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).

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

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

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

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

Katherine-of-aragon
Katharine of Aragon 

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

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

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

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

roche abbey
Roche Abbey Ruins

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

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

 

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Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

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

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

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

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

John_Foxe
John Foxe

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

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

AnneBoleynAB
Anne Boleyn

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

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

Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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