Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII-A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part VIII—A

Although Elizabeth was still at Greenwich at the time of her mother’s execution, she was soon moved to Hunsdon.  Please refer to the blog entries at elizregina.com entitled “Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory” https://elizregina.com/2014/01/20/elizabeth-regina-her-mothers-memory/  and “Lady Bryan:  An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove” https://elizregina.com/2014/01/07/lady-bryan-an-iron-hand-in-a-velvet-glove/ for further information about Elizabeth’s childhood at the time of her mother’s arrest and execution.

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Hunsdon

It was while at Hunsdon that Sir John Shelton wrote to Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell, on Wednesday 16 August 1536, assuring him he would follow the King’s orders which stripped Elizabeth of the title Princess and kept her in her chamber.  Explanations for this included a story that Queen Jane Seymour slandered Anne and said to the King, “Your Majesty knows how bad Queen Anne was, and it is not fit that her daughter should be the Princess” (Hume 72-73).

Many historians believe that Elizabeth was confined to her rooms after her mother’s disgrace because Henry could not bear any mention of her as a reminder of her mother.  Others consider that Henry secluded Elizabeth for her own protection against the rumors and stories swirling around Court, a view seemingly supported by French Ambassador Guillaume du Bellay.  Du Bellay commented that at a banquet celebrating the marriage of Henry and Jane Seymour, although “Madame Ysabeau is not at that table, the King is very affectionate to her. It is said he loves her much” (Gairdner XI 860).

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Guillaume du Bellay

Therefore, under the instructions of her father, Lady Margaret Bryan, Elizabeth’s governess, protected her as much as possible.  While Henry was eradicating all trace of Anne by altering, removing or destroying emblems, heraldry, portraits, etc., the Court was avoiding any mention of Anne Boleyn.  After her execution Anne’s existence was basically erased. We do not know when or how Elizabeth learned of her mother’s end, therefore, speculation is useless. We do know that after Elizabeth became queen, several chroniclers such as John Foxe were able to tell Anne’s story “at least as he and many of her contemporaries had grasped it at the time” (Zahl 18).

When Elizabeth gained the throne and did not immediately defend her mother’s memory, to many onlookers it seemed strange “that during her long and glorious reign, none wrote in vindication of her mother, which officious courtiers are apt to do often, without any good grounds; so that silence was made an argument of her guilt, and that she could not be defended.  But perhaps that was an effect of the wisdom of the ministers of that time, who would not suffer so nice a point, upon which the Queen’s legitimation depended, to be brought into dispute” (Burnet 115-116).

The conclusion that Elizabeth did not defend Anne as proof of her mother’s guilt ignores the work of John Foxe, George Wyatt and others; although, it is conceded that Elizabeth Regina did stress her paternity.  Elizabeth, unlike her sister Mary, never passed legislation to restore her parents’ marriage.  Why should she?  Henry VIII’s will had placed her in line to the succession as did the Acts of Succession, the latest in 1543; she had gained the throne uncontested in 1558; and, as a political survivor, she realized there was no need to bring to the fore the controversy of her mother’s execution.  Elizabeth’s usual maneuverings were to watch and wait—and this was no exception.  A pro-active stance trying to prove Anne’s innocence was unnecessary and could prove politically harmful.

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Oath of Succession

Alexander Aless, a Scottish theologian and diplomat recalled that Anne’s innocence was demonstrated not only by her character but also by no greater “evident proof than this, that whereas she left you, her only child, your father always acknowledged you as legitimate” and nothing could “persuade the illustrious King that you were not his daughter” (Stevenson 1303:46). John Foxe wrote that Henry VIII in his Last Will and Testament did by name, “accept, and by plain ratification did allow, the succession of his marriage to stand good and lawful” (Foxe V 232).

Opposite of the views of Anne’s proponents were those of her detractors such as Nicholas Sander.  He deduced that Elizabeth “under the pressure of the fear … that because she was the issue of a marriage condemned by the Church and the sovereign Pontiff, a doubt might be raised touching her birth and her title to the throne” (Sander 241). Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton described Anne as “the ruin of many pious, worthy and famous men who favoured not that unlawful marriage” (Zahl 13).

Perhaps because of a sliver of doubt in her mind, in 1572 Elizabeth had Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, track down the papal bull of dispensation from 1528 that had sanctioned her parents’ marriage. Queen Elizabeth wanted to have the document on file in case she needed to prove her legitimacy, beyond any doubt. Although this document would not be needed in England, it is assumed by this blogger that Elizabeth Regina wanted to have it for her own marriage negotiations within Catholic Europe.

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Heading of the Papal Bull concerning the dissolution of Henry VIII marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

Henry’s marital status with Anne (the dispensation and later divorce) was one of the troubles he bequeathed Elizabeth.  The “sole advantage to Henry was that his infidelities to Anne ceased to be breaches of the seventh commandment.  The justice of her sentence to death is also open to doubt.  Anne herself went to the block boldly proclaiming her innocence” (Pollard 345).  Although Anne did not directly address the accusations against her on the scaffold, she did take communion prior to her death and did not confess guilt.  To die without confession would have been unheard of for a practicing Christian of that time period.  William Kingston Constable of the Tower of London bore witness and reported on the day of Anne’s execution, ‘thys morning she sent for me that I myght be with hyr at soche tyme as she reysayved the gud lord to the in tent I shuld here hyr speke as towchyng her innosensy always to be clere” (Cavendish 229)

Not defending her innocence was seen as troubling to contemporaries whereas modern eyes would admire her.  Anne’s “faint way of speaking concerning her innocence at last was judged too high a compliment to the King in a dying woman, and shewed more regard to her daughter than to her own honour” (Burnet An Abridgement 115). She “was, it seems, prevailed on, out of regard to her daughter, to make no reflections on the hard measure she met with, nor to say any thing touching the grounds on which sentence passed against her” (Burnet An Abridgement 114).

As witnessed in a letter to Queen Elizabeth concerning her mother, Alexander Aless stated that the “Queen exhibited such constancy, patience, and faith towards God that all the spectators, even her enemies…testified and proclaimed her innocence and chastity” (Stevenson 1303:27).

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 Elizabeth Regina and Queen Anne Boleyn

Anne’s reputation, written by contemporaries or near contemporaries, was a study of contrast.  Was she a pious, Protestant heroine or lecherous woman “following daily her frail and carnal lust”(Gairdner X 876). Defending her in the immediate aftermath of her death was not a politically astute thing to do with her guilt having been ‘proven’ and, yet, defending her during her daughter’s reign invited accusations of sycophantic behavior.

Could there be a middle ground?  Apparently not, even when a Catholic appeared to take Anne’s side, it was viewed with suspicion.  Andre Thevet, a French Franciscan, wrote Universal Cosmography in which he stated he had on good authority from multiple sources “that King Henry at his death, among his other sins, repented in particular of the wrong he had done the queen, in destroying her by a false accusation” (Burnet 268).  Considering the monasteries, including the Franciscan Order, had suffered at the hands of Henry VIII and inadvertently Anne Boleyn, the influence of this statement is strengthened.  What cause would Thevet have to defend Anne despite her pro-French inclinations?

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer must have believed Anne innocent of the deeds and her acquired reputation yet as a pragmatist he realized that when dealing with Henry he had to tread cautiously.  The postscript of a letter written to Henry at the time of Anne’s arrest covered both angles “I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the Queen, as I heard of their relation.  But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject” (Burnet 262).   Cranmer wanted to preserve the Reformation which in its infancy could not be too closely associated with a blighted leader.

With Anne credited for encouraging the Reformation movement in England, her supporters kept her memory alive. John Foxe referred to her as Godly, “for sundry respects, whatsoever the cause was, or quarrel objected against her. Certain this was, that for the rare and singular gifts of her mind, so well instructed, and given toward God, with such a fervent desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with like gentleness, modesty, and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England. Principally this one commendation she left behind her, that during her life, the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course. Again, what a zealous defender she was of Christ’s gospel all the world doth know…” (Foxe II 407).

Bishop John Aylmer, at one time a tutor to Lady Jane Grey, questioned that by banishing Rome from England, was there no “greater feat wrought by any man than this was by a woman?” Alymer was thankful that God had “given Queen Anne favour in the sight of the king” and although he praised many people who were instrumental in promoting the Reformation he felt that “wherefore, that many deserved much praise for helping forward of it, yet the crop and root was the queen, which God had endued with wisdom that she could, and given her the mind that she would, do it” (Cassell 176).

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John Aylmer

Raphael Holinshed praised Anne posthumously in 1577.  “Now because I might rather saie much than suffcientlie inough in praise of this noble queene, as well for hir singular wit and other excellent qualities of mind, as also for hir favouring of learned men, zeale of religion, and liberalitie in distributing almes in reliefe of the poore” (Holinshed 797).

Even Secretary Cromwell admitted to Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys that Anne had courage and intelligence–“Et sur ce me loucha grandement le sens expert et cueur de la dicte concubine et de son frère” (Friedmann 297).

Anne was defended periodically as records of the following years show accounts against persons who maintained that Henry had put her to death unjustly.  An example would be proceedings against John Hill of Eysham.  On 26 June 1536 it was reported that Hill claimed that Henry had caused Mr. Norris, Mr. Weston, “and the other Queen to be put to death” for “a frawde and a gille” (Gairdner X 1205).

In France poems were written in her honour, and in Germany the Protestants expressed strong disapproval of the king’s act” (Friedmann II 300).  An anecdote about Christina of Denmark, the Duchess of Milan written by George Constantyne, an Evangelical-eyewitness to many of the events of 1536, to Thomas Cromwell revealed the international view towards Henry.   Suspicious that “the kynges majestie was in so little space rydde of the Quenes, that she dare not trust his cownceill, though she durst trust his majestie” although she “suspecteth that her great Aunte was poysoned; that the second was innocentlye put to deeth; And the thred lost for lacke of kepinge in her child bed” (Constantyne 61).

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Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

For References please see Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part I 

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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-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-C

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

When is a Friend Not a Friend?

Some people at Court were not opposed to Anne and many owed their positions to her patronage, but the vast majority of them were pliant (or worldly) enough to realize doing the King’s bidding would be the most expedient. Therefore, Anne’s friends did little to help her and even less to support her good name.  Most were content to let the events unfold while distancing themselves from anyone closely associated with her.  A story circulated that reached the ears of the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, who relished in relaying it to his king, Charles V.  Evidently, on being consulted whether Anne and Henry were truly married, the Bishop of London, John Stokesley, replied he would “not give any opinion to anyone but the King himself.”  And “before doing so he would like to know the King’s own inclination” (Gairdner X 752).  It is easy to interpret this to mean that Stokesley would not put himself in danger knowing the king’s volatility. 

One young man, Roland Buckley, a lawyer at Grey’s Inn, seemingly wholly unconnected with Anne, wrote to his brother Richard, Chamberlain of North Wales, on May 2nd when he heard the news of Anne’s arrest. He quickly dispatched the following letter into the hands of a trusted servant, Geoffrey Griffith.
     “Sir ye shall untherstande that the queene is in the towere, the ierles of Wyltshyre her father my lorde Rocheforde her brother, maister norres on of the king previe chamber, on maister Markes on of the kings preyve chamber, wyth divers others soundry ladys. The causse of there committing there is of certen hie treson comytyde conscernyng there prynce, that is to saye that maister norres shuld have a doe wyth the queyne and Marke and the other acsesari to the sayme. The arre lyke to suffyre, all ther morre is the pitte” (Gairdner X 785).
     ‘Yff it plesyde good otherwise I praye you macke you redy in all the haste that can be and come downe to youre prynce for you your seffte may do more than xx men in your absence, therefore mayke haste for ye may be ther or onny a worde be of theyr deth, when it is ones knowe that the shall dede all wilbe to latte therefore mayke haste” (Friedmann 258). 

Geoffrey was apprehended near Shrewsbury on his way to Wales.  The letter was found and caused concern among the local dignitaries.  Buckley seemed to be enticing his brother to take some type of action—not specifically stated but obviously feeling Richard could hold the persuasive power of 20 men over Henry.  Roland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, along with three other prominent citizens, wrote to Secretary Cromwell requesting guidance or more specifically “the King’s pleasure” in dealing with the situation (Gairdner X 820). Frustratingly, this blogger has not been able to uncover what actions were taken against the three principals involved.   

Shrewsbury timber framed building Shropshire UK Great Britain
Buildings from the Tudor era in Shrewsbury.

Understandably, the arrests led to a great deal of talk and several letters survive written from diplomats, churchmen and merchants.  Reports varied in accuracy (from the outlandish, such as Anne’s mother had been arrested to pinpoint correctness in naming which prisoners would be allowed to escape) and tone (from gleeful fascination to straightforward disinterest).

Sir John Duddeley wrote to Lady Lisle on some issue of patronage and concluded that he was sure “there is no need to write the news, for all the world knows them by this time. Today Mr. Norres, Mr. Weston, William a Brearton, Markes, and lord Rocheforde were indicted, and on Friday they will be arraigned at Westminster. The Queen herself will be condemned by Parliament. Wednesday, 10 May” (Gairdner X 837). 

A footnote in Friedmann’s text relayed from the letter of Eustace Chapuys to the Emperor Charles V that the commitment of Anne and her brother to the Tower along with others “is of certen hie treson comytyde conscernyng there prynce, that is to saye that maister norres shuld have a doc with the queyn and Marke and the other acesari to the sayme” (Friedmann 256).

Sir Edward Baynton wrote to Treasurer FitzWilliam (it is assumed this is William FitzWilliam, 1st Earl of Southampton when he was Treasurer of the Household), with concern over the lack of confessions from the prisoners.  He then cryptically comments that “I have mused much at [the conduct] of Mrs. Margery, who hath used her[self] strangely toward me of late, being her friend as I have been. There has been great friendship of late between the Queen and her. I hear further that the Queen standeth stiffly in her opinion, that she wi[ll not be convicted], which I think is in the trust that she [hath in the o]ther two” (Gairdner X 799).  An interesting mix of gossip and worry for himself—letting an official know that he has been associating with someone close to the Queen but in a benign capacity.

William_Fitzwilliam
Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, by Hans Holbein

The Mayor of Sandwich wrote to Henry VIII concerning the Queen’s emissary, Sir Reverend William Latymer, who had been to Flanders on business for the Queen.  Evidently, Latymer had purchased several books in her name.  Some “of the books he had with him, and of others in his mail, which had not yet arrived, but which were to be conveyed to London to one Mrs. Wilkinson” (Gairdner X 827). Luckily for all involved, Thomas Boys, “one of the King’s servants”, was present who would “convey Latymer himself to the King” and directly testify about the books and Latymer’s role.

Catholic hopes ran as high as the gossip swirled.  Cardinal Rudolfo Pio da Carpi, Bishop of Faenza, optimistically wrote to Prothonotary Monsignor Ambrogio Ricalcato, Chief Secretary to Pope Paul III, “News came yesterday from England that the King had caused to be arrested the Queen, her father, mother, brother, and an organist with whom she had been too intimate. If it be as is reported, and as the cardinal Du Bellay has given him to understand, it is a great judgment of God” (Gairdner X 838). 

 Bishop of Faenza
Cardinal Rudolfo Pio, Bishop of Faenza by Francesco de’ Rossi and in the 
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

John Husee, Lord Lisle’s London business agent, kept his boss informed of the happenings in London.  On May 12th he shared, “Today Mr. Norrys, Weston, Bryerton, and Markes have been arraigned, and are judged to be drawn, hanged, and quartered. They shall die tomorrow or Monday. Anne the queen, and her brother, shall be arraigned in the Tower, some think tomorrow, but on Monday at furthest, and that they will suffer there immediately ‘for divers considerations, which are not yet known.’ Mr. Payge and Mr. W[y]at are in the Tower, but it is thought without danger of life, though Mr. Payge is banished the King’s court for ever” (Gairdner X 855).

The next day Husee succumbed to the confusion of reports by declaring that there “are so many tales I cannot tell what to write. This day, some say, young Weston shall escape, and some that none shall die but the Queen and her brother; others, that Wyat and Mr. Payge are as like to suffer as the others. The saying now is that those who shall suffer shall die when the Queen and her brother go to execution; but I think they shall all suffer. If any escape, it will be young Weston, for whom importunate suit is made” (Gairdner X 865).

Later John Husee’s opening remarks in a letter to Lady Lisle exclaimed over the world’s previously collective writings that vilified women were “nothing in comparison of that which hath been done and committed by Anne the Queen; which, though I presume be not althing as it is now rumoured, yet that which hath been by her confessed, and other offenders with her by her own alluring, procurement, and instigation, is so abominable and detestable that I am ashamed that any good woman should give ear thereunto. I pray God give her grace to repent while she now liveth. I think not the contrary but she and all they shall suffer” (Gairdner X 866).

Husee heraldry
John Husee heraldry 

A Portuguese merchant in London wrote to a contemporary back home, “The Council then declared that the Queen’s daughter was the child of her brother; and that as the child of a private person, the child be forthwith removed from that place; and that the King should again receive that Princess who was the daughter of the former and the true Queen, as his own and real daughter, and as being his successor in the kingdom” (Urban 56).

With the current situation so unpredictable, Anne’s friends and allies had to distance themselves from her and dared not interfere.  It appeared as if “all the Court was now turned against her, and she had no friend about the King but Cranmer and therefore her enemies procured an order for him not to come to Court” (Burnet 111).

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer’s Letter to Henry VIII

Aware of what he owed to her favor, Cranmer made an attempt to show his gratitude to the Queen by writing a letter to Henry VIII on May 3, 1536, expressing his favorable impressions of Anne “as far as was consistent with prudence and charity” (Burnet 260).  Cranmer knew the king’s temperament and an out and out defense of Anne would place the Archbishop of Canterbury in jeopardy.

Cranmer began by informing Henry that he had relocated to Lambeth to await the king’s pleasure and with the wish to bring comfort.  Cranmer consoled the king that with Henry’s “great wisdom, and by the assistance of God’s help, somewhat to suppress the deep sorrows of your grace’s heart, and to take all adversities of God’s hands both patiently and thankfully” (Burnet 260).

The Archbishop acknowledged the grievances Henry faced “whether the things that commonly be spoken of be true or not” (Burnet 261).  The king was likened to Job and Cranmer stressed that by accepting adversities as well as glory he was showing his obedience to God.   After flattering Henry, Cranmer then goes on to cushion his remarks which were favorable to Anne.  Yes, here is a man nervous of his own position and even, life yet conscientious enough to know he is obliged to Anne to utter some words of support.
Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

“And if it be true, that is openly reported of the queen’s grace, if men had a right estimation of things, they should not esteem any part of your grace’s honour to be touched thereby, but her honour only to be clearly disparaged.  And I am in such a perplexity, that my mind is clean amazed:  for I never had better opinion in woman, than I had in her; which maketh me to think, that she should not be culpable.  And again, I think your highness would not have gone so far, except she had surely been culpable.

‘Now I think that your grace best knoweth, that, next unto your grace, I was most bound  unto her of all creatures living.  Wherefore, I most humbly beseech your grace, to suffer me in that, which both God’s law, nature, and also her kindness bindeth me unto; that is, that I may, with your grace’s favor, wish and pray for her that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent.  And if she be found culpable, considering your grace’s goodness towards her, and from what condition your grace of your only mere goodness took her, and set the crown upon her head; I reput him not your grace’s faithful servant and subject, nor true unto the realm, that would not desire the offence without mercy to be punished, to the example of all other.  And as I loved her not a little, for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and his gospel; so if she be proved culpable, there is not one that loveth God and his gospel that ever will favour her, but must hate her above all other; and the more they favour the gospel, the more they will hate her: for then there was never creature in our time that so much slandered the gospel” (Burnet 261-262).

Cranmer then goes to the heart of the issue—the preservation of the reformist movement. The Church, which Anne helped create was in its infancy and Cranmer wanted to ensure that Henry VIII did not place the faults of Anne onto the reformist movement.  “Wherefore, I trust that your grace will bear no less entire favour unto the truth of the gospel than you did before: forsomuch as your grace’s favor to the gospel was not led by affection unto her, but by zeal unto the truth.  And thus I beseech Almighty God, whose gospel he hath ordained your grace to be defender of, ever to preserve your grace from all evil, and give you at the end the promise of his gospel. From Lambeth, the 3d day of May” (Burnet 261-262).

Astoundingly, the letter does not end there.  A postscript was added, “After I had written this letter unto your grace, my lord chancellor, my lord of Oxford, my lord of Sussex, and my lord chamberlain of your grace’s house, sent for me to come unto the star-chamber; and there declared unto me such things as your grace’s pleasure was they should make me privy unto.  For the which I am most bounded unto your Grace.  And what communication we had together, I doubt not but they will make the true report thereof unto your grace.  I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the queen, as I heard of their relation.  But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject.
Your grace’s,
Humble subject and chaplain
T. Cantuariensis” (Burnet 262).

Although Cranmer was summoned on the King’s orders to hear the evidence against Queen Anne, he still did not alter his letter.  Perhaps he was doubtful about the strength of the charges against Anne; perhaps he wanted to ensure the evangelical reforms; perhaps he was flattered that the king felt it necessary to advise him of the Queen’s crimes; or, perhaps, his compassion outweighed his caution.  Regardless, the missive was sent and no repercussion fell upon him, nor was Anne’s situation abated.

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 IV

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part IV

Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer were more pliable to Anne’s ideas and cause than Cardinal Wolsey.  Cromwell as Chief Minister pushed through Parliament several reform measures including the creation of the King as Head of the Church of England. Cranmer, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury after the death of William Warham, declared the end to Henry and Katherine’s marriage. The age of Wolsey was over.

thomas cromwell
Thomas Cromwell

Anne Boleyn owed a great deal to Thomas Cromwell. He put into effect his plan to frighten the clergy into submission and sever the English Church from Rome– but it was quite a time before it could be implemented. His plan he felt sure “could not of course fail to please Anne, to whom it held out a sure way of obtaining what she desired” (Friedmann 135-136).  At the Convocation of Canterbury in January 1531, under threat the clergy acknowledged Henry as “singular protector, supreme lord and even, so far as the law of Christ allows, supreme head of the English Church and clergy” (Haigh 108).  Added to the brilliance of the plan was the fact that the members of the Privy Council who “generally opposed the measures brought forward by Anne’s friends, willingly assented to a scheme which would weaken the influence of the bishops” (Friedmann 135-136).

Despite the capitulation of the Clergy, all was not smooth sailing for Henry and Anne.  By May 22, 1531, Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, reported to Charles V that “the clergy of York and Durham sent to the King a strong protestation against the supremacy which he pretends to have over them.  The King is greatly displeased, still more because one of his couriers coming from Rome has brought him news that his Ambassadors there are afraid that the Pope will definitively quash the process” (Gairdner 251).  This was “a serious defeat for Anne’s party.”  Legislation to force the clergy and Parliament to submit had to be abandoned as priests protested “against any encroachments on the liberty of the Church or any act derogatory to the authority of the Holy See” (Friedmann 142).  Resistance did not last and in 1534 Henry passed the Acts of Supremacy and of Succession.  Legally he was Head of the Church of England and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was annulled and that of Anne legitimized along with any children from their union. All seemed to be going well;  Anne was Queen and the Protestant reform movement was gaining momentum.  What happened?

Anne encountered forces stronger than her influence on Henry.  She disagreed with the King over the dissolution of the monasteries, she clashed with Thomas Cromwell over international politics and Anne underestimated Henry’s frustration at not having a male heir, his attraction for Jane Seymour and the Court’s ability to use those domestic issues against her and the evangelical faction.

Henry VIII committed to improving the religious houses in England.  He sent agents out to track adherence to monastic orders’ rules and to account for the wealth of each. He ordered the Commission for the Valuation of Ecclesiastical Benefices stressing his right as Supreme Head of the Church, “Henricus Octavus, Dei gratia Agnlie et Francie Rex, Fidei Defensor, Dominus Hibernie et in terra Supremum Capud Anglicane Ecclesie, Reverendo in Christo patri J[ohanni] Episcopo Exoniensi ac dilectis et fidelbus suis Salutem” (Hall A Formula Book of English Official Historical Documents 63).

Henry VIII
Henry VIII –attributed to the circle of Holbein 1535-1541

Commissioners appointed by King Henry were to “examyn, serche and enquire, by all the ways and meanes that they can by their dyscrections, of and for the true and just hole and entire yerely values of all the manours, londes, tenements, hereditamentes, rentes, tythes, offerings, emoluments and all other profittes, as well spitrituall as temporall, apperteyninge or belonging to any Archebusshopriche, Busshoprich, Abbacye, Monasterie, Priorie, Archdeaconry, Deanry, Hospitall, College, Howse Collegyate … or any other benefice or promocion sprituall within the lymyttes of their Commyssion” (Hall A Formula Book of English Official Historical Documents 62).  Henry also wanted to know “in what manner the revenewes and profitts” were used (Leach ii).

Once the Valor Ecclesiasticus had been presented to Parliament on February 5, 1536, creating the dismay that Henry and Cromwell hoped it would, the Legislature quickly formulated and implemented new policy by mid-March. It certainly was easy to see what Henry’s main purpose was.  He needed money, a lot of it, having gone through the vast fortune his father had left him.  Confiscating the property of religious houses would provide that wealth.

The Act of the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries of 1536 (also known as The Suppression of Religious Houses Act), deemed the lesser monastic houses sinful and wasteful.  All the occupants were ordered to transfer to larger monasteries where they would be reformed to live more religiously.  It was proclaimed that Parliament finally revolved “that it is and shall be much more to the pleasure of Almighty God, and for the honour of this his realm, that the possessions of such religious houses, now being spent, spoiled, and wasted for increase maintenance of sin, should be used and converted to better uses.”  Parliament authorized “that his majesty shall have and enjoy to him and to his heirs for ever, all and singular such monasteries, priories, and other religious houses” the land, rent, chapels and all their property “with all their rights, profits, jurisdictions, and commodities, unto the King’s majesty, and to his heirs and assigns for ever, to do and use therewith his and their own wills, to the pleasure of Almighty God, and to honour and profit this realm….”  Not daring to leave anything behind, the Act of Suppression gave the rights for the “…King’s highness shall have and enjoy to his own proper use, all the ornaments, jewels, goods, chattels and debts, which appertained to any of the chief governors of the said monasteries” (“Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries”).

Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador to Charles V wrote “The King and Council are busy setting officers for the provision and exaction of the revenues of the churches which are to be suppressed; which, it is said, will be in number above 300, and are expected to bring in a revenue of 120,000 ducats. The silver plate, chalices, and reliquaries, the church ornaments, bells, lead from the roofs, cattle, and furniture belonging to them, which will come to the King, will be of inestimable amount. All these lords are intent on having farms of the goods of the said churches, and already the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk are largely provided with them. I am told that although Cromwell promoted in the first instance the demolition of the said churches, that nevertheless, seeing the dangers that might arise from it, he was anxious to prevent them, for which reason the King had been somewhat angry with him” (Gairdner X 601).

chapuys
Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador to England

The busy Ambassador wrote that same day, March 18, 1536, to his fellow Hapsburg statesman, Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (sometimes referred to as Granville or Grenville): “You will see by the letters I write to his Majesty, the gentle device of this King to extract money on pretext of charity by means of the offerings. If it succeeds, as no doubt it will, he will gain an immense sum of money, for he will impose a tax according to his will which everyone will have to offer, and not engage to do so for once but for all the other innumerable inventions that this King daily puts forward in order to get money, at which the people is terribly grieved and almost desperate, but no man dare complain ” (Gairdner X 495).  Contemporaries discussed Cranmer’s sermon which assured the people that the king would now gain so much treasure “that from that time he should have no need, nor put the people to … any charge for his or the realm’s affairs” (Heal 145).

The monasteries did need some reform. It was not unique to England and it was not so much against the religion as to the laxity that befell many religious houses.  Henry’s and Cromwell’s greed were not the sole motivators.  Local landed gentry also eagerly eyed the wealth of the lands of their neighbors.  Already indebted to each other, the monasteries and noble estates had been intertwined for years. Abbots had long been “giving up part of their revenues, in the form of pensions …to courtiers, in the hope of being allowed to retain the remainder” (Pollard 340).  But Henry had hit upon an enormous source of wealth in his position as Supreme Head of the Church of England. And perhaps, not beyond the one time infusion as Chapuys further opinioned that “the King will greatly increase his revenue” (Gairdner X 494).

Statute 575
 Transcription of the above Statute

“An Acte whereby all Relygeous Houses of Monks, Chanons, and Nonnes whiche may not dyspend Manors Lands  Tenants & Heredytaments above the clere yerly Value of ij C E are geven to the Kings Highness his heirs and Successours for ever.  The Byll for the suppressing of dy__ Places of Relygion” (“The Statutes of the Realm”)

Oddly enough Henry was not made astronomically wealthy–he needed to cover debts and he distributed much of the wealth to his nobles. Thus, the view must be that the dissolution’s intention was not to make Henry wealthy but to bribe the gentry to support Henry’s policies. Chapuys reported to Charles V that “the King will distribute among the gentlemen of the kingdom the greater part of the ecclesiastical revenues to gain their goodwill” (Gairdner VII 1141).  “The dissolution of the monasteries harmonised well with the secular principles of the predominant classes” (Pollard 342).

Whom it did not harmonize well with was Queen Anne Bolyen.

On Passion Sunday, April 2, 1536, John Skip, chaplain to Anne Boleyn, preached a sermon to the entire Court with his target “scarcely disguised” as Thomas Cromwell (Heal 142).  Taking his theme from Biblical text, he asked, Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? Which of you convinceth me of sin? (Newcombe).  The message of this incendiary sermon was to encourage Henry’s advisors to cease their greed and do what was right for the people, especially the poor. Skip altered the Esther Biblical story to stress “to courtiers and counselors alike to change the advice they were giving the king and to reject the lure of personal gain” (Ives 309).

Assuerus_Haman_a
Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther by Rembrandt

Eric Ives in the text, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, supported by other historians, has analyzed Skip’s symbolism-laden sermon and has pointed out the correlation between this sermon and Anne’s disagreement with Cromwell over how the proceeds from the dissolution of the lesser monasteries should be used. Cranmer even ran afoul of Henry later by not consenting “that the king should have all the revenues of the monasteries which were suppressed, to his own sole use” (Dodd 21).  Many understood that Henry could have the lands to do with as he wished but that the wealth should be “bestowed on hospitals, schools, and other pious and charitable foundations” (Dodd 21).  It appeared to be common knowledge that Anne too wanted the money to be “devoted to furthering the cause of reform rather than filling the king’s coffers” (Newcombe).

It must be clarified that Anne was not against the monasteries being suppressed.  She disagreed with the King and Cromwell on how the funds should be distributed. She wanted to follow her inclinations by having the revenues assist the poor and help scholars, causes she was known to patronize.

George Wyatt praised Anne for making shirts and smocks for the poor, and remarking that her charity “passed through the whole land” and she gave “fifteen hundred pounds* at the least, yearly, to be bestowed on the poor” with another fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds** being given in alms and to support scholars (Cavendish II 207).
John Foxe commended Anne for “how bountiful she was to the poor, passing not only the common example of other queens, but also the revenues almost of her estate; insomuch that the alms which she gave in three quarters of a year, in distribution, …to the behalf of poor artificers and occupiers” (Foxe 232-234).
John_Foxe
John Foxe

The Scottish cleric, Alexander Alesius, referred to Anne Boleyn as ‘your most holy mother’ when writing to Elizabeth.  He clearly believed that Elizabeth’s “very pious mother” formed many enemies at Court for “her desire to promote the pure doctrine of the Gospel and her kindness to the poor” (Stevenson 1303-15).

Anne more than likely could not imagine that her preferences would be gainsaid. Her influence over Henry was well-known.  Even in the Privy-Council her impact could be felt.  Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Bayonne, the French Ambassador relayed a story that council member, Thomas Boleyn, “allowed everything to be said, and then came and suggested the complete opposite, defending his position without budging, as though he wanted to show me that he was not pleased that anyone should have failed to pay court to the lady [Anne], and also to make me accept that what he had said before is true, that is, that all the rest have no influence except what it pleases the lady to allow them, and that is gospel truth.  And because of this he wanted with words and deeds to beat down their opinions before my eyes” (Ives 126).

Yet, Anne was going to see more and more of her influence slip away. Not only was she not seeing eye-to-eye with Cromwell over the use of the monies gained from the dissolution of the monasteries, international politics also added a level of tension and discord.  Charles V now needed an alliance with England against France.

A long-time ally of Anne’s, Francis, King of France, was being replaced in Henry’s diplomatic play book with Charles V.  What emerged was the famously orchestrated meeting between Chapuys and Anne. On April 18, 1536, George Boleyn greeted the Ambassador who was invited by Henry via message to meet Anne and kiss her hand as she made her way to chapel.  Chapuys excused himself from that honor, as this was a bit much even though he knew that Henry’s move from favoring the French to the Imperial side was vital. Chapuys was in a difficult position as he was personally loyal to the late Queen Katherine and Princess Mary—more so than to the woman he referred to as “the concubine.”

The play unfolded as Anne acknowledged the Ambassador at chapel and he had to bow in return.  She asked after him specifically and made some anti-French remarks.  Henry swung the other way as he wanted his feigned pro-French stance to force the Imperial hand.  It was Cromwell’s turn to be in a bind.  If the Imperial acceptance of her was what negotiations hinged on, he needed to do something.  Cromwell cultivated his relationship with Chapuys.  Knowing that the Ambassador greatly disliked the Queen and would probably believe the words, Cromwell told the Ambassador that Anne “would like to see his [Cromwell’s] head cut off” and Chapuys could not forget this “for the love I bore him; and I could not but wish him a more gracious mistress, and one more grateful for the inestimable services he had done the King, and that he must beware of enraging her” and warned that Cromwell deserved better treatment “than did the Cardinal.” This illusion to Wolsey accompanied Chapuys’ veiled warning that he hoped that Cromwell’s greater “dexterity and prudence” would stand him well in his dealings with Anne (Gairdner X 601).
anneboleyn
Anne Boleyn 

It appeared as if Cromwell was working closely with Chapuys to further the relations between their two countries.  Chapuys wrote in April of 1536 to the Emperor that Cromwell had assured him that he was “very desirous of the preservation and increase of friendship of his master’s with Your Majesty, and is daily doing good offices in that respect—not only pointing out those measures which he considers most fit under the circumstances, but advising also of his own accord, and working for the accomplishment of our mutual wishes” (de Gayangos V 43).  At their meeting, Cromwell “replied five or six times, with great fervour, that it was a good beginning for the matter of the preservation of the amity of which we had so often talked, to which the King was more inclined than ever, and likewise those of his Council … and Cromwell assured me, on his life and honor, that the King had never treated anything in France, Germany, or elsewhere, to the prejudice of the friendship he has with your Majesty” (Gairdner X 601).

Domestically, Cromwell managed to upset both pro-French and pro-Imperial factions in England.  Internationally, events took a more favorable turn.  Charles V continued his overtures of friendship, the Pope became more inclined to treat with England, and Francis I became sidelined—all international events which weakened Anne’s position and nudged Cromwell to act.

Oddly enough, Cromwell’s station, his continued political position and his economic gains were because of Anne’s support.  Her influence over Henry could have swung the king’s favor to another councilor. Perhaps it was this precariousness or the rise of the more evangelical faction led by such young men as George Boleyn and Henry Norris or his own interest in intrigue or, most likely, a combination of reasons which led Cromwell to move against Anne.

George_Boleyn_signature
George Boleyn’s signature

Cromwell assessed the situation and determined that it would be better if he “took the side of the conservative churchmen against those who had been hitherto considered Anne’s principal supporters” (Friedmann II 226). Cromwell knew that having “identified himself so closely with the measures against the Roman Church, he could not but fear that, if its authority were re-established, he would fare very badly at its hands”  (Friedmann II 55-56).

By March of 1536, Cromwell tried a more moderate approach with success as, surprisingly, those in opposition to Anne, by March of 1536, included fellow Protestants.  The more radical groups believed reform was not moving fast enough and the more moderate thought enough changes had been made.  Cromwell felt his position strengthened and the Secretary most likely saw the way Henry was treating Anne and his interest in Jane Seymour. Chapuys gleefully reported that “the Concubine and Cromwell were on bad terms, and that some new marriage for the King was spoken of” (Gairdner X 601).

In early 1536 Henry was certainly paying attention to Jane Seymour.  Chapuys remarked to his king that the “new amours of this King with the young lady…still go on, to the intense rage of the concubine” (Gairdner X 495).  It was suspected that the King “believed that he might take another wife, which he gave to understand that he had some wish to do” (Gairdner X 199).

jane holbien to use
Jane Seymour by Holbein 

At first it appeared to Chapuys that Henry was going to negotiate with France to obtain a French Princess and “was now thinking of a fresh marriage, that would, no doubt, be the way of preserving him (Cromwell) from many inconveniences, and likewise the best thing for the King to do” (de Gayangos V 43).  Chapuys certainly hoped that a new marriage for Henry would bring “peace, honour, and prosperity to England” and would provide Cromwell “another royal mistress, not out of hatred of Anne Boleyn, for she had never done me any harm, but for his own sake” (de Gayangos V 43).  Regardless of the rumors of a French alliance, Chapuys was assured by Cromwell shortly after he had written about his speculation of a French marriage, “that the King had already fixed on a wife, to wit Jane Semel” (Gairdner X 1069).  Anne Boleyn had less than a month to live.

Cromwell knowing many men of the Privy Chamber such as Nicholas Carew “never accepted the new Queen with any more grace than was needed to avoid their own ruin,” headed the move against Anne (MacCulloch 154). The Spanish Ambassador “monitored these events with increasing excitement, and probably acted as a go-between for the union of Cromwell’s plans and those of the conservatives” (MacCulloch 154). 

n carew
Nicholas Carew

Taking the religious issue to the domestic sphere, the conservatives and Cromwell exploited the King’s interest in Jane Seymour.  Chapuys wrote to the Imperial Court on 1 April 1536, that “certainly it appears to me that if it succeeds, it will be a great thing … to remedy the heresies here, of which the Concubine is the cause and principal nurse, and also to pluck the King from such an abominable and more than incestuous marriage” (Gairdner X 601).  By the middle of April when John Skip gave his sermon on Passion Sunday, it became obvious that rumors of intrigues “were beginning to fly around the Court” (MacCulloch 154). Skip showed great nerve by attacking Henry VIII and Jane Seymour using the analogy of King Solomon who blemished his own reputation by his “sensual and carnal aptitude in taking many wives and concubines” (MacCulloch 154).

Jane protected her own reputation evidenced by the famous story that Chapuys relayed.  Supposedly “some days ago, the King being here in London, and, the young Miss Seymour, to whom he is paying court at Greenwich, he sent her a purse full of sovereigns, together with a letter, and that the young damsel, after respectfully kissing the letter, returned it to the messenger without opening it, and then falling on her knees, begged the royal messenger to entreat the King in her name to consider that she was a well-born damsel, the daughter of good and honourable parents without blame or reproach of any kind; there was no treasure in this world that she valued as much as her honour, and on no account would she lose it, even if she were to die a thousand deaths. That if the King wished to make her a present of money, she requested him to reserve it for such a time as God would be pleased to send her some advantageous marriage” (de Gayangos V 43). 

Evidently, this episode, well-orchestrated by Jane and her advisors, had the following reaction by Henry.  The “King’s love and desire towards the said lady was wonderfully increased, and that he had said she had behaved most virtuously, and to show her that he only loved her honorably, he did not intend henceforth to speak with her except in presence of some of her kin; for which reason the King has caused Cromwell to remove from a chamber to which the King can go by certain galleries without being perceived, and has lodged there the eldest brother of the said lady [Edward Seymour] with his wife, in order to bring thither the same young lady, who has been well taught for the most part by those intimate with the King, who hate the concubine, that she must by no means comply with the King’s wishes except by way of marriage; in which she is quite firm” (Gairdner X 601).

Seymour Edward
Edward Seymour

Intentions of a third marriage were already firmly believed by many at Court as early as January 1536.  A gleeful Chapuys imagined that Henry knew “how much his subjects abominate the marriage contracted with the concubine, and that not one considers it legitimate” (de Gayangos V 43).  Henry stated “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).

Henry was very taken with Jane Seymour but realized he could not have a repeat scenario of a living divorced wife.  How actively involved was Henry in eliminating Anne and many of the leading evangelicals?  That is a difficult question to answer although Cromwell, according to Chapuys, took full credit as the person “who had discovered and followed up the affair of the Concubine, in which he had taken a great deal of trouble, and that, … he had set himself to arrange the plot (a fantasier et conspirer led affaire)” to protect the king (Gairdner 1069).  To protect and to please the king?

Surprisingly, Cromwell himself will be put to death by Henry.  Frustrated over the machinations that forced him to marry Anne of Cleeves, Henry was persuaded by Cromwell’s enemies to charge him with treason.  Years later, the Scottish cleric, Alexander Alesius wrote to Elizabeth Regina that Cromwell “was punished by the just judgment of God, because he had loved the King more than God; and that out of deference to his Sovereign he had caused many innocent persons to be put to death, not sparing your most holy mother, nor had he obeyed her directions in promoting the doctrine of the Gospel” (Stevenson I 51).  

Cromwell’s contemporary, Nicholas Shaxton, appointed Bishop of Salisbury at Anne’s urging–one of the clerics “who favoured the purer doctrine of the Gospel, and to whom she [Anne] had intrusted the care of it” (Stevenson I 15), wrote to Cromwell on May 23rd shortly after her death, “I beseech you, Sir, in vis[ceribus] Jesu Christi, that ye will now be no less diligent [in setting] forth the honour of God and his Holy Word, than [when] the late Queen was alive, and often incit[ed you thereto]” (Gairdner X 942). Interesting that a known evangelical saw the need to prod Cromwell to maintain the strides made in the name of reform.  It appears to this blogger that the reformers realized that Henry was too much a conservative at heart to continue the cause of evangelical dogma without the advocacy of Anne.  Cromwell was likely to be swayed in the direction of his king. 
Salisburycathedra
Salisbury Cathedral 

Anne, identified as a “zealous defender of Christ’s gospel” would use her influence so that “her acts… will declare to the world’s end” her theological ideals (Foxe V 232-234).  At the time of her death, it was inconceivable that Anne’s most lasting influence on the Protestant faith would be in the form of her three-year old daughter, Elizabeth. 

Upon her acquisition of the throne, Alesius urged her to “guard herself from the snares of the devil, who were the cause of her mother’s death in consequence of her love for the doctrine of the Gospel while it was in its infancy, and afterwards persecuted those persons whom she appointed to watch over the Church” (Stevenson I 1303).

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