Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – E

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – E

Although as Queen, Anne expected strict moral behavior from her women and was well known for performing charitable works — even making garments for the poor herself, she could never overcome the reputation of a calculating flirt.

Anne played the game.  She became the “finished coquette, playing fast and loose, hot and cold, as Henry appeared more or less urgent and enamored.”  She also encouraged the addresses of Wyatt and “inflamed Henry’s passions to the height of jealous fury” (Herbert, Henry 340).  Anne was indeed playing with fire as most of her contemporaries would not have appreciated nor accepted the idea of a young, unmarried girl flirting with married men.  She was tarnishing her reputation to such a degree that in 1536 it was easy for most people to accept her guilty of the licentious behavior she was accused of committing.  Many never questioned it because she had spent her formative years in France and everyone knew what had happened there. When she was “sent to France; where also she behav’d her self so licentiously, that she was vulgarly call’d the Hackney of England, till being adopted to that Kings Familiarity, she was termed his mule” (Herbert, Edward 286-287).

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Anne Boleyn

Upon her return from France, Lord Percy expressed an interest in Anne “but Misstris Bolen, whether she were ignorant, as yet, how much the King loved her, or howsoever had rather be that Lords Wife, than a Kings Misstris, took very ill of the Cardinal this his unreasonable Interruption of her Marriage” (Herbert, Edward 286).  Therefore, Anne was all set to marry Henry Percy but for the intervention of Cardinal Wolsey whom she never did forget nor forgive.

Why would she not have preferred to be the wife of Lord Percy or any other gentlemen rather than the King’s mistress? This blogger must concede that from the time period in which she lived, Anne relinquishing her honor to Henry before their marriage would have been viewed as wanton. Even her Protestant supporters would have been shocked by her behavior.  We can surmise that Anne did not spend six years balancing the King’s passion for her with her chastity to casually surrender one of her most valuable assets.  She has been defended that “up to this time, Anne’s conduct was irreproachable, and it is unmanly, as well as unjust, to attribute baseness, where no baseness is shown” (Herbert, Henry 338). Both she and Henry had to have been pretty certain that his divorce from Katherine was imminent before they committed to a physical relationship.  This action though would taint her image and encourage gossip.

lord percy
Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland

Carlo Capello, the Venetian Ambassador to England, wrote to his superiors a description of Anne Boleyn in late October of 1532, close to the time Henry and Anne’s relationship changed.  “Madam Anne is not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and in fact has nothing but the English King’s great appetite, and her eyes, which are black and beautiful” (Brown IV 824).  Lancelot de Carle, later the Bishop of Riez, said Anne’s eyes were her most attractive feature “always most attractive which she knew well now to use with effect.  Sometimes leaving them at rest and at others, sending a message to carry the secret witness of the heart.  And, truth to tell, such was their power that many surrendered to their obedience” (Riehl 24).  Modern language would refer to her as having star-power or charisma  which was unsettling to people and affected her reputation. Even one of her greatest distracters acknowledged that she was “amusing in her ways” (Sander 25). Nothing less would have kept a man like Henry enthralled and enamored with only her eyes to credit for it.

Anne certainly knew how to make the most of herself.  “She was the model and the mirror of those who were at court, for she was always well dressed, and every day made some change in the fashion of her garments” (Sander 25).  Anne played “well on the lute, and was a good dancer” (Sander 25). Yet, were these talents enough?  Harpsfield questioned how Henry could put aside the virtuous Katharine “for such an incestuous woman, being in all other qualities beside so far inferior to her, as she was in very chastity itself” (Harpsfield 255).  Once again, we are back to the issue of Anne’s reputation.  When the charges against Anne were brought forward, many courtiers who had responded with ‘obedience’ to the pull of her personality needed to justify their actions.  Thus, witchcraft, dishonesty and duplicity were brought forward as rationales.

Anne Boleyn Bendor
Recently confirmed portrait of Anne Boleyn, Royal Collection Archives
http://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/894_Anne_Boleyn_regains_her_head

People felt the need even to justify their religious views. Those who did not support the Reformation said “it now appeared how bad that cause was which was supported by such a patron.  But it was answered, that her faults could not reflect on those who, being ignorant of them,” had supported her. (Burnet 115).  People who were less evangelical raised their “hopes of a reaction built on the fall of those ‘apostles of the new sect,’ Anne Boleyn and her relatives…” but those hopes, “were promptly and roughly destroyed” (Pollard 349).

Understanding the religious differences between Anne’s more evangelical leanings and others of the time (be it moderate Protestants and Roman Catholics) one should realize that she was “her Religion, there is no probability that it should (at first) be other than what was commonly profest” (Herbert, Edward 287).  Besides, her views were popular with many in power at the time as she promoted those clergy who shared her ideas.  It is apparent from “original Letters of hers, that she was a special Favourer of the Clergy of that time, and a preferrer of the worthiest sort of them of Ecclesiastical Livings, during her chief times of Favour with the King” (Herbert, Edward 287).

Those of the old faith were much more vocal against Anne Boleyn, “damned as the cause of all the trouble” (Haigh 141). Anne was blamed for the deaths of Thomas More and Bishop Fisher.  Nevertheless she did not leave off her evil conversation, which at length brought her to shame” (Gairdner X 1036).

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            Sir Thomas More                         John Fisher

Her religious views were not of the extreme variety at the time (although more so than Henry’s).  While she would have created enemies from those who staunchly followed the ‘old faith,’ she did not initially upset people on religious grounds. Her abrasive personality, her willfulness, and her flirtatiousness were things that created negative responses from people.

We see Anne’s elevation was opposed for her religious views and mostly for her lack of virtue as seen in the eyes of the people of the 16th century.  An interesting emphasis placed on the international element comes from Henry William Herbert.  He asserts that Cardinal Wolsey opposed Anne not because of her religious views nor because of her personally; he opposed her elevation because she was not of foreign royal blood.  Her acquisition of the throne would “alienate and affront foreign Princes, breed intestine strifes, and give undue preponderance in the state, to private families” (Herbert, Henry 340). This interpretation proves interesting.  Anne’s preference for France and Cromwell’s (remember Cromwell was Wolsey’s protégé) for the Imperial faction has been previously discussed as an element in Anne’s downfall in the blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part IV.   Here is another case of the interplay between national, even personal policy and foreign policy.  The King was a being of State.  What he did or did not do effected diplomacy—both foreign and domestic.  To marry a subject created discord amongst the English themselves and frustration with foreign nations as the perceived thwart to their ambitions.  In Henry VIII’s immediate predecessors we have examples of what Wolsey feared—strife within the English aristocracy and disgruntled foreign courts.  Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, yes; Richard III’s wife, Anne Neville, yes; and Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, yes—although the marriage was contracted as a way to end the factional warfare.

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

 

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

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

In Henry’s mind, the person thwarting him was Anne. Although she had successfully delivered a daughter and had at least two miscarriages—one in 1534 and one in 1536 that attest to her ability to conceive, Anne’s future and her strength lay in providing Henry with a male heir.  Yet, suddenly, Anne who was used to accompanying Henry wherever he went, remained at Greenwich “while he spent with his courtiers a merry shrove-tide in London” (Friedmann 203).  Henry’s actions were a surprise to many:  that he could leave Anne at this time “when formerly he could not leave her for an hour” (Gairdner X 351).  A man who could not bear leaving his wife for even short increments, was amidst reports that said he was considering leaving her for another woman.  Although earlier in the year of 1536 Chapuys confessed the idea that Henry would replace Anne was “very difficult …to believe”, he would “watch to see if there are any indications of its probability” (Gairdner X 199).
Anne Boleyn Hever
Queen Anne Boleyn

In Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Volume 5, Steve Gunn succinctly discussed in the introduction to a chapter, “The Structures of Politics in Early Tudor England” the recent historiography of the state of Henry and Anne’s marriage, her miscarriage and her fall.  Astoundingly, a great deal has been written, conjectured and surmised based on the scant surviving records and the conclusions have altered through the years. Here is what Gunn has to say:

Three scholars have recently set out and defended against one another divergent explanations of her fall.  Professor Ives and Professor Warnicke can agree that Dr. Bernard is wrong: Anne cannot possibly have been destroyed by a masterful and jealous king who may reasonably have believed her guilty of multiple adultery as charged.  Dr. Bernard and Professor Ives can agree that Professor Warnicke is wrong:  Anne’s fall cannot be attributed to her miscarriage of a deformed foetus, awakening the king’s fears of witchcraft and its sixteenth-century stablemates, sodomy and incest.  Professor Warnicke and Dr. Bernard can agree that Professor Ives is wrong:  Anne cannot have been ousted by a factional plot at court, coordinated by Thomas Cromwell and cynically using fabricated charges of adultery to hustle the king into destroying the queen and her partisans at a single blow” (Davies 59).

For discussions on the theory of Anne’s trial and court factions, see the blog entries Path to St. Peter ad Vincula:  Part IV and Part VI.  As for the miscarriage, this blogger does not agree with the theory that Anne’s last pregnancy ended in anything other than a miscarriage. If there had been a deformity in the fetus, contemporary sources would have mentioned it and Anne’s enemies would have latched on to it as evidence of her wickedness.  Perhaps the idea of a deformity stems from the phrase by Nicholas Sander “a shapeless mass of flesh” (Sander 132) as contemporary sources claim otherwise.
KingsCollegeChapelHA
Surviving example of Henry’s devotion to Anne, their intertwined initials at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. 

A poem, Epistre Contenant le Procès Criminel Faict a l’Encontre de la Royne Anne Boullant d’Angleterre (A Letter Containing the Criminal Charges Laid Against Queen Anne Boleyn of England), was summarized in dispatch papers 2 June 1536.  Referred to as a “poem descriptive of the life of Anne Boleyn, composed at London”, it was written by Lancelot de Carle (also spelled Carles) while serving as secretary to the French Ambassador in England, Antoine de Castelnau (Gairdner X 1036).

Published in Lyon in 1545 for Dauphin Charles, the poem had been in circulation prior to that.  In fact, it was mentioned in a correspondence by Henry VIII to his Ambassador to France, Stephen Gardiner, 12 June 1537, after de Carle returned to his native country.  Gardiner was told that Henry, “on having first knowledge of the book and the malice of it” which was “written in form of a tragedy,” was grieved “as sundry copies and impressions of it have got abroad.” Henry urged “that all copies be taken in and suppressed” (Gairdner XII ii 78).

Certainly this could be a different work, as a year interval from the time it was mentioned in dispatches to the time Henry made attempts to restrict its circulation appears a bit long.  Yet, it is feasible that the king was not made aware of it until after Carle completed his diplomatic mission.  With the author being identified as Carle—writing during the time he was “attendant upon the French ambassador” it seems to indicate it was the same poem (Gairdner XII ii 78).

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Title page of the poem by Lancelot de Carle

The poem was brought to this blogger’s attention as a footnote in G. W. Bernard’s biography, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions, under “Chapter 8:  Anne’s Miscarriage.”  Although one cannot be too trusting of the poem’s historical accuracy, a portion of it –the part summarized in dispatch papers as “Anne met with divers ominous occurrences … the King had a fall from horseback which it was thought would prove fatal, and caused her to give premature birth to a dead son” will be where we direct our attention (Gairdner X 1036). In the poem, lines 324-326 refer to the ‘beautiful boy’ that was born before term.  A translation follows:

Her flat belly brought forth its fruit
and gave birth to a beautiful boy before term
whose stillbirth gave birth to many tears
Lancelot Poem

The stressful conditions that Anne was under not only to provide a son but to literally survive due to the factions at Court had her “worn out by constant exertion and anxiety” and were enough to jeopardize any pregnancy (Friedmann II 138).  Add in the equation the simple fact that the successful birthrate in the 16th century was not high plus the possible medical conditions of Anne and Henry (the Rh factor for her and diabetes for him) and the loss of an infant does not seem implausible.  Whatever the cause of the tragedy, the outcome was felt on the familial level, on the national level and on the international level.

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