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

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

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

hunsdon
Hunsdon

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

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

Bellayguillaume
Guillaume du Bellay

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

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

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

OathofAllegiance
Oath of Succession

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

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

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

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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).

a and e
 Elizabeth Regina and Queen Anne Boleyn

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

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

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

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

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

aylmer
John Aylmer

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

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

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

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

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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 VII – D

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – D

Obviously, Anne had her distracters.  As discussed in the blog, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula -Part I, Nicholas Sander’s De Origine Ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani was re-published in France.  This led to renewed defense of Anne.  Bishop Gilbert Burnet, wrote The History of the Reformation, and George Wyatt, Life of the Virtuous Christian and Renowned Queen Anne Boleigne. Referring to Sander as “the Romish fable-framer” Wyatt, grandson of the famous Tudor poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt, tried to debunk all the claims made against Anne by Sander (Cavendish 190).

It is well known that Anne accepted admiration and would have responded to the chivalric attentions of courtiers.  One example would be Thomas Wyatt.  Upon first meeting, the similarities of the two personalities would have cemented an enjoyment for each other’s company.  Both were “nearly of the same age, they had both the same love for polite accomplishments, and were both fond of poetry and music: both excelled in wit and conversation; and both probably had contracted a predilection for the ease and elegance of foreign manners” (Nott 20). It is not the purpose of this blog entry to discuss the poems and ballads that were written by Wyatt with her as the possible subject.

thomas wyatt
Thomas Wyatt

This public relationship did lead to the detainment of Wyatt in the Tower in May of 1536 as many contemporaries felt that if Anne had committed adultery, Wyatt would be a prime candidate.  Wyatt was not indicted or brought to trial for infidelity with the Queen.  He was eventually allowed to return to his estates and gain general favor again (it is assumed his release was due to the personal relationship he held with Thomas Cromwell).  While in the Tower, he would have been aware of Anne’s execution due to the role his sister Margaret played in the events.

Margaret Lee
Lady Margaret Lee by Hans Holbein 

Lady Margaret Lee, had been appointed as an attendant to Anne in the late 1520s. She was a known favorite of the Queen’s and accompanied her to the Tower. Tradition has it that the Wyatt family treated with “veneration as a precious relic, a little manuscript prayer-book set in gold enamelled black” which Anne gave to Margaret “as the last parting pledge of her affection” (Nott 25).  The book was “preserved by them [the Wyatt family] through several generations” (Cavendish 206).

Anne's book of hours
The Wyatt Prayer Book.  There is still controversy as to which book, if indeed there was one, was given to Margaret Lee. 

Although there still is scholarly debate over which of the three surviving prayer books attributed to Anne’s ownership is the precise one she had with her at the time of her death, most scholars settle on one now displayed at Hever Castle.  Within the text, on a page opposite the depiction of the crowning of the Virgin, is an inscription which could be deemed as a farewell, “Remember me when you doth pray, that hope doth lead from day to day” (Weir 336). Obviously, not knowing when this passage was written, it could have been done at a previous time, as some people speculate, as reference to Anne’s wish to be Queen.  This blogger has surmised that the inscription is more fitting as a goodbye. Alas, we will never know with certainty.

Anne book of hours with inscription
“Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours.” Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours. Hever Castle  Web. 28 Mar. 2014. 

The loyalty of the Wyatt family to the memory of Anne Boleyn was cemented by the preservation of the book and by George’s biography.  Of course, Wyatt was biased in his own way just as Sander; yet, he specifically clarified Anne’s religious role.  In an age of religious persecution, Wyatt insisted that, in “her time (that is during the three years that she was queen) it is found by good observation, that no one suffered for religion, which is the more worthy to be noted for that it could not be said of any time of the queens after married to the king” (Cavendish 438).

Remembering Wyatt’s bias, this blogger will not address the issue of whether Thomas More and John Fisher were executed for religious reasons: officially, they were executed for not upholding the Acts of Succession and Supremacy, which was treason. It has been viewed that “under the protection of Cromwell, Cranmer, and Anne Boleyn, Protestantism soon came out of the closet and into the pulpit” (Haigh 187).

thomas more  john fisher
            Sir Thomas More                          John Fisher

The clerics that Anne promoted and championed did uphold Protestant doctrines much to the mortification of the conservatives.  Alas, it was not only the adherents to the old faith that were upset with Anne.  According to Alesius, the reason so many of the councilors in the reign of Henry VIII hated Anne, was that she threatened to inform the King that they were using the “guise of the Gospel and religion” to advance “their own interests, that they had put everything up for sale and had received bribes to confer ecclesiastical benefices upon unworthy persons” (Stevenson 1303-11).  Foxe alluded to a conspiracy claiming “some great mystery, which here I will not stand to discuss, but only that it may be suspected some secret practising of the papists here not to be lacking, considering what a mighty stop she was to their purposes and proceedings, and on the contrary side, what a strong bulwark she was for the maintenance of Christ’s gospel, and sincere religion, which they then in no case could abide” (Foxe).  Anne’s intervention did “protect vulnerable preachers” and saved “Protestants from Henry’s intermittent wrath” (Haigh 187).

Henry was becoming less popular with his contrary policies.  It is not the purpose of this blog to expand further on Henry’s political and religious maneuverings.  It was at the time of Anne’s death where many questioned the future course of England.  With the more conservative Seymour clan in power, evangelical factions feared a constriction of the measures taken and the Catholics worried policies would not return.  A rector from county Kent described the king as “a tyrant more cruel than Nero, for Nero destroyed but a part of Rome, but this tyrant destroyeth his whole realm” (Gairdner XII 980).  By 1536, this sentiment could have reflected either faction’s opinion; yet, in a footnote (further cited by George Cavendish), G. F. Nott questioned how the “bonds of charity be ever brought to unite the members of the Roman Catholic communion with those of the reformed church, so long as their youth shall be thus early taught to consider our Reformation as the portentous offspring of whatever was most odious in human profligacy, and most fearful in blasphemy and irreligion?” (Nott 85).  Once again, the discord throughout England was blamed on Anne Boleyn.

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

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

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

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

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

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

John_Foxe
John Foxe

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

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

AnneBoleynAB
Anne Boleyn

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

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

Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

 

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – B

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – B

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

chapuys
Eustace Chapuys, Ambassador from Spain

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

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

jane holbien to use
Jane Seymour

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

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

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

Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII -A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – A

May 6, 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn addressed a letter to her husband, Henry VIII, while languishing in the Tower of London awaiting trial.  In this letter, Anne upbraided Henry for “cruel usage” while she assured him of her devotion.  Queen Anne suggested to Henry that he not “ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault where not so much as a thought thereof preceded.  And, to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).  Here was a woman who privately and publically maintained her plea of innocence. “This tenderness of conscience seemed to give much credit to the continual protestations of her innocence, which she made to the last” (Burnet 112-113).


Letter Anne Boleyn wrote to Henry VIII while she was in the Tower May 6, 1536.

Sir William Kingston, Anne’s custodian in the Tower, reported to Secretary Thomas Cromwell that on the morning of her execution, Anne “had made great protestations of it (her innocence) when she had received the Sacrament” (Burnet 114). Twenty-first century sensibilities may not understand the importance of this act but to those living in the Tudor era this would have been very powerful.  First, knowing she was going to die soon, Anne would not have risked lying; and, secondly, swearing against the truth while taking Holy Communion would have been unthinkable.  In fact when told that Mark Smeaton, the only man accused who confessed to adulterous behavior, had not retracted his statement when on the scaffold, Anne said, “Did he not exonerate me before he died, of the public infamy he laid on me? Alas! I fear his soul will suffer for it” (Gairdner X 1036).

Anne strengthened her plea of innocence by stating that when she shortly faced the seat of God’s judgment she did “doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).  Shortly before her death, Anne declared, “that she did not consider that she was condemned by Divine judgment”(Gairdner X 1070).  She “prayed the Judge of all the world to have compassion on those who had condemned her” (Gairdner X 1036).

Lancelot de Carles, an attaché to the French Ambassador wrote on 2 June 1536, “no one to look at her would have thought her guilty” as she “protested she had never misconducted herself towards the King” (Gairdner X 1036). “The queen exhibited such constancy, patience, and faith towards God that all the spectators, even her enemies, and those persons who previously had rejoiced at her misfortune …testified and proclaimed her innocence and chastity” (Stevenson 1303).

Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn

It was for naught.  Anne was executed and her good name and reputation along with her body.  Henry was determined to blacken her character and ensure there would be no lasting loyalty towards her.  He certainly succeeded—for centuries. Even during the reign of his and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I Regina, there was hesitancy to honor Anne too blatantly.  Elizabeth herself seemed reluctant to associate too closely with her mother (Although, the ring, now known as the Chequers Ring, she wore most certainly had the portrait of her mother encased in it—see the blog entry https://elizregina.com/2014/01/, “Her Mother’s Memory.”), yet, as Queen she did much to promote her cousins and those who were part of her mother’s circle, such as Matthew Parker whom she appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.  But in the immediate aftermath of Anne’s execution, Henry was in charge and he was going to forge the reputation of his previous Queen regardless of what she had previously meant to him.   Anne herself had tried to mitigate Henry’s attitude.  In her communication to Henry in May 1536, Anne implored him to “let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me: neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart towards your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife” (“Condemnation of Anne Boleyn” 289).

“The strongest proof, or show of proof, against her, lies in the bitter hatred which Henry evidently bore to her, personal in its nature, and insatiate by her death, until he had destroyed her memory also” (Herbert, Henry 218-219).  To marry Jane Seymour, Henry could have divorced or executed Anne.  Did he have to do both and destroy her reputation?  “If the charages were merely invented to ruin the Queen, one culprit besides herself would have been enough.  To assume that Henry sent four needless victims to the block is to accuse him of a lust for superfluous butchery, of which even he, in his most bloodthirsty moments, was not capable” (Pollard 346).  Henry was seen as a victim and viewed with compassion.  After her death a few of her adherents were prosecuted for “maintaining that Henry had put her to death unjustly” (Friedmann 300). Yet, if Anne Boelyn was truly innocent, “Never since the world began was a dastardly assassination …rewarded with so universal a solicitation for the friendship of the assassin” (Froude 441). Once Henry turned his attention to Jane Seymour, the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, “his innocent and unsuspecting Queen” was “scarified; for she stood in the way of his gratification.  She was therefore accused of infidelity to the royal bed, and many a disgraceful story was circulated to calumniate the devoted victim” (Nott 18).

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

Anne had not endeared herself to the vast majority of English commoners nor to the nobles, which “could not have made Henry’s difficulties less” (Froude 286). Her “conduct during the last two years had not recommended her either to the country or perhaps to her husband” (Froude 385).  Anne had been disliked for her haughtiness and arrogance. Had she been more gracious and less brass, she may have managed to overcome the English peoples’ prejudice against her. She had taken on such a political role that multiple enemies emerged. Henry was easily convinced that “he had fallen in love with an unworthy woman, as men will do, … and even before his marriage, had been heard to say that, if it was to be done again, he would not have committed himself so far” (Froude 386).  So why did he marry Anne and break from the Catholic Church?  Was he bewitched as Lord and Lady Exeter famously told Ambassador Chapuys that he, Henry himself, believed?   Was he caught in the web of religious and political events?  Was it his pride? Was he truly attached to Anne?  Was he so sure she would give him a son?  Was it a bit of all of these suggestions and more? Regardless, marry her he did and destroy her he did.

With Katherine of Aragon dead, avenues of disentanglement from Anne opened up. Henry was freer without the pressure of taking back Katherine if he disposed of Anne and he had certainly reached the point where he was questioning his second marriage.  The King was convinced that “the marriage was never good nor consonant to the laws” (Froude 431). Inflaming the situation were the many rumors that resurfaced and the many more rumors that were started.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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