest of the Concubine, the King, was speaking with Mistress Jane Semel of their future marriage” (Gairdner X 908).  

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Jane Seymour

Chapuys proclaimed that, although Henry publicly stated that he had “no desire in the world to get married again unless he was constrained by his subjects to do so”, he said so only to “cover the affection he had for the said Semel” (Gairdner X 908). “Everybody begins already to murmur by suspicion, and several affirm that long before the death of the other there was some arrangement” between Jane and the King (Gairdner X 926).  Perhaps Henry felt that his dissembling would pacify the people who would be questioning his commitment to the sacrament of marriage or maybe he was succumbing to the romance of secretly wooing Lady Jane.  Regardless of the reason, Henry did not keep his plans quiet for long.  On May 20, 1536, the day after the execution of Anne Boleyn, “Mrs. Semel came secretly by river this morning to the King’s lodging, and that the promise and betrothal (desponsacion) was made at 9 o’clock” (Gairdner X 926).

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

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

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

Anne Boleyn had reigned over Henry VIII and his Court as Queen for a relatively short time span considering the many years that built up to her coronation. What was even shorter was her fall. In less than half of a year she not only lost her position, she lost her head. Many factors have been attributed to the reason.
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Anne Boleyn

The international scene had altered. Charles V at the Imperial Court showed an       interest in treating with England thus weakening the traditional French alliance         —an alliance favored by Anne.

Henry blamed Anne for the failed embassy he had sent to Germany –at her             urging. It had cost him a great deal of money, was inconclusive and only                 managed to cause the German princes to doubt his faith (Stevenson 1329 to         1332).

The death of Queen Katherine of Aragon led Henry to consider that marriage to someone where there was no question of legitimacy would settle doubts and perhaps result in the birth of a male child. The King was apprehensive that, if he left no heir, upon his death civil wars would break out and the crown would be transferred again to the family of the White Rose (Stevenson 1303).

Anne had miscarried a son, which weakened her position. Chapuys filled in Charles V on April 29, 1536, on the fact that George Boleyn was disappointed because he had not achieved a Court favor as “the Concubine has not had sufficient influence to get it for her brother” (Gairdner X 752).

Henry was suspicious of Anne’s behavior. Alexander Alesius summarized Anne’s sins: she had danced with others and kissed her brother (like all women of England). The story of Anne dropping her handkerchief out of her window during the jousts at Greenwich so one of her suspected lovers could claim it is most likely false. Anne’s flirtatiousness is without quesiton and Henry came to “look on them as artifices to cover some other criminal affection. Her cheerfulness was not always governed with decency and discretion” (Burnet 109-110).

Henry was attracted to Jane Seymour. In April Ambassador Chapuys explained that advisors “continually counsel Mrs. Semel and other conspirators pour luy faire une venue,” and encouragement was given to the opposite party because “the King was already as sick and tired of the concubine as could be” (Gairdner X 752). As seen with Anne at the time of his marriage to Katherine, so ardent was Henry once he began to form an attachment, there was no let up. Also observed during both of these courtships, the King was “still inclined to pay his court to ladies” (de Gayangos V 43).

Various factions at Court (including the Catholics) were jostling for position. Steven Gunn wrote that the fall of Anne Boleyn “on one side stand the champions of a strong king, for whom the rhythms of politics and government were determined by Henry’s informed choice of ministers and policies. On the other stand the advocates of faction, for whom the king’s choice of policies and executants was determined by the victory of one pressure-group” (Davies 59).
Previously all factions were concerned over the influence Anne had on Henry. Now with the noticeable coldness in Henry’s relationship with her, the divisive groups at Court considered their options. Anne’s opponents, the “enemies of the Gospel, whose intention it was, along with her, to bury true religion in England” would perpetuate negative claims against Anne, who was famed for her pursuit of more evangelical doctrines (Stevenson 1303-15). Many believed the “difficulties abroad…the severity of the new laws and the rigour with which they were enforced, were held to be due altogether to Anne’s ascendency; and it was expected that with her downfall there would be a total change of policy, which would place England once more in a secure and prosperous condition” (Friedmann 256).

Anne was quickly losing support, even among Protestants. The Lancelot poem, written in London on 2 June 1536, expressed that Anne “had her way in all things; she could treat her friends according to her pleasure….” But she could not “secure to her lasting friendships, and the King daily cooled in his affection. Nevertheless she did not leave off her evil conversation, which at length brought her to shame” (Gairdner X 1036). “Having thus so many, so great factions at home and abroad set loose by the distorned favour of the king, and so few to show themselves for her… she and her friends therefore were suddenly sent to the Tower” (Cavendish II 209).

Oyer & Terminer
A divorce was out of the question, as it would imply that Henry’s conscience was aroused only upon convenience. He ended his marriage to Katherine of Aragon citing his breech with the teachings of Leviticus; now if he invoked the issue of consanguinity (based on his previous relationship with Anne’s sister) it would appear as if he entered the holy bonds of marriage carelessly. In addition, a divorced Anne would still be Marchioness of Pembroke— wealthy, influential and evangelical. Anne had to be disposed of in such a way that no one would be able, let alone willing, to defend her nor would she be able to defend herself.

Charles V learned that Henry, as Chapuys had “been for some days informed by good authority, was determined to abandon her; for there were witnesses testifying that a marriage passed nine years before had been made and fully consummated between her and the earl of Northumberland” (Gairdner X 782). The Ambassador’s informants told him that while Katherine of Aragon was alive, Henry “could not separate from the Concubine without tacitly confirming, not only the first marriage, but also, what he most fears, the authority of the Pope” (Gairdner X 782).
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Katherine of Aragon

“Thus Cromwell, as he afterwards told Chapuis, resolved to plot for the ruin of Anne” (Friedman 242). He said “it was he who had discovered and followed up the affair of the Concubine, in which he had taken a great deal of trouble… he had set himself to arrange the plot”(Gairdner X 1069). Cromwell was “resolved to destroy her” (Burnet 110). He wanted to get rid of Anne quickly and she needed to “be found guilty of such heinous offences that she would have no opportunity of avenging her wrongs” and the public’s focus on the crimes would take attention away “from the intrigue at the bottom of the scheme” (Friedmann 241-242). “Calamity was to be brought upon her, too, in a way that would satisfy the hatred with which she was regarded by the nation” (Friemann 242).

At Cromwell’s urging, while at Greenwich, Henry summoned a ‘commission of oyer and terminer’ April 24, 1536, to investigate treasonous offences committed by persons close to him, including Anne. Probably Henry was “only told by Cromwell that he was menaced by grave dangers, and that it would be necessary to appoint commissioners to hold special sessions at which offenders against him might be tried.” The commission consisted of “the Lord Chancellor Audeley, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Oxford, lord high chamberlain, the Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Wilshire, lord privy seal, the Earl of Sussex, Lord Sandys, chamberlain of the household, Sir Thomas Cromwell, chief secretary, Sir William Fitzwilliam, treasurer, Sir William Paulet, comptroller of the household, and the nine judges.” These men were “empowered to make inquiry as to every kind of treason, by whomsoever committed, and to hold a special session to try the offenders” (Friedmann II 243). Unusually, no specific crime was mentioned when the commission of oyer and terminer was formed.

Statutes of the Realmoyer

An Acte for persons to enjoye their lands and to have avauntage in the Lawe wherin the Lord Rocheford, Norreys and others, were seased.

Persons to enjoye their lands & to have avantage in the Law wherin the Lord Rochford Nores and other were seased. An Act _______conserninge Norris and others.

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

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part V–A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula:  Part V–A

Anne’s path to St. Peter ad Vincula involved political and religious reasons both on domestic and international levels.  This blog entry will deal with an issue that involved political and religious issues that were of a purely personal nature–her inability to provide Henry with a male heir.

Parliamentary members were obliged in 1533 to swear that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was invalid, the marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn valid and “that Elizabeth was born in lawful wedlock, and heir to the crown” (Sander 110).  Henry was optimistic (and as equally adamant) that this would be a temporary solution.  He would have a legitimate male heir and that would be the responsibility of Anne Boleyn. 

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Katherine of Aragon

Producing the son Henry required would not prove easy.  Considering the stress she was under, Anne surprisingly conceived soon after Elizabeth’s birth.  In a letter written from his Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, Charles V heard as early as January 28, 1534,  that “Anne Boleyn is now pregnant and in condition to have more children” (Gairdner VII 114).  A month later on 26 February Chapuys reiterated that, while Henry was ironing out the succession between his daughters, he considered that “there was no other princess except his daughter Elizabeth, until he had a son which he thought would happen soon” (Gairdner VII  232).  George Tayllour [Taylor] wrote to Lady Lisle from Greenwich on 27 April 1534, that the “King and Queen are merry and in good health.  The Queen hath a goodly belly, praying our Lord to send us a prince” (Gairdner VII 556). 

Intriguingly, very little fanfare was made of Anne’s pregnancy in 1534. There are scant formal,diplomatic mentions of it—although on 7 July official instructions to George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, concerning the arrangements of a meeting between Anne and Marguerite, Queen of Navarre (while Henry would have been in France meeting King Francis) had to be “deferred, as the time would be very inconvenient to her….”  Anne would not be able to accompany Henry to France her “reasons are, that being so far gone with child, she could not cross the sea with the King, and she would be deprived of his Highness’s presence when it was most necessary” (Gairdner VII 958).  Later that month Chapuys still believed Anne to be pregnant as he mentioned again that meetings between Henry and Francis would have to be postponed because “those here say the reason is that the lady de Boulans (Anne Boleyn) wishes to be present, which is impossible on account of her condition” (Gairdner VII 1013). Were these references all to the same pregnancy?  January to July would encompass close to a full-term pregnancy yet no mention was made of a child being born and dying afterwards nor of any miscarriage.  Regardless, at least a single pregnancy had to have ended which was kept secret. 
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Marguerite, Queen of Navarre

What emerges is another comment made by Chapuys in September of 1534 that the King did “doubt whether his lady was enceinte or not” (Gairdner VII 1193). Interesting phraseology as Anne was not in a precarious position at this time.  Certainly, she was vulnerable but there were neither hints of her being replaced nor plots to discard her—until nearly a year and a half later.

On January 7, 1536, Katherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle.  Upon the death of Katherine, “Queen Anne did not carry this so decently as became a happy rival” (Burnet 106).  Anne gave the messenger who brought the news of Katherine’s death to her at Greenwich a substantial reward.  Famously, Henry and Anne put on a show of exuberance dressing in yellow instead of mourning for Katherine’s death and parading Elizabeth triumphantly.  Although as Charles V was apprised by his ambassador in late January, “notwithstanding the joy shown by the concubine at the news of the good Queen’s death… she had frequently wept, fearing that they might do with her as with the good Queen” (Gairdner X 199). 

Anne could see that the international situation was now altered and the domestic scene was less idyllic.  Without Katherine to prompt familial ties in Charles V, he could now concentrate on his Italian campaigns and as seen in a previous blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part IV,  the ties of France and England had lessened. At home, Henry had set his sights on Jane Seymour and it would not have taken much for Anne to wonder if she too would be replaced in the king’s affections. What Anne had in her favor was her latest pregnancy.  Unlike the pregnancy of 1534, there is no prior mention of the one in 1536.  Anne would have been aware that the successful delivery of a male heir would certainly secure her position.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.

While participating in a joust, Henry’s horse took a fall in the tiltyard on January 24, 1536, and the king lost consciousness for several hours.  The entire Court feared for his life and, even though Henry made an astounding recovery, more proved at stake than his recuperation.  Shortly thereafter, on 29 January the day of Katherine’s funeral, “Queene Anne was brought a bedd and delivered of a man chield, as it was said, afore  her tyme, for she said that she had reckoned herself at that tyme but fifteen weekes gonne with chield; it was said she tooke a fright, for the King ranne that tyme at the ring and had a fall from his horse, but he had no hurt; and she tooke such a fright withal that it caused her to fall in travaile, and so was delivered afore her full tyme” (Wriothesley 33).  The “excitement of the last few days had told upon her health, which constant anxiety had been steadily undermining” (Friedmann 199). 

King Henry VIII armor
Armour made for King Henry VIII

Ambassador Chapuys wrote the details as known to him in a dispatch to Charles V on 10 February 1536.  Some discrepancy occurred in the interpretations of the cause but readers should not be alarmed at the term abortion, as it is the 16th century translation of the word miscarriage.

“On the day of the interment [the burial of Katherine of Aragon] the Concubine had an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne 3½ months, at which the King has shown great distress. The said concubine wished to lay the blame on the duke of Norfolk, whom she hates, saying he frightened her by bringing the news of the fall the King had six days before. But it is well known that is not the cause, for it was told her in a way that she should not be alarmed or attach much importance to it. Some think it was owing to her own incapacity to bear children, others to a fear that the King would treat her like the late Queen, especially considering the treatment shown to a lady of the Court, named Mistress Semel, to whom, as many say, he has lately made great presents.” Henry’s attention to Jane Seymour (Mistress Semel) led many people to “fear the King might take another wife” (Gairdner X 282).

Chapuys continued that Henry VIII divulged to “his most trusted servants …Lord and Lady Exeter” (Friedmann 202-203) that “in great confidence, and as it were in confession, that he had made this marriage, seduced by witchcraft, and for this reason he considered it null; and that this was evident because God did not permit them to have any male issue, and that he believed that he might take another wife, which he gave to understand that he had some wish to do” (Gairdner X 199).   

A couple of weeks later Ambassador Chapuys wrote about Anne’s reasoning for the loss of the child to Charles V.  “The said Concubine attributed the misfortune to two causes: first, the King’s fall; and, secondly, that the love she bore him was far greater than that of the late Queen, so that her heart broke when she saw that he loved others” (Gairdner X 351). A later report, much disputed, claimed that Anne could not keep from scolding Henry and exclaimed “See, how well I must be since the day I caught that abandoned woman Jane sitting on your knees” (Sander 132).
charles v older
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Many at Court, especially the conservative faction considered that with “Queen Catharine being dead, the King might marry another, and be set right again with the Pope and the Emperor: and the issue by any other marriage would never be questioned; whereas, while Queen Anne lived, the ground of the controversy still remained, and her issue would be illegitimated, her marriage being null from the beginning, as they thought” (Burnet 109). Chapuys also believed the “King knew very well that his marriage to Anne could never be held as valid, for many reasons, …from another marriage, more legitimate than his last, the King might possibly have male issue” (de Gayangos V 43).

Continuing the theme of the legitimacy of Henry’s marriage to Anne, Chapuys wrote to Nicholas Granvelle (also known as Grenvelle), Chancellor to Charles V on 25 February 1536: “I am credibly informed that the Concubine, after her abortion, consoled her maids who wept, telling them it was for the best, because she would be the sooner with child again, and that the son she bore would not be doubtful like this one, which had been conceived during the life of the Queen; thereby acknowledging a doubt about the bastardy of her daughter” (Gairdner X 352). 

Would Anne have expressed herself in such a way as to question Elizabeth’s legitimacy?  It is hard to believe. 

One thing is sure, Anne believed she would have another child.  These sentiments were in direct contrast to those Chapuys wrote on 10 February 1536, to Chancellor Granvelle  “there are innumerable persons who consider that the concubine is unable to conceive, and say that the daughter said to be hers and the abortion the other day are supposititious” (Gairdner X 283). Rumors concerning the extremes of Anne’s behavior flew then and were maintained in the 1980s.  While traveling in England my husband and I were regaled with the story that Elizabeth was a changeling.  The story unfolded that the infant daughter that Anne gave birth to had died and fearing Henry’s wrath Anne found a substitute child of comparable age and coloring.  Unfortunately, the infant was a boy—and thus the reason Elizabeth never married.

The absurdity of the above story stands its own test, let alone the cruel irony that Anne desperately wanted a male child.  As Henry’s “new amours” continued toward Jane

“to the intense rage of the concubine” (Gairdner X 495).  ‘Les nouvelles amours de ce roy avec la demoyselle dont ait cydevant escript vont tousiours en avant a la grosse raige de la concubyne’ (Friedmann 202).  Chapuys wrote a fuller description of Jane to Granvelle’s son, Antoine Perronet, that he had no news “except to tell you something of the quality of the King’s new lady, which the Emperor and Granvelle would perhaps like to hear. She is sister of one Edward Semel, of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise” (Gairdner X 901).
Antonie Perrenot
Antoine Perronet, son of Chancellor Nicholas Granvelle

Apparently, Henry overlooked that Jane was not “a woman of great wit” and that “she inclines to be proud and haughty” (Gairdner X 901).  He seemed delighted that her temperament was “between the gravity of Queen Catharine, and the pleasantness of Queen Anne” (Burnet 109).  As for Jane’s virtue, it was opinioned by Perrenot that “although Henry necessarily affected to believe in her virtue, she was no better than the other young women of a coarse and dissolute court” (Friedmann 201). Ambassador Chapuys gave the opinion that Henry would make it a condition of the marriage that Jane be a virgin so “when he has a mind to divorce her he will find enough of witnesses” (Gairdner X 901).  Despite the contemporary beliefs of Jane’s uprightness, the King “was as well pleased with a decent appearance of virtue as with virtue itself” (Friedmann 201 – 202). 

Jane’s influence, therefore, increased, and the “whole party of Anne became seriously alarmed” (Friedmann 201 – 202). A gloating Sander reported that Anne faced a serious rival, “for the king began to grow weary of Anne” (Sander 132).  “The poor Queen used all possible arts to reinflame a dying affection; but the King was changed” (Burnet 109).

Not only was Henry growing weary of Anne, his “old conscience began to work again” (Pollard 343).  Contemporaries mentioned that Anne’s “miscarriage was thought to have made an ill impression on the King’s mind, who from thence concluded that this marriage was displeasing to God” (Wriorthesley 33).

Henry’s marked coldness to Anne was remarked upon by many contemporary sources; what varied was the degree of his ill-favor.  Chapuys learned “from several persons of Court” that Henry had “not spoken ten times to the Concubine, and that when she miscarried he scarcely said anything to her, except that he saw clearly that God did not wish to give him male children” (Gairdner X 351).  Henry went to her bedside “bewailing and complaining unto her the loss of his boy,”(Cavendish 208-209) and “gruffly told her that he now saw that God would not give him a son; then, rising to leave, he said harshly that when she recovered he would speak to her” (Friedmann 199).  From the time of the miscarriage “henceforth the harm still more increased, and he was then heard to say to her:  he would have no more boys by her” (Cavendish 209).

It is obvious to see that reports shifted from Henry declaring that God denied him male children to the conviction that he would have no sons by Anne.  These could be the result of translations committed after the fact, as history showed what eventually were Henry’s actions even if, at the end of January 1536, he was not set on the course of repudiating Anne.  Nicholas Sander claims Anne had an inkling as Henry greeted her after her miscarriage “by saying, ‘Be of good cheer, sweetheart, you will have no reason to complain of me again’and went away sorrowing” (Sander 132). The altered demeanor of the king towards Anne was generally remarked upon, and “held to bode no good to her” (Friedmann 203) and “was a great discompfort to all in this realm” (Wriothesley 33).
Anne Boleyn B necklace
Queen Anne Boleyn

The king was frustrated at Anne’s miscarriage and was maddened at her reprimands over his association with Jane Seymour.  That Anne was indiscrete and flirtatious with members of Court could be believed but her biggest mistake was not understanding the strength of Henry’s passion for Jane Seymour.  Years earlier it had been commented about Henry that “rather than miss or want any part of his will or appetite he would put the loss of one half of his kingdom in danger, and that he had often knelled before him the space of an hour or two to persuade him from his will and appetite, but could never bring to pass to dissuade him therefrom” (Cavendish 45).  Henry was used to getting his own way and not encountering much resistance.  Yet, thwarted he was in the incidence with the greatest meaning to him, the birth of a son.  

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