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.

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 VII – C

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula Part VII – C

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

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

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Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury, from 1609-1610

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

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John Foxe

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

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

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Anne Boleyn

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

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

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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