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

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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.
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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).
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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).
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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.
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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).
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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

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.

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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-D

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

It is not the intent here to explain the entire proceedings of the trials of the men in question.  It shall suffice to say that the evidence was flimsy at best and non-existent in most cases.  Even Ambassador Chapuys, an outspoken opponent of Anne, recognized that with only one of the men confessing to the alleged crimes, the “others were condemned upon presumption and certain indications, without valid proof or confession” (Gairdner X 908). 

Indicted in the counties of Kent and Middlesex, as the locations of the alleged treason, Court records show that Anne and the accused were not even in the same surroundings at the same time. Regardless, on May 12th the four commoners, Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton, were tried in Westminster Hall by a Commission of Oyer and Terminer and found guilty in Westminster Hall by the “lords of the Kinges Counsell” (Wriothesley 36).  Judgment was given, that they should be drawn to the place of execution, and some of them to be hanged, others to be beheaded, and all to be quartered, as guilty of high treason” (Burnet 263). All “the gentlemen were beheaded on the Skaffolde at the Tower hyll” (Hall 268). 
A Trial for High Treason, in Westminster Hall, during the Tudor period
A trial for high treason in Westminster Hall during the Tudor period, albeit a 17th century drawing.

Anne’s Letter to King Henry VIII
Henry VIII was the targeted recipient of a letter from Anne while she was in the Tower.  Is it a forgery?  This blogger will not take a position on that issue.  Granted there are unusual circumstances surrounding its discovery. Found with Sir William Kingston’s letters among Cromwell’s papers, scholars have agreed that stylistically it is from the Tudor Era.  Also agreed, the document is not in Anne’s handwriting.  This is not actually a deal breaker since it can easily be explained as being a copy.  At the top of the sheet the letter is “endorsed, ‘To the King from the Ladye in the Tower’ in Cromwell’s handwriting” (Bell 99). It does not make sense why Cromwell would refer to Anne as ‘The Ladye in the Tower’ unless he did not want to call attention to the missive but wanted to preserve it. Because of the location amongst Cromwell’s papers many historians find it plausible to be authored by Anne.

The “pathetical letter” has been described as “farther proof of the innocence” of Anne (Smeeton 48).  She “pleaded her innocence, in a strain of so much wit and moving passionate eloquence, as perhaps can scarce be paralleled: certainly her spirit is were much exalted when she wrote it, for it is a pitch above her ordinary style” (Burnet 319). The “letter contains so much nature, and even elegance, as to deserve to be transmitted to posterity…” (Hume, David 458).  Regardless of her expressiveness, the plea never reached Henry’s hands—maybe she knew that would happen which is why she gave way to her frustration over Jane Seymour and did indulge in some scolding.  Worthy of reading it is reproduced in its entirety below.

“Sir, your grace’s displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write or what to excuse I am altogether ignorant.  Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one whom you know to be mine ancient professed enemy, I no sooner received this message by him than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command. 

‘But let not your grace 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 a wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn: with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your grace’s pleasure had been so pleased.  Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your grace’s fancy the least alteration I know was fit and suffient to draw that fancy to some other object.  You have chosen me from a low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire.  If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your grace 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 and the infant princess your daughter.  Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see either mine innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared.  So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your grace is at liberty both before God and man not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto, your grace not being ignorant of my suspicion therein.

‘But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander, must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness, then I desire of God that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof, and that he will not call you to a strict account of your unprincely and cruel useage of me, at his general judgment seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.

‘My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your grace’s displeaure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake.  If ever I have found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request, and I will so leave to trouble your grace any farther, with mine earnest prayer to the Trinity to have your grace his good keeping, and to direct you in all our actions.  From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May; Your most loyal and ever faithful wife, –Anne Boleyn” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).
Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn, Hever Portrait

Trials and Tribulations:
Beyond the accusations of adultery and incest–this charge was brought against her brother “because he had been once found a long time with her” (Gairdner X 908), Anne was “accused of having conspired with these five men to bring about the death of the king, and of having said that she did not love him, and that after his death she would marry one of her lovers”  (Friedmann II 262-263).  The indictment claimed that “despising her marriage, and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations, divers of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations” (Gairdner X 876). Whether these were truths, “or the effects of imagination and vapours, cannot be certainly determined at this distance.  It is probable there had been some levities in her carriage that were not becoming” (Burnet 111).

‘Levities in her carriage’—the Council’s reaction to indiscretions seems rather severe to modern eyes.  This is why it is difficult for present day students to grasp the magnitude of Henry’s personality, the strength of his sycophantic Court and the effects of the social, political and religious institutions of the Tudor Era. Could Anne have been divorced and set aside as her successor Anne of Cleves would be?  Most likely not.  Anne of Cleves had powerful international connections which made her survival more important; she did not have any children who needed to be clearly shown as illegitimate; and she followed Anne Boleyn—circumstances were altered because of what happened in 1536. Henry, and more importantly Cromwell, saw the need to eliminate Anne Boleyn, destroy her reputation, weaken the powerful factions at Court and send a message to the world—Henry VIII was in control in England (Okay, based on the charges against Anne, he could not control his wife, but assuredly no one was going to make that connection to him).

On May 15, 1536, the Queen was brought into the King’s Hall of the Tower of London “where was made a chaire for her to sitt downe in, and then her indictment was redd” (Bell 102).  Anne was arraigned “for treason againste the Kinges owne person” (Wriothesley 37).  The crimes charged on her were that “she had procured, her brother and the other four to lie with her, which they had done often; that she had said to every one of them by themselves, that she loved them better than any person whatsoever: which was to slander the issue that was begotten between the king and her and this was treason, according to the statute made in the twenty sixth year of this reign….  It was also added in the indictment, that she and her accomplices had conspired the king’s death” (Burnet 263-264). Ales claimed the Queen had been “accused of having danced in the bedroom with the gentlemen of the King’s chamber and of having kissed her brother” (Stevenson 1303).  Chapuys reported that “there was a promise between her and Norris to marry after the King’s death,” she had “laughed at the King and his dress,” and “certain ballads that the King composed” were snickered at by Anne and her brother “as foolish things, which was objected to as a great crime” (Gairdner X 908).

Court proceedings were not conducted in secret for there were more than 2,000 persons present and documents exist in the Public Records Office which show the trial was conducted “with a scrupulousness without a parallel in the criminal records of the time” (Bell 103).  Twenty-six peers tried Anne and George Boleyn with the Duke of Norfolk acting as Lord High Steward accompanied by “the duke of Suffolk, the marquis of Exeter, the earls of Arundel, Oxford, Northumberland, Westmoreland, Derby, Worcester, Rutland, Sussex, and Huntington; and the Lords Audley, Delaware, Montague, Morley, Dacres, Cobham, Maltravers, Powis, Mounteagle, Clinton, Sands, Windsor, Wentworth, Burgh, and Mordaunt” (Burnet 263-264).  For details of the trial see materials by Bell, Burnet, Cavendish, Friedmann and Howell to name a few.  This blog entry will direct comments to specific areas of interest.

thomas howard norfolk
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Anne’s uncle and judge

Obviously the verdict was a foregone conclusion.  Though unassisted by counsel, Anne “made so wise and discreete aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusinge herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she had never bene faultie to the same” (Wriothesley 37-38).  She defended herself so well “the spectators could not forbear pronouncing her entirley innocent” (Hume 328).  Alas, it was for naught.  Not only was it Henry’s will that Anne be found guilty but logically with her trial coming after four men had been found culpable of adultery with her, the chances of her being reprieved were non-existent no matter what the evidence or lack thereof.

Anne Boleyn Museum Lit Sci
An engraving of Anne Boleyn’s trial by Kearney from a painting by Smirk

The Commission could not bring Smeaton, the only person who confessed to a crime, forward to confront the Queen because he had been convicted three days earlier and could not be used as a witness.  Therefore, the evidence brought in was hearsay and unsubstantiated.  Many historians have discussed the role of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (Anne’s jealous sister-in-law); Lady Bridget Wingfield (a lady of the bedchamber who had died in 1534–the evidence used was a letter written by Bridget to someone else about Anne); and, Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester (Anne’s lady-in-waiting who initiated infidelity rumors in early 1536).  “From such arguments as those which were advanced against the Queen … no probable suspicion of adultery could be collected” (Stevenson 1303).

“Rochford was said to have been arrested for having connived at his sister’s evil deeds” (Friedmann II 256) and for “having spread reports which called in question whether his sister’s daughter was the King’s child” (Gairdner X 908). This last accusation is preposterous!  Why would a man whose very livelihood depended on his royal connections infer his niece was not of royal blood?  Interestingly, Chapuys, no friend to the Boleyns, claimed that Rochford defended himself against the charges so well “several of those present wagered 10 to 1 that he would be acquitted, especially as no witnesses were produced” (Gairdner X 908).  Acquittal was not in the plans.  The Bishop of Carlisle told Chapuys that the “King had said to him, among other things, that he had long expected the issue of these affairs” (Gairdner X 908).

George_Boleyn_signature
Signature of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford

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

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

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

Arrests, Interrogations and Confessions

“On May Day, suddenly “the kyng departed having not above vi. persons with him, and came in the evening from Grenewyche to his place at Westminster” (Hall 268). Anne was confined to her chamber. “Of this sodayn departynge many men mused, but moste chiefely the queen” (Hall 268). The “seconde daie of Maie, Mr. Norris and my Lorde of Rochforde were brought to the Towre of London as prisoners; and the same daie, about five of the clocke at night, the Queene Anne Bolleine was brought to the Towre of London” (Wriothesley 36). To clarify the prisoners and their Court positions–Henry Norris, Groom of the Stole; Sir Francis Weston, Privy Chamber member; William Brereton (also known as Bryerton), Privy Chamber member; and Mark Smeton (sometimes spelled Smeaton), a musician.
Francis_weston
Portrait believed to be Sir Francis Weston

The indictments were made for five men. It is contended that Norris, Weston and Bryerton could not escape punishment as Henry had “no intention, after the death of Anne, to effect a reconciliation with Rome, the three last named might have been allowed to escape; but if he wished to keep a middle course it was his interest to eliminate form the party of the reformation as many as possible of those who might drive it to extremes, and thereby force the government to lean to the other side” (Friedmann II 261-262). On a more personal level, the men may also try to avenge the wrongs against them and the Queen. It was better that they die.

“Besides the persons who were actually sent to prison, a good many others were bound under heavy fines to present themselves before Cromwell and the royal council. They were thus kept in suspense and fear, and could not exert themselves in favour of the accused” (Friedman II 261). Anne’s enemies “searched eagerly for evidence against her, and examined every one who seemed likely to know anything to her disadvantage. Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir William Paulet, aided by Sir Edward Baynton, seemed to have distinguished themselves in this way at Greenwich, where Anne’s personal servants had remained” (Friedmann II 259). Thomas Wyatt probably was arrested to provide evidence, not to be condemned. When Cromwell discovered that he had not been in close communication with Anne for years, he wrote Sir Henry Wyatt “that the young man would be spared. It was decided, too, that Sir Richard Page, who was connected with the Fitzwilliams and the Russels should be allowed to escape” (Friedmann II 262).
Sir Henry Norris had been “in the King’s favour, and an offer was made him of his life, if he would confess his guilt, and accuse the Queen. But he generously rejected that unhandsome proposition, and said that in his conscience he thought her innocent of these things laid to her charge but whether she was or not, he would not accuse her of any thing, and he would die a thousand times rather than ruin an innocent person” (Ellis 65-66).

Mark Smeaton was the only man who was arrested who “confessed to inappropriate behavior toward the Queen” (Burnet 110-111). His confession was the only solid evidence that Cromwell had. It has been suggested that Smeaton was promised a pardon if he pled guilty and implicated Anne. There is speculation that he confessed under torture, an interrogation technique that would have been readily used against the commoner. Because he did not recant at the scaffold, there is a theory that, in the exchanges he had with Anne (which she talks about while in the Tower), he responded familiarly and his haughtiness earned him a rebuke. Perhaps realizing he was not going to be pardoned, Smeaton decided to gain revenge on Anne by confessing to adultery (Davies). If revenge was his motive, he was successful.

While at Greenwich Anne learned that Norris and Smeaton had been arrested. “Combining these facts with Henry’s growing coldness to herself, and his increasing affection for Jane Seymour, Anne began to fear that she would have to take the same way. She was absolutely without means of defence” (Friedmann II 252). Anne herself would try to put a positive spin on her situation and claim that “the most par of Yngland prays for me, and yf I dy you shall se the grettest punishment for me withyn thys vij yere that ever cam to Yngland,’ & then she syad I shall b ein heaven, for’ I have done mony gud dedys in my days…” (Cavendish 223-225). This was not the case. With Henry away at Westminster, she could not use her influence on him. Coupled with his physical distance, most courtiers went with him including not only her enemies but also her allies. Friedman implies that Anne’s brother, Lord Rochford, would use his talents to defend his sister in any way he could which explains his arrest. Her father “had always disapproved of his daughter’s bold and violent courses. There was, therefore, no reason to fear that he would try to defend her” (Friedmann II 254).
greenwich 1533
Greenwich Palace

Anne could not flee from her confinement at Greenwich as this would have proven unsafe to do if not impossible without resources and it would have been an admission of guilt (for whatever was her crime). The Queen was not left in the dark for long. On May 2, 1536, she was summoned before the council. Anne would later claim that she “was creuely handeled …. at Greweche with the kyngs counsel” (Cavendish 223-225). The Queen was interrogated and charged with treason and adultery. Protestations of innocence had no effect and she was arrested and told she would be taken to the Tower. “At two o’clock her barge was in readiness, and in broad daylight, exposed to the gaze of the populace who had assembled on the banks or in boats and barges, she was carried along the river to traitors’ gate” (Friedmann II 253).

Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, was giddy when he wrote his official report on the day of Anne’s arrest that it was “still more wonderful to think of the sudden change from yesterday to today, and the manner of the departure from Greenwich” (Gairdner X 782). His exuberance was not masked when he said things had “come to pass much better than anybody could have believed, to the great disgrace [of the Concubine], who by the judgment of God has been brought in full daylight from Greenwich to the Tower of London, conducted by the duke of Norfolk, the two Chamberlains, of the realm and of the chamber, and only four women have been left to her. The report is that it is for adultery” (Gairdner X 782).

Conveyance to and Time in the Tower

Upon arriving at the Tower Anne exclaimed loudly, “I entered with more ceremony the last time I came” (Hume 64). She maintained her composure up to the time the gates were closed when she asked the Constable of the Tower, William Kingston, if he “was leading her to a dungeon” (Friedmann II 255). When he assured her he was taking her to the rooms she occupied before her coronation, “this somewhat relieved her distress. ‘It is too good for me,’ she exclaimed.” Then her nerve did falter when she came to the “court gate, entering in, she fell downe on her knees before the said lords, beseeching God to helpe her as she was not giltie of her accusement, and also desired the said lords to beseech the Kinges grace to be good unto her, and so they left her their prisoner” (Wriothesley 36).
byward tower
Byward Tower–the most likely entrance of Anne Boleyn into the Tower of London

Once in her apartments she made inquiries about her brother, she asked for the eucharist to be brought in to a room nearby so that she could pray, and she “began to assert her innocence of the crimes with which she was charged” (Freidmann II 256).

According to an anonymous Spanish report, when examined she professed her innocence and asserted that she knew what was the cause of her arrest. “I have never wronged the King, but I know well that he is tired of me, as he was before of the good lady Katharine.” She exclaimed that “the King has fallen in love, as I know, with Jane Seymour, and does not know how to get rid of me. Well, let him do as he likes, he will get nothing more out of me” (Hume 65). William Lancelot expressed Anne’s anguish in his poem. With no further hope, she would confess to nothing. “Riens ne confesse, et ne resiste fort Comme voulant presque estre délivre De vivre icy, pour aulz cieulz aller vivre; Et l’espoir tant en icelle surmonte, Que de la mort ne tient plus aucun compte” (Gairdner X 1036)

“Anne herself was not examined any further. At first orders had been issued that, except in the presence of Lady Kingston, she was to hold no communication with the four women deputed to serve her; but it was soon decided that this would neither be practicable nor expedient. So her attendants were allowed to talk with her, on condition that everything of any importance which she might say to them should be reported to the constable. In a state of hysterical excitement Anne was unable to weigh her words and to control her tongue” (Friedmann II 259). Sometimes “she laughed, and at other times she wept excessively; she was also devout and light by turns; and sometimes she stood upon her vindication, and at other times she confessed some indiscretions, which she afterwards denied” (Burnet 110).

“On the morning after her arrest she spoke of Noreys, and told Mrs. Cosyns, one of her attendants, of the conversation she had had with him. She then talked of Weston, whose indiscretion she seemed greatly to fear” (Friedmann II 259). This whole conversation (and those that ensued) was immediately reported to Kingston, who in his turn sent an account to Cromwell—several are reproduced below.

tower of london more contemp
A relatively contemporary image (circa 1553) of the Tower of London

“Thy sys to advertyse you upon my Lord of Norfolk and the kyngs counsell depart[inge] from the Towre I went before the queen in to hyr lodging, & [then she] sayd unto me, M. Kyngston, shall I go in to a dungyn? Now, madam, y[ou] shall go into your logyng that you lay in at your cornonacion. It ys to gu[de] for me, she sayd, Jesu, have mercy on me; and kneled downe wepyng a [great] pace, and in the same sorow fell in to agret lawyng, and she hathe done [so] mony tymes syns. And then she desyred me to move the Kyngs hynes that she [myght] have the sacrament in the closet by hyr chambr, that she my[ght pray] for mercy, for I am as clere from the company of man, as for s[yn, sayd she as I] am clere from you, and am the kyngs trew wedded wyf; and then sh[e sayd] M. Kyngston, do you know wher I am here, and I sayd, Nay, and then [she sayd] when saw you the kyng? And I sayd, I saw hym not syns I saw [him in] the Tylte yerde, and then M. K. I pray you to tell me wher my [Lord Roch]ford ys? And I told hyr I saw hum afore dyner in the cort. O [where ys] my set brod’er? I sayd I left hym at York place, and so I dyd. I [hear say, say]d she, that I shuld be accused with iij men; and I can say [no more but] nay, withyowt I shuld open my body; and there with opynd [her gown saying, O Nor]res, hast thow accused me, thow ar in the Towre with me, & [thou and I shal]l dy to gether: and, Marke, thou art here to. O my mother, [thou wilt dy] for sorrow, and meche lamented my lady of Worcet, for by ca[urse her child] dyd not store in hyr body, and my wyf sayd what shuld [be the cawse, she] sayd for the sorrow she toke for me: and then she sayd M. K[ingston, shall I dy] with yowt just; & I sayd, the porest sugett the kung [hath had justis, and] ther with she lawed. All thys sayings was yeter ny[ght]……. & thys moryng dyd talke with mestres Cousyns [and said that Nor]res dyd say on Sunday last unto the queens amn[er, that he wold sw]ere fro the queen that she was a gud woman. [And then sayd Mrs.} Cosyn, Madam, why shuld ther be hony seche maters [spoken of? Mary,] syad she, I had hym do so, for I asked hym why he [went not through with] hys maryage? And he made ansur he would tary [a time. Then said she, you’ loke for ded mens showys; for yf owth cam[e to the king but good,] you would loke to have me; and he sayd, yf he [should have any soch though,] he wold hys hed war of; and then she sayd, [she could undo him if she wold,] and ther with thay fell yowt. Bot [she said, she more feared Weston; for] on Wysson Twysday last [Westong told he]r that Nores cam more u[nto her chawmbre for her then….

Wher I was commanded to charge the gentlewomen that y gyf thaye atende apon the queen, that ys to say, Thay shuld have now commynycaseon with hyr, in lese my wyf ware present, and so I dyd hit, notwithstaundyng it canot be; for my lady Bolen and mestrys Cosyn lyes on the queens palet, and I and my wyf at the dore with yowt, so that thay most nedes talke that be without” (Cavendish 223-225).

Anne’s natural intelligence would have sparked in her the realization that anything she said or did in confinement would most likely be reported to the authorities. Yet, she could not keep her chaotic thoughts to herself and spoke of her previous encounters with the accused men. To which Kingston would add postscripts explaining her further revelations. He informed Cromwell that “syns the making of thys letter the queen spake of Weston that she had spoke to hym by cause he dyd love hyr kynswoman Mrs. Skelton and that she sayd he loved not hys wyf; and he made anser to hyr again that he loved won in hyr howse bettr than them bother; she asked him who is that? To which he answered that it ys your self; and then she defied hym” (Cavendish II 217-220).
Mary Shelton
Mary Shelton, attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger

Days later Kingston wrote to Cromwell concerning the discussion of Jane Boleyn, and Anne’s further encounters with Mark Smeaton and Thomas Wyatt.

“Quene said unto me that same nyght that the Kyng wyst what he dyd when he put such ij. abowt hyr as my lady Boleyn and Mestres Cofyn; for thay cowd tell her now thynge of my Lord her father, nor nothynge ellys, bot she defyed them alle. But then upon this my lady Boleyn sayd to hyr, Seche desyre as you have had to such tales hase browthe you to thys, and then sayd Mrs. Stoner, Mark [Smeaton] ys the worst cherysshe of hony an in the house, for he wayres yernes. She sayd that was because he was no gentelman; bot he wase never in my chamber but at Winchester, and there] she sent for hym to play on the virginals, for there my logynge was above the King’s for I never spake with hym syns bot upon Saterday before Mayday; and then I fond hym standyng in the ronde wyndo in my chambre of presens. And I asked why he wase so sad, and he ansured and sayd it was now mater; and then she sayd, You may not loke to have me speke to you as I shuld do to a nobulle man by cause you be aninferor person. No, no, madam, a loke sufficed me, and thus fare you welle. She hathe asked my wyf whether hony body makes thayr beddes, and my wyf ansured and sayd, Nay, I warant you; then she sayd thay myght make balettes well now, bot ther ys non bot . . . . . . de that can do it. Yese, sayd my wyf, Master Wyett by . . . . . . . sayd trew. . . . . . my Lorde my broder wille dy . . . ne I am sure thys was as . . . tt downe to dener thys day. Will’m Kyngston” (Gairdner X 798).

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. 

 catherine aragon
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. 
marguerite navarre
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