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).

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Cardinal Wosley
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).
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Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict, Please
Not surprisingly judgment was given against both Queen Anne and Lord Rochford.  “After thei had communed together…” the first Lord was called to give the verdict. He “sayde guiltie, and so everie lorde and earle after their degrees sayde guiltie to the last and so condemned her” (Wriothesley 38).  Anne’s sentence contained that she should be “brent here within the Tower of London, on the Greene, else to have thy head smitten off as the Kinge’s pleasure shal be further knowen of the same” (Bell 102). Burning was “the death which the law appoints for a woman attainted of treason, yet, since she had been queen of England, they left it to the king to determine, whether she should die so infamous a death, or be beheaded” (Burnet 264).

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A Tower of London precinct area.  Photo from this blogger’s visit in 2003.

How Anne conducted herself after she was condemned must be interpreted from the accounts left.  Chapuys claimed “she preserved her composure, saying that she held herself pour toute saluee de la mort,[always ready to greet death] and that what she regretted most was that the above persons, who were innocent and loyal to the King, were to die for her” (Gairdner x 908). “When the sentence of death was pronounced, the queen raised her eyes to heaven, nor did she condescend to look at her judges” and left the chamber (Stevenson 1303).   Compared to these rather stoic reactions, we have a more romantic recollection.  “When this dreadful sentence was pronounced she was not terrified, but lifting up her hands to heaven said, ‘O Father! O Creator! Thou who art the way, the truth, and the life, thou knowest that I have not deserved this fate.’  And then turning to the judges, made the most pathetic declarations of her innocence” (Hume 328).

Jacob van Meteren, a Dutch historian, claimed to have transcribed the verses from a gentleman, Crispin, Lord of Milherve, who was present at the trial. Agnes Strickland recreated Milherve’s account of what Anne said after her trial:  “My lords, I will not say your sentence is unjust, nor presume that my reasons can prevail against your convictions. I am willing to believe that you have sufficient reasons for what you have done, but then they must be other than those which have been produced in court, for I am clear of all the offences which you then laid to my charge. I have ever been a faithful wife to the king, though I do not say I have always shown him that humility which his goodness to me and the honour to which he raised me merited. I confess I have had jealous fancies and suspicions of him which I had not discretion and wisdom enough to conceal at all times. But God knows, and is my witness, that I never sinned against him in any other way” (Strickland 260).  No other sources claim such a speech and the legitimacy of it is in doubt.  Although substantiated somewhat by Lancelot de Carles in his poem, this collaboration historians doubt as they suspect that de Carles and Milherve are one in the same.

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Copy of Lancelot de Carles’ poem.

After the trial the Queen was taken “back to warde agayne and two ladies wayted on her, which came in with her at the first, and wayted still on her, whose names were the Ladie Kingstone and the Ladie Boleyn, her aunte” (Bell 103). 

The King’s Pleasure
Meanwhile, Henry “showed his delight at the coming fate of Anne. Never had the court been so gay as now” (Gairdner X 1069). Henry “accustomed to dissemble, could not hide his joy that means had been found to rid him of Anne and to enable him to take a new wife” (Friedmann II 266).  Ambassador Chapuys claimed to Cardinal Granville that Cromwell confessed “that these were artifices of princes; and he dared to add (at which I was astonished, especially as the case only applied to the King his master) that princes often do things so extravagant and dishonest that he would rather lose one of his arms than think of acting so” (Gairdner X 1069). Pretty rich coming from the man who orchestrated the fall of the Queen.

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Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys.

Between the King and Secretary Cromwell, Anne’s fate was sealed. While “everybody rejoiced at the execution of the putain, there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others, and people speak variously of the King” (Gairdner X 908).  The Spanish Ambassador told his king that “already it sounds ill in the ears of the people” that the King had been “going about banqueting with ladies sometimes remaining after midnight, and returning by the river” (Gairdner X 908).   Henry had musicians and singers accompany him on his journey to where Jane Seymour was staying—actions which many people interpreted as showing his delight in getting rid of his unwanted queen. Some people believed the King did not feel any qualms about his involvement with Jane Seymour because while he had been “oppressed with the heavy cares of state, she [Anne] had been enjoying herself with others, so he, when the Queen was being beheaded, was enjoying himself with another woman” (Stevenson 1303).  Furthermore, the King said “he believed that upwards of 100 gentlemen have had criminal connexion” with Anne.  And the Spanish Ambassador exclaimed “You never saw a prince or husband show or wear his horns more patiently and lightly than this one does.  I leave you to guess the cause of it” (Gairdner X 54).  Chapuys also informed Cardinal Granville “every evening his State barge, gaily illuminated, and with bands of musicians and a throng of gorgeously attired lords and ladies on board, floated up or down the Thames, conveying his Majesty and his Court” (Davey 24).  It had been said that the “King had already fixed on a wife, to wit Jane Semel” (Gairdner X 1069).  Chapuys heard that “even before the arrest of the Concubine, the King, was speaking with Mistress Jane Semel of their future marriage” (Gairdner X 908).  

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Jane Seymour

Chapuys proclaimed that, although Henry publicly stated that he had “no desire in the world to get married again unless he was constrained by his subjects to do so”, he said so only to “cover the affection he had for the said Semel” (Gairdner X 908). “Everybody begins already to murmur by suspicion, and several affirm that long before the death of the other there was some arrangement” between Jane and the King (Gairdner X 926).  Perhaps Henry felt that his dissembling would pacify the people who would be questioning his commitment to the sacrament of marriage or maybe he was succumbing to the romance of secretly wooing Lady Jane.  Regardless of the reason, Henry did not keep his plans quiet for long.  On May 20, 1536, the day after the execution of Anne Boleyn, “Mrs. Semel came secretly by river this morning to the King’s lodging, and that the promise and betrothal (desponsacion) was made at 9 o’clock” (Gairdner X 926).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘But let not your grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault where not so much as a thought thereof preceded.  And, to speak a truth, never prince had a wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn: with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your grace’s pleasure had been so pleased.  Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your grace’s fancy the least alteration I know was fit and suffient to draw that fancy to some other object.  You have chosen me from a low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire.  If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your grace let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me: neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart towards your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife and the infant princess your daughter.  Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see either mine innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared.  So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your grace is at liberty both before God and man not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto, your grace not being ignorant of my suspicion therein.

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

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

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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.

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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).

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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